Withington Girls' School
(Latin: "Towards the light")
|Type||Independent day school|
|Headmistress||Mrs S J Haslam|
Withington Girls' School is an independent day school in Fallowfield, Manchester, United Kingdom, providing education for girls between the ages of seven and eighteen. Withington is a member of the Girls' Schools Association.
The school was founded in 1890 by a number of eminent Mancunians.
Withington Girls' School was founded in 1890 by a group of eminent Manchester families who wanted the same educational opportunities for their daughters as were already available for their sons. Among the founders were Mrs Caroline Lejeune, C. P. Scott, Henry and Emily Simon, Miss Caroline Herford and Sir Adolphus Ward. There were four pupils in the beginning.
The founders stipulated that: the School should remain small, to allow for the individual development of each girl; all girls should be taught the Natural Sciences, as it constitutes excellent intellectual training; there should be more physical exercise and practical work than usual in girls’ schools; no prizes should be awarded, as the pleasure of academic work should be its own reward.
Over the years, the School has remained true in essence to the founders' principles.
Pupils receive an outstanding education in accordance with the school's aims to help girls achieve an excellent standard of academic achievement, and to foster intellectual curiosity, a love of learning, independence of mind and individual responsibility.— Independent Schools Inspectorate (2013)
The school attempts to function in an atmosphere of respect for self and others and without the need for long lists of rules and regulations.
With 130 girls in the junior school and 540 in the senior, Withington provides a wide range of experience which goes well beyond the classroom, yet retains a friendly, responsive environment which encourages each girl to fulfil her whole potential. This stimulates a high standard of achievement, which is visible from Withington's high status in the League Tables.
The school benefits greatly from the cosmopolitan background which the city and University of Manchester have always provided.
The school suffered a serious arson attack in August 2003, but took this as an opportunity to build new science labs, and has since built a new sixth form common room and additional classrooms. In 2015 (the School's 125th year), a new junior building and community hub, encircling the existing theatre-in-the-round arts centre, was added. The new development also enabled the major upgrade of the chemistry laboratories to university specification standard.
The aim of Founders' Day is to commemorate the efforts of the school's founders, including Charles Prestwich Scott, Louisa Lejeune, Henry and Emily Simon and Caroline Herford, after whom the houses are named. It is celebrated annually at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester in the autumn term, usually in October, when all members of the upper sixth receive a book to recognise their contribution while at the school.
All parents and governors of the school are invited to enjoy music from the choir and the orchestra, the headmistress's and head girl's speeches, as well as a speech from a special guest, usually an inspirational or leading woman.
Gaudeamus is the school song and is sung each year at founders' day, accompanied by the orchestra. However, the school only sings three of the seven verses:
Vivant et republica,
On joining the school, girls are assigned to one of the four houses, each named after a founder: Herford after Caroline Herford (green), Lejeune after Louisa Lejeune (red), Scott after Charles Prestwich Scott (blue), or Simon after Henry & Emily Simon (yellow).
There are many inter-house competitions, including
- house carols
- house plays
- inter-house rounders, netball, hockey and lacrosse
- bienniel English speaking competition
- Annual Sports Day (athletics)
- Annual Swimming Gala (only open to year 7 pupils)
The following subjects are available for all third form (first year/year seven) pupils:
- English and English Literature
- Physical Education
- Food and Textiles Technology
- Religious Studies
As the girls move up the school, other subjects are available, including:
- Politics (Sixth Form only)
- Economics (Sixth Form only)
- General Studies (Sixth Form only)
- Psychology (Sixth Form only)
- Philosophy (Sixth Form only)
For all years, singing in a choir is available, and for instrument players of any standard there is an orchestra (Middle School Orchestra for beginners and Senior Orchestra for those of Grade 5 or above). There is also jazz band, wind band and the Thursday Singers. There are many concerts throughout the school year, including the Christmas Concert, the Rotarians' Christmas party and the Summer Concert, as well as Founders Day, and many others. All girls are given the offer to have instrument lessons inside school.
Withington has always encouraged its pupils to stay active. In the winter, girls have lessons in:
In the summer, girls have lessons in:
- Swimming (third form only).
- Occasionally quick cricket
Withington houses many county and national players, and a trampolinist - Sasha Carter - who has represented her country at international trampolining competitions.
All girls, of any age, can study drama. GCSE drama is available for girls in Lower Fifth to Upper Fifth, and AS and A2 Level has been a long-running success. As part of the GCSE and A-Level specification requires, all students put on a play. They occasionally collaborate with the local boys' school Manchester Grammar School.
A whole-school musical is staged every two years; most recently, 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat' and 'The Sound of Music'.
All girls from Lower Fifth upwards are given the option to take part in the Duke of Edinburgh award, and Withington has seen many girls go onto Gold level.
Withington also has a very successful Model United Nations scheme, known as WiMUN - Withington MUN, and in 2014 were the overall winners at Edinburgh’s prestigious George Watson’s College conference, with all twelve WGS delegates winning individual awards and the top accolade of Best Delegation overall. They have also performed to an extremely high standard at other conferences, including Stockport Grammar School, Royal Russel School International Model United Nations, and Bath.
In 2013 the Withington Debating Team became the Debating Matters UK National Champions and subsequently represented the UK in the follow-on international competition, winning the International Debating Trophy.
Sixth formers are also given the option to take part in the Young Enterprise scheme, under which they start a company, and attempt to make a profit through selling products. This has been very successful, with many companies winning prizes at both regional and national levels.
There are also many clubs which allow students to expand academically, such as
- Junior Science club
- Spanish club
- Robotics club
- Classics club
- Philosophy Club
- Mosaics club
- Modern languages society
- Pets club
- Cookery club
- Mathematics club
- Little WiMUN club, a form of Withington's MUN that prepares girls for MUN the next year.
Notable former pupils
- Kate Abdo, television presenter
- Julia Britton, playwright
- Sarah Burton, creative director of the Alexander McQueen brand and designer of Catherine Middleton's dress for her wedding in 2011
- Judith Chalmers, English television presenter
- Flic Everett, journalist and author (The Guardian)
- Sarah Foot, medieval historian
- Jen Hadfield, poet (Winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize for poetry 2008)
- C. A. Lejeune, film critic
- Brenda Milner, Canadian neuropsychologist
- Christine Rice, opera singer, mezzo soprano 
- Stephen Whittle, Professor of Equalities Law, campaigner for transgender rights
- Newsletter 1936-1937. Withington Girls’ School. 5 February 1937.
- Independent Schools Inspectorate - Report on Withington Girls' School 2013
- Haile, Deborah (28 August 2003). "Schools count the cost of arson". Manchester Evening News. M.E.N. Media.
- guardian.co.uk Flic Everett commentisfree,
- Girl beats cancer in 2004
- Thanking firemen in June 2004
- Academic success in 2003
- Arson on August 22 2003