Top London private school changing structure to alleviate anxiety and boost girls' self-esteem

Bromley High School (Google Street View)
Bromley High School (Google Street View)

A top London private school is changing the way it runs in order to alleviate anxiety and boost the self-esteem of girls starting secondary school.

The £21,000 a year Bromley High School, which takes pupils from age 4 to 18, will introduce a middle school to ease the “cliff edge” transition to senior school.

Headteacher Emily Codling said the change is being made based on research that found the self-esteem of girls plummets when they start secondary school.

The school currently has a junior school, senior school and sixth form all on the same site.

Under the changes a new middle school will be introduced for pupils in years five to eight. Girls will be given “sneak peek” lessons to get them used to senior school, and paired up with “big sister” buddies in older years, to make the transition smoother.

Emily Rushton, assistant headteacher of the middle school, said: “Research shows boys outperform girls in self-esteem at this age, particularly post-transition to secondary school. Introducing our middle school directly addresses this, aiming to enhance girls' mental wellbeing. Our goal is for girls to thrive, not merely survive."

She added: “Innovation for us isn't about mere tokenism, it's about meaningful change. We want to ensure that our girls feel supported and empowered throughout their educational journey."

Ms Codling said: “Our Middle School isn't just about academic advancement; it's about nurturing a sense of sisterhood and belonging that extends across all years. We’re proud to be at the forefront of this initiative.”

The middle school approach is more common in American and international schools in the UK, but Bromley High is believed to be among the first girls’ schools to introduce it in London.

Under the new model, girls in year five – traditionally the penultimate year of primary school – will be given a preview of the senior school curriculum and linked with “big sisters” as part of the pastoral support system. In year six they will take part in events with pupils in year seven, and have some specialist senior school teaching to stretch them.

In year seven, pupils will take part in study skills clinics with both junior and senior school teachers, and a new wellbeing curriculum will be introduced during tutor time.

In year eight, specialist masterclasses and workshops will be held, as well as careers events to support the girls in planning their GCSE options.

A spokeswoman for the school said: “The current move from primary to secondary education can feel like a daunting cliff edge for most young girls, with research indicating that they often experience decreased self-esteem post-transition to secondary school. But a positive transition programme can mitigate these effects.

“Recognising this, the school is pioneering a new approach that begins at Year 5 and extends through to Year 8 to effectively bridge the traditional Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 3 divide.”

She added: “The purpose of introducing curriculum concepts earlier and reinforcing them throughout middle school is to alleviate anxiety and ensure that every pupil has a clear flight path for their learning and personal development.

“This will directly link to GCSE options to give Year 8 pupils a head start on making future choices in the Senior School.”