The School of St Helen and St Katharine
Tel: 01235 520173 Fax: 01235 532934
• GIRLS, 9–18, Day
• Pupils 616, Upper sixth 77
• Termly fees £2664
• Enquiries/application to the Admissions Secretary
What it’s like
St Helen's was founded in 1903 to provide a Christian education for girls in the
Abingdon area. It was joined in 1938 by St Katharine's School in Wantage. The
joint school (commonly known as St Helen’s) has its own Chaplain and Anglican
worship is a feature of the school. All girls are expected to attend assembly or
chapel daily. It is located on a single, semi-rural site of 14_ acres, on the
northern side of Abingdon. On-site facilities are excellent and include a new
performing arts facility with studio theatre, dance studio, art exhibition
space, music practice rooms and a concert hall. A new gymnasium, fitness suite
and library are under construction. While there is a commitment to women’s
education and an avowed gender-bias, girls are taught for some subjects in the
upper school along with boys from Abingdon School and there are some joint
activities (music, debates, sixth-form conferences) with both Abingdon and
Radley. Teaching is focused on the needs of able girls – in the lower and middle
schools on the need to learn study skills and, in the upper school, on the
development of the independence required in higher education. Examination
results are excellent. Music is strong and plays an important part in everyday
life. There is a wide range of sport, particularly at sixth-form level – rowing
and sailing are available; lacrosse and tennis are strengths and there is
success at county and national level. Pupils participate in the Duke of
Edinburgh’s Award Scheme and in Young Enterprise.
Pupils & entrance
Pupils: Total age range 9–18; 616 day girls. Senior department 11–18, 582
Entrance: Main entry ages 9, 10, 11 and 16. Own entrance exam used; for
sixth-form entry, school report, interview and 5 GCSEs at least grade C (grade B
in sixth-form subjects). No special skills or religious requirements. State
school entry, 38% of new intake at 11(plus 16% to sixth form). Many pupils from
own junior department and Manor Preparatory School in Abingdon (tel 01235
Scholarships & bursaries 8 pa academic scholarships, value up to 50%
of fees (4 at 11 and 4 at 16) plus 4 music scholarships, giving free
instrumental tuition. Some bursaries, awarded according to academic merit and
Head & staff
Headmistress: Mrs Cynthia Hall, in post from 1993. Educated at North
London Collegiate and Oxford University (English). Previously Head of English at
St Paul’s Girls’ School and Assistant English Mistress at Lady Eleanor Holles
and at Westwood House, Peterborough. Also researched and established an
Teaching staff: 49 full time, 16 part time. Annual turnover 12%. Average
GCSE: In 2003, 78 pupils in Year 11, 100% gained at least grade C in 8+
subjects. Average GCSE score 73 (71 over 5 years).
A-levels: 72 in Year 13: 7% passed in 4+ subjects; 92% in 3 subjects.
Average final point score achieved by upper sixth formers 373.
University & college entrance 97% of 2003 sixth-form leavers went on
to a degree course (40% after a gap year), 17% to Oxbridge. 15% took courses in
medicine, dentistry & veterinary science, 14% in science & engineering, 56% in
humanities & social sciences, 11% in other vocational subjects eg marketing,
physiotherapy. 3% went on to further education eg art foundation courses.
Curriculum GCSE, AS and A-levels. 22 subjects at GCSE, AS/A-level.
Sixth form: Most sixth formers take 3–5 subjects at AS-level, 3–4 at
A-level; general studies taught but not examined. 27% take science A-levels; 34%
arts/humanities; 45% both.
Vocational: Work experience available.
Special provision: Extra tuition can be arranged for mild dyslexia.
Languages: Modern languages compulsory to GCSE. French, German, Spanish,
Italian, classical Greek and Latin offered to GCSE, AS and A-level. Regular
ICT: Taught as a discrete subject (2 lessons/week in Years 7–11) and used
in the teaching of many subjects. All pupils take GCSE short course. 105
computers solely for pupil use (9 hours a day), all networked and with e-mail
and internet access. Network is school-wide with fibre optic backbone.
Music: Over 50% of pupils learn a musical instrument; instrumental exams
can be taken. Some 25 musical groups including 2 orchestras, 5 choirs, saxophone
ensemble, string quartet, concert band, wind band.
Drama & dance: Extra-curricular drama and dance offered. GCSE drama and
A-level theatre studies may be taken (and are popular). Recent school
productions include Cabaret (joint with Abingdon School), A Midsummer Night’s
Art & design: On average, 20 take GCSE, 16 A-level. Design technology,
ceramics, home economics, history of art also offered.
Sport & activities
Sport: Lacrosse, netball, gymnastics, tennis, swimming, athletics,
rounders, basketball, volleyball, badminton, cross-country, hockey, football,
rugby, aerobics, fitness compulsory at various ages. Optional: fencing, rowing,
aerobics. Sixth form only: squash, sailing, weights. Pupils in various national,
regional and county lacrosse teams; also national athletics; regional
cross-country and county tennis, netball and badminton players. Nationally
successful lacrosse, netball and tennis teams.
Activities: Pupils take bronze, silver and gold Duke of Edinburgh’s
Award. Community service optional for 3 years (from 15). 20+ clubs, eg Young
Enterprise plus various art, sport and music activities.
Uniform: School uniform worn except in sixth form.
Houses & prefects: No competitive houses. Prefects, head girl, elected by
Year 12 and staff. School Council.
Religion: Attendance at religious worship compulsory.
Social: Music, debates and sixth-form conferences with Radley College and
Abingdon School. Various language exchanges. Pupils allowed to bring own
car/bike/motorbike to school. Meals self-service. No alcohol/tobacco allowed.
Discipline Pupils failing to produce homework once would receive a
firm reminder; any pupil caught smoking cannabis on school premises could expect
suspension and be required to sign a contract of good behaviour.
Alumni association is run by Mrs H Groves, 5 Lime Trees, Chilton,
Oxon OX11 0HW.