Laura Hall took up the position as Headmistress of QCPS in September 2020. She was previously Deputy Head at City of London Preparatory School for Girls.
What is your background? What brought you to QCPS?
I came late into teaching, after working in marketing and lecturing about History of Art on cruise ships in my early 20s. It wasn’t until I was 27 that I applied to my first teaching position. After several years working in the state sector, I joined City of London School Preparatory School, where I ended my tenure as Deputy Head. During my time at City, I had the privilege of being mentored by legends in the field of education including Jane Rogers, now Head of The Cavendish School, Rachel Hadfield and Jenny Brown, respectively Head of the Prep and of the Senior School. After more than four years as Deputy Head, I felt like it was time to run my own ship. When the QCPS opportunity came along I was immediately attracted, of course, by the important role that Queen’s played as a pioneer in women’s education. But, more than anything else, it was the tangible sense of community and conviviality which I felt when I stepped inside for my interview last year that convinced me. It felt like coming home and being welcomed by a joyful family.
What makes QCPS different?
QCPS provides a very kind, cosy and nurturing environment, while having unashamedly high expectations of our pupils. I also believe we offer the best of both worlds in terms of senior school options. There are few other London prep schools which offer the option of an automatic entry into their own senior school, for those who wish to avoid the stress of the 11+, but also has such an outstanding track record of preparing pupils for success at 11+ to a wide range of other leading London day and boarding schools.
Do you envisage making any changes to the admissions’ process, e.g. go for a 4+ assessment?
Yes, entry into QCPS will become more selective. From September 2022, we are introducing a play-based assessment, in line with the 4+ assessments held at other academic London prep schools. We are looking for potential, not for polish. We are looking for children who are curious, able to think in creative ways, who play nicely and share with others and who are able to communicate effectively with adults.
Given the now potentially seamless transition to your senior school, Queen’s College, how will you approach the 11+?
We will give parents the option of preparing for the 11+ for the admission processes at all schools out there and also to choose to transition to our own senior school. The preparation for 11+ is traditional and based on a rigorous curriculum, but we do not believe in streaming. We will put support in place where it is needed, both in class and through our learning support department, but in an inclusive environment. When it comes to choosing secondary schools, I believe in direct conversations with parents and these start in Year 4. I think our track record speaks for itself, with our leavers last year achieving 19 scholarships at 11+ to a wide range of schools. At the same time, around half our Year 6 pupils chose a seamless transition to our own Queen’s College, London for their secondary education. Truly I believe this offers our pupils the best of both worlds.
What changes has lockdown brought that are here to stay?
There have been a lot of positives. It has certainly thrown grown-ups and children together in a novel space where we are learning how to deliver lessons online. We have all learned new ways to monitor progress and share experiences appropriately. Learning is a conversation and the children understand technology very well, sometimes better than some grown-ups, and this experience has left them feeling powerful. While of course we’ve loved returning to in-person teaching this term, there are some ways of harnessing technology in the pupils’ learning that are definitely here to stay. For example, our pupils are now able to use a variety of technologies in increasingly sophisticated ways and I’ve especially enjoyed seeing them deliver online presentations so confidently and professionally.
What do you think is the biggest challenge in raising girls these days?
I would be wrong not to say social media. I think parents must realise that it’s too early to give unmonitored access to online platforms when children are in prep school. At the same time, we have to educate both pupils and their parents about e-safety so that when girls do encounter social media on their own they are aware of the risks and well-equipped to navigate these channels appropriately.
Which do you think are qualities that make a great Head?
They say they are the 4 Hs! Humility, Humanity, Hope and Humour. I will add the 5th – Hard work. At the essence, I am a facilitator of communication, which I believe is the central element to teaching and learning. If I have to choose between being a good leader and a good manager, I choose to be a good leader who is able to communicate, inspire and energise.