Muddy best schools guide 2: Truro High School for Girls
A Muddy Cornwall first – a single sex school with boarding in the heart of the county. Actually, this is the ONLY independent single sex school in the county. If you have girls between two and 18, read on – you won’t be disappointed.
TRURO HIGH SCHOOL, TRURO
The setting: Truro High School for Girls was founded in 1880 by Edward Benson (who went on to become Arch-Bish of Canterbury) educating just seven girls – his own and a few others. Still relatively small (350 pupils from early years to sixth form), the school is five minutes walk from the town centre and all the delights of Truro has to offer (helloo drop off coffee!). The school is in easy reach of just about anywhere in Cornwall, with the A39 a few miles away. If you’re considering Truro High as an out of county option, the town has a direct train route to London Paddington, and Cornwall Newquay airport is a convenient 20 minute trip with daily flights to London and Manchester.
Facilities: Unusual for a town centre school, the grounds are vast. I mean vast vast. These girls have acres of space to wear themselves out.
Ok so there’s no 9 hole golf course, but you’ll find astro areas, a running track, lawns and fields, tennis courts, and their own heated indoor pool. There are terraced areas for socialising and lunching, and an adventure area for the littlies.
Inside, there’s dedicated Media labs, Science and DT, creative and IT suites, music and drama facilities and a spingly spangly new tech area should be ready in September just for juniors.
The kids: All the girls I spoke to were inquisitive, enthusiastic, confident with a total do-anything attitude, but without the precociousness that sometimes comes hand-in-hand, I might add. There were loads of students absent at the Greenpower Car Project at Newquay Airport and CreatEd at Falmouth University (more on those from the Head), but the day I visited, the school was hosting a National Women in Engineering event, inviting girls from other schools and inspirational experts from the world of engineering. It was a hive of activity with girls experiencing everything from a replica of Tim Peake’s living pod aboard the International Space station, to welding with chocolate (why weren’t MY science lessons like that???).
The head: I didn’t get the chance to meet Dr Glenn Moodie – the head. He was at the Green Power day with pupils. He’s has been at the helm since September 2014. Like many involved in running this school, his daughter is a current pupil. Former director of studies at all girls school Wycombe Abbey in Bucks, he grew up in New Zealand before coming to the UK in 1998 to study at the University of Bristol. Dr Moodie is keen to develop the school and his global feminist perspective is Obama-esque inspirational:
Teaching: From the outside, girls schools can often be seen as overly-safe and molly-coddling environments – nothing could be further from the truth in regards to Truro High School. The girls have all the opportunities and they can explore the complete range of possibilities free from the gender stereotyping and social pressures which can so often be felt in the co-ed environment.
The latest ISI report (2014) found the quality of teaching good and in line with maximizing each students potential. Small class sizes, regular progress monitoring and support both in and outside of classes ensure that all students make progress. There’s specialist teaching in all subjects, (including Latin), and optional classes and lunchtime clubs are popular.
In the prep department, there’s a thoughtful and imaginative PHSE, English and creative curriculum and science and maths are strong. Good communication between prep and juniors ensures transitioning less daunting. There’s also dedicated SENCO support and a gifted and talented program.
In the Senior School, the girls are taught three foreign languages and Latin from year 7. Speech, drama and debating activities in drama increase confidence in public speaking (my personal naked nightmare dream) and leadership.
Music provisions are of a high standard, and another area where pupils excel at regional level. The music department support a diverse range of groups across many genres – samba band, jazz, string and a well subscribed choir.
The day I visited, the art department was devoid of pupils, and sadly for me, alot of their artwork, since many were showcasing their projects not only at CreatEd in Falmouth, but also in local art galleries.
The girls regularly represent the school at a county and South West regional level. A full range of sport and dance are available – one of the girls is a fencing champion. With their own pool they are able to offer specialist swimming lessons.
The academic results: 2015 GCSE results were outstanding: 22% of all grades achieved were A*, 57% were A* or A and 83% were A* to B. 21% of candidates got straight A*s or As. 50% or more of all candidates achieved A* or A in core subjects – Maths, English and the sciences In textiles, 100% received A* or A, 92% in Latin. These are of course, excellent, but worth bearing in mind that there is an 11+ style entrance exam, and a selective year 8 and year 10 intakes. Pupils go on to top tier universities.
NB 2016 results are due 18 and 25 August – I’ll update this review once they are published.
Boarding: I’ve got one child who loves boarding, and another who likes the idea of it but has been known to call at 11pm asking to be picked up (grr). Personally I’m a big fan where its led by the child – I think it has an important role in fostering independence.
Roughly 25% of girls at Truro High board from Prep 3, either flexi or termly, with plenty of weekend activities offered for full time boarders. There’s a high percentage of overseas boarders (from 7 countries including China) and its not surprising that there’s an obvious appreciation and understanding of all cultures here. The younger girls share facilities, but some sixth-form bedrooms are ensuite (boy are they going to be disappointed when they get to uni!).
Dorm common rooms are homey with downtime provisions – squashy sofas, piano, TV and video games, with the sick bay on hand. Matron is not just an RGN she’s also a mum with girls of her own at the school, nurturing a sense of family at the school. Girls seem to look out and care for each other, over seen of course by house parents.
Pastoral: Truro High take their responsibilities to girls happiness as serious as you’d expect and the latest ISI report found provisions to be excellent. This is a small school and as such problems are far more easily detected. Class teachers/ tutors have immediate responsibility for their pupils’ well being and progress. In the Sixth Form, students have regular meetings with their tutors to discuss personal and academic matters and they can also refer to the Head of Sixth Form, who supports the Sixth Form tutors, when necessary.
The extras: There’s a comprehensive after-school activities programme, offering kids in from Years 1 to Year 11 the chance to try loads of activities including sports, Duke of Edinburgh (up to Gold level) and even a poetry cafe and trips out – uptake is good.
I checked out the food facilities (yeah I’m er asking for a friend *ahem*) where pupils and staff sit together. There’s no Hogwarts style oak panelled lunch hall – it’s more akin to a modern canteen than a refectory, but the food (and choice) was something special with hot and cold choices, salad and healthy options. There’s no soggy semolina here.
Quirks: Not a school with many quirks, but unusually (sadly) the sky is the limit – girls simply achieve here, what ever they are good at. This is a school that’s strong in everything.
Fees: Very good value – starting at less than £10,000 a year, so around a third less than the average private school up country. It’s worth noting that there are specialist teachers from Reception upwards for music, sport, IT, languages, drama, art, swimming, English and maths included in this price. Boarding is of course extra, but flexible options are available – good for those who want to dip their toe in the water and give it a try.
Word on the ground: Enquiries frequently come from abroad with some families boarding their kids here in prep for university (yes really). Speak to the mums and you’ll more often than not find they are alumni – they’ll chew you ear off (in a good way) about how happy and successful their girls are, be that in academic, creative or sporting pursuits.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Did I mention the hockey team? What about the OG’s? I know I’ve not done justice to the prep department – or sixth form, but here’s so much more I could rave on about, it could take days! Best thing to do is go and see for yourself.
Good for: Those seeking a friendly smaller school, with all the facilities of a larger setting. Learning in a gender sterotype free environment: there are no limits to what can be achieved here. Overseas and out of county schooling. The termly boarding facilities are excellent. The intake is from 2 to 18, so definitely one for your short list if (like me) you dread the thought of seeking further education options at A level. Many of those involved in running the school, from the head, to the marketing team have kids here, or went to the school themselves. There’s no greater endorsement than that.
Not for: Those looking for co-ed. There’s no Saturday school either. Er, boys, obviously.
Dare to disagree? Have a look for yourself at the prep and senior school open morning on Saturday 1 October from 10am, ring before or just turn up. For those of you interested in Sixth-form provisions, there’s an open evening on Monday 17 October.
Let me know what you think.
Truro High School for Girls, Falmouth Rd, Truro TR1 2HU T: 01872 272830, E: firstname.lastname@example.org