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Anyone have any experience of St Albans High School for Girls prep (Wheathampstead House)?

(17 Posts)
greenicecream Mon 03-Nov-14 21:52:46

We recently attended an open day at the High School and were impressed, so are probably going to register our daughter for the 4+ assessments taking place in the new year. Just wondering if anyone had any recent experience of the prep school - or indeed of the assessments.

We are not applying for any other independent schools as have good state schools nearby (though they all have shrinking catchments!) and even if we were to be offered a place we may reject it in favour of our allocated maintained primary. Does anyone know if many state school educated children join the main STAHS at 11?

Thanks in advance.

ReallyTired Tue 04-Nov-14 09:42:19


I have no experience of the school but the girls I have met from that school have all been lovely children.

I would like to send my daughter there if we won the lottery.

greenicecream Tue 04-Nov-14 13:24:24

thanks reallytired! The lack of a lottery win is one of the main reasons we may have to turn a place down even if we were to be offered it smile

greenicecream Tue 04-Nov-14 19:14:57


TheWordFactory Tue 04-Nov-14 19:23:18

STAHs is a good day school.

It does take state schooled applicants at 11, but the entrance exam is quite stiff as there is a lot of competition and first dibbs go to girls at WH.

That said, they do weed out any underperforming WH girls. There is also another cull at 16.

There's a lot of talk that it's an academic hothouse, but the girls there do plenty of sport and drama too.

I know quite a few girls there. And girls who have left. Most are happy and thrive. However, it does not suit anyone with low confidence. I would also think it would be a tough place to be if a girl wasn't a high flier as high achievement is highly prized at this school. Positions of responsibility and plaudits are given to the most clever and high achieving.

TheWordFactory Tue 04-Nov-14 19:24:57

I'm talking about the secondary school BTW.

zenmum Wed 05-Nov-14 04:23:19

Hi Greenicecream,
We attended the assessments for Wheathampsted House last year. We absolutely loved the school. Lovely grounds, peaceful and tranquil environment and absolutely lovely teachers. The atmosphere was fairly relaxed and the teachers tried their best to make the children feel at home. There were a couple of children that were crying the place down, but the teachers did everything to calm them and take good care of them as well. I felt the way the teachers looked after the crying children, in spite of the day being an assessment day was commendable. This was surely a school where pastoral care was excellent and children throwing a tantrum before the actual assessments began was not held against them. All the parents were taken to a room, which I think was the canteen, where we were asked to wait. The assessment lasted for about an hour and a half. Cant say much about what was asked there, as my DD came back and just said she had a great time and was asked to do some cutting with scissors.
My husband has been transferred abroad, so we couldn't send our daughter there, but if I could, I would send her there in a jiffy. I absolutely loved the school. Hope that helps in some way !

TheWordFactory Wed 05-Nov-14 06:28:06

From what I've heard, the pastoral care is excellent.

The girls I know who haven't thrived there did not put it down to poor pastoral care.

ReallyTired Wed 05-Nov-14 10:16:58

"The girls I know who haven't thrived there did not put it down to poor pastoral care."

Its probably easier to blame the school than to admit that your child is not ultra bright and could not keep up with the pace of learning.

I think a child has to be very bright to keep up at a highly selective school. I met a young girl from St Albans high School who was in year 5 and she was doing the same level of maths as my son was in year 7. Ds is in the second set of a large comprehensive and working at level 6B at the time. National curriculum level 6B is the expected standard of a 14 year old in the state sector. I don't know if all the girls at STAHS are THAT gifted.

Some parents are deluded about their daughter's ablity and maybe make their child unhappy by not realising their child does not have the intelligence to prosper in such an environment. I imagine that such a child would be under awful stress having work that they simply can't cope with. I guess that there is not kind way of saying to a family that they really need to take their daughter to a different school.

Anyway feel free to ignore my comments as I have no direct experience of the school.

TheWordFactory Wed 05-Nov-14 10:50:11

Really the parents did not blame the school. As I say, the pastoral care there is good. I know that they were exemplary for a friend's daughter when their father was injured in a car crash, for example.

Nor was the problem their DDs' lack of ability.

It was that the experience simply did not suit them. Too much pressure coming from the girls themselves IYSWIM.

DD has a very close friend who left at the end of year 6. She is very very bright, first team LAX player, accomplished musician etc, but she made herself miserable at STAHs. Much happier once she transferred to DD's school.

I'm actually a fan of super selective education for the very able, but I also think the child needs the right personality too. Relaxed, self confident etc. It is often a very bad fit for the naturally anxious or someone with low confidence.

greenicecream Wed 05-Nov-14 12:34:47

thanks so much for your comments zenmum and thewordfactory. Interesting to hear about the secondary too. It's so hard to know what DD will be like as she grows but I would hope that if she was clearly unhappy we wouldn't move her as soon as possible. word do you know what kind of schools the WH leavers who don't go to the secondary, move to? Other independents that are less academically focused? Do you know if many move back into the state sector? Sorry, I appreciate they are very specific questions you may not be able to answer as you are not a parent there!

Wittyname61 Tue 02-Dec-14 21:23:44

My daughter went to the High School from age 7 and left 3 years ago (she is now at Medical School). She started when the junior school was still at the main site but was lucky enough to move to Wheathampstead House for year 6!! I agree with much that has been posted - my daughter was both academic and sporty and she was incredibly happy at the school. Having said that, almost all her close friends were not sporty but all thrived nonetheless as art/music/drama are equally valued. It is impossible to know how your daughter will develop but if you do end up moving her into the state sector at 11 then you will be spoiled for choice as the state schools are generally good, especially STAGS/Loretto or Beaumont in St Albans, St George's and Roundwood Park in Harpenden not forgetting both Palmiters and Watford Grammar School for girls a little further afield. For less academic private schools you could try Berkhamsted or St Francis although both are a journey away. Sorry for the long post - hope it helps!!

greenicecream Tue 09-Dec-14 12:50:37

Thanks Wittymum, that's really good to know.

My daughter did a pre-assessment "activity day" today (first year that they are running these) and seemed to enjoy herself, although she said that she kept very quiet which I guess wouldn't be ideal for the assessments.

Some of the other mums were talking about what was expected during the assessments and have really worried me as my daughter definitely can't do all the things they were saying she would need to do!

The more we see of the school the more we like it, I will find it hard not to be pretty disappointed if (when?!) we don't get an offer of a place!

Stalbansgirl Fri 20-Nov-15 17:02:05

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

banana83 Wed 13-Jan-16 12:08:13

Hi - my daughter went to this year's activity day and had her 4+ assessment. The activity day in December is a great idea and is for the children to acclimatise to the school and staff rather than for assessment. As for the assessment, from what I could gather, they group children by birthdays, 8-12 per session, lasting about 1 hour and 45 minutes. The girls go in by themselves while parents chat. I assume it's in a group setting and not all of it is used for assessment but more to observe and settle in/wrap up at the end? I think there was tracing of lines involved, recognising name, attempting to write name, letter cards, number cards, colouring within lines, drawing family, listening to a story and being asked what happens next. DD said she thought the school was lovely and she really isn't one to praise! We love the school but are not holding out as there were 100 applications for 40 places and most, if not all, the children had applied to many of the top north London and herts selective pre-preps and been to their assessments so were very much familiar with the process. We went in a little blind, so this post is more for those people like us who would otherwise feel a little like outsiders looking in. Whilst we didn't know what to expect, she does do a lot of this at her nursery. I understand that there are good montessoris that are fairly up to speed and have a good 'conversion rate' of getting the girls into the school. Apparently there are also child minders that coach children (!!! and tutors that assess and then train for the 4+, madness). The parents seemed lovely (generally better prepared than us i.e. having looked at good montessoris and researched other local private schools but not insane child robot trainers). The school is simply wonderful from what I can tell (we knowa few obviously bright little girls that go there and are very happy, they also would have been bored in the local state school) and the teaching staff seem ever so kind. Find out in Feb, so fingers crossed!

canteven Thu 01-Dec-16 19:22:25

Hey- I know this site isn't made for people of my age but I wanted to help you guys. I went to Wheathampstead house and now go to the senior school. I loved it- teachers are very friendly, its a perfect mix of academia and fun.It has only got better since i left, with features such as a new playground and beautiful music block having been added. also the food was amazing!!! I think that it's a great school and everyone who went loved it- the whole being kicked out thing is NOT true, this never happens. They do however warn you from early on if you are at risk of not getting into the senior school. Everyone there is very nice- and problems like bullying are basically non existent.

Sweetmango Mon 05-Dec-16 18:32:50

Well done Canteven - good to see a young person respond to questions about their school - no better person to give a review.
I have experience of the secondary section ie the High School (11+) and yes, it is the best school ever. This is further acknowledged by the the recent accolade of being named "Independent School of the Year" in 2016 by none other than the prestigious Sunday Times.

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