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Royal Masonic School for Girls, Rickmansworth

A girls' day and boarding school with stellar results, that's perfectly placed for Herts and Bucks but also deliciously close to London.

WHAT? WHERE?


The Royal Masonic School for Girls
(RMS) in Rickmansworth on the Herts/Bucks borders feels very much like a rural school with its 315 acres. At the same time it’s so close to London that the Metropolitan line runs through the town – no wonder it’s increasingly popular with London girls.

RMS is one of the oldest girls’ schools in the country, founded in 1788 by Chevalier Ruspini to help the children of freemasons who were struggling financially (it is still extremely charity aware and is able to offer bursaries up to 100% funding for a student, if that’s right given her context or background).

The site is a stunner, though the majority of the buildings date back to the much more recent 1930s rather than the Eighteenth Century. This is a relatively large school with 950 girls, aged 2-18, including 90 boarders. This review focuses on the senior school, but on site there is also Ruspini House, a pre-school for boys and girls (2-4), and Cadogan House, pre-prep and prep (4-11).


FACILITIES

The sports centre is jaw dropping. It doubles up as the Nuffield Health Fitness and Wellbeing Centre – open to the public after school hours. Complete with vast double sports hall, Cybex gym, spin studio, just walking into the building makes you feel that you want to get fit (well, nearly). There’s indoor hockey, tennis, volleyball and netball, with yoga, pilates, dance, aerobics and self defence on offer. Outside, the acreage is conducive to sports galore, with all weather pitches and a golf course and a swimming pool in the main building of the school. RMS are regular district champions in hockey, cricket, rounders, netball and athletics.

Science is big here, and the there’s a purpose built department with 10 labs, with refurbishments taking place this year. There’s also a planetarium and observatory and you can choose to do astronomy at GCSE. Great choice of languages, and you can do Mandarin and Latin at GCSE and A Level.

This feels like an arty school – and that includes the performing arts, with big productions of Oliver! and Les Mis in 2018. Lots of music with around half of the senior school girls learning an instrument. Impressive art department and DT. Great facilities for photography and textiles. A new building is planned for September 2019, with dance studio, recital room, editing suite and music technology rooms. On the day I was there, the school was buzzing about that evening’s dance extravaganza.


WHAT ELSE?

The Resource Centre

The emphasis on pastoral care is palpable. Lots of schemes in place, including mentoring and friendship mediation. The girls are very aware of the values system, with a different one in place for each month, including courage, honesty, commitment and tolerance. There’s a lovely feeling in this school that everyone is being looked after and that the girls are looking after each other. Good SEN provision and lots of learning support. A new pastoral hub is due to be created in the Resource Centre.


The school feels refreshingly inclusive. And the learning atmosphere seems extremely purposeful yet relaxed. Over 50 extra-curricular activities and clubs on offer, including clay club, Duke of Edinburgh, cadets, astronomy, golf and synchronised swimming. Loads of bigs trips are on offer, including a biodiversity in Mexico, history in Vietnam and Cambodia and a charity trip to Ghana. RMS Edge is the brand new Sixth Form curriculum, and there are a whopping 32 A Level subjects on offer.


HEAD TEACHER


Kevin Carson is likeable, charismatic and totally down to earth. He’s obsessed with learning and pastoral care. He’s still new, appointed in January 2017, and was previously interim Head at The Grammar School at Leeds. His office is less like a sitting room (as with some Heads of independent schools) and more like a boardroom table – I rather like it that it feels work focused. The previous Head, Diana Rose, was in post for over 15 years, but while she is missed, Kevin Carson is already extremely popular with parents and the girls.

QUIRKS

Take a look at Drill. Described as ‘synchronised swimming without water’, it’s an RMS tradition that was filmed last term for BBC news. Hardly surprisingly, it’s the only school in the country performing drill!  My guide for the day gave me an impromptu demonstration, but of course you need to see 180 girls doing it to get the full windmilling power of it. And when you visit, keep your eyes peeled for the ‘polished cornerstone’ or Ashlar. It’s a small silver badge worn on lapels, as a recognition of hard work, demonstrating the school values, and contributing to school life. Hard to win, and much respected here. For fans of 20th Century design, the 1930s architecture is a must, and the school has featured in many films, including Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

The chapel

BOARDING

There are three boarding houses to accommodate the 10% of girls who reside here, but updates are planned. Boarding is pretty flexible here, which is increasingly helpful for busy working parents. A brilliant programme of activities is available to those who are there at the weekend – and it’s easy to hop on the Tube at Rickmansworth and get into London.

ACADEMIC RESULTS

RMS is selective, so if you want to start in Year 7, you’ll be expected to do online tests and a creative writing exercise. In other years, you’ll sit the usual maths and English test papers and there are interviews for all ages. There is absolutely no feeling of hot housing going on here – quite the opposite in fact, yet look at the 2018 results – 49% A*/A at A Level and 60% A*/A at GCSE. And 90% of Year 13 leavers gained their chosen place at uni.

FEES

Day pupils fees are on the higher side of average I’d say at £5,825 per term. Cadogan House prep fees are £3825 for Day pupils Reception to Y2; £4430 Day pupils Y3-6.

Weekly boarding is a bit more grunty on price, inline with the best private schools. For prep school children at Cadogan House it’s £6705 Y3-6; Full boarding £7075 Y3-6. Senior boarding is £9,165 per term; Full boarding £9,945 per term.


WORD ON THE GROUND

‘RMS flexes around you’, is how one girl puts it. This seems to be a very happy and popular school. Parents love the nurturing ethos. Girls love being at a school that doesn’t pile on the pressure, but will allow you to pursue the non-academic subjects and where a love of learning triumphs over excessive pressure to do well in exams. The girls feel very supported thanks to the mentoring and friendship mediation. And everyone seems to be delighted with the new head. There’s also a feeling that RMS is a bit of a hidden secret.


THE MUDDY VERDICT

GOOD FOR: Girls who want to go out into the world feeling empowered. Despite all the nurturing, it’s still a strong school academically, so be prepared to work hard. At the same time, if you want to pursue something less academic, you’ll be supported to the hilt.

NOT FOR: If you’re looking for a small, intimate school, RMS might not be for you – with 850 girls it’s one of the larger schools I’ve reviewed. And of course if you’re not sure about single sex education,  walk on.

DARE TO DISAGREE? Oh, be my guest! There’s an Open Morning on Weds 6 March.

Royal Masonic School for Girls, Rickmansworth Park, Rickmansworth, Herts WD3 4HF.

14 comments on “Royal Masonic School for Girls, Rickmansworth”

  • Simone March 2, 2019

    Agree with everything you say. It’s a brilliant school with super supportive teachers led by a very committed headteacher. Girls are encouraged to work hard and play hard, to find their passion and leave as empowered young women.

    Reply
    • Katrina March 5, 2019

      Thank you for your comments. It’s great to hear that our review struck a chord!

      Reply
  • Natasha March 3, 2019

    I loved my time at RMS and credit Mr Curtis, good friends and my school experience with rescuing me- at my old senior school I was experiencing awful bullying which on the 1980 s was denied and swept under the carpet.
    My parents spoke with The Head, who invited me for 2 days in the Spring term and I remember Melinda Young and Susanna Gentle were tasked with looking after me for 2 days.
    I loved it!
    I joined properly as a day girl September 1984 in Zetland house. Vicky Binns ( VB Z3) befriended me immediately. I remember my first walk down to the station- Cherylynn Cheney asked if I wanted company as I had set off the walk after school alone. She had recognised my New Girl winter uniform at the start of the year and welcomed me beautifully!
    School was my happy zone- so many lovely friends from all round the world all from diverse backgrounds and everyone brought something different to the table.
    Teachers and staff were great, special fondness for all my Science teachers, Art teachers, English department, History, Sport, Gawsh- actually all teachers ( from class assistants to heads of department filtering all the way to Mr Curtis and Deputies at the Helm.) as happy memories flood back. Academically stimulated and pastorally supported. Friends in my house, class, year- many of whom I still correspond with regularly/ stay in FB contact with, despite being spread round the country and world.
    I loved being part of the school Swim Squad for all 5 years and being part of school or house teams in many sport.
    School is what you make of it. I seized every opportunity. Being tall I was 89 or 90 in Scool drill and my arms still twitch and secretly follow the music whenever I see a FB pop up of Drill- I can still hear Mrs Prescott yelling instructions.
    I remember being awarded with my ashlar and was proud to be Senior Day Prefect and have my name in gold under Virtuous Acts. All the Bucentennial celebrations!
    10 O Levels and 4 A levels and a place to study Dentistry at prestigious Guy’s Hospital ( now King’s).
    Happy happy days and happy memories- frighteningly this summer marks 30 years since I left.
    I can still feel the sun on my face on A level results day- i couldn’t wait for the post and Email didn’t exist!!! After collecting my white envelope of successful results I just lay on the grass ( probably forbidden) outside of the Head’s block and in the shadow of the Clock Tower to celebrate an all round successful and happy school career. Thank you RMS

    Reply
    • Katrina March 5, 2019

      Thank you so much for your comments and for sharing your school memories with us. Hopefully current and future pupils will take away equally wonderful memories from their time there, too.

      Reply
  • Sharon Inglis March 5, 2019

    I too was a boarder in Cumberland House from 1975 – 1979. Although perhaps during my stay it was rather strict I believe the school gave us great moral value and intrigrity. Even then the school had a super sports programme which I loved and from the educational side this was great too. Made great friends and we are still in touch today. I would recommend this school. Sharon Inglis

    Reply
    • Katrina March 6, 2019

      Lovely to hear from you Sharon. Thank you for sharing your memories with us!

      Reply
      • Louise Branson March 15, 2019

        Wow! What a changed school! I was head girl from 1971 to 1972. At that time it was all boarding with around 400 girls aged 11 to 18. Almost all of the girls had no father — they were daughters of Freemasons who had died and paid no fees. It was very strict and regimented and not terribly academic — though a good handful of us went on to university. We did learn independence and self-reliance (along with how to darn socks etc) — good preparation for when I went on to be a Sunday Times foreign correspondent. The school motto, at least back then, was “May our daughters be like the polished cornerstones of the temple.”

        Reply
        • Katrina March 19, 2019

          Thank you so much for your comments – how lovely to hear your memories of the school. It must be interesting for you to see how things have changed at the school since you attended. We were very impressed by what the school has to offer its girls today.

          Reply
  • Herts mum March 9, 2019

    Shush don’t tell or everyone will want to go, the price will go up and it will change to be like all the other schools! Seriously the only girls school I know that has so much of the best things you get at the best of the boys schools.

    Reply
    • Katrina March 13, 2019

      Thanks so much for your comments – lovely to hear from someone who knows how fab the school really is!

      Reply
  • Clare Neale March 13, 2019

    We have just accepted a place for our daughter for year 7. We fell in love with the ethos of the school which has truly changed since the new head has been in place. Everytime we visited the school, the girls just all kept saying how much they loved it. We got to tour individually with girls and of course you quiz them about everything, not one bad word was said!! You could see for yourself the confidence and empowerment the school gave the girls. The pasterol care, mental health and wellbeing of each and every girl is looked after here and not to mention the fantastic Senco support., which was important for our family. Of course my daughter fell in love and I’m happy to say she was offered a place to start in September.

    Reply
    • Katrina March 19, 2019

      Thank you for your comments. How lovely to hear that you and your daughter had such a wonderful experience when you visited the school. we wish her all the best for her time there when she starts in September.

      Reply
  • Harriet March 13, 2019

    Such fond memories too of my school years at RMS and very special friends who I speak to and see regularly all over the UK. I hope, if our daughter is offered a place at the school, that she has the same experience I had.
    Highly recommend the school.

    Reply
    • Katrina March 19, 2019

      Thank you for you comment. We are so pleased to hear that you had a happy time at RMS and hope that your daughter will do too, if she attends.

      Reply

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