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Our Review of Cheltenham Ladies College

We frequently review the UK’s leading independent schools as part of our Advice for Parents blog. In this article, we recap on our visit to the beautiful Cheltenham Ladies College. If you are interested in sending your daughter to Cheltenham Ladies College, our education consultants will help you through the entire application process and, if necessary, they can introduce you to private tutors to support your daughter with her entrance exams.

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Cheltenham Ladies College is an independent boarding and day school for girls aged 11 to 18. It was established by the founders of Cheltenham College for Boys in 1854 to provide, “a sound academic education for girls”. This goal still lies at the heart of the school’s vision to embody excellence, independence, inspiration and empowerment in the education of women.

What is so remarkable about the school is how they have truly mastered the art of nurturing well-rounded and self-confident women. For example, every morning one student is asked to address the school about a subject they feel strongly about. This may seem terrifying, particularly for shy students, but in time it helps the girls build their confidence and is great practice for the leadership positions many of the girls will take on in later life.

The buildings and facilities at the school are inspiring, with a clever mix of old and new. Modern buildings include The Parabola Arts Centre complete with a 325-seat auditorium, gallery and teaching spaces, as well as the Engineering, Enterprise and Technology Department.

Girls who board live in one of the eleven Boarding Houses with six junior houses for 11-16 year olds and five senior houses for Sixth Form girls. Each boarding house is run by a diligent Housemistress and Deputy Housemistress, as well as a team of staff including a dedicated Chef and kitchen and domestic staff. All boarding girls are encouraged to be independent, giving the older ones the opportunity to help local community programmes for schools, an animal shelter, schools, homes for the elderly and a local homeless centre. They can also shop at weekends and go out for meals in the evening with friends. The younger girls have specific times when they can go shopping, usually a Sunday afternoon. As you watch the small troupes of girls walking arm in arm, there is clearly so much genuine warmth between the pupils.

Cheltenham Ladies College is also very academic. The teachers are all passionate about their subjects and are committed to providing high-quality teaching to develop intellectually curious, self-motivated and enthusiastic young women. This is not only reflected in their excellent GCSE, A Level and IB results every year, but also their success rate for university applications. For example, in 2020, 11 students went to Oxbridge and 20 secured places at medical school. The rest went to top universities at home (eg Edinburgh, Durham, UCL, Bristol, St Andrews). The school also has an international outlook, with a healthy number of students heading for US Ivy League universities. To help the girls with their university applications, there is a Professional Guidance Centre that also hosts several networking talks and dinners.

Admission to the school is highly competitive. Each year, Cheltenham Ladies College receives approximately twice as many applicants as places. To help manage these applications, the school have devised a clear system of pre-tests so that parents and the school can work out how well a particular girl is suited to the school. The tests are unique and cover material on both the ISEB and state school curriculums. For scholars, they are searching for, “thoughtful curiosity and an eye for detail, rather than cramming”. After seeing a sample question paper, we can vouch that the questions are open-ended enough to support this. Further stages of the application process include meeting with the admissions department and completing a full written assessment. Reports from existing schools are also taken into account.

We were very impressed by Cheltenham Ladies College. Not only is it an extremely well-resourced and efficiently run school, the staff are also generous and deeply caring. Considering the quality of accommodation, resources available and the academic and pastoral standard of the school, we were surprised to learn that fees are on the lower end for both boarding and day girls.