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Edgbaston High Prep School

On the outskirts of central Birmingham sits this outstanding all-rounder for girls with top facilities and great pastoral care.


In the leafy suburbs of Edgbaston, a couple of miles out of central Birmingham, stands Edgbaston High Prep School , the oldest independent day girls’ school in the city dating back to 1876 and teaching pupils from 2½ -18 years. The Pre-school (known as Westbourne), Prep and Senior schools are all set in separate buildings within its 14 acre site, with the Pre and Prep schools overlooking Birmingham’s beautiful Botanical Gardens. This review is focusing on the Pre and Prep schools, which have small class sizes of around 20.



Sporty kids are well catered for here. There’s a huge field which is used for sports along with an astroturf pitch for hockey and tennis, and three netball courts. The sports pavilion also underwent a £1million refurbishment in recent years. Most popular with the girls is the 22 metre, 5-lane, 25-yard heated pool. Swimming is a major sport here, with girls starting weekly lessons from reception and taking Learn to Swim lessons and competitive swimming until Year 7. There’s also popular lifeguard classes during half-term. PE lessons are held in the senior school gym and include football, cricket and yoga lessons (with cosmic yoga for little ones). Ballet is part of the curriculum from nursery to reception with, unusually, karate taught in Year 3 and fencing from Year 6.


One of the big benefits for a through school is that younger years can benefit from Senior school facilities. The entire school has use of the all-singing, all-dancing multi-use Octagon, which is more than capable of putting on a stage show or music performance. Modern, attractive and with seating for 600, it’s fully-teched up with sound and lighting. Last year 123 pupils took LAMDA exams with a huge 96 per cent receiving distinction and all others scooping a merit so it’s fair to say they take drama seriously! There’s also the yearly pre and prep school performances with an excitable buzz from girls while I was there about their Pirates of the Caribbean adaptation titled Pirates of the Curry Bean.

Musically there’s a Steinway piano in the Octagon, and most ensemble and choir practises happen in the space. Music has a big take-up in pre and prep schools, with 170 kids recently competing in the annual prep Young Musician of the Year competition. There is also a full school orchestra, multiple ensemble groups and a high take-up of girls volunteering to play as ‘morning musicians’ during assemblies. Girls also perform locally at the likes of the Leamington Spa Festival, where they have won awards for the guitar ensemble for the last six years.

Arty types will be in their element here. There’s a green screen (used most recently for a French fashion show) and kids told me they love art lessons which include animation and sewing – with some funky looking iPad cases being made during my visit. The art studio recently underwent an extension and is a beautiful light room thanks to a wall of windows with views over the courtyard and Octagon.


Westbourne Nursery was built in 2003 attached to the Octagon, costing a joint £4 million. It’s a gorgeous, light and airy space with high ceilings, windows along the entire wall and more than enough room for the 18 girls currently there – the stated maximum capacity is 24 though the building could hold twice that many kids, and it’s refreshing to see that Edgbaston is not tempted to cram the space, instead opting to protect the relaxed, calm but purposeful vibe.

In the main space there were three teachers keeping small groups busy with activities including sandpits, building blocks and puzzles, and a daily changing physical activity – on the day I visited there was a slide in the room which was getting a lot of use. There’s a quiet room too where registration is held and calming music is played. It’s a lovely little nook where girls were nestled down with books and quietly playing with paints.

Outside there’s a brand new wooden play area and weekly timetabled sessions are also held in the outdoor classroom. There’s also a forest walk and mud kitchen too which are (understandably) a hit and a school allotment where classes including creative writing and sensory sessions are held for all years. French and RE are also learnt from reception.

The Pre School recently created a ‘Discovery Den’ where each week a teacher chooses a different topic and teaches the girls about it (when I visited it was butterflies). Girls can pick the way of learning that interests and benefits them the most with tables dedicated to the likes of reading, painting, maths and science. Headteacher Mrs Hartley also takes a half hour session on a different subject in the ‘Den’ too which she admits is the highlight of her week – when I visit she is preparing for a session on a book about pandas. It cutely links to the school ‘bear’ that girls take home on a rota in a bid to promote responsibility.


There are some impressive facilities with an interactive library staffed entirely by pupils – who devise their own working rota – art studio, two IT suites and state-of-the-art science lab. There’s also loads of extra space for smaller group teaching to stretch and challenge which Edgbaston Prep is big on. Subject wise there’s the usual suspects along with Latin in Year 5 and Spanish in Year 6. 


The school is known locally as being academically outstanding and high-achieving. Last year there were several scholarships to other schools and many also received scholarships to Edgbaston High School. Around 50 per cent went on to the Senior school with the rest moving to other independent or state grammar schools. Admissions for pre-prep are relaxed, a meeting with parents while the kids have activities. In the higher prep years there’s a written assessment with the headteacher where girls are judged on creative writing, reading, maths and their own interests. For pupils who join, there’s a real sense of stretching and challenging pupils with up to four different groups in each year for those at different stages of learning.


Pastorally Edgbaston is strong. There’s a Deputy Head Pastoral and all teachers use online tracking to follow girl’s progress with any concerns discussed with parents. The team includes pastoral mentors from Year 6 who help with the younger years and carry out jobs like ‘line mentors’ – taking girls to their classrooms following breaks and supervising when it’s too wet to go outside. Girls are also given a voice through ‘Prep Parliament’ which meets half termly and has a representative from each class, there’s also ‘Happy and Worry’ boxes all over the school where girls can ‘post’ their concerns which are picked up by the teachers. From Year 6 upwards Edgbaston is part of the ‘Girls on Board’ programme designed to help girls resolve conflict between themselves and yoga is part of the curriculum to promote mindfulness.

There’s strong links with local charities – the prep school has three sponsored Guide Dogs (two which they named after late pupils). There’s also a weekly ‘silver bag’ collection and girls are encouraged to donate a coin that they earned by carrying out jobs at home. The total raised each week is announced in assemblies and a charity is chosen yearly. There’s regularly collections for local charities, and most recently hundreds of donations were sent for Ukrainian refugees.


The school avidly uses moodboard app ‘Padlet’ so kids can take part in whole school activities and post their outcomes. Most recently this included cooking a traditional or family recipe and making ‘box books’ for World Book Day. It’s a great way for everyone to get involved and inspired in their peers’ work and is a real hit.

While community is the driving force here there’s one day a year when the gloves are well and truly off – Pancake Day. The entire school takes part in an inter house race with a trophy for the winners. The kids told me it’s one of the school highlights and they love the event.

Parking outside school the bane of your life? Here there’s set times for parents to drive onto the car park so no hanging around on those double yellows waiting for the kids!


Sally Hartley has been at the helm of Edgbaston Prep and Pre Prep for the last 13 years, with previous roles including boarding house mistress at Habadashers School in Monmouth. She’s a warm, friendly character who has a real rapport with pupils, who were clambering over themselves to show her their work. Hartley has overseen a lot of change including the extension of Prep facilities and ensuring girls are stretched but supported in an all-rounder environment. 

It’s clear that her method of working with small groups by stage of progress is a success – the school is full of confident, polite, driven pupils. She’s really pushed rewarding good behaviour through on the spot ‘Courtesy Counts’ certificates for good manners and ‘Share’ certificates to take home to mum and dad if their daughter has done something good during the day, such as reading a poem nicely. She’s is also a real advocate for challenging outside the curriculum through independent learning at home, which children do by voluntarily taking part in half-termly projects (and I hear has a near 100 per cent uptake).

Going forward she’s keen reintroduce work with a nearby boys school that was stopped during the pandemic. She’s also planning more collaborative working between the Prep and Senior school, which already share a number of facilities including swimming pool, gym, Octagon performance space and music school.


A replete and flexible wrap-around day offering here. Children can be dropped off to a breakfast club from 7.30am where they are supervised by staff. It’s £3.70 a day, or without breakfast and with a later arrival of 7.50am it’s £2.50. After school care is available from 3.15pm to 6pm including snack and a drink. There’s space for girls to do their homework, play indoor and outdoor games and activities for £13.05 per session. Girls in Westbourne join prep girls before school but have after care in their own building.


An ISI inspection was carried out in 2015 and found standards of learning above the national average and excellent pastoral care. Click here to read the report but I’d bear in mind it’s seven years old (come on ISI, get to it). When an up to date ISI report appears, I’ll add it here.


If girls need to take a phone into school they must hand it in at reception in the morning. Smart watches must also be handed in.


Being in Birmingham, transport links are excellent. There’s a bus stop just outside the school with good connections. The train station is a 15-minute walk away and there’s links to Lichfield and Redditch, there’s also option to change at busy nearby Birmingham New Street. For those out in the sticks there’s also private minibuses available covering three main routes. 


Fees are slightly less expensive than other independent schools in the area. It’s £3,012.75 in pre-prep going up to between £3,106 in Year 1 and £4,363 in Year 6.


Happy kids and parents here who all gave mention to the school being well run and the tight-knit community. Girls like the importance set on independent studying and that they are given roles throughout the school like librarians and line monitors. Parents tell me they like that it’s nurturing and encouraging. The close proximity and regular trips to the Botanical Gardens (which is a stone’s throw away) is a huge hit with all the kids, and when I asked one of the girls what three words she’d used to describe Edgbaston School she said ‘happy, excited and kind’. I think that about sums it up.


Good for: If your little one isn’t afraid to have a go and has an interest in the academic but also having fun, Edgbaston could be the place for them. Also if you’re looking for a school to bring your daughter out of her shell a bit, the gentle confidence boosts here are great for quieter kids.

Not for: It’s really close to the centre of Birmingham so if you’re expecting wafting acres of rolling grounds and a peaceful drive in you might want to look elsewhere. The location is great for lots of cool nearby school trips though! 

Dare to disagree? Have a look for yourself – there’s a Prep School and Westbourne Pre-School Open Day on Friday 10 June, or Whole School Open Day on Saturday 24 September.

Edgbaston High School for Girls, Westbourne Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 3TS. Tel: 0121 454 5831

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