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King’s High, Warwick

It's a new dawn, a new academic year and a new school for girls at this prestigious high-achieving senior school in Warwickshire - The Sunday Times West Midlands Independent Secondary School of the Year, 2019.

One of the UK’s top independent girls’ day schools in historic Warwick. 2019 has seen pupils and staff wave a fond farewell to characterful period property Landor House, after celebrating the school’s 140th birthday, and moving into a beautiful new purpose-built Smart Building this September.

The girls join pupils from Warwick Prep and Warwick School on the Myton Road campus. Their stunning airy and light-filled new home has been designed by London-based Nicholas Hare Architects with fabulous state-of-the-art facilities, including a mixed Shared Sixth Form Centre with Warwick School. This high-achieving all girls school is recognised for its holistic, homely atmosphere, innovative Inspire programme and artistic creativity – not one but two former pupils are in HBO hit, Game of Thrones. Shortlisted for three Tes Independent Schools Awards in 2018, it was selected as The Sunday Times’ West Midlands Independent Secondary School of the Year, 2019.

WHAT? WHERE?

This September term saw the girls move into their funky new home, which is more like a mini-university campus than a school. It’s made up of four very different, intimately linked buildings.

The main school building entrance

The Spirit of Kings, a “staggeringly beautiful” 7.5m tall polished steel abstract sculpture designed by British sculptor and public artist Liz Middleton is due to be unveiled outside the main school entrance (above) in mid- November. All very exciting! It is currently being constructed near Lake Garda in Italy by a world-expert in the field.

The Head Master and staff wanted to fill the school with as much student art as possible so it didn’t feel like a blank white canvas, but more like a home. Head of Art Sarah Jordan has done an exquisite job of curating this, with some breathtaking challenging, offbeat and beautiful pieces.King’s High was originally founded in 1879. Earlier this year pupils and staff waved farewell to their former home, Grade II listed 17th Century Landor House with its elegant blue front door on Smith Street in the town centre. The building has some interesting literary links; it was once the home of English writer and poet Walter Savage Landor (1775 – 1864), a close friend of Charles Dickens and inspiration for Lawrence Boythorn in Bleak House.

There’s an intake of around 700 girls from surrounding areas, with a rise in the number of girls joining in Lower Sixth up to 115, and 63 in Upper Sixth in 2019. King’s High is ranked 29th nationally of girls’ independent schools at GCSE. King’s girls go on to Oxbridge and Russell Group universities and around 75% attend Russell Group universities, with nearly 90% going to their first-choice uni. Girls are also taking up places at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire,  Medical and Vet schools, the University of East London to study Acting and the University of Falmouth to study film.

Alumni include two actors, who played key characters in Game of Thrones Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark) and Gemma Whelan (Yara Greyjoy) – Kate in Ben Elton’s comedy Upstart Crow.

FACILITIES: 

Clockwise from left to right: the new Sports Centre; the Quad; the new Shared Sixth Form Centre and the Art, DT and Food Tech building.

Each of the stunning four new school buildings has its own individual style but is unified by the clean lines and natural materials used for construction. Made from natural stone, warm maple wood and bronzed steel the design is sleek, modern and stylish with timeless features. They include:

  • the main school building. It has retained a Tardis-like effect similar to the old school premises in Smith Street. It may look contained from the outside but inside it’s vast with a glorious school hall, a fabulous dining hall, a library, large airy classrooms, dance and drama studios and 10 science labs. They all centre around the impressive Quad which looks like a modern Oxford college – but without the stuffiness. Here there are no rules to stop the girls from walking on the grass! With it maple wood bookcases, curved orange bookshelves and beanbags in primary colours, the library is one of the funkiest modern reading spaces I’ve yet come across.
  • a light-filled Art, Design/Technology and Food Tech block includes teaching rooms, Great British Bake Off-style kitchen; a ceramics studio; print-making facilities, a photographic dark room, DT equipment and tools, and there’s an artist-in-residence – graduate Abi Wright.
  • a state-of-the-art Sports Centre is due to open in the next few weeks. Facilities include a gym, locker room, changing rooms and a large fitness suite.
  • a world-class purpose-built high-tech Music School is currently under construction and is expected to be completed by next spring. It will feature an acoustically variable auditorium like Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, three teaching rooms and 15 practise rooms.

The new kitchen

Facilities include clockwise from left to right: A staircase in the main school building; the library and Ceramic Studio

Dance and drama studios are excellent, check out this professional looking lighting rig…

Girls have the pleasure of eating lunch in an airy, spacious and swanky dining room showcasing another wonderful maple ceiling. There’s a great selection of daily menus too – the Head Chef used to work at Queans in Leamington Spa. On the day I visited there were jacket potatoes with various toppings; sausages and mash with vegetables; and two vegetarian options – a veg Wellington and Mac ‘n’ Cheese.Walking along the wide main corridor with its lofty high ceilings, white walls and natural materials there’s a harmonious sense of space and light. A lovely aspect is that every classroom looks over green, whether it’s a school playing fields or the Quad.

The very first assembly in the new school hall. Credit: Vicky Kettell

Other facilities within the school include an Innovation Centre with dry-wipe tables you can write and doodle on, creative ICT suite and study space; ICT suites and METEOR, one of 4 NAO robots in UK schools to aid the teaching of robotics. The girls have access to Bridge House Theatre, the 1000 seat Warwick Hall, Bridge Sports Centre, a swimming pool and sports facilities including a 3G rugby pitch, 5 netball and 6 tennis courts.

SIXTH@KING’S

The new Shared Sixth Form Centre

September’s new cohort are the first girls to move into the smart new Shared Sixth Form Centre with Warwick School’s boys. A fabulously funky space for teens, it’s built over three floors with Scandi-style decor, clean white lines, coordinating furnishings and a splash of bright colours on feature walls. On the ground floor there’s an open plan social space with floor-to-ceiling windows, trendy sofas, cool staircases, a mini canteen and cafe-style chairs and tables. A Careers Hub with study areas, good for group discussions and colourful booths is located on the second floor.

The top floor with fantastic sweeping views across to Warwick Castle is a quiet study space with bold yellow and orange feature walls and coordinating furnishings. A Code of Conduct was drawn up in advance by the students themselves, who also had a say in the colour scheme and furnishings. This new move so far has been very successful.

The girls experience the extension of a coeducational extracurricular programme with single-sex teaching. As well as offering a broad curriculum choice with more than 20 A Level subjects, Sixth Formers  can complete the King’s High Baccalaureate, a new qualification, accredited by EduQual and recognised by UCAS to develop skills highly sought by universities and future employers. A fab initiative for girls in Years 10-12 is King’s Links programme where the most recent Old Girls take current students around their university and give them the low-down on uni life. You can also check out the Sixth Form’s own microsite.

WHAT ELSE?

All smiles: the first day at King’s High’s new school. Photo by Vicky Kettell

Music flourishes here! As part of the BBC Music Day on September 26, the youngest Year 2 ‘Super Strings’ players from King’s and Warwick Prep were filmed performing, including six-year-olds playing the double bass!

The school has a specialist team of top highly-regarded music teachers and more than 14 musical groups with around 250 girls attending rehearsals throughout the week during the day and after school. Young musicians are actively encouraged to form their own group whether it’s a rock band or a percussion ensemble; many are members of national orchestras.

The music department has a busy concert schedule with major concerts, musicals, showcase recitals, jazz nights and an annual Carol Service at St Mary’s Church. Recent successes include reaching the Music for Youth National Finals and National Wind Band Festival Award Winners.

King’s High and Warwick Prep now runs from ages 3-18.  A big recent change means that girls in Year 5 are now guaranteed a place at King’s on meeting exam entry requirements. There’s also a growing collaboration in sport and music, overseen by King’s music department which includes the Year 2 Strings Project.

King’s innovative Inspire Programme of enrichment events and activities, organised by Dr Phil Seal, Director of Studies, across the school is very popular. It offers world-class speakers, trips, activities, clubs including Cafe Scientifique – an innovative Sixth Form science group with its own blog – and research projects.

Upcoming autumn highlights include talks by the internationally acclaimed contemporary composer Darren Bloom and biologist, Dr Miriam Gifford; girls competing in the prestigious ESU Mace debating competition; workshops with King’s High’s first Poet-in-Residence Gregory Leadbetter (Director of the Institute of Creative and Critical Writing at Birmingham City University) and the week-long Festival of Ideas (November 11-15). There’s also outings to the RSC, Symphony Hall, Art in Action, the Royal Geographical Society and Oxford Botanical Gardens. All interests are catered for from journalism to genome sequencing, philosophy to Model United Nations.

Another cool initiative is The Friday Afternoon Activity programme, open to pupils from King’s and Warwick School from Year 10 upwards, and there’s an extensive range and mix ranging from cyber security, glass and jewellery club, to life saving, throwing a pot and cooking for university, see hereSports, too, is a very strong area with girls competing in county and national championships in tennis, netball, cricket, show jumping, athletics, skiing and clay-pigeon shooting.

There are 130+ co-curricular clubs and activities at lunchtime and after school including Amnesty, Orchestra, Choir and Furniture Making. Residential trips range from RSC performances to a Spanish homestay, a US ski trip to New Hampshire, ranching in Arizona and an history and RE trip to Krakow and Auschwitz.

When it comes to science girls study engineering in Year 8 girls and STEAM, while older pupils have been successful achieving places on some of the most competitive university courses, winning a prestigious Weizmann scholarship and achieving awards in the Biology Challenge, Physics Olympiad and Cambridge Chemistry Challenge.

A previous production of Narnia

Creative arts are greatly valued here with amazing joint school productions, including the summer Junior production of Bugsy Malone, and a LAMDA department. Pupils who discover they have artistic talents are encouraged by staff and distinguished visitors including poets, performers and artists provide inspiration, often through interactive workshops. Recently rising opera star Juliet Wallace gave Year 10’s their own private lesson in singing opera.

King’s integral pastoral approach involves an open culture with all staff playing an active part, a Matron and a Wellbeing Mentor. Girls can also train to become Wellbeing ambassadors, receiving training in listening skills and safeguarding through the Diana Award. The school runs Mindfulness and yoga classes. Equine therapy is also available. The House Family mentoring system works very well – Year 7’s are paired up with an older girl in Year 12 or 13, and a girl in Year 8. There’s also a Year 7 Bonding Weekend to help new girls settle in.

ACADEMIC RESULTS:

Eight of this summer’s A Level students picking up their results.

GSCEs in 2019: 72% grades 9/7 (A* – A) – a third of girls; 50% grades 9-8 (A* and above) and 99% grades 9-4 (A*-C).

For A Levels, more than 50% of girls achieved A*-A, including twins who gained identical grades with two A*s and an A; and more than 85% A*-B. Of the Year 13 leavers, around 50% of girls will be studying humanities, languages, and arts and 50% STEM subjects. Six girls are now studying at Oxford and Cambridge.

The Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) Inspection Report May 2017, rates King’s ‘Excellent’ in all areas.

HEAD MASTER:

Richard Nicholson was appointed Head Master in September 2015. A  chorister at Southwell Minster, Notts, then a Music Scholar at Denstone College in Staffs he went on to study an MA in Music at Pembroke College, Oxford.

Previously, he was Deputy Head at The Lady Eleanor Holles School in Hampton, Middlesex, also an independent girls’ school. A big champion of girls’ education he feels it is very important girls know they can be leaders. His philosophy is that girls need to feel they can do anything – free from the burdens of gender stereotypes. One of his first actions was to introduce an all-embracing Leadership Programme for Sixth Formers, opening up opportunities for student-led academic societies, clubs and supporting other girls.

The design and finish of the new build far exceeds the Head’s expectations. He was blown away! Having trained in music, he is especially delighted that the school will soon have a world-class Music School. You sense his pride in the girls’ academic, cultural and sporting successes – big and small.

QUIRKS:

Some of the unique new design features such as the roof of the Art, Design and Technology and Food Tech building (pictured above) are very quirky and functional – allowing classrooms to be flooded with light. Pupils also came up with the idea for the all-inclusive toilets – super-heroes and Darth Vader included. A clever feature of this eco-friendly Smart building is that it regulates the temperature inside – windows open as if by magic.

Rather glamorously former pupil and Hollywood actress Sophie Turner was the Landor Association’s Inaugural speaker in January 2018 and arrived with her pop star fiancée Joe Jonas in tow…

Another of King’s pupils, Eleanor Griffin, applied for a Live Link up to the International Space Station. Girls spoke to US Astronaut Ricky Arnold, as the ISS orbited the UK. Eleanor spoke about her experience on BBC Earth Podcast, Looking Up and has since been invited by NASA to present her draft treaty on how to colonise Mars at an international Astronauts conference in Washington DC this October, as part of her A Level Extended Project Qualification. Far out!

FEES:

£4,593 per term. After school care is £4 per hour; Music and LAMDA £245 for 10 lessons and lunches £205 per term. A wide range of scholarships are available.

WORD ON THE GROUND IS:

On my visit I chatted to teachers, a mum and a group of Sixth Form students who were ecstatic with the school’s new facilities and the greater opportunities it allows. Other parents I’ve talked to spoke highly of “the brilliant pastoral care, supportive tutor staff and caring peers”. They were extremely impressed by the wide variety of the 130+ co-curricular activities, easily accessible and open to all abilities.

THE MUDDY VERDICT:

Good for: Inspiring future leaders and innovators with ever increasing opportunities in creative arts, leadership programmes and academic excellence. King’s places great emphasis on getting girls ready for the world, creating independent, free-thinkers and well-rounded women with a forward-thinking curriculum. It would particularly suit girls with individuality, enthusiasm and a willingness to grasp the many opportunities on offer. There’s a wonderful nurturing ethos here too; it has been chosen as a Showcase School by the Diana Award for its exemplary pupils who have trained as Wellbeing ambassadors to offer peer mentoring.

Not for: Hard to find fault with this lovely, academically strong secondary day school.  Entry is fairly competitive for Year 7 as it’s academically selective. The school receives 200 applications for 96 places, with a third of the year group coming from Warwick Prep.

Dare to Disagree?!  Check out King’s High beautiful new home and funky Scandi-style Shared Sixth Form Centre on Wednesday, Sept 25, at the Sixth Form Open Evening, 6.30-9pm.

Interested students should contact: registrar@kingshighwarwick.co.uk

If you’d like to arrange an individual tour or Sixth Form Taster day contact Registrar and Head of Admissions – Mrs Worrall – on 01926 735461 or email: registrar@kingshighwarwick.co.uk.

kingshighwarwick Banbury Road, Warwick, CV34 6YE. Tel: 01926 494485. 

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