WGHS has a long and distinguished history of providing an exceptional education for girls, with the school motto, 'Each for All and All for God', today ensconced within the spirit and ethos of the school.
In 1864, The Taunton Commission, set up to investigate secondary schools (for girls in particular) recommended that some endowments, which had previously been used exclusively for boys' education, should now be allotted to girls. This was at a time when overriding public opinion was that women should 'remain at home, sit still, keep house and bring up children'.
This became law in 1869 when the Endowed Schools Act was passed and the way was now open for girls’ schools to be founded.
In 1869 there was no thought of admitting girls to old established boys’ grammar schools and the citizens of Wakefield were not eager to be pioneers. In 1875 Wakefield Grammar School Foundation was founded by the governors of the existing boys’ grammar school - Queen Elizabeth Grammar School (QEGS) which was founded in 1591.
Governors at the already-established QEGS agreed to pursue this movement so that girls, as well as boys, could benefit. As a result, Wakefield Girls' High School opened its doors to 58 girls aged 8-17 on September 16, 1878. The school was located at Wentworth House (its current location), former home of wool manufacturer Elias Holt. Miss Allen was appointed as Headmistress supported by three other female members of staff. Miss Allen and her staff lived on the second and third floors of Wentworth House.
The Wakefield Express supported the opening describing the school as “a seminary for young ladies.. the ultimate success of the establishment is looked forward to with great confidence”. Entry was by examination and fees were fixed at £10 per year. Most of the lessons took place in the morning with afternoons devoted to music, drawing and sewing.
In August 1914 WWI broke out. All school expeditions and functions were foregone, in turn raising £40 for an ambulance which went to the front and served the Belgian Army with ‘Presented by Wakefield Girls’ High School’ painted on its side.
Following the retirement of Mrs Kingswell in 1949, Miss Knott became Headmistress, remaining appointed until 1973. In 1978 the school celebrated its Centenary under the leadership of Headmistress Miss Hand, who retired in 1987.
WGHS became an independent fee-paying school in 1982, following the government's removal of the Direct Grant Status.
In 1987 Mrs Langham was appointed as Headmistress, where she spent over 22 years at the helm. During this time, she was appointed President of the Girls' School Association and was awarded a CBE for her services to education.
Today, Mrs Gunson (appointed in September 2015) leads the happy and successful WGHS Senior School community, ensuring that every girl excels and achieves, and that the school continues to lead the way in girl-centred learning.
The Junior School opened in 1881 for pupils from 5 years of age, relocating to its own premises (St. John's House) in 1967. The people involved in the early history of St. John’s House are remembered in the names given to the schools’ four houses: Barff, Lee, Mackie and Newstead.
Mulberry House was officially opened in February 2002, with its characteristic pencil fences and light and airy interior creating a safe and stimulating learning environment for younger girls.
Today, the Junior School, under the leadership of Mrs Edwards, very much values the traditions of the past whilst embracing the future and specific strategies of girls’ education.