Withington Girls’ School’s November open days – your questions answered


As senior school choices loom and parents consider future education options, Withington Girls’ School headmistress, Sarah Haslam, answers questions frequently asked during open day events.

Withington’s next open days are due on November 7 and 9 – more details can be found on the WGS website.

How do I know if my child will thrive in a particular school?

We understand that choosing the right school for your child is one of the most important decisions you will make. Attending open day events provides an opportunity for you to visit and to meet pupils and staff so that you can gain an understanding of the ethos and atmosphere of each school. Listen to your child and to your instincts. Our entrance exams and interview processes are designed to help us identify the pupils that will flourish in school but think of your application and decision-making as a shared process where schools and families are looking for the best fit to ensure each child fulfils their potential. Entrance examinations, interviews and/or assessments will give you a good indication of the school’s priorities.

What are the benefits of a girls-only education?

Research supports the benefits of different approaches to learning for boys and girls. At Withington, our aim is for our girls to leave school ready to pursue their dreams and ambitions, inspired and supported by female role models and by each other in our collaborative, empowering environment. They do not hesitate to choose to study and excel in subjects traditionally dominated by boys, such as mathematics and physics; they are offered an abundance of opportunities to develop leadership skills and are unhindered by the stereotypes that might have stopped them continuing with activities such as sport or debating. Already initiating, exploring and leading through enthusiastic engagement in the classroom and in a host of extra-curricular opportunities, Withington girls are encouraged to develop a sense of themselves and of their potential, which is so sustaining and motivating. When combined with an inspiring whole school ethos, thoughtful personal and social education, careers and alumnae programmes, you have something very powerful – girls with a sense of their capacity to make their own amazing contribution to the world.

What do you look for in candidates?

Withington is looking for academically able girls who will thrive in our lively and dynamic environment. There is not necessarily a typical ‘Withington girl’ as we welcome and celebrate diversity with our broad range of pupils who have varied interests and come from different backgrounds – but what our girls do have in common is an intellectual curiosity, a love of learning and a positive zest for life. These are the qualities we embrace and that will enable a girl to grow in confidence and enjoy to the full, her time at Withington.

We can’t afford to pay school fees – are we eligible for financial help?

Withington has a long history of welcoming able girls from a wide and diverse range of backgrounds, irrespective of the financial wellbeing of their families, and our school community is greatly enriched and enhanced because of this. With one in six of our pupils now in receipt of bursary support, our vision is to make sure that the highest quality educational opportunities provided by the school are available to all girls of exceptional ability. We understand that many families’ incomes will not have risen in line with costs over recent years and we are committed to finding solutions to help – means-tested bursaries may be available on a partial basis to help the squeezed middle, whilst we are also able to offer a limited number of full bursaries.

How would my child benefit from attending your school?

Withington is one of the country’s leading school academically, regularly ranked in league tables as one of the top independent schools in the North of England – and in a recent Telegraph newspaper analysis, which compared academic results at GCSE against termly fees, WGS was among the independent schools offering the best value for money in the country. Pupil attainment was recognised as ‘exceptional’ in our last inspection report and, following a recent whole-school survey, an independent market research company also deemed the school ‘exceptional’ for our success in developing confidence, our teaching quality, pastoral care and extra-curricular and our community spirit and community activity. The vast majority of our girls go on to study at their first-choice universities including Oxbridge and Russell Group. However, WGS girls enjoy a broad holistic education – their successes are achieved in a balanced, healthy and informal environment where they feel well supported both in and out of the classroom. Withington’s relatively small size means girls are each known as individuals. Our pupils grow in self-esteem, self-belief and confidence, attaining their academic potential and leaving well prepared for university and beyond. Our aim is that our pupils go into the world empowered.