Adcote School for Girls, Shropshire
This small, non-selective school manages to be a triple threat in academics, sports, and pastoral care all at once. The last five years have seen it turn from middle-of-the-road to national contender.
Adcote School for Girls is a proudly non-selective day and boarding school for 7 to 18 year olds, nestling in 27 acres of lush gardens in the Shropshire countryside in Tudor-style Grade I Listed splendour, thanks to the 1879 handiwork of iconic architect Richard Norman Shaw. It’s home to just 210 pupils, 21% of whom are international students; the school calls its outlook ‘glocal’, which I rather like. Knowing its strengths, Adcote makes a loud virtue of its size and single sex cohort – the great advantage of the school, it says, is its specialising in ‘girls, girls, girls’. Class sizes are gratifyingly small at this academically high-achieving school, with a current maximum of 15 girls in prep and 20 in senior years, and around 8 per class in Sixth Form. The school has a self-imposed cap of 240, so expect class sizes to remain low even as the pupil numbers rise.
Acres of grounds for the headline sports of hockey, tennis, and netball. You’ll find sport is a big deal at Adcote and everyone’s expected to join in – in July the school was the top placed Midlands school in the virtual ISA Athletics Competition, with Year 11’s the Midlands team champions for the fourth consecutive year. There’s a huge sports hall for gymnastics and extracurricular sports such as fencing and fitness, though swimming and horse riding are both off site.
ART, MUSIC, DRAMA
Though only half the students take up music lessons at school, it hasn’t seemed to affect Adcote’s ability to run a Prep School orchestra – it’s not often small schools manage to do that, so full marks. There’s no dedicated music theatre here; instead the main hall is used for performances for the various ensembles including rock bands, chamber strings, and choirs. The latter’s an area where Adcote has musical form, having scooped the 2020 ISA A-Capella Champions trophy.
Similarly there’s no separate drama studio – drama performances are held in the oak-clad Great Hall, but with a LAMDA 100% Distinction rate, it doesn’t seem to be holding the girls back.
Behind its traditional façade, the new building developments at Adcote are modern and sleek. Headline developments include the stylish grey wood-panelled top spec science labs and language rooms built in 2015, and a huge brand new outdoor classroom next to the sports pitch that’s in constant rotation, from Forest schoolers in Prep through to the Sixth Formers. The grounds are beautiful here, and there’s a sense of space and freedom.
Academic success is a strong calling card at Adcote – you don’t get ISA Senior School of the Year for nothing. The 2021 results were characteristically strong, with 73.5% of A level pupils at A to A* grades and 67% of GCSE grades at 9 to 7 – an immense achievement given the non-selective cohort. Adcote was named the top value-added school in Shropshire for A Levels, and in the Top 50 independent schools in England for value-added in 2019, when league tables were last published. So, no worries in the exam department here! 69% of girls go on to Russell Group unis, with a whopping 54% of girls choosing degrees in STEM subjects – a statistic Adcote will no doubt attribute to its single sex status.
For such a small school there’s an interesting range of GCSE and A levels on offer. These include iMedia Design, Business and Textiles (GSCE) and Art & Design and Performing Arts (A level), as well as BTEC options in Hospitality, Travel, Tourism, Catering and Performing Arts. A Google-affiliated school, Adcote is also the only all-girls school in England to offer the Chartered Management Institute Level 3 Award in Leadership and Management.
In a school of 210, it’s no surprise that Adcote manages to create a family vibe – even the prefects here are referred to as ‘big sisters’. Prep pupils’ first port of call is their form coordinator – a dedicated school staff member such as a teacher or house officer. Staff share the responsibility with parents and regular meetings are held to discuss pupils’ care. A counsellor visits weekly to offer external support if the girls want to speak to someone from outside the school. There are also weekly mindfulness sessions for those who wish to take part, and yoga is offered to boarders with the option for day students to join in.
Girls can board here from 8-18, either ad hoc flexi boarding, or weekly and termly. There are two boarding houses. Aston Hall, for Sixth Formers, is modern with great cooking facilities, light airy spaces, and a head count of two per bedroom with ensuites. Norman House, which caters for the rest of the school, sleeps two to six per room but is in the original building, so boasts more character. There are around 67 boarders, 44 of whom are international.
Day pupils can join the boarders for breakfast from 8am and stay until 5.25pm for after school clubs – of which there are many – staying on for supper if required. Flexi boarding is possible if there are spaces on the night.
The school bus costs between £280 – £480 per term. Pick ups and drop offs include Shrewsbury, Telford, Welshpool, Wem, and Oswestry.
Diane Browne has been Headteacher at Adcote for five years. Previously from Westonbirt School in Gloucester, it’s her first headship after working as Director of Studies and former Head of English. She’s super passionate about helping girls develop talents they didn’t know they had, and is refreshingly outspoken in her belief of single-sex education after working in mixed schools. In her time at Adcote she’s spear-headed an award-winning learning programme called ‘CLEAR’ which focuses on Confidence, Leadership, Engagement, Achievement, and Resilience throughout the curriculum and everyday life. Activities are held termly around the programme, which have so far included bush craft, orienteering, and even dismantling a car engine. From this initiative kids have gone on to design a self-deploying mobile wheelchair ramp after a member of their year needed one.
Adcote’s passionate, almost defiant approach to celebrating female education is unusual and exciting. There’s no room for wallflowers here, with all students taking part in either the Wayfarers programme or Combined Cadets Force. The ‘in it together’ ethos of the school is underlined when students, teachers, and where possible parents take part in an ‘Adcote family’ group activity such as a mass camp-out, bonfire night party, or family quiz night.
Adcote was reviewed in 2018 and passed the standard regulations. Note was given to pupils being confident, well adjusted, resilient and well prepared for the next stage of their lives, with strong decision-making skills. It also said pupils with SEND made similar progress to other pupils. See report here.
MOBILE PHONE POLICY
No-nonsense! Boarders are allowed to have one mobile phone and/or other electronic device, which must be clearly labelled and is their responsibility. Students in Year 9 and below hand in all electronic devices at room time. Mobile phones are NOT allowed in school for any year group.
Reasonable. Fees start at £3,000 a term for prep day pupils and rise to nearly £5,000 for Senior and Sixth Form students. Fees stay the same regardless of age for boarders, who pay £9,800 (UK students) and £12,200 (international) per term.
WORD ON THE GROUND
The Head here is very popular, widely regarded by parents as the catalyst for turning Adcote in the last five years from a middling rural school into an award-winning academic powerhouse, but without compromising the family atmosphere and strong pastoral care. Insight from the kids? Er, it’s all about the school lunches – apparently they’re great.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Girls who prefer the safety net of a small, friendly cohort and want to get stuck in sport, the arts and all the extra curricular activities on offer. The non-selective entry offers parents a freedom from endless CE tuition.
Not for: Due to the small number of students and lack of specialist facilities, exceptional musicians and drama students may have to look outside school for their fix.
Dare to disagree?! Have a look for yourself — Adcote is holding its next Open Day on Friday 4th March 2022.