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Royal High School Bath, GDST

Muddy says: Inclusive, girl-centered education, strong on science, maths and languages, with chic facilities – and the only school in Bath offering the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme

WHAT? WHERE?

Independent day and boarding school for around 500 girls aged from 11 to 18 years in the city of Bath. Situated in 11 acres on the hills of the Lansdown Road, just to the north of the city centre, the school’s imposing neo-Gothic exterior belies the warm, contemporary interiors – and education – you’ll find inside.

The school started out as two separate schools: The Royal School and Bath High School. The Royal School was founded by Queen Victoria and Florence Nightingale (amongst others) in 1864 on the site of the current school, and was originally for the daughters of army officers. You can still see military shields in the stained glass of the Memorial Hall.  Bath High School, set up by the Girls’ Day School Trust in 1875 for girls of all social classes, was further down the Lansdown Road.  The two schools merged in 1998 to become the Royal High School and both are celebrated with mementos on a wall in the main building.

The school is still part of Girls’ Day School Trust, the leading network of independent girl’s schools in the UK, and its only boarding school.

Non-denominational. About a fifth of the school are international, with an impressive 31 nationalities.

There’s a prep school and nursery on another Bath hill nearby.

FACILITIES

The school’s undergoing a major refurbishment with essential stuff like a new roof just completed in 2018, lots of rather brilliant interior redecoration throughout, a brand new Steinway Music School (more of which later) opened in 2019, dining hall refurbishment in April 2021 and a sports development project in the pipeline.

Most of the classrooms for Years 7 to 11 and the library are in the main building. The Sixth Form have a separate building with their own classrooms, boarding halls (and cafe!)  but share some facilities.

Did your school canteen look like this? Didn’t think so.

Catering company Holroyd Howe produce healthy balanced food that the girls love to eat – and it looks amazing.

STEM is strong here. The old science block was merged with a former gym to create inspiring labs and classrooms from stone, wood and glass. A recent week-long celebration of International Women in Engineering Day saw the students enjoy a variety of activities, including an introduction to rugby and engineering from Bath Rugby and Dyson, a Maths in real life and building tower challenge, and a talk from local architect, Verity Lacey. The school aims to help address the gender imbalance and create confident and knowledgeable girls to help pave the way for the future, encouraging them to explore their passions.

The art block is an inspirational workspace for budding artists and contains four bright, white studios with minimalist interiors. We popped our heads into one studio where students were working away to soothing chill out music – very Zen.

Well-equipped DT workshop with state-of-the-art 3D printer, four-axis router and the like.

Professional looking Sophie Cameron Performing Arts Centre, a former chapel (see the roof) with properly sprung floor, enormous black curtains to create smaller spaces. All sorts of drama and dance groups and an after-school Dance GCSE take place here (it’s the only school in Bath to offer this). The Memorial Hall is another performance space (gig night sounds cool).

Across the playing fields, the new Steinway Music School includes a professional recording studio, large teaching spaces, practice rooms and recital space as well as at least 10 Steinway pianos and other instruments. Loads of girls play instruments, and there are numerous choirs, orchestras, bands and ensembles.

Time for some quiet moments and peaceful contemplation in Evie’s Garden, built in remembrance of a former pupil.

ACADEMICS

It’s selective but not highly (about 100 apply for 80 places); academic but not hothouse and gets impressive results.

2021 GCSEs: 97.9% students achieved A*-C results (9-5 grades). Strong on STEM and, going against the national trend, modern languages. Most girls studying French, German, Spanish or Italian get high grades. Mandarin is also available.

Sixth Formers can choose between A levels or the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (the only school in Bath to do so). 2021 A Level: six students achieved a full set of A* grades and around 98.3% achieved A*-C grades. IB Diploma Programme: students scored an average of 39/4040/45 points (global average is 30) in 2021, with four students achieving top grades with 45/45 and a further four students achieving 44/45. Two students taking A Level courses also completed IB certificates in Computer Studies and Mandarin, achieving top marks with 7 points each, which shows the flexibility of offering students two academic post-16 pathways.

Pretty much everyone goes to their first choice university, mainly Russell Group (68% in 2021) with some every year to Oxbridge (two in 2021). 28% of students go on to study a health or STEM-related subject at university.

SPORTS

Facilities: astro turf, multiple tennis and (brand new) netball courts, sports hall.  International representation in a myriad of sports including rowing, fencing, swimming badminton – as well as in the Horse of the Year show. Team sports do well too, with national  achievements and successes, particularly in netball which benefits from strong links to Bath University and a Team Bath Super League netball coach.  Girls travel around the country to other GDST schools and take part in sports competitions.  The school’s co-curricular ‘RHS Active’ programme encourages everyone to take part in some physical activity (and the girls here do). The gym’s housed in a rather uninspiring building at the moment but has all the equipment you need there’s a sports development project starting from Autumn 2021. 

HEAD TEACHER

The Head, Mrs Kate Reynolds, started in September 2019, having come from Leweston, where she had been Head since 2015 and previously Head of International Boarding whilst teaching English and Drama. She has a commercial background, having practised Law in London and Somerset, and so brings a breadth of experience to her role as Head at the Royal High School. 

She believes that girls’ schools have a very important role to play in enabling young women to reach their full potential and make their mark on the outside world. What makes the Royal High School so successful? It’s the balance of a nurturing yet challenging school environment, where girls are treated as individuals, can grow and realise what they are capable of, and be inspired to be successful young women of the future.

REPORTS

See the latest reports from the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI), equivalent to Ofsted in the state sector, here.

WHAT ELSE?

Four IT suites and a Mac suite for music. The school is BYOD (bring your own device). Dotted around the place, there are little wifi’d corners where pupils can sit and chat or catch up with a tutor.

Meet Merlin and Spitfire, the school wellbeing dogs, who are always up for a run around the grounds with the girls and make appearances at all school events.

There are four houses: Austen, Bronte, Du Pre and Wollstonecraft (all from the arts though – do they need a new house named after a scientist or mathematician?).

Huge sense of pride in the school –’ you’re ‘Royal High until you die’ – and when they were redesigning the uniforms, the girls got together and campaigned for the school logo to be included.  Very strong sense of community amongst the staff of all levels from the ground up.

There’s a focus on leadership and going out into the world. The school hosts the GDST Young Leaders Conference, for prefects and head girls, with inspirational speakers. Networking events with the Bath Business Association are popular. As part of the 20th anniversary of the foundation of the school, former students – a fashion stylist, GP and scientist – offtered day in the life experiences to younger girls.

Links with a school in Kenya, Hewitt School in New York and the United World School in Cambodia, as well as nearby boys schools.

Being part of the GDST means tapping into a huge network of students around the UK, with shared events like a massive skiing trip and a trip to NASA, and a chance to form lifelong friendships. There are about 75k GDST alumnae worldwide (one of the largest careers networks of its kind). Sixth Formers can chat and seek advice from alumnae though the Rungway Mentoring App.  Clever idea.

BOARDING

About a quarter of girls board, some 140 girls.  School House for Years 7 – 11 at the top of the main building has two huge common rooms with fab furniture (check out those bar stools and zingy sofas), lighting and a modern kitchen.

There’s even a baby grand.

The shared bedrooms for three to six girls are awesome, cleverly designed on different levels with mezzanine floors and funky headboards. School House Angels help new girls settle in and ‘the housemistresses are great’.

Sixth Formers board in the separate Gloucester House, with communal areas, kitchen and cafe. Study bedrooms are doubles in Year 12; singles in Year 13.

QUIRKS/BOASTY BITS

Rated ‘excellent’ in the ISI report (2016).

There’s a hidden stone spiral staircase that leads up to the top of the tower with spectacular views over the city and has its own Twitter account.

School commandeered by the Admiralty in WWII – the air raid shelters are still in the basement. The girls were invited to the Marquis of Bath’s home at Longleat.

Mary Berry was a pupil at Bath High.

School caretaker Perry Harris is a well-established artist and illustrator.

WRAP AROUND CARE

Student wellbeing is a key priority, with in-house counselling and a wellbeing co-ordinator on hand to listen and support. The Pastoral Hub is a new development for September, which includes ‘The Hive’, a peaceful area for quiet reflection, a contemplation room and quiet study zone. All students from Years 8-11 have their own dedicated common rooms, built to the WELL standards.  

The co-curricular programme, ‘RHS Active’, aims to give students the opportunity to try new things, develop new skills and explore their passions. It covers a wide range of activities and clubs including music, sport, drama and performing arts, Greek and Roman mythology, philosophy – there’s always something new to try.   

Network of buses down to the rail station, around the outskirts of Bath and beyond to Bristol and Wiltshire. Lessons finish at 4.30pm but there’s a free after school club. Day girls can come for breakfast, pay-as-you-go supper and occasional/flexi boarding is encouraged.  

FEES

Economies of scale associated with being part of the GDST mean that fees are lower than other schools of the same standard  – £3,432 per term in the nursery up to £4,865 per term in the Sixth Form; boarding from £10,238 to £10,762 per term.  Many of the ‘extras’ are included as standard.

WORD ON THE GROUND

One parent described the school as kind, gentle and caring; supportive but not pushy with help when needed and excellent learning support.  Chemistry and Geography were singled out for special praise. Another highlighted academic success for all, and innovative resources for everyone, as well as the priority the school gives to pastoral care, especially the Sixth Form mentoring and buddy system. A third’s daughter ‘couldn’t be happier…she absolutely loves her learning experience and all the opportunities she encounters’.

MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: Pretty much any girl who’s down to earth, friendly and wants to make the most of the opportunities on offer; they work hard to make sure there isn’t a stereotypical Royal High girl.

Not for: Er, boys. That’s it. We think most girls would love it here.

Want to know more? Contact royalhigh@rhsb.gdst.net or book yourself into one of their next Open Events: IB or A Level? Tues 14 Sept; 6th Form Weds 22 Sept; and Senior School Sat 9 Oct.

The Royal High School Bath GDST, Lansdown Road, Bath BA1 5SZ. Tel 01225 313877. royalhighbath.gdst.net

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