The sixth form at Ipswich High School for Girls is unique in Suffolk, offering girls-only education via a bespoke curriculum and a tailored approach to A-level study. When I joined the school last year, it struck me that while it was wonderful that many of our girls in the sixth form have been with Ipswich High School for their whole scholastic career (since age three in the junior school), we were perhaps missing an opportunity to have wider appeal in our region and make our sixth form community even more diverse and interesting.
We have some excellent state schools throughout Essex and Suffolk and we wanted to ensure that bright girls, who may not have thought they could consider independent school education due to financial constraints, had the opportunity to include the sixth form at Ipswich High School in their potential sixth form choices.
This year, for the first time, we launched our Elliston Award to enable some of the best and brightest pupils from state schools to apply to our sixth form by significantly reducing the cost of an independent school sixth form education.
This is a financial award worth up to 50% of the Ipswich High School fees throughout the sixth form and is for strong applicants from state-funded schools. We have fully committed to widening access to our sixth form and as such, guarantee that at least one of these awards is given to any suitable applicant from each state-funded school throughout Essex or Suffolk.
There are set criteria for these awards. All applicants must be predicted/have achieved seven A*–C grades (or six to nine in the new marking scheme) in their GCSE subjects and have a letter of recommendation from their current school. In addition, all applicants come to Ipswich High School for interviews and testing and we are looking for potential, motivation and a real love of learning. In our interviews, we uncover what motivates the girls and tell them about our approach to A-levels in the sixth form including our small group teaching and the mature culture that we create amongst our year 12s and 13s.
In my view, the Elliston Award has been very successful in its launch year. Our first cohort of awardees will join us in September 2017 and will include girls from eight schools. The pupils who have applied have been impressive in their interviews and entrance examinations. Their interests and A-level subject choices are incredibly diverse which mirrors our existing sixth form community and I am sure that all of the girls joining us will add something to our unique environment.
We were delighted that the applicants have all commented on the welcoming atmosphere of the school and that they have seen the appeal of small classes, tutorial-style teaching and the preparation they will receive for applying to top universities.
As one of 26 schools in the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST), the leading network of independent girls’ schools in the UK, Ipswich High School is fully committed to the value of girls-only education. We are also committed to providing financial assistance to talented, motivated girls, whose families are not in a position to pay full school fees. The Elliston Award has allowed us to extend this provision even further in the sixth form which I see as crucial to allow as many girls as possible to benefit from this transformative phase of education.