Wimbledon High School is a leading all-girls school that balances academic rigour with a strong STEAM programme, and a huge choice of co-curricular activities.
Staying true to the principles of its founding headmistress who held “women have minds as well worth educating as men's”, WHS continues to deliver an education that is designed to play to girls' strengths – from the structure of its school day (and length of lessons), choosing to be an A Level school, and bringing events such as International Women’s Day and Because I’m a Girl to the fore.
It succeeds in being a high achieving school (it is regularly in the top 20 in the league tables in the UK for both A Level and GCSE results). It is also a pioneering and progressive school (it is a TES award winner for Best Use of Technology and is a Microsoft Showcase school). And it is a school with a measured, balanced approach to education (it holds a dedicated Failure Week every year to build resilience in its students, for example).
The Headmistress, Ms Fionnuala Kennedy, took up her appointment in 2020. Educated at Oxford where she read English, she was previously Senior Deputy Head of Wimbledon High School. Pre Wimbledon, Ms Kennedy has been the Head of Sixth Form at Woldingham before moving to WHS in 2015.
WHS is ambitious. It wants its girls to achieve excellent academic credentials – and it has designed a bespoke curriculum that is challenging and puts philosophical thinking (where the school’s youngest students discuss life’s big questions like, What does it mean to be human?) at the heart of learning from Reception.
There is specialist teaching in Music, Languages, Sport, Art and Science from Junior School, and an Experientia Scholarship Programme for Years 3-6 that explores “classical ‘enlightenment’ and progressive ‘modernist’”.
Typical of many girls’ schools today, WHS is working hard to close the gender gap in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths (something that has largely been done), and it has a dedicated STEAM Tower equipped with many Design, Technology & Engineering spaces, a Resistant Materials workshop, and science labs. Here’s a school that is taking deliberate steps to foster a deeper engagement in maths, science and engineering. It offers the chance for full collaboration between disciplines and its innovative STEAM+ ethos means that all subjects can be “intertwined and woven together”.
Wimbledon High mixes several IGCSEs into its GCSE programme. The subject choices are extensive. Along with the core science, arts and humanity subjects, students can take Arabic, Computer Science, Greek (modern), Italian, Japanese, Russian and Mandarin. A large number of students study Latin.
All the usual core A Level subjects are offered, along with Mandarin. Many students do the Extended Project Qualification and study three or four A levels. There is one-to-one tutoring in Sixth Form. WHS offers regular lectures and talks to stretch its students academically, but it also believes in a holistic approach to learning and takes pastoral care very seriously. The first page of the Sixth Form booklet takes a quote from Nora Ephron: “Above all, be the heroine of your life”.
Timetabled sports lessons include athletics, cricket, dance, gymnastics, hockey, netball, swimming and tennis. In Year 9, girls can take up badminton, basketball and lifesaving, and in Sixth Form there is more choice in sports such as golf and martial arts. Other sporting opportunities include football, rowing, cross country, dance, rugby and yoga. It also offers Ball Girl training for the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Association.
Music seems to play an important part in school life, perhaps because the Headmistress herself was a choral scholar at Oxford. There is a Capella group, a Close Harmony Singers group and Friday Jammin’, a whole school musical and several other workshops. Students must audition for any part as the school is firm believer that auditions are an important part of learning.
Drama club is available from Year 8 upwards, and there is also a theatre tech club where students learn about lighting and sound, stage management and costume and prop management.
WHS really does offer the girls anything they are interested in, so if someone would like to learn sign language or photography, they can seize this opportunity in the school’s popular Skill Development club. There are also several clubs based around the love of learning, in the form of lectures or discussion groups, covering various topics which are not in the curriculum. And there are several Raise Your Voice groups, which involve debating or Model United Nations.
There is a student-led group for mindfulness which could involve playing a board game, baking or sewing with friends, which is very popular. The list of other clubs is long and includes Astrophysics, Bioinformatics, Art, Dungeons and Dragons, Lego League, Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme, History of Madness, Mah Jong, Money Matters and more. It is a really fantastic all-encompassing, extremely well-thought-out list of clubs and societies.
Wimbledon High School also has a strong Partnership Programme and works with thirteen schools in the community. The Teach Together programme aims to improve social mobility, academic attainment and student well-being throughout the local area. Each school that WHS works with has its own individual programme and all subjects are covered, as well as WHS offering peer-to-peer mentoring. The students at Wimbledon High plan lessons with a specialist subject staff member and then deliver the lesson themselves.
Strive is a four-month long designed to help high achieving students in Year 5 at four local partner schools, and focuses on Coding, Mathematics, English and Science. A similar programme offers ten Saturday morning classes to Year 4s from local schools in creative (baking, dance and art) and academic (history) subjects.
School trips offered include expeditions such as World Challenge; Mandarin speakers have been to Beijing, Years 7 and 8 have had an exchange to Japan; and linguists have been to France, Germany and Spain. WHS also has a “meaningful partnership” with an orphanage in Sri Lanka.
In the 2020 A Level results, 42.7% received A* grades and 80.5% received A*-A grades. At GCSE level, 80.3% received grades 9-8 and 95.8% received grades 9-7. Seven pupils continued on to Oxbridge with the remainder attending top universities, both in the UK and abroad.
WHS has its original Victorian red-brick buildings alongside purpose-built new facilities. The swimming pool and sports centre is on-site, and the playing fields are just a 10-minute walk from the school. There is an Astro pitch for hockey and athletics and several tennis/netball courts. The specialist STEAM Tower is a base for exploring Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics, and it boasts Scientists in Residence.
WHS is a very academic school and entry is by rigorous assessment which starts with entry into Reception at just four years old. The main point of entry in the Senior School is 11+ with Verbal and Non Verbal Reasoning tests being the core academic assessments held at the school. If that is not possible, the ISEB common Pre-test is used.
Sixth Form academic assessments consist of Verbal Reasoning and Thinking Skills. Based on predicted GCSE grades, candidates are then shortlisted and then must attend a Group Assessment, where they take part in group activities with a problem-solving focus. There is also an interview. The entry requirement is high with students needing grades 8-9 for the subjects they wish to study at A Level and a minimum of eight GCSEs grades 6-9.
Fees are £15,339 for the Junior School and £19,734 for the Senior School.
London day school
A Level education
A countryside base
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