As one of the oldest and largest Catholic schools in the UK, New Hall School is located in the grand façade of a former Tudor palace. Located in Chelmsford, Essex and providing both boarding and day places for boys and girls aged 3-18. In this blog, we look at how its unusual ‘diamond’ model and strong Catholic values make it so special.
New Hall School was first established in 1642 in Belgium, to offer a Catholic education to girls who were denied this opportunity in England. In 1794, the French Revolution forced the nuns to leave and the school was reopened on its current site, the Tudor Palace of Beaulieu, in 1799.
The school retains its Catholic ethos and strong ties with the local diocese but most of the staff are lay appointments, including current Headteacher, Katherine Jeffrey.
In 2005, New Hall decided to move to a coeducational model after 360 years of single-sex education. Opting for an unusual ‘diamond’ model was extremely successful; the school won the Outstanding Strategic Initiative award at the 2011 Independent School Awards as a result.
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New Hall operates a ‘diamond’ format where the Prep School and the Sixth Form are both coed, but students between the ages of 11 – 16 in the senior school are taught in single-sex classes.
The school believes this offers pupils and families the best of both worlds with all the benefits of a co-ed environment but with the advantages of being taught separately in KS3 and KS4. They cite the main benefits of single sex teaching are
“to tailor pastoral and academic provision more sensitively and expertly to the needs of young people going through the physical, emotional and social upheaval of adolescence”.
They also feel this model helps to avoid gender stereotyping as pupils do not perceive subjects as being more or less suitable for girls or boys and all students follow the same curriculum in their separate classes. (read here for more discussion on single sex vs co-ed)
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The school aims to give pupils the experience of life in a Christian community, to inspire them to develop their talents and to provide a broad and balanced curriculum rooted in the school’s Catholic foundation.
As part of their Catholic ethos, engaging in acts of worship and community is central to life at New Hall School. Pupils are required to attend regular chapel services as well as participate in their award-winning New Hall Voluntary Service (NHVS).
Ms Jeffrey states “Our aim is to meet the changing needs of young people and their families in the modern age. We are proud of our rich heritage and the tradition of academic excellence combined with outstanding pastoral care”.
Boarders form about 25% of the school community, there are currently 280 boarders of whom 80 are International students. The 6 boarding houses (3 boys and 3 girls) are cosy and well catered for. There is a full time residential counsellor to support boarders and the House Parent teams.
There is no Saturday school, but some International students will have EAL lessons in the morning. There is a full programme of activities laid on for boarders each weekend.
Academics are consistently good across the board:
- 2017 A Level grades – 44% A*-A and 76% were A*-B and 91% were A*-C
- 2017 GCSE grades – 54% were A*-A and 83% were A*-B
Interestingly, the school manages to avoid the national trend for boys to be behind girls at GCSE with genders at New Hall School being pretty much on a par.
Gifted and Talented is taken very seriously with the DELTA club promoting scholarly habits and the OMEGA programme on offer for those setting their sights on Oxbridge. Of which, about 5% are successful.
Technology is embedded throughout as part of being an Apple School, and each child is issued with an ipad. They have also recently opened a £10 million STEM centre.
The school has multiple sporting accolades to boast about and in recent years have invested significantly in their facilities. These include a 25m 6-lane indoor swimming pool, a national standard athletics track, 10 floodlit tennis/netball courts, cricket wickets, dance studio, ties with local riding schools and golf clubs and much more. Pretty much any sport is catered for as a result and most students participate.
The Walkfares Performing Arts Centre is home to a thriving music, drama and dance scene within the school. Students are encouraged to learn and instrument and to undertake music and performance exams. Unusually, choir is compulsory for Year 7 boys and girls for at least a year. There are a whole host of performing groups including the well-known New Hall School Choir and The Dance Company.
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Former students are known as “Old Fishes” or ‘New Hallians” and include:
- Christiane Amanpour – Chief International Correspondent for CNN
- Cindy Buxton – Wildlife Filmmaker
- Leonora Carrington – Artist and Novelist
- Stefanie Kemball-Read – Opera Singer
- Theo Stevenson – Horrid Henry Actor
- Anya Hindmarch – Fashion Designer
- Amanda Stretton – Racing Driver and Motoring Journalist
- Amber Rudd – UK Home Secretary (July 2016 – April 2018)
What makes the school special?
- Unique and highly successful diamond model
- Idyllic and convenient location, just half an hour outside of London
- Rooted in Catholic values and ethos
- Excellent facilities amongst beautiful grounds
The school has 120 places for Year 7 entry, usually three times oversubscribed. Two thirds of the annual intake come from the prep but go through same entrance procedure as for external candidates. Applicants must sit papers in English, maths and verbal reasoning plus a three-minute presentation to members of the senior school SLT.
Lower sixth has 150 places, with new entrants requiring two A/7s and four B/6s at GCSE to stand a chance.
- Day: £ 6,243
- Boarding: £9,585