When I launched ‘Our Vision for St Helen’s’ in the Spring of 2014, I set out an ambitious and aspirational blueprint for the development of an exceptional school over the next 5 years. That Vision remains the same. ‘My vision is for St Helen’s to be North London’s exceptional independent school for girls, providing an outstanding education that enables every girl to realise her full potential, both intellectually and as a well-balanced individual. I am also determined that the School’s successes are nationally recognised.’ In 2016 we updated you on the progress we had made in the first two years of the strategy and later that year we received a ringing endorsement of this from the ISI inspection team, which concluded that the quality of the pupils’ achievements and the quality of the pupils’ personal development are ‘excellent’ and that ‘pupils’ attitudes to learning are exceptional’. I am now proud to report in 2018 that we have not only achieved everything we set out to do in ‘Our Vision’ a year ahead of schedule, but have gone much further than we had hoped and planned. We now have even firmer foundations upon which to take our next steps, to build an even more exciting and rewarding future for everyone within the St Helen’s community, and in particular, for our students. I am delighted to be writing to you today to reflect on everything that has been achieved and to look forward and share with you the next phase of ‘Our Vision’.
• To provide each and every girl with the opportunity and means to achieve academic excellence by promoting intellectual curiosity, excitement and ambition.
• To provide our pupils with the personal skills, emotional resilience and the confidence to achieve their full potential through a varied, rich and challenging co-curricular programme.
• To know, value and respect all girls as individuals so as to best support them on their journey through the School.
• To ensure that the School, the girls, the staff and our
parents play a full and active part in the local, national and global community.
Dr Mary Short, Headmistress
Achievements Before I expand on the next stage of the journey, I want to reflect upon all that we have been doing over the past two years to take St Helen’s forward and to make it into a school which is flourishing and vibrant, reflects the opportunities of the 21st century, and embraces diversity, tolerance and the importance of wellbeing and balance.
Milestones and Pillars – Building for the Future Next year will be the School’s 120th Birthday and when we come to celebrate that milestone, we will have cause to consider the past and to lay out our plans for the future.
Prep School We were delighted by the ways in which the new Junior School building made the creation of the Prep school possible – it has been a very exciting and extremely successful development. The Prep School now enjoys one leader, one ethos, coherent transition at age appropriate points, outdoor learning, and dedicated spaces for drama, music, art, D&T, science, and ‘discovery’. We have created a very strong leadership and management team and are also appointing subject leaders with oversight across the wholeage range. The behaviour code has been transformed into a positive one which rewards good behaviour and has seen the end of the much-feared red dots! We have also seen more whole-Prep school activities from assemblies to prize-giving and performance opportunities. This year’s Head Girl team will be the last, so that we can move towards providing every girl in Year 6 with the opportunity to contribute to a team which will lead the Prep School.
• The core curriculum of Mathematics and English has been
thoroughly reviewed and revised and is now firmly embedded.
• Outdoor learning has been transformed in Science and in the playgrounds which have all been developed to engage girls in active, resilience-building, learning through play and to encourage cooperative play and social skills. Play spaces are making the girls much more outgoing, brave, sociable and active, bringing huge benefits for their social growth, physical development and mental wellbeing.
• Gaining exemption from the EYFS framework this year will enable us to follow the specific needs of individual girls and work within the St Helen’s model of education.
• IAPS membership has been successfully achieved, which
will provide outstanding training and networking for the teaching staff and opens up a whole world of opportunities for sporting competitions.
Academic Development • Our aim has always been to attract the
brightest all-rounders into the School. Year-on-year we are seeing evidence that the proportion of the most able pupils applying at all stages is increasing and entry at each key point is increasingly competitive. We have long been recognised as providing the warmest and most welcoming experience of all our competitors.
• We have played an active role in
Sixth Form Development
• The new two-year A Level courses are now in place, which
have enabled us to create an exciting curricular programme which includes A and AS Levels, the EPQ, and Enhancement. All participate in the enrichment programme, sport, the fortnightly lecture, the Personal Impact Programme (Futures) and University Preparation classes.
• The new common room and its modern, sophisticated
environment promote mature and thoughtful independence.
• Improved academic and pastoral monitoring and more
intelligent use of data help the girls to understand their own strengths and potential, and appreciate that their own attitudes to learning and development can have a real impact.
The Sixth Form ‘Experience St Helen’s’ days are having a positive impact on successful recruitment.
developing the new London 11+ Consortium and welcome its fresh approach to assessment at this key transition point.
• The recently-appointed Director of
Studies is leading staff in making the most of data, lesson observations and work scrutiny which contributes directly to our curriculum development.
• We continue to attract excellent
candidates for permanent teaching positions because we offer outstanding opportunities for teaching and professional development.
Futures Programme Development • This unique and significant programme has grown and
• There is a positive behaviour policy now in place across the School.
• We have refined the way we report to parents in response
to parent and pupil feedback, for example providing current working grades at appropriate stages to older girls who are following public examination courses.
• We have developed a schedule of internal assessments
and examinations in Prep and Senior School to provide girls with appropriate opportunities to acquire and refine their examination technique, develop robust revision practice, reflect and learn from their experiences and to become more resilient in the face of set-backs. Our focus continues to be that examination skills are valuable and important but that they do not define an outstanding education.
• We have reviewed wraparound care and have taken steps
to increase our provision significantly next year to meet as much of the demand as the limitations of our site will allow. We do not want to sacrifice green space or forget that our core charitable purpose is to provide education – but we are working hard to support busy working parents as much as we can.
• We have established a Psychological Wellbeing Service
to provide much-needed support to pupils and advice to staff and have improved our medical facilities in Prep and Senior School.
• We have an Equality Committee which meets to consider
the ways in which the school nurtures and supports all the members of the community whatever their ethnicity, faith, gender identity, sexuality, race or socio-economic background. Our students have more amplified voices on forums such as the Year 1 and 2 Council and whole-school Eco Group. We are also proud of our peer mentoring, Year Leaders, and the introduction of mindfulness in Prep School.
developed. Situated in Mackenzie, in bespoke accommodation, it provides careers education and HE advice for all senior students, but with particular focus on Years 10-13. Through PSHCE, a programme of one-to-one meetings, the tutorial programme, Futures Days and Futures Evenings focused on career sectors, and networking breakfasts, the girls (and their parents) are able to gain insight into their own potential and to discover more about the opportunities which await them when they leave School. The Department has developed an excellent network of current and past parents and alumnae who contribute to this exciting programme.
• The Deputy Director of Futures was appointed in September 2017 to provide support for candidates applying to Oxbridge and this year six students hold offers to read Medicine, Geography, English, Mathematics and Natural Sciences at Oxford and Cambridge.
• In the Sixth Form, the Futures Programme includes the
Personal Impact Programme, University Preparation classes and the Oxbridge Programme.
• The change in title from extra-curricular to co-curricular has been transformative.
• We have appointed Directors of Music, Sport and Drama with responsibility across the School.
• We continue to be awarded Green Flag status and the eco
message is strong across the School. Examples of change driven by Eco teams include wildlife habitat creation, ‘zero to landfill’, and the removal of disposable water cups from the pupils’ dining room.
• The breadth of the programme – from Prep to Sixth Form – has grown and created opportunities for every girl to gain leadership experience and to contribute in her community. There are increasing opportunities for all pupils to perform and gain confidence on the stage through music, dance, gym and drama.
• The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) is very strong and the
numbers of girls achieving Gold reflects this, with the biennial expedition to Morocco fuelling interest!
• We have engaged fully with the Combined Cadet Force (CCF)
at Merchant Taylors’ School and were delighted when the first cadet to receive the partnership sword, which celebrated 25 years of St Helen’s involvement with CCF, was awarded to a St Helen’s pupil in 2017.
• Our partnership with MTS in Phab has also grown and
St Helen’s staff and pupils were key in the establishment of Phab Club on Friday evenings, which is run by girls and boys in Upper School. Phab Week is now in its fifth decade.
• Sixth Form girls are relishing opportunities to take part in
global adventures, whether that is supporting charity work on the ground in Uganda (2019) or by attending summer schools at Yale University.
• Sporting activities have expanded rapidly since 2014 with girls
achieving particularly highly in badminton, swimming, rugby, netball, basketball, and dance. The new facilities, increased use of professional coaches, widening range of fixtures and tournaments and a variety of non-team sports are encouraging all girls to be physically active throughout their school careers and to appreciate that good physical health is invaluable in promoting good mental health.
Estate Development We are so fortunate to have over 21 acres of beautiful grounds, a ‘green heart’ in the centre of North London, which provide a valuable and extensive learning landscape and a safe space in which our girls can be physically active, adventurous and creative. Continued investment in our Estate enables us to create an increasingly rewarding environment in which our girls, and members of the wider School community, can work and play.
July 2016 – School House
Our new Reception area has generated pride in the School and a window onto our community and it provides first-class learning and social spaces for the pupils as well as much-improved accommodation for staff. The Headmistress is delighted to have an office which overlooks the School and feels very much to be at the heart of it, allowing her to enjoy being able to see the girls, every day, as they move around the School.
September 2016 – Junior School Building This state-of-the-art new building has transformed the School experience for the girls and for the staff and enabled the foundation for us to create the Prep School. Our wonderful facilities promote outstanding learning and provide spacious, vibrant and exciting spaces such as the Discovery Centre.
Summer 2017 – Lund
Lund provides versatile and flexible air-conditioned spaces which can be used for learning, school and public
exams, assemblies, parents’ evenings, and staff and governors’ meetings and training. In addition, rooms can be hired for children’s parties and other community events, enabling us to raise important funds for our Bursary Programme.
Summer 2017 – Computer Science labs and the Modern Foreign Language Lab refurbished These new facilities greatly enhance our teaching of Computer Science, which is becoming increasingly popular, as are our very wide range of languages at 11-18 (French, Spanish, Mandarin, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian).
September 2017 – Mackenzie This wonderful, self-contained new building creates a vibrant and age-appropriate Sixth Form Centre, which supports my strategy to develop girls ‘From Pupil to Student’. The Futures Department also has dedicated and valuable space within the Sixth Form Centre, promoting aspiration, ambition and adventure for our young women as they embark on the next stage of their educational and life journeys.
September 2017 – Dining Room
Eating together is an important part of the School day for the girls and for the staff and this bright, refurbished and extended space has had a hugely positive impact on this social experience, which can be seen and heard in the conversations which take place over lunch! It has already proved to be a huge asset for the School in terms of providing space for our events, including the hosting of the Phab Ball, Old Girls’ Day, the Alumnae Ambassadors’ Dinner and Calendar Sale, to name but a few.
February 2018 – All-weather pitch We waited a very long time for this, but it has been worth it, with a multifunctional layout that can be used for lacrosse, hockey, cricket and football. It complements the Dome which makes it possible to play netball and tennis in the winter and evenings.
Enhancing our already outstanding sporting facilities, the all-weather pitch enables the girls to participate in a wide range of field sports and to be physically active for squads, personal fitness and enjoyment, all year round.
Development Office Our Development activities are now a well-established aspect of School life. Networking events, Alumnae events (with a careers or mentoring focus), Alumnae reunions, Alumnae university groups, annual Alumnae Ambassadors’ Dinner and support for Old Girls’ Day and other Old Girls’ events all contribute to friend raising and fundraising (including telephone campaigns, deposit donations, bequests). These underpin the future development of the School and have enabled us to establish new Student Enrichment, Bursaries and Capital funds. The bi-annual publication of Profile magazine has also informed and inspired us all.
• We have harnessed all of our financial resources with great
success. Some £20 million has been spent over the past five years on the development of the estate and we have also invested heavily in staff, bursaries and the teaching programme whilst keeping our fees well below those of our competitors and neighbouring schools. We now need to consider how to secure further financial support from alternative sources.
• Our Enterprises business has raised significant bursary
funds, which are transforming lives, and the take-up of 100% transformative bursaries has increased markedly in the past two years, changing the ratio of bursaries to scholarship funding from 1:1 to 2:1.
• We engage with schools in the local community to share
services and advice and hope to develop these connections and nurture relationships to support local maintained schools for the benefit of all pupils. We are focusing in particular on schools in South Oxhey and Northwood School. We will use the surplus generated by Enterprises (which has grown from £76k to £300k) to support our excellent and successful Bursary programme.
• A strong and robust leadership team is now in place across the School with the Head of Prep joining the Executive. The Executive comprises the Headmistress, Head of Prep, Business Director, Deputy Head Pastoral and Deputy Head Academic to lead the strategic planning for the school in collaboration with the Governing Body. They are supported by expanded Senior Leadership and Pastoral teams.
Communications • Robust and effective communications are essential to a
healthy relationship with all constituents in our wider School community. We appointed a Director of Communications in September 2017; a digital parent portal was developed in 2016; SchoolPost was also introduced in September 2017; and we are using this with Wisepay to simplify parent permissions and payment for trips and visits.
• Our long standing and mutually beneficial relationship with the
Merchant Taylors’ Company (MTS) has now been formalised and we are appreciative of their support for our Bursary Programme, and for including St Helen’s pupils in projects such as the Remembrance Concert, which will be held in Birmingham on Sunday 11th November 2018 to mark the centenary of the signing of the Armistice which marked the end of the Great War. Our joint activities with MTS and St John’s are well-established and continue to develop and improve.
• The Headmistress sits on the Girls’ School Association (GSA)
Education Committee, the GSA/HMC Joint Universities subcommittee and is a governor of two schools. The Deputy Head Academic is also a governor of a local maintained school.
Next Steps The Four Pillars remain the guiding principles in all that we do. Our curriculum balances the sciences and mathematics with the humanities and creative arts and sport, all with a strong focus on the development of the whole child. A diverse and rich blend of curricular and co-curricular activities provides all pupils with the confidence, emotional intelligence and resilience to thrive in the world beyond home and School and helps to develop a social conscience and support for others less fortunate than themselves. Our aim has always been to develop strong young women who can lead and contribute to their professions, families and communities throughout their lives.
Whole School Initiatives We will • Continue to focus on promoting independent learning and thinking; academic and personal resilience and the promotion of the learning characteristics desirable at all ages and which are highly valued by HE institutions.
• Develop a better, more robust and relevant ICT strategy, led by the
Head of Computer Science. This will include developing transferable digital skills – understanding the key programs and coding skills to enable students to adapt to future technological developments.
• Develop our focus on the promotion of mental and physical
wellbeing including mindfulness activity and positive thinking supported by a programme of talks and discussions for parents.
• Work to ensure a smooth transition at all stages on a girl’s journey through the School whether that be EYFS to Year 1 or Year 11 to Year 12, with preparation for the big jump at 18 into a successful university or apprenticeship environment.
We will • Ensure a smooth transition between EYFS and Year 1, between Years 2 and 3, and from Prep to Senior School.
• Develop the curriculum with increasingly specialist teaching in
Upper KS2 and reflect the opportunities provided by the London 11+ Consortium’s adoption of a new style of entrance examination.
• Provide for enhanced use of Form time for current affairs, VR and NVR practice, reading and debate.
• Develop the Prep School outdoor curriculum and shared outdoor learning, making greater use of the Orchard.
• Increased opportunities to perform for all girls and for leadership, particularly in Year 6.
• Develop our programme of Parents’ evenings to promote better understanding of how to support your daughter in Prep School.
• Work with our neighbouring Prep Schools, as the largest School in the area, to increase our contribution to the wider Prep community.
• Use our language expertise in EYFS and KS1 to support phonic and speech development.
Resources and Facilities
We will • Capitalise on the opportunities that the new 11+ provides for a
We will • Open the new School of Music in October 2018 to transform
more holistic admissions process.
music provision for older girls. More and better-sized practice rooms, a drum room, two large teaching rooms, a tech room, recording studio and glorious recital room are perfect for rehearsals and chamber concerts.
• Develop academic enrichment through scholarship programmes and initiatives such as the Middle School University.
• Build a strong programme which enables pupils to develop
• Refine our Masterplan, with the priority being to provide six
into students in the Sixth Form, starting with a two-day induction for Year 12 in September 2018 at the University of East Anglia.
additional classrooms, additional science labs, and new drama provision by building on the Fitzwalter site. Future projects will include further investment in areas that matter most to the girls’ learning such as the Senior School library, changing rooms, the refurbishment of science labs and improving the RBH.
• Develop our Futures Programme to include opportunities
to connect possible mentors to pupils and for networking; continued development of the Oxbridge Programme and development of our experience and knowledge of overseas universities including those in the US and Europe.
• Deliver uniformity and consistency of ICT provision in
all classrooms and labs including touch smart screens by September 2018.
• Focus on PSHCE: our Head of PSHCE has responsibility
• Ensure a coherent programme of staff CPD, observation
for Senior School including Sixth Form and this will be complemented by a coherent programme for parents.
and scrutiny, supported by greater accountability.
• Develop our Nursing/wellbeing provision. • Continue to develop the Co-curricular Programme to
provide the right kinds of opportunities which will enable the girls to develop their lifelong passions.
• Review our provision and participation in curriculum sport to ensure opportunity for all pupils to engage with sport.
• Improve retention at 11+ developing the role of Year 13 Prefects to support this.
• Provide Futures Mentoring through our alumnae and parent
community through which to provide pupils with opportunities to better understand careers available to them.
Sixth Form –
from Pupil to Student We will • Deliver a UEA induction event to provide insight into the journey ahead.
• Develop and refine the curriculum to continue our focus on the two-year programme of work.
• Focus our teaching staff on the learning and study skills explicitly taught in transition from GCSE.
• Prepare our students for university – how to survive Freshers’ week, financial understanding, survival cookery.
• Build academic enrichment through a reinvigorated lecture programme, enrichment lessons and enhancement.
• Further develop the EPQ Programme (under the EPQ Coordinator and a dedicated team of supervisors).
• Offer a St Helen’s fee structure reflecting the quality of
educational opportunities provided in a highly competitive market and to continue to offer outstanding value for money.
• Transition to a new information management system (iSAMS) which will rapidly improve the digital support of learning.
• Support our Development Office further to reinforce
fundraising and further growth of relationship-building.
• Improve communication by introducing a new website which
will enable prospective and current parents to find information more effectively and complement this with enhanced use of digital communication and portals.
• Expand our Enterprises business to continue to grow and to fund bursaries.
• Continue to ensure excellent governance and ensure that the governing body has a full skill set which can oversee the continued growth and successful development of the School.
The Wider World We will • Ensure that our 120th Anniversary
celebrations and events engage and inspire everyone in our School community and beyond, encourage financial support and nurture broader relationships.
• Undertake parent and staff surveys
to better understand perceptions of the School and help us to further improve what we offer.
• Identify and develop new markets through a robust and relevant marketing strategy.
• Create a new Northwood schools hub with the other schools in Northwood.
• Engage further with the Merchant Taylors’ Company.
• Create more links with primary
schools in South Oxhey and develop partnerships with Northwood School and local girls’ secondary schools.
• Develop closer ties with the Old Girls’ Club.
• Continue to develop our valuable Bursary Programme.
• Re-energise and promote the great work of the PTA.
• Develop a communications programme and foster better dialogue to ensure that we stay connected to everyone in our School community.
Schools are never without challenges, but what makes my job so rewarding and stimulating, is being surrounded by people who relish rising to those challenges. I am fortunate to lead such an exceptional School on a stimulating journey, preparing our girls and young women for the rigours of education and the opportunities of life. I am immensely proud of our rich heritage and of the great traditions of girls’ education that have shaped the School thus far and which underpin our direction for the future. ‘Our Vision’ and our ideas, values and aspirations, are about how we can continue to evolve and develop as a School to provide a unique environment in which girls and young women can flourish and pursue their own rewarding pathways to an exciting future. Thank you for your continued support and I look forward to sharing more success stories as we move forward with confidence and continue to transform ‘Our Vision’ into reality.
St Helen’s School Eastbury Road, Northwood, Middlesex, HA6 3AS Admissions – 01923 843230 www.sthelens.london