Herschel Girls' School

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Herschel Girls School
Herschel badge
Herschel Girls School is located in South Africa
Herschel Girls School
Herschel Girls School
Cape Town, Western Cape
South Africa South Africa
Coordinates 33°59′15″S 18°27′59″E / 33.98750°S 18.46639°E / -33.98750; 18.46639
Type Private, Single-sex, Day & Boarding
Motto Latin: Ad Dei Gloriam
("To the Glory of God")
Established 1922
Locale Suburban
Headmaster Mr Stuart West
Exam board WCED
Grades 0 - 12
Number of students 927 girls
School color(s) Blue & Light Pink         
Mascot Hippo, Rabbit and Reindeer
Fees R 107 760 p.a. (Boarding)
R 54 950 p.a. (Tuition)

Herschel Girls' School is a private, boarding and day school for girls, located in Claremont, a southern suburb of Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa.


Herschel was established in February 1922, on land which had been settled since the late 17th century. The property on which it stands belonged to V.A. Schonnberg who, when he sold the main estate in 1834 to Sir John Herschel, the astronomer, retained this portion and named it after his illustrious neighbour.

In July 1921, the estate was bought by The English Church Schools Association, with the aid of a generous loan from the Hon. John Jagger, MP, to provide for the needs of the many girls living in the southern suburbs who wished to attend a private school. The first headmistress was Miss Morley Ralph Armitage, and the school opened on Wednesday, 1 February 1922, when the first seven boarders arrived.

On the following day, the rollcall was taken and the first school day began with prayers led by the Most Revd William Carter, Archbishop of Cape Town. There were twenty-nine girls on the roll and seven staff members. The formal opening was held two weeks later, on Thursday, 16 February 1922. Dean Rolt conducted a brief service, John X. Merriman, the Minister of Education, performed the official opening and Jagger delivered the vote of thanks.

At this time the school comprised only what is now the administration section, but it grew rapidly - the Mary Jagger Hall (named after Jagger's wife) was added in 1926 and in 1930 extensions to the Hall - with the famous open sleeping balconies which were popular at the time, though not with the unfortunate girls who endured them until 1971. Sports facilities were built - the first tennis court in December 1922, though the school did not get its own swimming pool until 1939.

The Depression years were difficult for Herschel and numbers dropped. Miss Ralph resigned in 1933 and was replaced by Miss Harriet Robinson, who imposed higher academic standards and insisted on the building of a new wing to house the kindergarten - in what is now the staffroom. In 1939/40 the Baxter library was added. This is now the chapel. It was Miss Robinson who gave Herschel its motto Ad Dei Gloriam and who designed the new badge with the symbol for Uranus as a reminder of the link with the Herschel family.

When Miss Robinson resigned in 1944, Miss Barbara Elcome was appointed, but her reign was short, for she was married in 1947 and left the school. She did, however, secure the addition of the crypt chapel - now the matric common room.

Miss Hilda Caroline McLean was Herschel's longest-serving head - from 1947 to 1962. During this time, the kindergarten moved up to its own premises at 'The Hill', and the school's academic standards were given high priority. She left her successor, Mrs Mavis Kittow, a school to be proud of. In 1967 two new sciences laboratories were built, while Mrs Kittow's love of the arts led to many cultural innovations, such as the holiday reading required by the English department over the June holidays.

When Mrs Kittow left in 1970, Dr Barbara Silberbauer was appointed and presided over the celebrations for the Golden Jubilee in 1972, as well as the building of two large new sections- the Arts Block in 1977 and a classroom block in 1978. Her successor, Miss Pamela Geldard (1979 to 1985) felt very strongly that privileged girls should involve themselves in community projects, and established a strong ethos of caring for others.

During Mrs Pamela Duff's headship (1986 to 1997), the school grew phenomenally.[according to whom?] A new theatre was added in 1988, a resource centre and classroom block in 1992 and a sports centre in 1994.

Mrs van Zyl in her seven years as headmistress has continued with the building and modernising process. These include a new music centre and media centre (comprising a library, computer lLab and projects room) at the preparatory school; an enlarged pre-preparatory school catering for girls in a pre-nursery class; a refurbished Mary Jagger Hall and both schools are now on a combined network.

2008 saw the arrival of Mr Bruce Probyn, BSc (UCT), BEd (UCT) as headmaster of Herschel. Mr Probyn was formerly headmaster of the Diocesan School for Girls, Grahamstown and the Wynberg Boys' School nearby.


WCED Results 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2009
Number of candidates 72 62 71 86 79 85 88 84 103 74 91
Number of failures 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
University endorsement (%) 20.2 93.5 100 98.8 98.7 98.8 97.7 98.8 99 97.3 100
A aggregates (%) 31.9 40.3 51 32.6 44.3 59 73.9 48.8 61.2 52.7 39.6
Subject distinctions 106 92 152 156 151 222 283 208 307 189 296

Notable alumnae[edit]

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