What it's like
Founded in 1741, one of three schools of the Alleyn's College of God's Gift foundation and the oldest independent girls' school in London. Usually known as JAGS, it moved in 1886 to its present site of 22 acres in the pleasant inner London suburb of Dulwich. There have been massive additions since 1978 to provide excellent modern facilities, including a theatre (designed to professional standards), dance and drama studios, an artificial turf pitch and a swimming pool. Inter-denominational, it puts some stress on the inculcation of Christian ethics. Its declared aims are to encourage and promote: intellectual curiosity, enthusiasm and imagination; concern for others; confidence and independence of mind; and the pursuit of excellence (whatever the undertaking). A popular school, it is well-known for its good teaching and academic achievements. Examination results are excellent and many sixth formers go on to Oxbridge. There is a big commitment to music and drama, and art is extremely strong. There is some collaboration with Dulwich College in cultural enterprises. It has an unusually wide range of sporting and games activities and is very strong in extra-curricular activities, including debating. It has strong links with local community and is involved in the government independent/state school partnership scheme.
Pupils & entrance
Pupils: Age range 11-18, 774 day girls. Entrance: Main entry ages 11 and 16. Own entrance exam used. For sixth-form entry, 5 GCSEs at grade A (at least grade B English and maths; usually grade A in sixth-form subjects). No special skills or religious requirements. 30% of senior intake from state schools; approx 30% from own prep, James Allen's Preparatory School (same address).
Scholarships & bursaries
25+ pa scholarships, value £500 or £1000 pa to a maximum of 100% of fees (means-tested): 21 academic, 2 art and 2 music (20 at 11, 5+ at 16); music exhibitions also awarded. 18 pa school assisted places, up to 100% fees for those on low incomes. No compulsory extras.
Head & staff
Headmistress: Mrs Marion Gibbs, in post since 1994. Educated at Basingstoke High and Pate's Grammar School, Cheltenham, and at Bristol University (classics). Previously an HMI, Head of Sixth Form and Head of Classics at Haberdasher's Aske's, and Head of Sixth Form and Director of Studies at Burgess Hill. Also formerly Chief Examiner GCSE (Latin) and Chairman Inter-Board A-level Classics Panel. Publications include Greek Tragedy: An Introduction (Bristol Classical Press). Teaching staff: 65 full time, 35 part time. Annual turnover 5%. Average age 35.
GCSE: 105 pupils in Year 11: all gained at least grade C in 8+ subjects (average 9.8 subjects, most with A/A* grades). A-levels: 86 in upper sixth: 90% passed in 4+ subjects and 10% in 3+ subjects (average of 4.2 subjects; 70% gained A grades in 3 or more A-levels); average final point score of 480.
All sixth-form leavers go on to a degree course (30% after a gap year), some 28% to Oxbridge. 15% take courses in medicine, dentistry and veterinary science, 17% in maths, economics and science, 5% in law, 5% in architecture and engineering, 34% in humanities and social sciences, 8% in modern languages, 8% in music and drama, 8% took art foundation courses prior to degree courses.
GCSE, AS and A-levels. 28 AS/A-level subjects (including philosophy). Sixth form: Most sixth formers take 5 subjects at AS-level (most take a broad range), 3-4 at A-level; wide general studies programme but not examined. 25% take arts/humanities A-levels only; 75% both science and arts. Key skills gained in course of school career (not certificated). Vocational: Work shadowing available in Year 11 and sixth forms. ECDL offered. Special provision: None, apart from extra general help. Languages: French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian and Spanish offered to GCSE, AS and A-level; Japanese club and to GCSE. Regular exchanges (France, Germany, Italy, Russia and Spain). Use of radio and satellite television; taken part in European pupil radio link. ICT: Taught both as a discrete subject and across the curriculum, eg data-logging in science. Some 450 computers, including laptops, for pupil use (8 hours a day), almost all networked and with email and internet access; smartboards in every classroom. Pupils take ECDL.
Music: Over 60% of pupils learn a musical instrument; instrumental exams can be taken. Some 20 major musical groups including 4 orchestras, 5 choirs, 4 wind bands, 3 brass ensembles, jazz group, pop bands, chamber orchestra. 12 pupils currently attend junior conservatoires. Drama, debating and dance: Drama and dance offered. GCSE and A-level drama and ESB exams may be taken. Many pupils are involved in school productions; 2 productions recently at Edinburgh Festival. Strong debating: recent pupil member of England debating team and finalists in national competition for Young Debators. Art and design: On average, 56 take GCSE, 18 A-level. Design, textiles also offered. Pupils' work recently exhibited in Mall Galleries, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London Institute Young at Art, 1st prize in Cancer Research Campaign Art Competition; awarded Artsmark silver.
Sports & activities
Sport: Hockey, netball, swimming, athletics, football, volleyball, squash, basketball, table tennis, rounders, tennis, dance, gym, orienteering, self-defence, PE compulsory for 6 years. Optional: karate, water-polo, aerobics, yoga, weight-training, trampolining, fencing, skating, sailing, cross-country, tag rugby, canoeing, riding. BAGA and RLSS (bronze medallion) exams may be taken; also community sports' leader award in sixth form. 2 in England cross-country team, number of county netball and hockey players, swimmers and athletes; national team athletics finalists (last 2 years), London schools' swimming relay champions. Awarded Sportsmark gold. Activities: Pupils take bronze, silver and gold Duke of Edinburgh's Award. Community service optional; school raised £10,000 pa for charity recently. Over 30 clubs and societies, eg Amnesty International, conducting class, environmental, Japanese, poetry, photography, science, politics, languages, design and technology, philosophy café, chess club.
Uniform: School uniform worn except in the sixth form. Houses and prefects: House captains and deputies elected by whole school, head girl and deputies elected by sixth form and staff. School Council. Religion: Non-denominational assembly 3 times a week; emphasis on moral values and issues. Non-Christians can be exempted at parents' request (very few are). Social: Joint ventures with Dulwich College (brother school) include upper-sixth liberal studies, theatre productions and some societies. Many trips abroad: cultural trips and exchanges to France, Germany, Spain, Russia, USA, Greece, Italy, Czech Republic, China, Iceland; music tour to Italy and South Africa, sport to South Africa. Pupils allowed to bring own bike to school. Meals self-service.
Pupils failing to produce homework once might expect warning mark (persistent offending leads to lunchtime detention); those caught with cannabis on the premises could expect expulsion.
Association of former pupils
is run by School Alumnae Officer, Cindy Rutherford, c/o the school
Anita Brookner and Lisa St Aubin de Teran (authors); Frances Line (former controller Radio 2); Mary Francis (former Director of ABI); Shani Anderson (Olympic athlete); Joanna Dodson QC; Darshini David (Sky TV economics presenter); Marina Wyatt (CEO, TomTom); Sally Hawkins, Daisy Haggard, Hattie Morahan (actresses); Sam Holcroft (playwright).