United Kingdom / North West England / Lancashire / Withington Girls' School

Withington Girls' School Review

A high-achieving all-girls school where students can embrace a wide range of interests, are empowered to think independently, and consistently achieve outstanding GCSE and A Level results.
At a glance
School type
Private
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
No rating
Curricula taught
Availability 2021/22
No data
Availability 2022/23
No data
Annual fee average
GBP 13,500
Annual fees
GBP 11,181–14,622
Price band help
Mid-range
Status
Open
Gender
Opening year
1890
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Mrs Sarah Haslam
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Withington Girls' School
School type
Private
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
No rating
Curricula taught
Availability 2021/22
No data
Availability 2022/23
No data
Annual fee average
GBP 13,500
Annual fees
GBP 11,181–14,622
Price band help
Mid-range
Status
Open
Gender
Opening year
1890
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Mrs Sarah Haslam
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A high-achieving all-girls school where students can embrace a wide range of interests, are empowered to think independently, and consistently achieve outstanding GCSE and A Level results.

Withington is a top ranking day school for girls aged seven to 18 in Manchester. While exam results put WGS as one of the best academic schools in the North West – and students are offered places at the UK’s most selective universities – the school also challenges girls to achieve their full potential in the arts, music and sport. The school’s tagline is “Where Girls Shine”, and not just academically: WGS challenges every girl to become as well-rounded in their education as possible.

WGS has a junior and senior school on a single site. Founded in 1890, the school has remained true its founding principles which stated that it should remain small. All girls are taught sciences; and there’s a focus on PE and practical work. It’s clearly a warm and caring school with a family atmosphere, where each girl is seen daily by a Form Tutor. Class sizes are... small. 

WGS has a diverse community of around 720 girls, and its generous bursary scheme sees many girls study here for reduced fees, or no fees at all.  Headmistress Sarah Haslam says:

“We value individuality, celebrate diversity, encourage our girls to think for themselves and to understand the importance of tolerance and teamwork.”

WGS has was named The Sunday Times North West Independent Secondary School of the Decade in 2021, and it  was rated Excellent in all areas by the ISI (Independent Schools Inspectorate) in 2022.

Curriculum

In the Junior School, most subjects are delivered by Junior School staff, but the school also enjoys all the benefits of the whole school’s facilities and specialist teachers for lessons in music, PE, languages, DT, computing and science. There are daily PE lessons; two weekly music lessons; weekly drama lessons and the introduction of a different language in each year group (French, German, and Spanish, and even Latin and Greek). 

In the Senior School, the curriculum is, as you’d expect from a selective school, both challenging and rigorous. Years 7 to 9 study a wide range of core and specialist subjects, including the choice of French, German and Spanish. At GCSE and A Level, girls have a wide choice of options covering academic, art, craft and design courses. GCSE options include food tech and PE, and choices at A Level include the classics, drama, government and politics, psychology, and the arts.

In the Sixth Form, small class sizes of around 17 girls keep it large enough to offer a wide variety of A Level subjects and extra-curricular activities, but still small enough to offer plenty of individual attention. While most girls come from the Senior School, there are several joining the Sixth Form from both the state and independent sectors.

In addition to A Levels, Sixth Formers follow an Enrichment Programme, which offers life lessons in areas such as coding, knitting, nutrition, yoga, business finance and running. There are also extra lessons for those applying to Oxbridge, which is around one in six here. The Sixth Form has dedicated facilities including a large Common Room, bistro, silent library area and various study areas. 

Facilities including a specialist D&T suite, Resource Centre, specialist kiln room and photographic darkroom, two drama studios, and three art studios, support an enriched curriculum where girls of all ages are challenged. WGS is also an accredited Test Centre for US SAT exams in 2014, which meets the needs of an increasing number of UK students applying for American universities.

Sport and the arts

In the Junior School there are daily PE lessons covering a wide range of activities including dance, gymnastics, trampolining, netball, pop lacrosse, hockey, rounders, swimming, tennis and athletics, as well as regular sporting fixtures. Students continue to have PE lessons through to Year 9, and the main sports on the timetable are netball, hockey, lacrosse and gymnastics in the winter and spring terms; tennis, athletics and rounders in the summer. Sixth Formers may not have timetabled PE lessons, but they can maintain fitness by joining sports clubs and regular 45-minute circuit training sessions.

The school is well-equipped for a wide range of sports with facilities a large modern sports hall, a gym/dance studio, fitness suite, all-weather pitch, (which accommodates hockey in winter and nine tennis courts in summer), two outdoor floodlit netball courts and two grass lacrosse pitches. It has ongoing success in both national and regional competitions in athletics, badminton, hockey, netball and lacrosse, and several girls train at the hockey Junior Regional Performance Centre and in the England Lacrosse Talent Pathway.

Sporting talent is most certainly encouraged and developed – and WGS has built a well-deserved reputation for being a sporty school. As a smaller school than many in the area, it means that more girls have the chance to play competitive sport.

The arts also contribute to and enrich the school curriculum. In Junior School, all girls learn the ukulele, and at both GCSE and A Level students can study art, drama and music.

As well as joining extra-curricular orchestras and bands as varied as Garage Band and Musical Theatre Group, students can perform in evening recitals, a Christmas Concert and the ‘Strawberry Serenade’ summer concert. There are also opportunities to join the Hallé Children’s Choir or Hallé Youth Training Choir, and students take part in school productions each year, both at Withington and at the local Manchester Grammar School.

Beyond the classroom

There’s a huge range of extra-curricular activities, with eco-warriors, yoga and ‘shake up and wake up’ fun fitness being added recently. Whatever your daughter’s interests, the list of clubs is as diverse as science, classics, chess, art, debating, sport, engineering, music and zoo club.

In the Sixth Form, girls prepare for university life by forming a Young Enterprise Company; participating in the Mock Trial Competitions; acting as delegates at Model United Nations conferences and taking part in business games, debating contests and public speaking competitions.

Academic results

WGS delivers excellent results year on year, and it is high ranking in national league tables. 

In 2021, most Sixth Formers took three A Levels. 70.2% of grades were A*; 90.2% were A*-A; and 99.6% were A*-B. Around three in four leavers were offered places at Russell Group universities, and 15% took up places at Oxford and Cambridge. In the 2021 GCSE results, 69% of papers were awarded grade 9, 87.8% were 8 or 9 grade, and 98.2% were 9-7. 

Admission and fees

The main entry points to Withington are Year 3, Year 4, Year 7 and Year 12.  Entry for the Junior school is by Entrance Assessment. Each year, up to 40 places are available for Transition (Year 3); additionally, a small number of places are available for Year 4 (Form I), Lower II (Year 5) and Upper II (Year 6). Entry to the Senior School is by examination and interview. 

Currently one in six students in the Senior School is supported by a bursary of up to 80% or more of the fees. 

Unlike many other schools, the annual fees of £11,181 to £14,622 are inclusive of external examination fees and an early/late stay provision, which means Junior School girls can attend school from 8am until 5.15pm.

Our view

Good for: As a high achieving single-sex senior school, Withington is academic enough for parents looking for high grades but also small enough to nurture girls with a wide range of interests. It’s particularly well suited to independent, ‘all rounder’ girls who want to leave school with more than academic grades – and it will really appeal to sporty students, who may find they have more opportunity to play competitively than they would at a larger school. Also, its generous bursary scheme will certainly broaden its appeal and prevents the school from becoming too exclusive.

Not for: Clearly not for families looking for a boarding option (this is day students only) or a co-ed education... In addition, some girls may find the rigorous curriculum challenging, particularly if joining the senior school from elsewhere.

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