What it’s like
Founded in 1885, the school moved to its present site in 1898. It has a splendid
position above the cliffs and overlooking the sea, between Brighton and
Rottingdean. It is a purpose-built school with attractive and very well-equipped
buildings on a large estate of which about 40 acres are given to playing fields
and leisure activities. One of the most distinguished schools in Britain, it is
well run and its large and well-qualified staff permits a staff:pupil ratio of
about 1:7. Standards are very high and examination results excellent. Sixth
formers can work on undergraduate mathematics modules at Sussex University.
Great emphasis is placed on careers advice and the teaching of leadership
skills. Extremely strong in art, music, drama and performing arts and virtually
all pupils are involved. A wide range of games and sports is available and high
standards are achieved. There is a high commitment to local community services.
The school has an outstanding record in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme and
the Young Enterprise Business Scheme.
Pupils & entrance
Pupils: Age range 11–18, 396 girls (59 day, 337 boarding).
Entrance: Main entry ages 11, 12, 13 and 16. Common Entrance and own
tests used; interviews for entry to sixth form. Wide range of interests and
skills looked for; no religious requirements. Small (but growing) number of
entrants from state schools. Recruits from large number of prep schools.
Scholarships, bursaries & extras 20–30 pa scholarships and
exhibitions, including academic, music, art, sport, performing arts and sixth
form; continuation scholarships available with some prep schools. Also some
bursaries. Parents not expected to buy textbooks until sixth form.
Parents 20+% live within 30 miles; 39% live overseas.
Head & staff
Headmistress: Mrs Carolyn Shaw, appointed 2003. Educated at West Kirby
Grammar School, and at the universities of London (English) and Liverpool.
Previously Head of St Mary’s Calne, University Advisor at Cheltenham Ladies
College, Head of English at Mount St Agnes Academy (Bermuda); also marketing
manager in an export company.
Teaching staff: 48 full time, 74 part time. Annual turnover 16%. Average
GCSE: In 2003, 69 pupils in upper fifth, 99% gained at least grade C in
8+ subjects. Average GCSE score 65 (over 5 years).
A-levels: 92 in upper sixth: 53% passed in 4+ subjects; 41% in 3–3_
subjects. Average final point score achieved by upper sixth formers 399.
University & college entrance 100% of 2003 sixth-form leavers went on
to a degree course (3% after a gap year), 8% to Oxbridge. 10% took courses in
medicine, dentistry & veterinary science, 22% in maths, science & engineering,
10% in law, 10% in languages, 38% in arts humanities & social sciences, 10% in
other vocational subjects.
Curriculum GCSE, AS and A-levels. 26 AS/A-level subjects.
Sixth form: Most sixth formers take 4 subjects at AS-level, 3 at A-level;
more mixing of arts and sciences, particularly increased uptake in maths and
languages. 23% took science AS and A-levels; 25% arts/humanities; 52% both. Key
skills in ICT and communication taught but not examined.
Languages: French, German and Spanish offered to GCSE, AS and A-level.
Regular exchanges (France and Germany).
ICT: Taught both as a discrete subject and across the curriculum. Ratio
computers to pupils 1:4 (open access); all networked and with email, intranet
facilities and filtered, monitored access to internet. All pupils follow a
skills-based ICT course each year and ECDL in sixth form; computing offered at
AS and A-level.
Music: Over 70% of pupils learn a musical instrument; instrumental exams
can be taken as well as GCSE, AS and A-level. Musical groups include symphony
orchestra, 2 choirs, 2 training ensembles, numerous chamber groups, jazz band.
Concerts include St John’s Smith Square and tours to eg Prague, Luxembourg.
Drama & dance: Drama GCSE and A-level offered; ESB and LAMDA exams may be
taken. Majority of pupils are involved in school and house/other productions.
Typically 2 pa accepted for drama/theatre related courses at university. Dance
GCSE offered; RAD ballet and ISTD modern, jazz and tap exams may be taken
Art & design: On average, 27 take GCSE, 20 take AS level, 10 A-level.
Design (including computer graphics), ceramics, textiles and fine art are
offered at AS and A-level, photography as sixth-form option. Portfolios can be
geared towards architecture. Pupils regularly gain places at top art colleges
and architecture schools.
Sport & activities
Sport: Hockey, netball, swimming, tennis, rounders, gymnastics, athletics
compulsory to lower fifth; also dance, lacrosse, badminton, basketball,
trampolining at various stages. Upper fifth and sixth form: PE, and games
include aerobics, archery, basketball, karate, cricket, volleyball, squash,
yoga, work in fitness suite, golf, riding, fencing, ten-pin bowling, rock
climbing. Hockey, netball, cricket national and county players, various ages.
Sports tours organised.
Activities: Pupils take bronze, silver and gold Duke of Edinburgh’s
Awards (a challenging mountain expedition in France for gold). Over 30 clubs, eg
debating societies, political societies, Project Physics, community service.
Uniform: School uniform worn except in the sixth form.
Houses & prefects: Competitive houses. Head of school, officers and
prefects (appointed by Head, staff and sixth form), house prefects (elected by
school). Sixth-form committee and school council.
Religion: Compulsory Anglican-based morning chapel three times a week and
Sunday chapel, except for members of other faiths; Roman Catholics attend own
church and Jewish girls may have tuition from local Rabbi.
Social: Joint musical events, debates, quizzes, dances with local boys’
schools. Occasional organised trips to France, Germany, Spain; annual skiing
holiday. Sixth form allowed to bring own bike to school. Meals self-service.
School bookshop, tuckshop and stationery store. No tobacco or alcohol allowed.
Discipline All rules, and penalties for breaking these, are clearly
defined in the Student Handbook issued to each girl each year.
Boarding Upper fifth and sixth form have own study bedroom. 4 houses
of approx 70 for girls 11–16; 2 sixth form houses (of 90). Resident qualified
sister, 2 visiting doctors. Central dining rooms. Upper sixth may cook own food
some of the time. Half term plus 2–3 exeats termly; others by arrangement with
housemistress. Visits to local town allowed – escorted for younger girls.
Alumni association is run by Mrs P Wheatley, President, The Old
c/o the school.
Former pupils Baroness Chalker of Wallasey; Verity Lambert (actress
and director); Sarah Miles (actress); Sally Oppenheimer MP; Dame Cecily Saunders
(founder of hospice movement); Noel Dyson and Honeysuckle Weeks (actresses);
Rhona Mitra (actress and presenter); Yang-Mai Ooi (novelist); Emma Brown (film
director); Elizabeth Longford (politician and historian); Katherine Whitehorn
and Nancy Banks-Smith (journalists); Tanya Streeter (world record holder free
diving); Philippa Tattersall (first woman commando Green Beret).