Forging Female Leaders


Buckinghamshire’s Wycombe Abbey strives to be a world leader in girls’ boarding education and a place where academic excellence, empathy and integrity thrive. Abode2 reveals why it has been named one of the best private schools in the world

Wycombe Abbey was named as one of the Top 20 UK Senior Schools among the top 100 schools internationally, expertly chosen by global education group Carfax Education and Spear’s, the award-winning magazine for high-net-worth individuals.

Carfax Education works with parents across the world to place their children in the very best schools and universities. With an unrivalled network of education specialists across the world, they are expertly placed to provide the knowledge and insight to select the top 100 private schools in the world.

Fiona McKenzie, Head of Education, Carfax Education, said: “The Spear’s Schools Index lists schools that are either worth moving countries for, sending children far away for, or aiming to get into if living nearby. Choosing a school is one of the most important decisions a family will make for their child and that’s why we wanted to share our knowledge in an index that provides a trusted perspective on the very best schools around the world. The impact of a child’s educational experience goes far beyond academia alone, and for that reason we looked at each school’s unique ethos and how they prepare students for the future, when determining schools that made the cut.”

A University of St Andrews graduate, Jo Duncan was appointed Headmistress of Wycombe Abbey in September 2019:

What makes Wycombe Abbey unique?

The school is built on the firm foundation of more than 125years of educating young women. Our vision is to provide a world-class education. Values of mutual respect, encouragement and trust underpin everything we do; in this happy and close-knit community everyone is known as an individual, friendships flourish and girls enjoy each other’s company, all within the wonderful surroundings of 170 acres of magnificent parkland. We are an all girls’ full boarding school and time together allows students to grow and develop and build lifelong friendships. We have a wonderful campus with 170 acres of parkland but are only 30 miles away from central London.

How would you define a well-rounded educational experience?

It's all about nurturing our pupils’ passions both inside and outside of the classroom. Whether a girl is an aspiring aerospace engineer, actor or anthropologist, there are many activities and resources to help her pursue her passions beyond the core curriculum. Our enrichment activities allow girls the opportunity to follow their own lines of enquiry into areas that interest them the most. Our curriculum is traditional but running alongside it, we spend time educating the girls on the skills they will need to be successful in life after Wycombe Abbey.

How do you balance academic rigour with co-curricular activities?

Each weekend, girls are involved in sports fixtures, performing arts activities, or attending one of the many organised outings, such as trips to theme parks, museums, the cinema or the theatre. A lot happens onsite and in Boarding Houses too: creative weekend workshops, cooking demonstrations, spa afternoons and DVD evenings. Girls are encouraged to take part in co-curricular activities, as this helps them develop as well-rounded individuals.

How do you ensure that pupils are mastering both knowledge and skills?

Wycombe Abbey pupils are taught by our skilled teachers and while they build academic knowledge in the classroom, outside of the classroom there are a whole host of life-enhancing opportunities. Our rich co-curricular programme includes an array of activities, ensuring that every girl develops her passions and explores new possibilities. These experiences, in turn, help to build the discipline and character that will support her future life, whether that be participation in the school’s Lecture Programme, in debating competitions or taking part in the Greenpower racing team to build an electric car from scratch. Our Management and Communications Conferences for our Sixth Form pupils develop business acumen and so-called soft skills. These are held in conjunction with local boys’ grammar schools.

To what extent does the school foster an international outlook?

Our pupils are offered a number of international trips each year as part of the academic curriculum and sporting competitions as well as recreational trips. Over the course of the academic year, girls attend a number of conferences in the UK and abroad, representing different countries’ views in a range of committees and debating global issues as part of our Model United Nations conference. Every delegate is exposed to a range of key skills, including rating and amending resolutions in the United Nations style and how to work as an effective advocate and diplomat. We connect regularly with our sister schools in China and have enjoyed some joint ventures this year as part of our 125th anniversary year of celebrations.

How does Wycombe Abbey’s academic reputation influence teaching and learning approaches?

Wycombe Abbey is a leader in girls’ boarding education, and we are proud of our learning environment that is supportive yet challenging. We pride ourselves on the outstanding teaching provided by our teachers who communicate a genuine love of their subjects and serve to inspire the girls they teach. We believe that education should not simply be about delivering a curriculum and examination syllabus, but that real learning stems from stimulating intellectual curiosity and nurturing a love for the subjects being taught, which will stay with our girls throughout their lives.

How do you prepare pupils for the future?

The Sixth Form at Wycombe Abbey provides a supportive environment for pupils to reach their academic potential, nurture their individual passions and navigate the range of opportunities available to them after they leave. Whilst important, we want pupils to leave with more than just a set of excellent academic qualifications. We want them to be independent, self-motivated learners, intellectually curious and informed global citizens, as well as confident, caring role models. In short, we want them to be future ready. In our Upper Sixth House, girls live in Houses of 10 dorms with a shared kitchen and facilities and are encouraged to learn to cook and gain a sense of independence before their next steps post-Wycombe Abbey. Our aim is to ensure that our pupils leave school as confident, articulate, independent young women and it's my privilege to lead Wycombe Abbey.

For more information visit www.wycombeabbey.com. To view the Index visit www.spearswms.com/best-private-schools-in-world-spears

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