St Helen and St Katharine
1938 (current school)
|Type||Independent day school|
|Religion||Church of England|
|Headmistress||Mrs R Dougall|
St Helen's School, Abingdon was founded in 1903 by the Community of St Mary the Virgin (CSMV) to provide a Christian education for girls. St Katharine's School, in Wantage, is named after St. Catherine of Alexandria, although spelled with a "K". The schools merged in 1938 to create St Helen & St Katharine.
The present school
St Helen & St Katharine is an independent day school for girls located on the outskirts of Abingdon within easy reach of Oxford and surrounding villages. An extensive network of school buses bring pupils to the school from across Oxfordshire, Berkshire and surrounding counties. 700 pupils, aged 9 to 18, study in a campus of beautiful Edwardian and modern buildings, set in 22 acres.
St Helen’s describes itself as "a school for bright girls with enquiring minds". Academic results consistently place the school amongst the top 20 in the country, with leavers securing places on their chosen courses at top universities. The curriculum offers a broad range of subjects: separate sciences, modern and classical languages and the expressive arts. Stimulating and challenging teaching reaches beyond the syllabus, enabling pupils to become effective, enquiring learners.
Admission is at ages 9+, 10+, 11+, 13+ and 16+. An entrance examination is held in January for 9+, 10+ and 11+ and in November for 13+ for admission in the following September.Girls are accepted into the Sixth Form on the basis of their GCSE results and an interview. There may be occasional vacancies in other years of the school.
Scholarships are awarded by the Head to recognise excellence, ability and potential and include cademic, music, art, drama, sport and all-rounder scholarships. Academic scholarships are valued at 10% of fees, music scholarships provide free tuition in one / two instruments and all other scholarships are valued at £300 pa. All scholarships are open to internal and external candidates. Bursaries of up to 100% of the fees are available to pupils from Year 7 and are based on means-tested assessments of financial circumstances.
Close links with Abingdon School add a co-educational dimension, with some joint sixth form teaching and collaboration in other activities, including a joint Critical Thinking course taken by all Lower Sixth pupils. The close relationship between the two schools enables music, drama and debating as well as many social events to take place together.
The original school building dates from 1906. In recent years an extensive building programme has been undertaken. Most recent developments include a Performing Arts Centre; Sports Centre with fitness suite; an exceptional library facility which includes ICT Suites, lecture theatre and careers library which opened in 2010; a refurbished and extended Sixth Form Centre (2011) and new kitchen and dining facilities (2012). In September 2014 a Science Centre with 12 laboratories and a three storey glass atrium event space was added to further enhance school facilities.
The school encourages girls to maintain a broad and balanced curriculum which includes the following subjects: Art, Biology, Business Studies, Ceramics, Chemistry, Classics, Design Technology, Drama and Theatre Studies, Economics, English Language, English Literature, Food Studies, French, Geography, German, Government and Politics, Greek, History, ICT, Italian, Latin, Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Music, Physical Education, Physics, Pottery, Psychology, Religious Studies, and Spanish. A programme of citizenship and personal, social and health education encourages girls to be responsible for themselves and take care of others. The school has its own Chapel in which a weekly Eucharist is offered to staff and girls.
Life beyond the classroom is full and it is this combination which embodies the ethos of the School.
Sport is a central part of school life with a strong focus on participation. Competitive teams and clubs, at all age groups and abilities, are offered and major sports include lacrosse, netball, athletics, tennis, cross country, gym and rounders. Sports teams are consistently successful in local, regional and national competitions and significant numbers of pupils play representative sport at county, regional and national level. A wide range of recreational sports clubs is also available including badminton, basketball, cricket, fencing,gymnastics, swimming and Tae Kwondo.
Music and Drama
The school has a very strong musical tradition with many girls learning at least one instrument. Tuition is provided in all major instruments including the harp and organ and over 400 individual music lessons take place each week.There are numerous orchestras, choirs and ensembles that cater for all abilities and achieve significant recognition and success in festivals and competitions. The drama department, based in the Performing Arts Centre, delivers a busy schedule of productions of the highest quality making it a popular and rewarding part of the extracurricular programme as well as supporting significant success and GCSE and A Level.
Clubs and Societies
Pupils are encouraged to take part in the wide range of extracurricular activities available beyond the classroom. Over 100 clubs, societies and groups are on offer. Of particular note are Debating and Public Speaking, The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme and Young Enterprise Programme, which all enjoy a strong tradition in the school.
St Kate's Day Celebrations
The school celebrates St Katharine's Day, which it describes as "St Kate's Day", in November each year. In the morning there is a Eucharist, followed by events to raise money for the school's chosen charities. A highlight of the day is the lunchtime lacrosse fixture between St Helen's and the boys of Abingdon School's Rugby 'A' team.
- Belinda Bucknall, QC
- Samantha Cameron, wife of British Prime Minister David Cameron
- Sophie Churchill, CEO The National Forest Company
- Hatti Dean, athlete
- Jennie Formby, Political Director, Unite
- Elspeth Hanson, violinist with "Bond"
- Nathalie Jamieson, journalist and broadcaster
- Lindsey Russell, Blue Peter Presenter
- Emily Sheffield, Deputy Editor, Vogue
- Daniele Steer, Professor of Theoretical Physics, University of Paris
- Nishkala Suntharalingam, Visiting Scholar at Clark University, previously Political Affairs Officer at the UN
- Alice Thomson, Leader Writer, The Times
- Jane Tranter, Head, BBC Worldwide Productions
- Gillian Orr, journalist for The Independent
- Personal communication from Trevor Hancock of White Horse Ancestors research service, who consulted the archivist of St. Mary's Convent.
- St Helen and St Katharine Website
- Profile on the Independent Schools Council website
- 2013 Independent Schools Inspectorate Inspection report 2013
The SHSK Society (Alumnae)