As well as being one of the most prestigious schools in the county, the college prides itself on its welcoming environment – with SoGlos speaking with Lower College Principal Charlotte Woodhead to discover all the ways the school helps girls start school medium, from providing stimulating co-curricular opportunities to helping them make lifelong friends.
About the Expert – Charlotte Woodhead of Cheltenham Ladies’ College
Charlotte Woodhead moved to Cheltenham and joined the staff of Cheltenham Ladies’ College nearly seven years ago, taking up the role of Principal of Lower College. Additionally, she is a member of the senior leadership team and helps lead the school’s wellness, personal development, and enrichment program.
Prior to joining CLC, she was the principal of two different prep schools for nearly 15 years. Outside of work, she has been involved in the non-profit sector, leading youth projects, and was the principal of a local prep school. She is passionate about the transformative value of education and helping children develop character and resilience while striving for excellence.
Tell us a little about Lower College at Cheltenham Ladies’ College. What grades does it cover?
As Principal of Lower College, I closely monitor students in grades 7-9 in the context of the whole school. With the support of wonderful colleagues, I oversee the well-being and academic and pastoral development of these 11-14 year old students and do my best to ensure that they are a happy and thriving part of CLC.
We are committed to helping every girl reach her potential in an inspiring, happy and caring environment. We believe that students thrive when they experience a sense of accomplishment and are nurtured within a supportive atmosphere. If we follow what the ancient Greeks defined as happiness, which is the joy we feel when we strive for our potential, then we are on the right track!
What does a typical day as Principal of Lower College involve?
Each day is incredibly varied – there’s a lot to manage, but it’s captured through engaging with people. The most important focus is our students, but I also work closely with colleagues, parents, parents-to-be, and the community at large.
One of my favorite aspects of college life is what we call Prayers (assemblies). It is an occasion that evokes a sense of history and continuity as Lower College students emerge from various tutoring rooms, walking down the Marble Corridor to gather in the beautiful Princess Hall – just as many generations of young people have done before them. I am often inspired by messages delivered by students, staff and guests and we value time together – more than ever due to the recent pandemic. We have exceptional choirs and our music students also contribute beautiful performances. I am often amazed that my work benefits me from such a wonderful start to the day!
What is the Lower College community like?
The combination of internal and external students brings an exciting and interesting dynamic to CLC. It is brilliant that day students have the chance to develop many friendships and study alongside students who join us from across the UK and the world.
While we have day houses and boarding houses that determine where students begin or end their day, the faculty’s day-to-day teaching, as well as the extensive co-curricular program, is a complete mix of students from across the school. We enjoy so many events and activities throughout the year that promote the development of lasting friendships and connections.
How does Cheltenham Ladies’ College help girls manage the transition from primary to secondary education?
We know that our new students need to feel warmly welcomed into the university community and have a sense of belonging. This is a big focus of the induction program for new students, and we are keeping an eye on how they are adapting. Making the leap from primary to senior is a significant step, and we are experienced and creative in helping this to become a happy move.
Providing opportunities to develop friendships is important to helping students feel happy and settled, and this is a key focus at Lower College. Since becoming Head of Lower College, I have been committed to creating even more opportunities for our students to blend in between year groups. This is also part of my personal commitment to ensuring that there is plenty of space created for students to have fun and experience joy – I encourage girls to ‘work hard, play hard and be kind’.
What does the Lower College curriculum cover and how does it prepare girls for the exams they will take at Upper College?
The Lower College curriculum provides academic enrichment and builds the foundation for the GCSE years. We have a brilliant team of staff who exude a passion for their field of expertise, which is really exciting for students. Students are encouraged to develop a curiosity about the world and to question, reason and communicate articulately.
Years 7 and 8 follow a core English curriculum; math; biology; chemistry; physics; Computer science; geography; story; religious studies; two languages (French, German, Spanish or Chinese, plus Latin); Art and Design; Food and nutrition; PHYSICAL EDUCATION; drama; is music.
There are also lessons they may not get elsewhere, such as philosophical inquiry and engineering, business, and technology (EET). 9th grade students broaden their linguistic experience and some subjects become optional.
What extracurricular and enrichment opportunities are available to Lower College students?
Our broad academic curriculum allows students to develop their subject matter knowledge and a range of transferable skills such as communication, critical thinking, independent learning, writing, problem solving, empathy and creativity. The development of these skills, as well as the facilities and resources at CLC, and the passion and experience of our staff, make the curriculum itself more enriching.
There are also over 160 clubs and activities that contribute to a vibrant schedule, from Jazz Band, Upcycling Club and Environmental Society, to football, Hip Hop Club and Medical and Ethical Society. While students may want to, they can’t do it all, so they are encouraged to manage their time wisely and balance their commitments – good practice for life in general!
In addition, we offer a fantastic wellness, personal development and enrichment program, as well as a tremendous sports and fitness program, along with co-curricular activities, clubs, societies, lectures, trips and additional weekend activities. This helps students feel inspired and enjoy their time in college, while cultivating the skills and resilience to thrive in the wider world. They leave at the end of their time here having developed all sorts of fascinating skills and having so many opportunities to be inspired by a comprehensive and brilliantly enriching holistic education at CLC.
Are there scholarships or bursaries available for prospective students who wish to study at Cheltenham Ladies’ College after primary school?
There certainly are! More than 70 students currently receive stipends; many receive 100 percent backing, while others receive a percentage award determined through a feature testing process. All receive pro-rated financial assistance for additional costs such as uniforms and co-curricular activities. In recent years, we have stepped up fundraising and awareness for scholarships, which is very exciting!
CLC offers an enriching scholarship program. Being a scholar is an honored position at CLC and an opportunity to play a key role in the life of the school. Scholarships do not carry a fee waiver, instead our bespoke Scholarship Program offers activities and experiences beyond the curriculum designed to enrich, inspire and challenge. This includes bespoke lecture series and seminars and special trips and workshops. It really is an exceptional program.