We sit down with Donal Brennan, Headmaster of St. Anthony’s School for Girls, to find out more about its academic and pastoral approach that sets happy and confident pupils on the road to success

Can you explain more about the history of St. Anthony’s School for Girls?

We are a Catholic school – welcoming of all faiths – and were established in 2016 as a sister school to nearby St. Anthony’s School for Boys. The school has grown to 75 children in six years and, in September 2021, we opened a co-educational Nursery for both schools. We are an 11+ school and believe that the children who grow and enjoy a very happy childhood without early testing at 7+ will reach their academic potential, will become confident as young people and will have found their talent for music, drama and sports.

The launch of our Nursery has been an ideal opportunity to begin to develop a co-educational culture. At 4+, children enter the boys’ and girls’ schools, and the opportunity for the children to experience mixed learning continues in a range of areas, such as school choirs, sports, drama, debating and clubs. Overall, I’d describe St Anthony’s Girls as a confident school, which quickly found its niche within Golders Green and Hampstead.

St. Anthony's School for Girls on happy learning
Reading time for the youngest pupils at St. Anthony’s School for Girls

Faith and family are two central tenets of the school – how do these work on a day-to-day level?

This is a family school, with values of community and care of the individual being at the core of everything we offer. We are inspired by the words of St. Anthony, ‘Actions speak louder than words’, and so the spirit and prayer life underpin all that we do. We welcome families of all denominations to attend out inclusive school where everyone’s story is heard, and all feel valued and equal. We are guided by the liturgical calendar of the church but ensure that key festivals and celebrations in the main faiths are marked through assemblies and worship times. We have been acknowledged in recent diocesan inspections as having an outstanding commitment to Catholic Life.   

“There is always a bustling atmosphere at St. Anthony’s with clubs taking place before, during and after school”

Parents are actively involved – so this is a warm and close-knit school community.  I meet every parent and child on the gate at drop off and parents have an open invitation to attend all three weekly assemblies.  Teachers and Parents communicate directly – and see each other regularly on the school gate at home time.

Our parents’ association, The Friends of St. Anthony’s, are instrumental in supporting us in many ways, including school uniform sales, our Christmas Fayre and summer barbecue and Macmillan coffee mornings. Turning cause into action, in line with our ethos, ensures we have a robust charitable approach when it comes to helping those who are less fortunate than us.

St Anths
Drama and music are central to life at the school, and with lots of clubs and activities to enrich learning and discovery

How would you describe your curriculum and teaching approach?

Children are welcomed into peaceful, happy, learning spaces designed to inspire and motivate them. Our teaching approach is to explore and develop each of our pupils to their fullest capacity. This means that individual temperament, learning style, strengths and weaknesses are respected.

Our teachers bring a mindful, calm and caring approach, so that girls learn to trust the value of their own insights and opinions. We work to help them grow in confidence and courage, able to verbalise complex thoughts and feelings. This is very much aided by the fact that their perspectives are treated with respect and authentic interest.

Our vision is to help St. Anthony’s Girls pupils develop into balanced, confident, and empathic young adults who believe in their own agency and ability to effect change. We want them to move on from us empowered to make decisions and to think independently. We have reaped the rewards of our mindful, pupil first, approach, with our Year 6 girls consistently gaining places (including scholarships) at leading schools across London and much further afield.

St Antys
Children are close to many of the fine parks and historic green spaces in this part of north-west London

You are a member of the Alpha Plus Group, what does this bring?

This brings an expertise at governance level, with the APG Governors offering support and a robust monitoring cycle to ensure that we maintain an excellent service across all aspects of the academic and pastoral programmes we offer.

Your school is in London’s most artistic quarter and is former home of both Anna Pavlova and JMW Turner – what is your approach to extra-curricular activities?

The extra-curricular programme is an integral part of the timetable, with a stimulating and highly creative termly calendar. Over the course of the year, our girls take part in a fantastic array of artistic, dramatic, musical, and sporting pursuits – every girl can find something that she enjoys. There is always a bustling atmosphere at St. Anthony’s with clubs taking place before, during and after school. These are designed to encourage our girls to try something new, to develop existing interests and skills, build commitment and resilience – and have fun!

St. Anthony's School for Girls on happy learning
St. Anthony’s School for Girls is located in Hampstead’s North End Road in a building that was once the home of ballerina Anna Pavlova

St. Anthony’s School for Girls stanthonysgirls.co.uk

Further reading: Capital gains, the benefits of going to school in London