Our Scholars (HIP) Programme

We devote time, energy and imagination to ensure that the education we provide enables all students to fulfil their potential. Our prestigious Scholars Programme for students with the Highest Intellectual Potential (HIP) caters for those students’ very specific educational and pastoral needs.

At St Helen’s, we provide each student with personalised support to help them thrive. This includes identifying students with the highest intellectual potential and providing them with specialised, individual mentoring and support. With historical data showing that the most academically able are seeing the least value-added, this programme is now closing that gap through a unique combination of mentoring, enrichment, and extension opportunities.

Click here to see the Highest Intellectual Potential (HIP) Programme from two different perspectives and get an insight into the impact it is having on both our students and teachers.

What does the HIP Programme include?

Once a student chooses to accept her place on the programme, she will be assigned a HIP teacher-mentor who will facilitate weekly small-group supervisions with other highly able girls in the year group. These supervisions will tackle a broad range of subject areas, enabling the girls to explore new areas of thought.

As students develop their own interests, they will be encouraged to undertake specialist research projects and academic challenges with guidance from their mentor. Such supervisions are highly demanding and require research and preparation in addition to regular schoolwork. The programme will also include a series of events, lectures and activities to stimulate scholarship and promote ambition.

HIP students are expected to make a significant contribution to school life and have a particular responsibility to promote a culture of learning for all members of the school community.

Students on the Scholars Programme will also undertake termly academic challenges to pursue their love of learning beyond the curriculum. These academic challenges are open to all our students who are looking for extra challenge.

How are students invited onto the Scholars HIP Programme?

Students who are awarded Academic Scholarships at 11+, Year 9 and for Sixth Form, are automatically part of this unique programme. Other students are invited to join the programme through a rigorous process involving three nominations of ‘high intellectual potential’ from class teachers (equally weighted across all academic subjects), combined with high level cognitive assessment scores and a demonstrated commitment to their studies.

Those nominated are then confirmed by the Head of Section and ultimately by the Senior Leadership Team.

The programme aims to inspire rather than burden our students and so due to the demanding nature of the programme, all girls invited to participate are required to sign a ‘contract of expectations’ so that they are clear about what they can expect of the school and what the school expects of them. The school understands that some students invited onto the programme may feel it is not right for them and so an invitation can be declined or taken up at a later date if preferred.

Is the selection process final?

No. The programme is fluid and aspirational. The key word is ‘potential’ as we know that students flourish at different times in their academic development.

Each year there will be a review of the girls’ progress and suitability for the programme. The key is whether the programme – with all of the extra learning and responsibilities it entails – will help the student thrive rather than flounder.


If a student hasn’t made the HIP Programme this time round, is there anything she can do to help her chances in the annual review?

Yes. Most important is for a girl to excel in her academic studies across all subjects. This is especially true for A Level, due to the high demands of Sixth Form life. This can measured through outstanding assessments results, high quality contributions in class and consistently high level written work.

Students should also seek independent learning opportunities such as undertaking extra reading and termly academic challenges. Being on the HIP Programme requires the ability to cope with high level academic demands in addition to class work and so it is vital that girls selected for this programme can cope with the extra pressures it entails.

Can Students be ‘HIP’ in one or two subjects?

Yes. Where girls have been nominated for one or two subjects, then they are considered ‘HIP’ status for those specific subjects.

Each department is responsible for stretching and challenging those girls to help them meet their considerable potential in line with our ethos of ‘Teaching to the Top’. Departmental offerings can include subject specific termly challenges, events and competitions.

Do HIP Students gain an unfair advantage in their academic studies and university applications?

No. The HIP Programme is purely about learning for the sake of learning. Guidance for subject specific development remains within the domain of a girl’s subject teacher.

The school’s flagship Futures Programme caters for all university-related issues, and this is a core part of the Sixth Form experience for all students.

Do other girls lose out by not being on the HIP Programme?

No. The programme is part of a broader educational approach that recognises that pupils have differing needs and therefore require different types of support to fulfil their academic potential.

Where wider HIP events and programmes occur, all girls in the relevant year group will be invited to participate. Our ethos of inclusivity and aspiration proudly remain.

The HIP programme was extremely helpful throughout the entire application process to Oxford. In my application I talked about a HIP challenge I completed in Year 12, which was to take part in an essay competition that I then presented on in a supervision. This essay was discussed in my interview, and the session I got to lead helped massively in articulating and defending my ideas to the interviewers.

Additionally, being frequently introduced to new topics and ideas throughout the supervisions helped with handling unseen and challenging materials in the interviews.

Gayatri, Year 13 – offered a place to read Law at Oxford

Where can I learn more about the pedagogical theory that the HIP Programme is based on?

The programme is explored in more detail in this article written for the Independent Schools Magazine.