The Abbey School, Reading

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The Abbey School
Motto In ædificationem
corporis Christi

(Building up the body
of Christ)
Established 1887
Type Independent day school
Religion Church of England
Headmistress Mrs Rachel Dent
Chair of Governors Dr Debby Reynolds [1]
Location Kendrick Road
51°26′54″N 0°57′47″W / 51.448333°N 0.963056°W / 51.448333; -0.963056Coordinates: 51°26′54″N 0°57′47″W / 51.448333°N 0.963056°W / 51.448333; -0.963056
DfE URN 110165 Tables
Students 1,067 (2011)[2]
Gender Girls
Ages 3–18

The Abbey School is an independent selective day school for girls, in Reading, Berkshire, England.[3] The school has Church of England traditions,[4] although it accepts girls of all faiths.[5] The Abbey School offers education for girls aged 3 to 18.[4] The school became an International Baccalaureate World School in 2008.

Founded in 1887,[6] the school moved to its present site in 1905[6] under the leadership of headmistress Helen Musson.

Notable alumnæ include the novelist and social activist Brigid Brophy, the novelist Elizabeth Taylor[7] and the educationalist Baroness Brigstocke.[8]

Around one hundred years before the school was founded in 1887, the novelist Jane Austen briefly attended Reading Ladies' Boarding School within the Abbey Gateway,[9][10][11] which is commemorated by, and incorporated into, the Abbey School's crest.


The school was founded in 1887, named Reading High School, replacing the privately owned Blenheim House Ladies' School. It was at London Road (in the building which became the Gladstone Club). The Church Schools Company, instrumental in founding the school, felt that Reading, with its growing population reaching 60,000, was in need of a new school. The school aimed to provide high quality education with a Christian ethos at an affordable price. When founded, the school had an enrollment of 40 girls, which steadily increased to 120 by 1902, when Miss Helen Musson MA, the new headmistress, was appointed.[6]

In 1905, the school moved to its current Kendrick Road site.[12] On 16 March 1905 William Methuen Gordon Ducat, the Archdeacon of Berkshire, laid the foundation stone of the school, which featured the inscription, "In aedificationem corporis Christi". This motto, taken from Ephesians IV:12, can still be seen on the school's crest. The new site was a vast improvement on the old site: there were six classrooms, a hall and space for playing fields.[6]

The school changed its name to The Abbey School in 1913,[12] after parting from the Church Schools' Company. The name was chosen to commemorate a former Reading school dating from 1835, which was based in the Abbey gateway. A previous school in the Abbey gateway operating in the 18th-century, named Reading Ladies' Boarding School, included Jane Austen among its pupils.[9][10][11] The Abbey is now a day school, after ceasing to accept boarding pupils in 1946, and was a direct grant (C. of E.) grammar school in the 1950s .[6] The headmistress is Mrs Rachel Dent.

Academic performance[edit]

The school has established a reputation for academic excellence. According to the Good Schools Guide, the school typically achieves 88 per cent A/B, [and] 97 per cent A/C at A Level, "Sciences [are] quite strong" and "99 per cent [of students go] into higher education."[13]

Senior School[edit]

Roughly 45% of entrants in the Upper Third (year 7) come from the Junior School. Also, many students from other schools all around Berkshire and beyond come here.[14]


On entering the school, every girl is put into a house: Carrington, Ducat, Kensington or Paget. Houses are named after people who have been important to the school. In these houses, girls can earn points by doing well, and lose points as well. House competitions include reading and music, The Music Competition (for solo players), The Baroness Brigstocke Memorial Public Speaking Competition (plus the Young Brigstocke for younger students), House sports competitions (such as swimming, rounders and hockey) and Sports Day. At the end of each term, and each year, a cup is awarded to the house with the most points. They also do House music and drama.

Junior School and Early Years Centre[edit]

The junior school is at Kensington House, a building 400 metres away from the senior school. Also situated here is the Early Years Centre, a unit opened in 2003. Somerleaze House was opened by alumna Sally Taylor, BBC television presenter.


As an independent school, Ofsted do not perform inspections of the school.[15][16] However, Ofsted have inspected the Early Years Centre.[17] The Independent Schools Inspectorate performed an inspection on the whole school in 2002.[18] The Good Schools Guide produced a report on the Abbey in 2005.[14][19]

ISI 2002[edit]

The inspection took place in October 2002 and produced, on the whole, a positive report. The report praised the "good quality" teaching and "high quality pastoral care", with "dedicated" and "committed" teachers. It noted the "high achievement" in GCSE and A level exams and the "rich programme" of extra curricular activities. In the junior school, the accommodation and resources were praised.

There was criticism of the school's lack of management system and development plan. Inconsistency in assessment of pupils work was noted. The accommodation for year 6 was "poorly appointed" and there were "some teaching weaknesses" in this year group.[citation needed]

Ofsted Early Years Report 2004[edit]

Ofsted inspected the Early Years Centre only, that is, from ages 3 to 5. Judgments of the children's development were all classified as "very good" - the highest category attainable. "Very good progress" had been made since the 2002 ISI report and there were no significant weaknesses to report.

Staff promote good behaviour and show good understanding of individual needs with excellent opportunities for parental involvement.

The report can be accessed here

Good Schools Guide 2005[edit]

This review noted the academic excellence of the school as well as other outstanding details. The conclusive summary reads:


Notable former pupils[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Abbey School for Girls Reading
  2. ^
  3. ^ "The Abbey School". Retrieved 2006-09-04. 
  4. ^ a b The Abbey School. "Ethos". Retrieved 2006-09-04. 
  5. ^ "ISI Inspection October 2002" (PDF). pp. 6, section 3.1. Retrieved 2006-09-04. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Laverack, Barbara; Barbara Sheldon. A History of The Abbey School, Reading 1887 - 2001. Retrieved 2006-09-04. 
  7. ^ a b "Elizabeth Taylor's relentless Englishness". Times Online. June 7, 2006. 
  8. ^ a b "Lady Brigstocke". The Daily Telegraph. 2004-05-06. 
  9. ^ a b Reading Museum's local information on Jane Austen's school
  10. ^ a b Dr Tony Corley. "Jane Austen's Schooldays 1785-6". Archived from the original on 2006-10-15. Retrieved 2006-09-04. 
  11. ^ a b JASA. "Jane Austen biography". Retrieved 2006-09-04. 
  12. ^ a b The Abbey School. "2005 Site Centenary Celebration and ASROGA Reunion". Retrieved 2006-09-04. 
  13. ^ a b
  14. ^ a b The Good Schools Guide. "Guide to The Abbey School, Reading". Retrieved 2006-09-05. 
  15. ^ Ofsted. "Reports for the Abbey School, Reading". Archived from the original on 2006-11-05. Retrieved 2006-09-05. 
  16. ^ Ofsted. "Why is there no report for the independent school I am interested in?". Retrieved 2006-09-05. 
  17. ^ Ofsted. "Nursery Inspection Report". Archived from the original on 2006-04-27. Retrieved 2006-09-05. 
  18. ^ Independent Schools Inspectorate. "Inspection Report on the Abbey School, Reading" (PDF). Retrieved 2006-09-05. 
  19. ^ The Good Schools Guide. "Guide to The Abbey Junior School". Retrieved 2006-09-05. 
  20. ^ "Baird, Joyce Elizabeth Leslie", Who Was Who
  21. ^ The Abbey School Archive
  22. ^ Hunt-Grubbe, Charlotte (2008-09-14). "The new women wildlife presenters". Times Online. Times Newspapers Ltd. Retrieved 2010-09-17. 
  23. ^ The Abbey School. "Abbey Old Girls". Retrieved 2006-09-05. 

External links[edit]