Haberdashers' Aske's School for Girls
Haberdashers' Aske's School for Girls is an independent day school in Elstree, Hertfordshire. It is often referred to as “Habs” or “Habs Girls” to distinguish it from the neighbouring Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School. The school was founded in 1875 by the Worshipful Company of Haberdashers, one of the Great Twelve Livery Companies of the City of London.
Robert Aske left the Company £20,000 in 1690 to set up a hospital and home for 20 elderly men and a school for 20 boys at Hoxton, just north of the City of London. The school came decidedly second to the home for elderly men. There were no new boys between 1714 and 1739 because the foundation was short of funds. The Hospital was rebuilt during 1824-26 and the foundation was reorganised in 1873 when four schools were established: two at Hoxton, and two at Hatcham, New Cross in south-east London. Boys and girls were taught separately at each site. All four schools opened in 1875, the Hoxton schools offered a basic English education and the Hatcham schools covered a wider syllabus. In 1891, Hatcham girls moved to new premises half a mile away, while Hatcham boys took over the girls’ buildings.
Early in the 20th Century, new sites for the Hoxton schools were purchased in Hampstead for the Boys and Acton for the Girls. Both these schools became Direct Grant in 1946 and then fully independent, day, fee-paying schools in 1976. The need for expansion saw the Boys’ School move again to Elstree, Hertfordshire in 1961, followed by the Girls in 1974.
A previous site of the girls' school became the Japanese School in London in Acton.
In the Junior School there are two classes in each year group, (except in reception), with approximately 25 pupils in each class. The reception class is called Rainbow with 22 pupils. In key stage 1, the classes are known as 1 Red, 1 Green, 2 Blue and 2 Yellow. In key stage 2 the classes are known as 3 A and 3 Alpha up to 6 A and 6 Alpha.
The Senior School is divided into the Middle School and Upper School. In the Middle School, the years are known as Lower 4, Upper 4 and Lower 5 corresponding to years 7, 8 and 9. In the Upper School, years 10 and 11 are known as Middle 5 and Upper 5. There are usually 4 or 5 forms in each senior year group. They are identified by variants of the letter A in different alphabets, including A, Aesc, Aleph, Alpha, Aib and Ansuz. Occasionally a form is called Aske after Robert Aske.
The sixth form years (years 12 and 13) are known as Lower Sixth and Upper Sixth. There are usually 8 forms in each year of approximately 15 pupils in each form, and are known by the initials of the form tutor.
Admission to the School
The admissions procedure comprises four elements; a competitive entry test, an interview, a school reference (from 7+) and a disability assessment (if applicable). These procedures apply at the main points of entry (4+, 5+, 7+, 11+ and 16+) and also to candidates for occasional vacancies in other year groups. The school provides financial assistance with fees. The majority of support available from the Haberdashers' Aske's Charity is directed towards helping those in most need. A limited number of scholarships are also awarded for academic or musical excellence.
The School Day
The school day in the Junior School starts with registration at 8:45am and usually ends at 3:15pm, with Rainbow only in for half a day on Fridays. After school care is available for girls in years 1-6 as required. In the Senior School, the school day starts with registration at 8:40am and ends at 4pm with many extra-curricular activities available until 5:15pm. From Year 3 and above, girls may travel to and from school using the extensive coach service run jointly with the Boys’ School. There are late coach services to most destinations at the end of after school activities.
Academic standards are high, with over 99% of girls achieving grades A & A* at A Level, and over 96% grades A & A* at GCSE. The majority of girls will go to university of their choice with many girls accepting offers from Oxford or Cambridge. The most popular universities continue to be, year on year, Oxford, Cambridge, London, Durham, Warwick, Birmingham University, University of Nottingham, Bristol, York and Exeter, with approximately 20% of girls accepting offers from Oxbridge.
Links with the community
The school has strong links with the local community; in the Junior School girls visit an Age Concern drop-in centre, and a local home for the elderly. They also participate in events with Meadow Wood School for the Disabled. In the Senior School, girls also visit homes for the elderly, and help with horse-riding for the disabled. Each year the Girls’ and Boys’ schools jointly host both a MENCAP fun day and a Senior Citizens' Christmas Party. Sixth Form girls organise and perform in an annual Wonders of the World evening (WOW), strongly supported by donations from parents and local businesses.
The St Catherine Parents’ Guild
The Guild, of which all parents at the school are automatically members, aims to promote partnership between parents and school. The Guild Committee is made up of parents from throughout the school and staff representatives. Appointments to the Committee are made by the Headmistress. Form Representatives liaise between the Guild Committee and the main body of parents.
The current headmistress is Biddie O'Connor, MA who returned to the school in September 2011. Biddie was a deputy head at the school between 1998 and 2002.
- 2005 – 2011 Elizabeth Radice, MA
- 1991 – 2005 Penelope Penney, BA
- 1974 – 1991 Sheila Wiltshire, BSc, OBE
- 1969 – 1973 Jessie Gillet, BA
- 1944 – 1968 Eileen Harold, MA
- 1920 – 1943 Dorothy Sprules, MA
- 1904 – 1919 Margaret Gilliland, MA
Former pupils are referred to as Old Girls. Notable Old Girls include:
- Laura Aikman, actress
- Linda Bennett OBE, fashion designer and entrepreneur
- Luciana Berger, Member of Parliament for Liverpool Wavertree
- Bidisha, arts critic, broadcaster and author
- Nica Burns OBE, theatre producer
- Vanessa Feltz, TV personality
- Charlotte Green, radio announcer and newsreader
- Vera Houghton CBE, campaigner
- Talulah Riley, actress
- Caroline Ryder, writer
- Daphne Slater, actress