Hunterhouse College was born on 1st August 1987 with the amalgamation of two girls’ schools, Princess Gardens School which was already based on the school site and Ashleigh House School which was based on Windsor Avenue, off the Lisburn Road. Some of the items precious to Ashleigh House School were brought to the new site, including the Rosamund Praeger bird bath which is on the lawn outside Colinmore and the Honours Boards on display in the Assembly Hall.
The name for the new school incorporated the history of both schools:
‘The Governors of Princess Gardens School and Ashleigh House School are pleased to announce the name of the new voluntary grammar school for girls to be created by their amalgamation in September, 1987.
It will be called Hunterhouse in tribute to the unique association of both schools with the family of Miss Anna Hunter, founder of Princess Gardens in 1865, and to the present Headmistresses, Mrs Elisabeth Hunter and Miss Doreen Hunter.
The Boards of Governors have stated that ‘this name was chosen to acknowledge our rich inheritance from many sources connected with both schools and to provide continuity between the past, present and future’
Miss Doreen Hunter says that ‘Anna Hunter and her niece and successor Miss Jean Duncan, together with Miss Anne and Miss Rosalind Shearman were pioneers of academic opportunities for girls.’
The Mission Statement of the new Hunterhouse College outlined a vision for a school committed to providing a curriculum and environment which would allow girls to achieve their academic and personal potential: these are the same principles on which the College operates today.
‘When Princess Gardens and Ashleigh House Schools amalgamate in September, 1987, on the Princess Gardens site in Finaghy, they will assume the name Hunterhouse College, in recognition of the association of both schools with the family of Anna Hunter who was a pioneer of educational opportunity for girls in Belfast. Together the schools represent almost 200 years of progressive and caring teaching and academic attainments which has led their pupils to colleges and employment all over the world.
Hunterhouse College is set in 37 acres of wooded parkland and playing fields, off the main Belfast/Lisburn Road and is served by both Ulsterbus and Citybus. The Finaghy railway station is within 5-6 minutes’ walk.
In Hunterhouse College girls will enjoy modern specialist teaching accommodation under one roof, viz. the usual classrooms, 8 Science and Language Laboratories, generous computer facilities, Home Economics, Art and Music rooms, Sixth Form Centre, Gymnasium and Assembly Hall with well equipped stage. The school will preserve former strong traditions of music and drama. Private lessons will be offered in all the usual orchestral instruments, singing and speech and drama. The provision of two houses for the 100 boarders assists the aim of fostering a family atmosphere for girls who live away from home. The fine facilities for sport include on-site, all-weather hockey pitches, athletics track, eight tennis courts and practice wall, netball, badminton and short-tennis course. Table-tennis, Judo, Olympic Gymnastics, Squash, Golf and Swimming are also offered.
1st Year: Pupils will be taught in unstreamed groups and follow a common curriculum for three years.
2nd and 3rd Year: Ability streaming will be introduced and German offered to the linguistically able.
4th and 5th Year: Emphasis will be placed on providing a broad and flexible subject choice for public examinations in order to extend educational, cultural and career opportunities. English Language, English Literature and Mathematics are compulsory and five further subjects may be chosen from Art, Biology, Business Studies, Chemistry, Computer Studies, French, Geography, German, History, Home Economics, Latin, Music, Physics, Religious Education and Spanish.
6th Form: Almost all girls transfer to Sixth Form where subjects may be continued to Advanced Level with the addition of Economics and Further Mathematics. Additional non-advanced subjects and general studies include a programme of life skills, careers guidance, Additional Mathematics, Spanish, experience in Information Technology and Typing. Senior girls assume a leading role in the communal life of the school, through the Council and extra curricular activities which all pupils are encouraged to join in, e.g. orchestra and choirs, dramatic and debating societies, clubs for art and craft, athletics, bridge, chess, computers, science, community service, the Scripture Union, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme and the school Guide Company.
Counselling and careers advice are central to the organisation of the school and the full support of parents is sought through meetings with subject and form teachers of each year group and through private consultation with careers staff. A Careers Convention is held biennially for parents and girls.
The aim of Hunterhouse College is to provide a broad based education in a happy and stimulating atmosphere in which each pupil may realise her personal and academic potential, so that she may face her future with confidence. The intimacy of the smaller schools will be preserved while enjoying the extended facilities and curricular advantages which derive from larger numbers. Parent Teachers and Old Girls’ Associations make an important contribution to the life of the school and will preserve its heritage.’