In 1887, as the population of Reading reached 60,000, the Church Schools’ Company took over the privately owned Blenheim Ladies’ School and renamed it Reading High School. Miss Gordon Calthrop was appointed as the first Headmistress and charged with providing a first class education to the daughters of professional men, with due regard for Christian teaching. In 1914 the School was renamed The Abbey School in honour of Jane Austen, who had been a pupil at a ladies’ boarding school adjacent to Reading Abbey's gateway.
The Abbey quickly established a reputation that has placed it at the forefront of girls' education ever since. There have been just six headmistresses since Miss Helen Musson moved the school to its present site in 1905. Each of them has espoused the common cause of pioneering girls' education, whilst having very individual leadership styles:
1902 - 1935 Miss Helen Musson
1935 - 1960 Miss Margaret Macdonald
1960 - 1991 Miss Sheila Hardcastle
1991 - 2002 Miss Barbara Sheldon
2002 - 2014 Mrs Barbara Stanley
2014 - present Mrs Rachel Dent
Substantial developments to the physical sites have taken place over the years to ensure that the School continues to provide an excellent learning environment for all its pupils, whilst respecting The Abbey's tradition and heritage.
From May 2017 to May 2018 the School celebrated its 130th anniversary with an exciting calendar of events and activities.