‘A Message From the Head’ – Independent Education

What is striking about this country’s independent education sector is the number of, and diversity of, the schools available to choose from, writes Matthew Robinson.

Whilst this is a positive, and whilst it provides optimal choice, it can sometimes feel overwhelming for parents as they start the process of choosing the school which will be absolutely right.

Each child is an individual with their own strengths, interests and personalities. So, the dynamics of both the child and the school need to ‘gel’.

To a significant degree, the level of success achieved by any organisation will reflect the ethos; the personal values, the dedication and enthusiasm demonstrated by the ‘head’ of that organisation, combined with his / her ability to build and lead a skilled and highly motivated team.

When parents are considering which private school might best match their own expectations for their child, discussions with heads and other senior teaching staff will certainly play a part in their decision-making processes.

They will seek reassurances their child will be entering a safe, positive and creative environment within which individual talents are nurtured and where they will be encouraged to achieve, both academically and physically.

The size and ‘mix’ of a school is also important. For example, is it large enough to sustain a full and varied activities programme; to give plenty of curriculum options with a broad offering of subjects and enrichment opportunities, perhaps in sport or music?

A smaller environment may offer more interaction between year groups; build a stronger sense of community and cohesion and, quite naturally, some children may feel more secure as a big fish in a smaller pond.

Children need to be happy, secure and confident to be ready to learn. Here, ‘heads’ of some of this region’s / the country’s top independent schools outline their philosophy for their schools and the pupils who attend them.


Mr Jason Slack,

Head of Foundation,

The King’s School Macclesfield

“Now, more than ever, children should relish being able to go to school. Most children (if not all) will have developed a greater appreciation of school during the period of lockdown.

Jason Slack Jason Slack

For generations, children (and their parents) could take for granted the privilege of attending school and all that accompanies being in the same physical environment as your friends and teachers. Education and what schools provide is so much more than the knowledge and content delivered in lessons.

Sadly, developing the holistic skills of social engagement, humility, negotiation and the pleasures of collaborative learning with a teacher and friends in a classroom have been denied our children for an extended period.

It is ironic that trends in recent years towards ‘interactive learning’ in a classroom with high-tech gadgets and screens have been found to be no substitute in the last six months for the caring hand of a thoughtful teacher with a trained eye to spot a child in need of encouragement, or reassurance, or congratulation.

Teachers (like parents and children) have been desperate to get pupils back into school in a safe way so that we can continue their educational journey and facilitate development in the most effective manner through human interaction.

We’re also keen that children resume the enjoyment of being with friends and start to have fun in their school once more.”   www.kingsmac.co.uk


Mrs Janet Dallimore


Yorston Lodge Preparatory School

In a rapidly changing world, Yorston Lodge Preparatory School is proud to provide a balanced, traditional education combining the ‘future ready’ skills required to deal with the modern world.  It is not only the standard of education which we consider but also the environment and the ethos of the school.  These key factors will influence our children for the rest of their lives.

Mrs Janet Dallimore Mrs Janet Dallimore

A world of opportunity awaits new pupils at Yorston Lodge, a nurturing and supportive community, a history of academic excellence, and exceptional sporting and artistic provision.

Delivered within a smaller class environment, with unrivalled individual academic attention, every child is valued and recognised for their unique abilities allowing them to achieve their full potential.

We are very proud to see our Year 6 pupils, each summer graduate from Yorston Lodge as well-rounded, extremely polite, confident and academically able pupils, with a long established record of 100% top choice secondary schools, 50%+ of our Year 6’s taking up a scholarship place.

We warmly invite you to discover more, private visits are welcomed all year round and we offer a flexible intake throughout the academic year.  www.yorstonlodge.com


Mr Dan Hatfield

Deputy Head

Yorston Lodge Preparatory School

I am delighted to be joining Janet and her team at Yorston Lodge this year. We are a wonderful, nurturing school with a truly inspiring ethos. Our academic results and destination secondary schools speak for themselves but what makes our school really stand out is the way in which we achieve these.  Our excellent outcomes are achieved with a focus on creativity, critical thinking and global citizenship. Our pupils learn to be resourceful, resilient and are empowered to follow their passions in life.

Daniel Hatfield Daniel Hatfield

Our curriculum is carefully designed to stimulate curiosity, imagination and intrinsic motivation for learning.  We seek to develop metacognitive understanding, helping our pupils to ‘think about their thinking’ and understand their role in the learning process.

We have introduced an enhanced focus on the STEM subjects of Science, Engineering, Technology and Mathematics, with the only primary-age atomic theory programme in the UK and a unique computer programming/engineering curriculum. These both run from Year 1 upwards.  As a school, we are committed to ensuring the next generation is ethical, informed and ready to maximise the opportunities that will come their way in life.

The welcome I had from the entire school community has been amazing and I feel very privileged to be here.  Janet and rest of the team take pride in the fact we are open, warm-hearted and dedicated to the well-being of our pupils. We work very closely with our parents to ensure that every child is supported with, and far exceeds, their next steps in learning. We really are an inspiring place to learn – come see for yourselves!


Sarah Haslam


Withington Girls’ School

As Sarah Haslam enters her fifth year as Headmistress of Withington Girls’ School, which this year celebrates 130 years since its foundation in 1890, she reflects on how the ethos and outlook of a school can equip its community for all eventualities.

Sarah Haslam Sarah Haslam

“I have worked at Withington for 25 years, the last four as head, and the experiences of 2020 have confirmed that a school that stays true to its guiding principles can weather any storm. Here at Withington, these principles are respect for oneself, respect for others and taking responsibility for one’s actions, as well as the love of learning being its own reward.

We were fortunate that a strategic decision taken three years ago to introduce mobile devices as a key tool in our learning approach positioned us well when the closure of schools was announced in March.

Familiarity on the part of our pupils and staff with digital learning meant we were able to move quickly towards a comprehensive remote learning programme. It was the attitude of our pupils and staff, however, that ensured no ground was lost during lockdown.

Our underlying ethos meant that not only did our pupils engage with home-based learning each day – an example of taking responsibility, respecting oneself and a love of learning – but the desire to engage in school community activities such as quizzes, musical events, sporting challenges and fundraising and community initiatives demonstrated their respect for others too.

I have always been proud to be a part of the Withington community, but never more so than during these unprecedented times.

We have demonstrated our ability to adapt to changing circumstances, deepened our appreciation of the value of being able to be together as a school community and are reassured that no matter what transpires, we are able to do whatever is required to make sure our girls are able to benefit from a Withington education.”   www.wgs.org


Liz Elam


Abbey College Manchester

Abbey College Manchester’s ethos is ‘Achieving Success Together’.

As college staff, we feel strongly that working together as a team is the key to success. We are celebrating Abbey College Manchester’s 30th anniversary this year and we are proud of the difference we have made for so many students over the years.

Liz Ellam Liz Ellam

A number of students come to the college because they have not succeeded elsewhere; this can be for a multitude of reasons. We work with students and parents to provide a flexible programme which will enable a young person to achieve the best possible outcomes.

A-level re-sit courses have always been one of our core specialisms and students can re-sit up to three subjects. Breaking down the reasons why the grades have not been achieved is important as well as developing the mind set for retaking the year. Our college atmosphere is calm and purposeful with no bells, no uniform and first name terms with teachers. Along with a maximum class size of 12 this helps to break down the barriers to learning and ensure that students can make the transition to university or the workplace.

Our Year 11 programmes offer the chance to transfer into or re-sit Year 11 because we cover the entire content of the GCSE in the year; up to a maximum of six subjects can be studied. Our Year 12 courses allow students to take three A-levels or a mixed programme if required. Our innovative Combined Studies Programme is a level 3 pathway to university for students who may struggle with the full linear A-level course.

Any of our academic programmes are now available with football training and basketball training (from January 2021), and this is suitable for boys and girls aged 14 upwards. Putting the student at the heart of what we do is key to building confidence and success. www.abbeymanchester.co.uk


Nicola Smillie


Alderley Edge School for Girls


It is my great pleasure to welcome you to our wonderful school. We are a high-achieving, academic and dynamic school which fosters the well-being of each individual within an exciting, happy and supportive environment.

Nicola Smillie Nicola Smillie

Girls at AESG achieve the highest academic standards, but we believe that an outstanding education is far more than simply the acquisition of examination results.

Our staff are highly qualified experts in the education of girls. They are committed to inspire girls to aim high; to achieve their full potential, whilst providing first class pastoral care and support. We believe in educating the whole person and believe that learning takes place outside of the classroom as well as in lessons.

At AESG there is a full programme of enrichment and extra-curricular activities, and we encourage girls to take advantage of the many opportunities on offer to them to develop their team working and leadership skills.

We are proud of our school and its Christian values yet respect the beliefs of others in our community. We believe in social justice for all and feel a sense of responsibility for those less fortunate, for whom we provide support both locally and globally through our fundraising and community service.

Our school motto “Aspire not to have more, but to be more” permeates all areas of school life. We value the importance of an all-girls’ education and the many benefits this brings.

Girls leave AESG as well-educated young women with highly developed interpersonal skills and a broad range of interests. They are confident, resilient and well-prepared for the next exciting phase of their life.

I hope that our website gives you a glimpse of life at Alderley Edge School for Girls, but please do come and see us for yourselves – either at one of our open events or by making an individual appointment. We are incredibly proud of our school and will be delighted to welcome you. www.aesg.co.uk





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