Founded in 1903, St Helen and St Katharine is a leading independent day school for girls aged 9–18 in Abingdon, six miles south of Oxford.
About the school
St Helen and St Katharine is a school for bright girls with enquiring minds, a place where success is celebrated but not revered. Our aim is to ensure that every student achieves success as she defines it, so that she can believe in herself, her talents and abilities, and feel prepared and equipped for life beyond school.
Our outstanding academic record makes us one of the leading girls’ schools in the country. Stimulating and challenging teaching reaches beyond the curriculum, enabling our students to become effective and independent learners. Our broad and varied extracurricular programme of 100+ clubs and activities also plays a central role within school life. We actively encourage students to give new things a go, to explore and extend interests and to make friends across age groups.
Students are admitted to the Junior Department at either 9+ or 10+ and to the senior school at 11+, 13+ and 16+. It may be possible to admit students into other years, enquiries should be made to the Admissions Office.
Scholarships are awarded to recognise excellence, ability and potential in one or more academic or extracurricular area. We offer a range of scholarships at 11+, 13+ and 16+ for academic ability, art, drama, music, sport and an all-rounder award. The financial value of awards is modest and they are not subject to means testing. Students may hold awards in more than one area (the second being of honorary rather than of financial value) but cannot hold two non-academic awards.
Opening up access for families who would not otherwise be able to afford the fees has always been central to our ethos. If a student has the ability, imagination and drive to grasp the opportunities on offer at St Helen’s, we would like to give her that chance. The School offers means tested bursaries of up to 100% of fees, including subject-specific bursaries at A-level.
For full details of the admissions process, scholarships and bursaries, including the application process, please visit the Admissions section of our website www.shsk.org.uk.
We run a three term year and the fees are the same across all year groups.
St Helen and St Katharine's SHSK Society Talks debuts with slavery discussion
St Helen's alumnae community, the SHSK Society, tuned in to listen to a fascinating talk about racial injustice - the first in a series of remote lectures to explore topical issues
9th July 2020 — The SHSK Society was delighted to welcome St Helen’s alumna, Dr Catherine Armstrong, to give an online talk. Dr Armstrong is an historian of colonial North America and the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries and is expert in the history of slavery.
Old Girls from around the world attended the event. Dr Armstrong gave a fascinating talk about ‘Police brutality, statues and blackface: a long cultural history of the fight for racial justice’. She presented a powerful, and at times chilling, historical perspective of some of the individuals, symbols, events and atrocities that have perpetuated inequality and racism in the US - and their pervasiveness in present day America.
Dr Armstrong took a wide range of questions, covering topics including the following: whether statues should be removed, or left in place with factual information; how the US can tackle racism through legislation at a local and national level; what the UK can do the rethink and address its own role in slavery; the extent to which membership of white supremacist groups is still a problem, particularly within US law enforcement and local politics; and the impact of Barack Obama's Presidency.
"That was brilliant thank you! Just spot on with what we all need to learn more about and be talking about right now...my first old girls event and I loved it!"
"Thank you, Dr Armstrong and the SHSK Society...excellent, thought-provoking and helpful…"
"Thank you! Very informative and food for thought…"
"Thank you so much for organising this talk with Dr Catherine Armstrong. It was incredibly informative and so generous of her to share her time and knowledge."
"I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed last week's talk by Dr Armstrong. It was interesting and very thought provoking. Many thanks to Dr Armstrong and the SHSK Society for organising such a topical event."
St Helen and St Katharine students help to ease loneliness by sending hugs
St Helen's Chaplain, Reverend Elizabeth, started our 'send a hug' project, encouraging students to send a hand-knitted heart to Stowford House Care Home, local to the School in Abingdon.
30th June 2020 — The aim of this project was for the St Helen’s community to send a virtual hug to others, known or unknown, by means of a handmade knitted, stitched, crocheted (or otherwise constructed), 3D heart with a little personal message of good wishes. The idea was to use materials people already had and existing skills with an opportunity to share tips and suggestions along the way via Teams meetings and chats.
Recipients included students’ family members and friends and also the residents of Stowford House Care Home with whom the School already has a link. Stowford House were very enthusiastic about the idea and sent a list of residents’ first names. These were then given out to students, who made a heart and wrote a personalised message for a specific individual. Each heart and message was packaged up by the sender, delayed for 72 hours in order to make sure the package was virus-free, and then posted to the Stowford House for distribution.
The students responded with generosity and enthusiasm to the project and demonstrated a huge amount of creativity as well as spending very considerable time and trouble on writing the personal letters that accompanied the hearts. A number of them found the project therapeutic for themselves too in the heart of the lockdown period – being able to reach out to others and provide a source of warmth and cheer to those in very restricted isolation gave a sense of purposeful engagement for the sender in lockdown limbo as well as brightening the day of the recipient.
Reverend Elizabeth was especially touched by the thoughtfulness of the students, for example, one who before the lockdown had been involved in visiting residents at Stowford House through her Sixth Form community service, painted a Norfolk scene for a resident who, she knew, had grown up in Norfolk; another who was convinced she could not sew a single stitch, made a lovely stitched heart decorated with buttons (each one painstakingly sewn on).
‘I’m really glad you launched this project – the idea of perhaps helping counter someone’s loneliness is far more powerful a source of inspiration than people might expect!’
St Helen and St Katharine Juniors enjoy virtual residential trip
St Helen's Year 5 and 6 students made the best of their virtual residential trip, originally scheduled to take them to Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwick Castle and Cadbury World.
19th June 2020 — Over the course of the three-day virtual residential, the Juniors enjoyed investigating Shakespeare, chocolate and the history of Warwick Castle. Year 6s Mia and Mimi described their experiences:
'Lockdown caused many events to be cancelled, including the Junior residential to Stratford. So, the Junior Department planned for probably the first ever virtual Junior residential.
On the first day we were split into groups and we faced the challenge of the almost impossible chocolate quiz. After break, we began researching the history of chocolate, the story of Cadbury’s World or Fairtrade chocolate. At lunch, we all got together for a call, this was the first Junior picnic at St Helen’s. The afternoon was when things got competitive. We had to try to design the BEST chocolate bar. There were five winners: Emma, Olivia, Mia, Abby and Luisa.'
Mia, Year 6
'On day two we completed a virtual tour of Warwick Castle and had a competition on who could build the best castle. We could make them out of anything, and I made mine out of books. There were prizes for the most creative group or the most creative use of materials. On the third day we investigated Shakespearean language, and performed scenes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. After that we had a talent show. Various people volunteered to show us their talents, such as singing, gymnastics, and even some dog tricks!'
St Helen and St Katharine remote performances in lockdown
Throughout the period of Remote St Helen's our musicians have proved that their talent and commitment can still be displayed to the school community, via remote concerts. We have been delighted to share videos of all the concerts which would have taken place 'live' during Trinity term:
31st May 2020 — Throughout the period of Remote St Helen's our musicians have proved that their talent and commitment can still be displayed to the school community, via remote concerts. We have been delighted to share videos of all the concerts which would have taken place 'live' during Trinity term: Chapel Choir, Musical Theatre, Piano Concert, Singers Concert, Lower School scholars Concert, Strings Concert and two Tea Concerts.
Each student performer recorded and sent in a video of their chosen piece, sometimes accompanied by family members at home. Being able to continue performing was an incredibly important part of maintaining a kind of 'normal school life' in the midst of a very strange time for St Helen's.
Remote Musical Theatre
I never would have guessed last summer when planning this year’s Musical Theatre Evening that, at the time of performance, the concept of ‘home’ would be so integral in our lives. ‘Home’ can mean many different things to different people – a special place, family, friends, a sense of belonging, a feeling of self-contentment – and the songs you will hear tonight try to encapsulate some of these ideas. The students have worked hard this year at developing characterisation, vocal technique as well as learning notes and dance moves, that it felt a shame not to mark their achievements in some way. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy ‘Home from home’, if you will.
Miss Coad, Assistant Director of Music
Remote Chapel Choir
Chapel Choir has been such an important aspect of sustaining the St Helen’s community when we cannot be together at school. My personal favourite was Go the Distance in eight parts! It was definitely the most difficult to learn and record at home, but after recording it in many chunks (sorry Ms R!) the finished product was absolutely stunning, and a brilliant way to end the school year on such a high.
At the beginning of lockdown I thought that Chapel Choir and Microsoft Teams would never be mentioned in the same sentence. I was sorely mistaken! Two weeks later we had our first Tuesday rehearsal over teams. At first, I had little to no faith in it working; with the time delay there was no chance we could sing altogether along to Dr P on the piano. However, we quickly changed our approach, which I feel has been a general theme for lockdown amongst everyone; adapting to a remote lifestyle. This experience has been challenging yet so rewarding, and the work that it produced at the end is absolutely amazing.
St Helen and St Katharine creates a new chapter in the school archives
As part of Remote St Helen's, every student in the school took a day to create a piece of work for the School Archive, to commemorate the terms we have spent in lockdown.
17th May 2020 — On Tuesday 12 May students in Years 5–10 and Lower Sixth embarked on creating submissions for a new collection to be housed in the School Archives.
Students were given the opportunity to create pieces of work to reflect their feelings on the current Covid-19 pandemic and their experiences of Remote St Helen’s. Some students chose to write letters to a future student, others opted to document their new study areas during Remote St Helen’s. There were some creative videos submitted as well as music compositions, excellent pieces of artwork and poetry writing.
The School Archives, located in the Jean Duffield Library, contain documents, images and examples of work etc from 1894 to the current day. A new collection is being created to record the current pandemic and Remote St Helen’s. A large portion of this new collection will comprise the work submitted by current students, as well as official documents and correspondence. It will also contain contributions from current staff, Old Girls and former staff.
School Archivist Mrs Blackmore is currently archiving each item submitted. With over 700 pieces of work from current students this collection will form a major collection within the School Archives. Mrs Blackmore will be curating a series of displays relating to this collection.
“I would like to say a big thank you to the students. I am both impressed and overwhelmed by their effort to create such a variety of submissions for this new collection. It is truly an archivist’s dream to receive so many first-hand accounts of an event such as this pandemic. I know that this new collection will be incredibly useful to historians and researchers in the future.”
St Helen and St Katharine student in BBC Young Musician Woodwind Final
St Helen and St Katharine is delighted to celebrate the success of Sixth Form student Alice Gore who this year reached the Woodwind Final of the prestigious BBC Young Musician of the Year competition.
23rd April 2020 — Alice, who was St Helen’s Head Girl from spring term 2019 to spring term 2020, is an extremely accomplished bassoonist who also plays the baritone saxophone and sings in the School’s Chapel Choir.
“I love playing the bassoon because it’s more of an unusual instrument,” she says. “It has such an amazing range, from very low to lovely and melodic high notes. And it’s both different and similar to the baritone saxophone, which means they fit well together and I can enjoy a different range of music genres on the sax.
“Being in the category finals of a competition like this was nerve-wracking but I loved the whole experience and just did my best!”
Ms Helena Rakowski, Director of Music at St Helen’s, is among those who have watched Alice’s musicality grow as she moved through the School: “What is wonderful about the way Alice plays is that her personality comes out in her music. She is so cheerful, creative and will chat to anyone in school, especially younger students who see her as a musical mentor figure.”
Headmistress Mrs Rebecca Dougall was also brimming with excitement at the news: “Alice contributes so much to the life of St Helen’s, both as Head Girl and as a brilliant student, and yet her creative side is never neglected – her musical performances are always superb and we are extremely proud of her. In our eyes, she won the moment she reached the Woodwind Final!”
Alice performed at the Woodwind Final on Monday 9 March at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, which will be broadcast on BBC Four.
Please contact our Registrar, Carole Bailey, for details about the admissions process.