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Walthamstow Hall Junior School

Muddy reviews the Junior site of one of the oldest girls’ schools in the country and finds bright young girls in a bright, friendly environment. See for yourself...

WALTHAMSTOW HALL JUNIOR SCHOOL, SEVENOAKS

WHAT? WHERE?

Walthamstow Hall (or Wally Hall as it is most often referred to) is comprised of a Junior School on a site in Bradbourne Park Road and a Senior School (on a separate site in central Sevenoaks). The Junior School welcomes girls aged 3 – 11 and is on the intimate side with 171 pupils currently on roll. To maintain small class sizes (18 is the largest in the school) there is the flexibility to divide year groups into two classes.

A school with a well-established, successfully academic reputation – it celebrated its 180th anniversary in 2018 – making it one of the oldest girls’ schools in the country and certainly the oldest in Kent.

FACILITIES:

The Junior School moved from the Senior School in Holly Bush Lane (see separate review) to its own site in Bradbourne Park Road in 1992  – housed in the building of what used to be St Hilary’s school prior to that (one for the fact fans).

SPORT

This has given both Junior and Senior schools more space while keeping the strong bonds and benefits. For the girls at the Junior School it’s kind of like the advantages of being a younger sister, with the opportunities afforded by being part of a bigger, experienced family. Not to mention the use of the Senior School facilities, like the swimming pool and the Ship Theatre. (Click here for the Muddy review of Walthamstow Hall Senior School).

In fact, all girls from EYFS to Y6 use the pool on the Senior School site for weekly swimming lessons, which is no doubt why their Junior Swim Team were Finalists in the National IAPS. They were also IAPS National Netball finalists this year too.

Wally Hall Junior School is not a school blessed with a lot of outdoor space, so don’t expect expansive greenery and huge purpose built concert halls. The school has decent netball courts  – where the girls were practising javelin throwing for sports day (with foam javelins) when I visited – and outdoor play areas. But the school still does very well competitively (one of their Sports Coaches is even an Olympian), proving that it’s the skills you teach, rather than acres of land, that are crucial for creating good sportswomen.

What’s more, through its excellent relationship with the local area, the school makes sure that the town location never means the girls miss out on anything. If the facilities aren’t available at the Senior School, they have other arrangements in place. For example, Sports Days take place at Tonbridge School, where the girls have traditionally been accommodated for this calendar highlight (see above).

ICT

Within the buildings themselves there is a lot of space – there’s excellent specialist facilites like a science lab, DT, Art and Drama Studio, Cookery Rooms, a library, Music Centre and ICT suite (remember it’s on the site of what was once a senior school).

In fact, while on the subject of ICT, this is a school that mixes both tradition and technology well – screens are put to good use and woven in to the fabric of the school as you walk around.

Screens dotted about feature Special Notices for the Day, the school lunch Menu, Timetable info and more. During snack time one Y5 class were watching a New Bites round up of the week’s news stories on the large screen next to the whiteboard (pictured above).

MUSIC & DRAMA

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There’s a good selection of private music lessons. Trinity Drama lessons can be added in Year 6 and the girls have access to the Ship Theatre at the Senior School, (pictured above), for bigger concerts and productions. Here’s Y3 & Y4 performing Wiz Wham Alakazam!

WHAT ELSE?

The site is a wonderful oasis of calm and colour. There’s a super cute, well-designed Sensory Garden, pictured above, with a ship in the middle of it to encourage imaginative play (the ship is a theme at Wally Hall – more on this later).

Pockets of creative, colourful spaces are found all around the school and otherwise pretty standard brick buildings or walls are brightened up with rainbows, or piano keyboards, which is very effective. All this helps make it a welcoming space that the girls clearly love.

ACADEMIC RESULTS:

They’re good. Girls are definitely encouraged to be curious, to find things out and think for themselves. This is a place for girls with academic potential.

Y6 Leavers go on to a variety of schools in the area but the vast majority (about two thirds) move up into the natural destination of Wally Hall Senior School. Girls also take up places at Sevenoaks and other independent schools, and attain a variety of scholarships. In addition, about a dozen or so sit the Kent test each year, mainly progressing to Tonbridge Grammar.

Prospective pupils spend a ‘taster day’ at the Junior School where they undergo assessments tailored to their age group. At the Early Years stage this consists of very informal observations to ensure that the girls are happy in the environment. In later years prospective pupils may sit some tests, especially if they are keen to progress into the Senior School (and, if so, this involves a Maths and English test and having a meeting with the Headmistress, Miss Ferro).

HEAD TEACHER:

Miss Stephanie Ferro is the over-arching Headmistress of both schools (having joined in January 2018) and is a frequent visitor to the Junior School. But there is also an on-site Head of the Junior School, Mrs Diane Wood.

She is exactly as I’d expect the head of a successful, small school for girls to be – approachable, friendly, bustling, and protective of her brood. Wally Hall Junior Schools’ setting might mean a smaller site but there’s clearly loads of advantages to a town setting. Particularly if the town is Sevenoaks – so wonderfully commutable to London. Meaning that parents who have a quicker commute time into work can get involved at the school – and Mrs Wood is rightly very proud of the schools’ family feel and ethos.

This family feel is summed up in the story she told me: ‘I looked out the window one break time and realised that every single girl in the playground was playing the same game.’ She is herself a mother of 3 girls (two of which attended the Junior School when she began her headship but have since moved on to the Senior School) – so she’s definitely got the relevant experience.

WRAP AROUND CARE:

Walthamstow Hall Junior School offers wraparound care from 7.15am to 6.00pm, Monday – Friday, for pupils from Nursery age through to Year 6. Based in The Studio, a large flexible space at the front of the School with cloakroom provision and easy access for parents, who are able to park in the bottom car park whilst dropping off or collecting their daughters.

QUIRKS:

Wally Hall was founded 180 years ago in East London as a school and home for the daughters of missionaries. That missionary history is why the school uses a ship as its symbol and you’ll see this theme featured a lot around both the Junior and Senior schools.

Another nice touch here, and the cornerstone of the Junior School curriculum, is their theme days, such as Confidence Day, Creativity Day and Courage Day. The pupils I met were as enthusiastic as the staff to tell me about these days and the initiatives and activities born from these days, like a school climbing trip, pictured below.

WORD ON THE GROUND:

The vast majority of girls that go here turn into successful all-rounders. The group of girls who took me on a tour of the school certainly did their school proud (it’s always a good sign when students themselves are trusted to take me on a review tour). They demonstrated sharp enquiring little minds, all with very different personalities, but all equally charming. Wally Hall prides itself on producing girls that are bright, sparky and confident – while still being a joiner and team player.

THE MUDDY VERDICT:

Good for: Great option if you’re looking for an all-girls offering and a school that knows each pupil individually. This is a place for girls with academic potential. Particularly ideal for anyone working in London and looking at independent schools in commutable settings.

Not for: Anyone wanting a rambling rural setting. It’s a small, intimate site, so there’s not much privacy to be had. However the sports skill set here is strong and the use of the Senior School facilities is a real plus point.

Dare to disagree?! Don’t take my word for it! Have a look for yourself. To arrange an individual tour of the school please contact Mrs Alex Knight, email: registrar@whall.school Tel: 01732 468703.

Walthamstow Hall Junior, Bradbourne Park Road, Sevenoaks, Kent, TN13 3LD, Tel:  01732 453815, walthamstow-hall.co.uk/junior-school

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