St Paul's Girl's School

Logo of St Paul's Girl's School

Pupils Info

Gender – Girls' School
Age range – Age 13-18
Number of pupils on roll – 739 Pupils

Characteristics

Average Class Size: 15
Day School
Oxbridge Entrance Percentage: 32%
£7,479 per term
A* to B at A-Level Percentage: 99%

Pull your socks up! An impressive (if not imposing) entrance hall greets you on arrival at St Paul’s Girls’ School, wood panelling and marbles floors, and beyond this are some of the best facilities of any central London school we have seen. Described as a “pretty school” by Girl C, the buildings are impressive in comparison to just about any London day school. Classrooms tend to have been updated at least within the last decade, fitted out with Smart Boards and as much state-of-the-art equipment as any pupil could want.

Background & Reputation

Set up in 1904 to complement the famous boys’ school, in terms of academics St Paul’s Girls’ is quite unequivocally the best. This is a school that is notoriously pressurising, while paradoxically claiming that its focus is not on passing exams, but on the stimulation of intellectual curiosity. In this sense, it appears to be one of the most divisive schools – there are many who, when asked if school is enjoyable, clearly adore it. Yet there are also those (a fair few) who reply in the negative. The one common thread between all answers, however, is the eloquence with which they are given. St Paul’s certainly turns out the most intelligent of girls. At the heart of St Paul’s is a highly liberal ethos. Rules are few and far between (there is no uniform, for example); the idea being that girls are all so intellectually thirsty that no time is wasted on rule-breaking. However some pupils complain that such freedoms are gradually trickling away, particularly since head, rather affected called the High Mistress, Clarissa Farr, joined the school in 2006. Changes such as detentions being brought in, student notices in assemblies banned and a more strict enforcement of arrival times at school have made it “increasingly like a normal school” (Girl A). With such bright pupils, the school should beware of annoying them – see for example the 700 scathing mock prospectuses parodying the school produced for 2012’s ‘muck up day’.

Academic and Exit Results

While Ms Farr has a disappointingly low 40% rating on the (admittedly not always one hundred percent reliable) site ratemyteachers.com, she celebrated its best ever GCSE results last year (2012). Pupils and their parents seem to extol and dispute her virtues to equal measure. There has been an unusually high turnover rate of staff of late (none of the current Senior Management Team have been at the school for over a year and some favourite teachers have disappeared); some attribute this to the new(-ish) Head (Girl A). Nevertheless, results tend to speak for themselves and it is pretty evident that Ms Farr is doing something right. Pupils have a choice of GCSE and/or IGCSE, and all take at least one modern language. A level results are as brilliant as GCSE – 89 per cent received were A* in 2012 and 99 per cent got A/A*. Girl C insists that, “while we were really well prepared for exams, we were not spoon-fed. We were able to work through the curriculum (especially at GCSE) in a relatively short time, leaving plenty of time to explore around it.” “If anything, I would say the range of subjects at A level are too narrow,” says Girl B, but this criticism came only when pressed. At A Level, the school expects its pupils to explore far and wide beyond the syllabus and, throughout the whole school, girls are expected to take responsibility for managing their own time. This is excellent practice for university life – no wonder 100% of pupils go on to higher education. With this type of education, a wonderful library and imposing great hall, it almost seems natural that 40% of pupils end up at Oxbridge.

Social and Pastoral

St Paul’s Girls’ is often thought of as the very definition of a ‘pressure- cooker’ environment. Yet, as Girl B reflects, “it was pressurized – definitely, but most of the pressure came from the girls themselves rather than the school.” This is no school for the academically unenthused, but with its hugely competitive entrance requirements such pupils are unlikely to end up Paulinas anyhow. There are certain characteristics attributed to Paulinas (assertive, bright and outgoing), but Girl C stresses that not everyone was like this. She notes that, “St Paul’s offers an environment where there are loads of different types of people.” So individuality is encouraged and academic prowess admired. Is there room (and support) amongst all this for the shrinking violet? The school has been criticized in the past for a somewhat lackadaisical attitude to support. However this is changing: a sister scheme pairs each young newbie with two older girls (one at GCSE level, one at A level) to create a wider support system (and also remove some of the year divides). There are nice indoor and outdoor spaces to relax for girls who aren’t in lessons. In particular, the Sixth Form have the run of a block of rooms which is described as “amazing” (Girl C). Paulinas mix socially with lots of other London day schools, and the School maintains a close (but not forced) link with St Paul’s Boys’ School. There are the odd formal ‘mixes’, “but I never went to any and I don’t think many people did,” admits Girl C. The links are mostly through music and theatre, plus the occasional boys vs. girls sports matches. The food is yet another famed part of SPGS. Dining room facilities have just been redeveloped so girls can watch their meal being prepared in front of them and pupils do not hesitate to sing its praises: “phenomenally brilliant” and “top notch” were amongst the phrases used. Sadly though, eating disorders are a fairly regular occurrence, partly thanks to a (self-imposed) quest for perfectionism, suggests Girl C (who estimates that as many as one sixth of her year had a “funny relationship” with food).

Sport, Art, Music and Drama

There is an impressive choice of 28 sports for St Paul’s girls, and by all accounts the academic competitiveness transfers well to the sports field. With three grass tennis courts and an enormous new sports complex, the facilities are outstanding for central London. Unusual for a London day school, Lacrosse is the main sport, almost equalled in popularity by Netball. The School encourages its pupils to take on as many extracurricular activities as possible, as to how much effort is actually put in is very much up to the individual, especially later in their school careers. As expected, this is a school that likes winning. Music and art are described by Girl B as, “both very, very strong.” Once again, individuality is encouraged and pupils are keen to (as opposed to being told to) get involved. This appears to be a running theme throughout all school departments.

Extracurricular

More than 100 clubs and societies are on offer to satisfy the extracurricular whim of even the pickiest of pupils. “There was the opportunity to do anything,” says Girl B, “plus they were happy for you to set up your own clubs and organise charity events – to take the initiative.” Add to this a broad programme of community service, Friday lectures on a vast array of topics for sixth formers and over 100 school trips per year, and it’s difficult not to be impressed. As early as GCSE level, girls are encouraged to think about their futures – to consider different degree and career options, experience the workplace and develop useful transferable skills. In year 12, each student is allocated an academic mentor for expert subject guidance and support for applications.

However, these mentors can be “interested, but reservedly so,” according to Girl A, who further speculates that they have seen so many girls through the Oxbridge application process that they arealmost bored of it.

Contact

Get in touch via email, phone or visit us.

St Paul's Girl's School

Headmaster: Clarissa Farr

Telephone: 020 7603 2288

www.spgs.org

Address: Brook Green Hammersmith London W6 7BS

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