Queen Anne’s, Caversham
A dynamic girls' day and boarding school that's revolutionising the way teens are taught. Set in 34 acres it boasts 'wow' facilities, results and a cool sixth form centre.
Queen Anne’s is a dynamic day and boarding school for girls aged 11-18, perched on the hill with views across Caversham and Reading. Although within striking distance of Reading, it’s a leafy oasis with 34 acres for the 467 girls to go wild. One of the oldest girls’ schools in the country, it dates back to 1698 in London and moved to its current location in 1894.
The Grade-II listed Victorian manor is the school’s shop window and a new glass entrance and reception area have been added. The campus is largely made up of modern teaching blocks and boarding houses, including a foxy award-winning sixth form centre – a creative and fun space that gives Google’s offices a run for their money. But that’s old news, a recording studio and the St CecIlia Recital Hall now complete the phenomenal Scott Music Centre – named after former head Audrey Scott (1978-1996).
PHE-NOM-EN-AL! Queen Anne’s maybe one of the oldest and most respected girls’ school in the UK, but its facilities are top notch and we give them an A* across the board.
First up, the £1.45 million music centre. Music is a huuuge part of school life and having outgrown its previous home, it is now an inspirational, harmonious space the heart of the main building. It boasts a music hall, recital hall, recording studio, soundproof practice rooms, a Mac suite, music offices a small performance space as well as 21 new pianos. Music is big here. An impressive 50% of pupils play an instrument, choir is cool and they regularly perform at events from Westminster Abbey to Washington DC.
While we’re talking about the arts, there’s also an impressive 250-seater theatre with a light and sound control room – they put on five shows a year with WW1 tribute Journey’s End and Les Misérables getting rave reviews. The Art and Design block is in one of the few uglier buildings on campus, but it is a creative hub with lots of tech and equipment to inspire fledgling artists. Ceramics and printmaking are back on the curriculum and workshops are planned with visiting Royal Academy artists.
On the sporting front, the grounds are pristine, with lacrosse pitches, an athletics track, seven netball courts, 14 tennis courts, an indoor swimming pool – and it’s a stonking 25m job – plus a large fitness suite, climbing wall and dance studios. Rowing is also available off site. The list goes on and on – and it’s all top notch.
It will come as no surprise that Queen Anne’s are a team to beat on match days – particularly at lacrosse. But there’s a lot of silverware to polish after wins at the cricket and U13 tennis Berkshire County Finals, plus a leaver, captained the England U19 Lacrosse team at the World Cup and 16-year-old discus thrower, Zara, is ranked 11th in the UK, including the adults. Casually, Olympian Chemmy Alcott trained the ski team for the Inter-Schools Ski Racing Championships. Blimey.
Most recently, Queen Anne’s was announced as the national runner up for the LTA’s (Lawn Tennis Associations) Tennis School of the Year, after their U13 tennis team claimed the title of Aegon Tennis regional champions 2019.
The big wow is the award-winning sixth form centre. It’s a hipsters’ paradise – the communal study area has funky houses if you need privacy, there’s also a café and upstairs the classrooms have hi-tech smart walls instead of whiteboards. What I loved the most are the three creative spaces, designed by the girls themselves – a retro cinema with fold-up velvet seating, NYC’s Central Park with park bench and cushion boulders and Big Ben.
What’s next on the development masterplan? Sports facilities – it’s your time to shine. Major changes are planned to add a full-size 3G artificial turf pitch (ATP), lights (for the existing tennis courts and the ATP), plus levelling and drainage of the grass pitches. It’s a game-changer for Queen Anne’s sport and will benefit every girl.
You don’t have to be Einstein’s love child to snag a place at Queen Anne’s, but complacency is not an option. The results are VERY good. It was another extraordinary year for students taking exams… or not as it turned out.
The 2021 GCSE results saw 59% of students achieve 9/8 (A*) and 100% 9-4 (A*-C) across 25 subjects. An impressive 16 students achieved a full set of 9/8 (A*) grades with five of these girls receiving straight 9s. As well as getting academic personal bests, the girls are encouraged to be analytical, problem solve and question the status quo.
At A-Level, 72% of all grades awarded were A*/ A and 99% receiving A*-C across 28 subjects. This year 35% of the Upper Sixth exams sat were in STEM subjects, with 52% of those achieving A* or A. Pupils taking creative subjects also knocked it out of the park. How amazing is that? Oxbridge is always an option, but Queen Anne’s pupils favour Russell Group Universities like Exeter University, Imperial College London and the University of Warwick. American universities and gold plated apprenticeships are becoming increasingly popular too.
Queen Anne’s reputation is unabashedly high achieving and competitive, but there’s also a huuuuge extra curricular element. Early riser? Morning swim sessions are one way to wake up. Fancy yourself as the next Oti Mabuse? Dance is really popular and offers all styles from ballet and tap to street dance. If your child is an unashamed nerd or likes to keep in their own lane, you still have options – animation (above), astronomy club, climate change, flippin current affairs society and there’s even a club for aspiring doctors to apply for med school! Not a one-size fits all, but something for everyone.
It’s swapped girl power for brain power – hitting the headlines (and sparking a parliamentary debate) after it trialled later school start times for Y12s, all part of Queen Anne’s research programme. Ready for the science bit? BrainCanDo is a QAS-led initiative to understanding the teen brain, translating the latest psychology and education neuroscience research into teaching that benefits the girls – causing a positive ripple on results, health and wellbeing.
For such a innovative, modern school, it’s not at the expense of tradition. Scarlet cloaks are still worn on high days and holidays and you’ll see the red army at opening mornings and church services.
The peer mentor system is a superb support for younger students and creates a real sense of community – but it does mean the older girls can become a grandma at the tender age of 16 (in name only, before you grab the smelling salts). There’s also the annual end-of-term Bust-Up. A chance for staff and pupils to blow of steam with some fancy-dress fun. You’ll need to sharpen your elbows to get anywhere near the mirror on that day.
WRAP AROUND CARE
The days are pretty long (8am-6.30pm) with extra curricular activities kicking in after 4.10pm, but the girls can choose to finish early on Wednesday and Friday (4.30pm) and Saturdays are optional. Although traditional activities like rowing, drama and cookery and newer ones like app workshops and yoga, it’s hard not to be lured back through the school gates.
Boarding is fashionably flexible – with full, weekly, flexi and occasional boarding all on offer but most sixth-formers go the whole hog and spend the week. The three modern boarding houses are well above average and feel homely with an abundance of super-squishy sofas, large communal kitchen tables and a couple of cute dogs padding around too.
MEET THE HEAD
A new head occupies the hot seat at Queen Anne’s. Elaine Purves has only been in post since the beginning of January, so barely enough time to unpack her favourite mug, but she’s hit the ground running getting to know the pupils, parents and staff. She was previously head at St John’s International School in Belgium but her CV is impressive with headships at Rossall School and Ipswich High School, as well as five years as Deputy Head at the Royal High School, Bath. So what’s the plan? Well, Elaine brings with her a vast amount of experience in providing outstanding pastoral care and a forward-thinking education. I think you’ll agree wellbeing and a progressive outlook are just what girls need right now. She’s currently creating her masterplan (all heads have one) to develop academic provision, facilities and pupil experiences – building on the schools’s past success. Will the International Baccalaureate be introduced at Queen Anne’s? Maybe. But right now, we’ll let her unpack that mug. I liked her a lot. Elaine’s cool, calm, loves Queen Anne’s and wants the girls to excel in all areas of their lives. I’m excited to see what comes next.
Day pupils: £8,370 per term (£25,110 per annum); Full Boarding: £13,590 per term (£38,070 per annum). Flexi boarding: 12,250 per term for 2 nights per week and £12,920 per term for 3/4 nights per week.
WORD ON THE GROUND
Parents love it for its ceiling smashing attitude, pastoral care, facilities and that they are very much a part of the school community (you can pop it as often as you like). What do the girls think? They said it’s a bit strict, particularly on skirt length (nothing a sly roll of the waistband can’t sort out). But they love their school and are fiercely loyal to their houses, enjoy the social side and are driven to succeed – even if that means they have to try, try, and try again.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: It’s hard to know a girl who wouldn’t love it here. It’s academic enough for the pushiest of parents but the style of teaching plus the sport and diverse range of extra-curricular activities mean the kids have a blast.
Not for: It’s a little pricier than some schools in the area, but you get a lot bang for your buck, plus hefty discounts are available to parents serving in the British Armed Forces, and scholarships are up for grabs for Academic Excellence, All-Round Contribution, Art, Drama, Music or Sport.
Dare to disagree: See if you agree with my verdict. There’s a School Open Morning on 7 May.
Queen Anne’s School, Henley Road, Caversham, Berkshire RG4 6DX. Tel: 0118 918 7333.