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How suited is Henrietta Barnett School to a girl interested in creative subjects?

(7 Posts)
Skyandgardens Wed 19-Apr-17 14:12:38

I wondered if anyone has any experience of how an artistic and creative, but also academic child, might be encouraged at Henrietta Barnet? Would they be encouraged and given as many stretching opportunities as much as they might be at an independent school? Or is there more of an emphasis on the sciences and testing, and therefore less time for creative writing and art? Any experiences from parents with girls currently at the school would be very much appreciated. Although my daughter does enjoy the sciences, she is also strongly focused on creative subjects, and we noticed a large proportion of girls go on to science/medical university degrees after leaving HBS.

claramst Wed 19-Apr-17 19:11:41

My daughter has gone there for 5 years and she loves it. She is a mix of both sciences and arts. She'll be taking maths, further maths, physics (she wants to go into computing) and history (she's recently become incredibly passionate about it thanks to a teacher) for a level.

Regarding arts and humanities vs sciences, I can assure you that HBS is good for both. The school is big on drama, which my daughter loves and has taken for GCSE, and the yearly performances are great. They're even bigger on music, and I think on some technicality it's actually a music academy, as many girls who attend are already very high grades.

One downside is that drama is no longer offered as an A level (music, DT and art still are), but that was down to government cuts on state school and really not a reflection on the school.

There is little emphasis on testing, as the main source of pressure is from the parents from what I've seen, who've been dreaming of sending their girl to Oxford since she was 5. The school tries to combat this, so the atmosphere is quite relaxed, but the girls do put quite a lot of pressure on themselves.

There is a massive focus on English and History etc. The girls go to many performances of set texts, there are yearly poetry competitions, and the english teachers really love their subjects. As mentioned previously, my daughter who is quite mathsy has actually been swayed away from a fourth science a level due to an inspirational history teacher.

It is true that many girls do sciences, particularly medicine, but again I think this is because many girls come from families of doctors, or due to pressure from the home. The school tries to combat this as well, and at every school meeting I've gone to, the school has asked us to not try and pressure our girls into doing particular subjects, and repeatedly told girls to do subjects they love (because in all honesty this is what gets the girls higher grades, and the school better league table positions).

From what I know of my daughter's friends, there's an incredible range of a-level choices, and her best friend is doing the complete opposite of her: Art, French, English and Geography. If there is any pressure, I think it's swaying away from math/science. In her pshe lessons the girls declare their chosen subjects and the teacher always raises an eyebrow when a girl says she's doing something like Biology, Chemistry, Maths and Physics, and asks if that's what she really wants to do.

I can definitely say that the school encourages all subjects, and tells girls to do what they love, and that's probably why they're so high in the league tables!

Skyandgardens Thu 20-Apr-17 00:37:18

Thank you claramst, for taking the time to write such a comprehensive and helpful answer to my questions.

May I ask about two more questions if you have the time to post again in the next few days?

I have come home tonight to an amazing sculpture my daughter made and wondered if you have any feedback on the development and stretching in art?

And apart from the poetry competitions I wondered if you are aware if there is plenty of encouragement and time for creative writing?

I am sure my daughter would find DT inspiring at HBS and am glad to hear drama is valued and encouraged. I had such a positive, vibrant feel from everyone, students and staff, when we visited.

claramont Thu 20-Apr-17 19:17:59

It's absolutely fine, I'd be happy to answer any more questions you have, when I was researching the school I found such a confusing mix of opinions, so I'm happy to help in any way.

Regarding art, I think the facilities are great, although I've heard that some KS5 girls looking to take art A level have found the facilities lacking and not big enough, so that might be something for think about.

From what I've seen for younger girls, who perhaps aren't yet planning on taking it professionally, art is very good. There's a whole building dedicated to art and DT, and the school recently invested in a 3D printer. There are lots of art clubs, and for the older girls there's even a life drawing class (women models only of course) which I found was quite a unique opportunity. Every term there's also an exhibition for what the girls have done. I think there's a lot of freedom as well, with girls being able to choose the materials and themes they'd like to do.
There's a lot of development and technique taught, and I was really surprised in the difference in the girls' art over time. I think the school does stretch the girls, teaching a range of media.

For KS4, at GCSE level, art and DT are both offered and are supposedly very good, although the exam board they've chosen for art is heavily course work based and there's quite a lot of writing.

For English there is a lot of time spent on creative writing, and slme fun assignments based on it, but perhaps not as much as they could be. I believe the school focuses more on analysing set texts as that's the primary focus of the GCSE, which is a shame. However there is a creative writing club so perhaps they make up for it in extra curriculars.

If you have any more questions or would like me to be more specific I'd be happy to help smile

Sorry for the confusing username change as well! grin

Skyandgardens Mon 24-Apr-17 13:29:02

Hello Claramont
I just wanted to thank you for your posting last week. It was really helpful. I had wanted to wait until I could add something useful to the thread, but haven't come up with anything!

I notice no one else has contributed about the creative subjects at HBS, so perhaps those attracted to the school aren't as interested as I am in this post. Thank you again.

Moominmammacat Mon 24-Apr-17 16:06:49

I don't know where you live but if you can apply to HB you might be eligible for Dame Alice Owen which has a magnificent art department. Lots of opportunities and success in national competitions.

Dancergirl Thu 27-Apr-17 14:50:40

I would say the Art department at HBS is very average I'm afraid. Agree that Music and Drama are fantastic but I've seen much better Art departments. My dd is in Year 9 at HBS and isn't really arty so it doesn't bother her. My youngest dd is a keen and talented artist and was deeply unimpressed with Art at HBS, so much so she doesn't even want to apply.

What other schools are you considering OP?

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