Fifth Sunday Times accolade in a row for Withington

December 1, 2023

Withington Girls’ School is celebrating being named Independent School of the Year for Academic Performance in the North West in the prestigious Sunday Times Parent Power Schools Guide 2024, which will be published on Sunday 3rd December. It is the fifth consecutive year the school has received an award from The Sunday Times, including being named as North West Independent Secondary School of the Decade in the 2021 edition of Parent Power.

“While we know that a Withington education is about so much more than academic performance, we also understand that receiving this prestigious accolade is an important recognition of our pupils’ hard work, talents and love of learning, and the inspiration and support they receive from our dedicated staff. We are delighted,” says Headmistress, Mrs Sarah Haslam.

The award is based on academic performance in this year’s GCSE and A Level examinations in which Withington’s A Level pupils achieved 95% of grades at A*-B, the school’s best performance in public examinations on this measure since 2014, while nearly half of all GCSE grades (47.4%) were achieved at grade 9. The Sunday Times Schools Guide’s ranking of top performing independent schools positions Withington 19th in the UK, up from 28th in 2022, and first in the North West.

While proud of the school’s academic credentials, Mrs Haslam explains that girls and parents choose Withington for the outstanding care it shows to its pupils in all areas of their development and progress; personal, social and academic. “Academic life at Withington isn’t about hot-housing, or achievement at any cost, or about seeking prizes or privilege. Withington academia is centred around the central ethos that the love of learning is its own reward – hence we offer no scholarships or academic prizes – and that is lived out every day by all our pupils and staff. Going beyond the syllabus, seeking learning beyond the Grade 9 or the A* is a daily occurrence, both in terms of the classroom lessons, but most notably through our many pupil-led academic societies and other excellent extra-curricular provision.”

Mrs Haslam attributes Withington’s consistent academic success to the school’s empowering learning environment where pupils truly love learning.

“What underpins this is threefold. The most important first layer is the outstanding pastoral support we have for every pupil here at Withington. Our size enables all pupils to be truly known, for care to be personalised, for voices to be heard, and for support to be tailored to every pupil’s own journey through life and growing-up.

“Secondly, we don’t set limits, or curtail ambition, we create learning environments inside and outside the classroom that enable pupils to fly and take their learning wherever they like. No doors are closed to any of our pupils and we have a host of inspiring role models amongst our alumnae who are willing to share their experiences and expertise with our students.

“And thirdly, we simply have outstanding classroom practitioners, who are passionate not only about their subjects, but about teaching and educating more widely. Our Action-Research Groups actively connect with the most up-to-date educational research, implementing and leading change and new ideas in the classroom with colleagues through our regular Teaching and Learning training sessions.”

Withington was founded in 1890 with the aim of giving girls in the Manchester area the same opportunities that boys already had and has a long tradition of changing the future paths of many bright girls through the provision of means-tested financial assistance, with one-in-six senior school pupils currently in receipt of a bursary. “Fast-forward over 130 years and we remain ambitious as a school and always looking to move forwards – central to our future strategy is a mission to learn from the best in the world when it comes to teaching and learning strategies, to embed the most effective techniques, and to establish Withington as a beacon of excellence in research and implementation of pedagogy.”

It is the seventh time Withington has earned a Sunday Times Schools Guide accolade; in addition to being named North West Independent Secondary School of the Decade (2021 edition), WGS was previously Independent Secondary School of the Year for 2009, North West Independent Secondary School of the Year for 2012, 2020 and 2023, and was also named top ranking independent school for academic results in the North West for 2022.

The 31st edition of Parent Power identifies the highest-achieving schools in the UK. It is the definitive guide to secondary schools based on public examination results for state and independent schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. A fully searchable national database by school name, local authority, town and postcode, together with regional rankings are available to Times and Sunday Times subscribers at: