Julia Harrington

Top Of The Class

We talk to headmistress Julia Harrington, about what makes the students at Queen Anne’s girls school excel

What is the secret to your success?

There is no secret about it! We know every girl well and recognise that her journey will be unique. Every girl arrives at Queen Anne’s as an individual and will leave as one. On her way through school she will discover her own enthusiasms and develop her own skills; she will be learning to fly with confidence, educationally and socially. We don’t put girls into a box that attempts to define them. That is for them to do for themselves as they enjoy their years at school, making best use of all the opportunities that are available to them.

How do you prepare the girls to deal with life beyond the classroom?

We believe that life in the classroom is really a microcosm of life beyond it. The girls will need the same emotional intelligence, curiosity, enthusiasm, resilience, persistence – and all the other qualities that make for a happy and fulfilled individual – as they need at school. Our academic and pastoral staff help guide the girls to behave in a way that encourages and enables them to explore and take risks while at the same time supporting them. Our teachers are passionate about their subjects and developing their own learning – essential if we are to enable and facilitate the right approach to life in our young people. We also have strong networks with industry and universities, providing the girls with opportunities for internships, to attend lectures, or just chat over a coffee with a wide variety of people in different spheres. It’s about helping them to know what’s out there, helping them to find themselves and giving them the confidence to put themselves forward, take the knocks and get back up again and fight for what they know is right for them and for their place in the world.

Tell us about the pastoral care at the school?

The pastoral care at the school is exceptional. We are a small school of 460 girls and we have a boarding school ethos, which means that all aspects of a child’s emotional, physical and spiritual needs are met within the life of the school. To achieve this we have a strong house system. Each girl belongs to a house where she starts the day, whether she is a boarder or a day pupil and the house staff know her well. They help her to plan her time, set her individual targets and monitor her progress and wellbeing. Within the houses, there are opportunities for leadership as well as ‘house families’ where girls have their own mentors from the sixth form houses. There is a comprehensive wellbeing programme that is delivered through tutor time, classroom lesson time, lectures and workshops as well as through the assembly programme and other appropriate opportunities. The girls know who and where to go to if they need help, and they know that they will be listened to. Pastoral care is not just about what we provide as a school, but it is also about the girls knowing that the systems are fair and just. They feel valued and they respect each other’s needs as well as being able to recognise their own. It’s also very important that they have fun.

Can you please let us know about the news sports facilities?

Our sports facilities, spread over a 35-acre site, include netball and tennis courts as well as space for lacrosse and athletics and a long-jump sand pit. Indoors, we have two dance studios, a fitness suite, a climbing wall, squash courts and a large sports hall. We are building a multi-use games area and facilities to ensure that the girls are able to train and practice throughout the year, whatever the English weather throws at us.

What is in the future for your vision and ethos of the school?

Over the last 10 years, we have been working to ensure that our academic curriculum provides a broad and balanced education as well as helping the girls achieve excellent grades, and providing for their emotional and personal development through their adolescence years.

We are investing in our buildings to make sure they are suitable for 21st-century learning. Most recently we have opened our new sixth form centre, The Space, which is an award-winning building providing creative learning zones for the girls. In fact, the girls had a great deal to do with its design.

Music is central to Queen Anne’s. Last year we opened our new music centre, the Scott Music Centre, which includes eight sound-proofed practice rooms; a MAC suite offering the girls the opportunity to learn how to make music digitally; and a beautiful ensemble space for smaller performances. We have also installed 21 new pianos. Phase two of this development (due to be finished this summer) will include a new recital hall, a sound-proofed percussion suite, recording suite and more practice rooms.

We are ensuring that our technology is cutting-edge throughout the school so that the girls can be confident that they know how to learn effectively in a technological age, while being safe and secure.

We also have a separate company called BrainCanDo, which the headmistress founded five years ago because she felt strongly that advances in educational neuroscience and cognitive psychology needed to be recognised in schools. This has now developed into an established educational neuroscience and cognitive psychology research centre. The work we have undertaken with leading universities has increased both teachers’ and students’ understanding of the developing brain and has improved students’ cognitive performance and expanded their intellectual curiosity. The girls’ personal attitude to learning has become more engaged and, while we do not highlight the programme, it is part of the ethos of the school and underpins all our approaches to learning and wellbeing.

Queen Anne’s School
6 Henley Rd, Reading RG4 6DX
0118 918 7300