Heathfield

Logo of Heathfield

Pupils Info

Gender – Girl's School
Age range – Age 11-18
Number of pupils on roll – 200 Pupils

Characteristics

Average Class Size: 15
Day, weekly and full boarding school
Oxbridge Entrance Percentage: 6%
A* to B at A-Level Percentage: 70%
Termly fees:
Senior (Forms III - UVI) Boarding £11,400 Day 7,092
Lower (Forms I - II) Boarding £11,125 Day £6,900

Heathfield is a dynamic day, weekly and full boarding school for girls aged 11-18 set in stunning grounds in Ascot with outstanding facilities. Academically, it is consistently strong: 70% A Level students achieved all A*-B grades in 2015 and every girl got into her first choice of university, with over 40% of those to the leading Russell Group of universities. Heathfield’s Sixth Form prepares girls so well for university that 90% of girls going back to 2010 gained a First or a 2:1. Next year, a fifth of Heathfield pupils will apply to Oxford or Cambridge. The school also ranks in the top 17% of UK schools for adding value to a girl’s results during her school career, according to a recent report by Durham University. Heathfield has just opened a state-of- the-art new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) facility to educate the next generation of scientists and mathematicians. Pastorally, the school is rated as ‘Outstanding’ by the ISI (Independent Schools Inspectorate). The school’s philosophy is simple: imbue girls with a sense of well-being and confidence and they will shine. Heathfield has a reputation as a creative powerhouse – with five Good Schools Guide Awards for the Arts and a unique partnership with the London College of Fashion. It also excels in drama and music with pupils going on to RADA and LAMDA. Sporting facilities are first class and girls compete successfully in many sports including Lacrosse, Netball, Swimming, Tennis, Athletics and the Equestrian disciplines dressage, show jumping and polo. Girls at Heathfield like to get out and compete – nationally and internationally – this summer girls will be off to the USA and Canada on lacrosse and netball tours. Pupils take part in a huge range of extra-curricular activities from Debating to Book Clubs and music, dance and drama clubs through to the popular Athena Society which is run by the girls and invites speakers in to discuss topical issues. Entry is at 11, 13 or 16. Scholarships are awarded for Academic, Art, Music, Drama and Sport at all entry points. We have open mornings every term (please see website for details www.heathfieldschool.net) but if you would prefer a private tour, please email registrar@heathfieldschool.net to book.

Background and Reputation

Founded by Eleanor Beatrice Wyatt, who had previously set up several small girls’ schools in London, and decided there would be a benefit in young ladies being educated in the fresh air, tiny Heathfield, which only has 200 pupils across the seven years, is housed in a striking 18th-century white Italian- style villa on the main road out of Ascot. Heathfield’s social cachet is great, and many of the parents are very grand and very moneyed. But it also has a strong reputation for turning out “nice” girls, well-bred, well-mannered and good wife material. One old girl admits: “most leavers hope to be either actresses, interior decorators or to work in fashion or as models.” That about sums it up. The 2005 merger with St Mary’s Wantage school – a nearby girls’ boarding school with a similarly unacademic reputation (perhaps not entirely fair in the case of Heathfield) – hasn’t made much difference to the spirit of the school, “but we did get a new performing arts centre,” says one girl. As mentioned, this is not an academic heavy-hitter, but academic results are not to be sniffed at. In 2012, 37% of GCSEs were awarded A/A* grades and 44% of A-levels were. A large proportion of girls opt to pursue arts and humanities subjects, with history of art, art and photography singled out as most popular subjects, along with theology. “If you wanted to do well, you could,” says Girl A, “but there was certainly no pushing.” Girl B agrees: “You had to have the drive yourself, and then they would help you out, but there is definitely a feeling in the younger years of people not really caring about work. That changed in the upper years, as people would become a bit motivated by university.” Girl C adds: “They will give every encouragement if there is something you are doing well at – say, drama – but if you are struggling with maths, they just won’t bother. The school is great at drama and arts, which is great, but not great for league tables.”

Academic and Exit Results

All the girls mentioned that the high turnover of teachers was a bit frustrating. “Heathfield is not a school where there are teachers who’ve been there for ages,” laughs Girl B. “I think I had 12 different English teachers in my last two or three years alone,” adds Girl C. But all three girls reached their first choice university and said that somehow the school’s focus on encouraging strengths and ignoring weaknesses seems to work – and certainly makes for a happy community. While Oxbridge represents a tiny minority, a very respectable number go onto highly reputable “second-tier” universities like Bristol, UCL, Newcastle and Edinburgh.

Social and Pastoral

It is in this sphere that Heathfield excels most. Old girls seem almost unanimous in their gushing of the wonderful friendships and happy time they had here. “You start off aged 11, with 11 girls in the year,” says Girl C, “and that grows to about 28 by Upper Sixth and you all just know each other so well and feel like sisters by the end. Because of the lack of pressure, there is just not a bitchy or competitive feeling here.” While friendships within year groups are undoubtedly incredibly strong, the girls all speak of an unfortunate “social hierarchy” – not unusual in girls’ boarding environments – between year groups. “The older girls would be intimidating on purpose to scare us. There was nothing worse than being accused of being ‘cocky’.” But there is very little real bullying at Heathfield. “The feeling is that it is a small and cosy school and everyone needs to get along,” says Girl A. Girl C adds: “We were taught to work together, not against each other. I think Heathfield taught me great social skills.” The house system works, the girls all agree, with each year group living together and the upper sixth living in their own bungalow – separate from the main school building, “the best thing about the whole school,” according to Girl B. “School food was a dream compared to university,” says Girl C, and rooms and bathrooms were clean and comfortable, if not “state-of-the-art”. The girls refer affectionately to living in an “Ascot bubble” in their time at Heathfield, which involves a great deal of meeting up with Eton boys and St Mary’s Ascot girls in Ascot or Windsor. “The school would also organise socials and dinner parties with Eton and Radley,” says Girl B, but she adds, “these were a bit weird and felt sort of forced – especially the discos. People would generally just be friends with the Eton boys they already knew from home.” A huge number of Heathfield girls also have brothers at Eton, which helps the links between the two schools. The younger years were “quite socially inept”, but in the older years, and particularly in sixth form, once girls were allowed cars at school, the social interaction with the boys really took off. Drugs do not factor much at Heathfield, though drinking is fairly widespread, but “we’d do it for our own fun,” says Girl C, “not to spite the teachers or anything. It was very St Trinian’s – going to a friend’s barbeque on a weekend and then running back to school having had one too many!”

Sport, Art Music and Drama

A far cry from the likes of Downe House or St Swithun’s, sport at Heathfield is very low-key. “Because we had such small years, there weren’t many people to choose from,” says Girl A, “but the upside was that everyone got to be in the teams, even if we never won!” Girl B adds: “I would definitely not have been happy at Heathfield if I was a top-class athlete. Because it is such a small school, it’s really not very competitive, but it was nice that because there was no one sport we were amazing at as a school, we did a bit of everything, and everyone got to try all the sports. People who had a lot of other interests too could still be in teams, because you didn’t have to dedicate your life to it. It’s definitely not the place for people who want to go County though!” Heathfield has a stronger reputation in individual sports, such as swimming and athletics, than in team games. Drama, drama, drama. This is, without doubt, the single most popular pursuit amongst Heathfield girls (many of whom, no doubt, are hoping to become the next Sienna Miller.) There is a theatre seating 300 and a range of adventurous productions for girls to take part in, as well as a very popular programme through LAMDA (London Academy of Musical and Dramatic Arts). Art is particularly strong here – and textiles and photography are said to be exceptional. Girl B laments that music is not encouraged more, though. “It wasn’t considered ‘cool’ to be in the orchestra,” she says, “so, as a result, the orchestra wasn’t great, and the music department in general could have been a lot stronger. Visual arts, by contrast, according to Girl C, were amazing. “A lot of girls would sell their A-level art to other Heathfield parents; that’s how good it was.”

Extracurricular

Cookery is very popular – with everyone studying in the first three years and a programme through Leith’s School of Food & Wine for the sixth form (no wonder the school food is considered so good with this emphasis!) Girl C cited the extensive sixth form offerings of sports alternatives, such as Yoga, Pilates and Zumba as a real school strength. Polo, riding and all equestrian pursuits are also very popular. The school lays on lots of activities on the weekends so girls are never bored.

Contact

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