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Opinions on Henrietta Barnett School Vs Watford Grammar School for Girls

(16 Posts)
GreatAuntMaud Tue 30-Oct-12 10:48:18

Anyone out there with experience of either school, I would like your opinions please. Both positives and negatives would be appreciated.

breadandbutterfly Tue 30-Oct-12 12:00:22


WGGS - good academically, considering only 25% get in on exam and 10% on music;no bullying - largely dueto firm policies on bullying and strict but fair head; excellent teaching; excellent at non-acaemic subjects eg superb art, music, sport etc; less pressurised as range of academic abilities with the emphasis on everyone achieving their potential; large grounds; bigger numbers (180 per year instead of 90) so better facilities; sibling policy so if younger siblings (girls or boys) you only have to go through exam once; local catchment school so all pupils can travel by (good) public transport on relatively easy, short, cheap journey and will have local friends to travel with, hang out with etc.

HBS - better results academically and better university desinations for 6th formers (but that reflects that 100% of girls get in on exam so brighter to start with); more attractive building (but smaller grounds and no sporting facilities on site to speak of); v cut off location so fewer distractions (but makes getting to school harder!).

I went to HBS (and was happy there) but chose WGGS for my dd - from the relative length of my lists you can see why. I have been v happy with WGGS and would recommend it. If you live locally to WGGS you'd be mad to put your dd through a v lengthy and tiring commute to get to HBS - don't undersetimate how cut off it is and difficult to reach - 20 mins+ walk or bus from the nearest tube station and you have to get there first! No local friends, and if you have younger siblings you have to go through the whole entrance exam hassle again! (you now get entry at boys and girls grammar since cross-sibling entry was reintroduced for any younger siblings).

Also, apocryphally only, I believe WGGS is more nurturing than HBS as I have heard of bullying at the latter (know family of one girl who left as a result). Whereas all the girls I've met from WGGS have been lovely! Also, HBS is good for science subjects but almost no-one does arts subjects there these days. (13 doing A Level History v 90 doing Maths!)

Before deciding, I'd drive to HBS, pref at rush hour to get a realistic idea of the length of commute even if driving (obviously longer if public transport is used), or failing that at least check out the travel using the TFL site and/or google maps.

Both great schools - there probably isn't a 'wrong' decision here but there is a 'more right' one though.

GreatAuntMaud Tue 30-Oct-12 17:48:30

Thank you breadandbutterfly for that comprehensive list. Is there a difference in the schools if you want to aim for A Very Good University or does one look better than the other on your CV etc. I know only a little about the schools personally, and things that people say worry me sometimes about the value of league tables and reputations etc.

breadandbutterfly Tue 30-Oct-12 21:15:45

HBS probably has a better-known reputation these days thanks to league tables but Watford Grammar has a very respectable reputation too - if the policy of judging state school candidates against the typical results for their schools still applies in terms of university entrance, then it might be held against you that HBS's results are higher!

These days, HBS probably has more kids of v wealthy parents, prep school kids etc (virtually none in my day) so maybe better connections/expectations there? But WGGS has really suberb teachers, progress of all pupils is carefully monitored and bright pupils can't get away with coasting so bright girls will do v well there too - if you put the same bright girl at either school she has the opportunity (though not the guarantee, obviously) to flourish.

I think league table position has given HBS girls a certain arrogance I find quite unappealing - my dh was most amused to hear head telling prospective pupils that maybe they too could be that most wonderful and coveted thing, an HBS girl!

As I said, no bad choice here, but I'd say location is important - length of commute and number of local friends are factors you shpould give a lot of weight to in practice, not just league table position. Past grades (on websites) will give you an indication of the number of A*s in a particular subject but as long as the proprtion is respectable I don't think it needs to be 100% at a mixed-ability school like WGGS - after all, schools can only work with the material they have to start with, so a school taking less able kids will inevitable achieve some lower grades with those kids - the bright girls will get good grades at either school.

You can get to Oxbridge/Russell Group uni from either - proportions historically similar for the exam-entry girls (eg c 20 Oxbridge candidates per year from HBS out of 90 exam-entry girls v c 10 out of 45 exam-entry-girls at WGGS) - though 2012 was a poor year for WGGS re Oxbridge and 2011 a good one for HBS (who have mysteriously failed to put 2012 results on their website, making me wonder if 2012 was a poorer year than previously?).

GreatAuntMaud Wed 31-Oct-12 11:31:29

Thank you again breadandbutterfly. That is really helpful. It looks like you are a huge fan of WGGS and I can see why smile.

Dancergirl Wed 31-Oct-12 12:35:14

Before the travel arrangements to HBS put you off, the school operate a private door-to-door coach service so you should find out about that. It is expensive though. It's run by Air Fenella.

And I wouldn't believe any school that have 'no bullying' claims. Unfortunately it goes on in ANY school but it's the way it's dealt with that makes a difference.

GreatAuntMaud Wed 31-Oct-12 14:34:00

I have heard of Air Fenella Dancergirl and also have the luxury of being able to drive her and back in the early years if needed. Do you have any thoughts on HBS to share? Today is the deadline for the Secondary Transfer Forms so any thoughts would be appreciated.

Dancergirl Wed 31-Oct-12 14:49:54

Personally I love HBS. We looked there a couple of years ago for dd1 but it wasn't the school for her, she's not academically bright enough. But I saw it in a whole new light for dd2 who is currently Year 5 and v bright. I can just see her there. The girls seemed v pleasant and although the school pushes the girls hard, it did have a laid back feel to it. Language teaching is excellent. I think they do 2 MFLs in Year 7, add another in Year 8 plus Latin. Compared to WGGS where they only do one in Year 7 and don't get a choice between French and German.

In terms of other things - music, drama, extra curricular things, I think the schools offer similar things. Sport is much stronger at WGGS but that's not a problem for dd2 as she's not v sporty.

Where do you live OP?

Dancergirl Wed 31-Oct-12 14:53:25

Also, OP if you are in the inner catchment for WGGS (ie WD postcode) you have a much better chance of getting in.

breadandbutterfly Wed 31-Oct-12 15:13:58

I would agree re dancergirl's point that any school that claims to have no bullying is lying - it is me claiming that AFAIK, there are no problems with bullying at WGGS (not the school claiming that). I know that WGGS has v strong prevention measures eg lots of education in year 7 about bullying cross-curricular, RS is v well-taught and so girls learn a lot about each others' faiths and cultures and so mutual respect is v strong. Whereas I specifically know of a child who left HBS due to inter-racial bullying, which was not dealt with by the school, which TBH I just could not see happening at WGGS (maybe because school policy is v v strict on this and would not tolerate it for a second?).

Agree they are both good schools, but slightly different in feel, so one may suit your dd more...

Dancergirl Wed 31-Oct-12 21:21:28

What did you decide OP?

GreatAuntMaud Wed 31-Oct-12 23:18:14

Dancergirl I have finally listed Watford Girls as first pref simply based on distance. It was very hard to choose between the two otherwise.

breadandbutterfly Thu 01-Nov-12 16:34:53

Yay! My dd2 is due to start in Sept thanks to sibling place so maybe our dds will meet?

GreatAuntMaud Thu 01-Nov-12 18:03:46

Yes breadandbutterfly I hope DD gets in!

curious100 Tue 05-Mar-13 11:04:42

Are any of your daughters from independent schools? I also hear a few girls from NLCS may be joining WGSG THIS YEAR!

ruchi123 Mon 26-Oct-15 21:24:49

We have the same dilemma to decide between Watford Grammar for girls and Henrietta Barnet school. Some advise would be greatly appreciated. Breadandbutterfly do you still have the same opinion in 2015?

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