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King’s High, Warwick

Muddy says: One of the UK's top independent girls' secondary's shortlisted for three TES Awards 2018, and soon moving into a super-impressive new-build.

KING’S HIGH, WARWICK

A leading UK independent day school in the heart of historic Warwick for girls aged 11 – 18, on the cusp of a landmark move to a new state-of-the-art all-singing, all-dancing single shared campus in 2019/20 with Warwick Prep and Warwick School in one of the most exciting new school builds nationally.

WHAT? WHERE?

King’s High was founded in 1879. Situated on the top of quaint Smith Street next to the town’s East Gate slap, bang in the centre of Warwick in beautiful Grade II listed 17th Century Landor House with its elegant blue front door. 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. The school sits on a street of independent shops and restaurants, with its main sports hall and extensive playing fields on the outskirts of town.

A bird’s eye view of King’s High above Warwick

There’s an intake of around 650 girls from surrounding areas. King’s High is proud of its reputation for academic excellence, ranked 29th nationally of girls’ independent schools at GCSE. King’s girls go on to Oxbridge and Russell Group universities, the LSE, Medical and Vet schools, Art Foundations, RADA, LAMDA, overseas universities, Apprenticeships – and unusually (a first for King’s) the National Centre for Circus Arts.

Recent leavers include not one BUT two stars of HBO sensation Game of Thrones – Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark) and Gemma Whelan (Yara Greyjoy), who also plays Kate in Ben Elton’s comedy Upstart Crow on BBC 2, doncha know.

FACILITIES: 

Landor House has a lovely, quirky rambling feel and once inside feels rather like Doctor Who’s Tardis – it extends far further back than you think with a labyrinth of airy corridors, offices, classrooms and a tiered hall. Girls are taught in a mix of modern interactive classroom spaces and 17th Century buildings like characterful Landor Library. The main library was refurbished in 2016. There is a clever, cutting-edge ‘Innovation Centre’ with 26 dry-wipe tables you can write and doodle on, creative ICT suite and study space.

At the rear of the main buildings, there’s a courtyard with netball and tennis courts. Pupils criss-cross a quiet lane to the Creative Arts Centre opposite with its 10 teaching or music practise rooms, recording studio, two grand pianos, 4 specialist Art Rooms, photography room and kiln. For thespy girls there’s also access to a 300-seat professional Bridge House Theatre and 1000 seat Warwick Hall on the foundation site on Myton Road.

There are also 3 newly refurbished ICT suites and METEOR, one of 4 NAO robots in UK schools to aid the teaching of robotics. The NAO robot can both speak and recognise speech, sit, stand, walk and dance. It was the world’s first robot to be able to display and detect emotions such as raising its arms when happy – which can be when a pupil correctly answers a question.

Project ‘One Campus’ sees girls at King’s moving into a brand new purpose-built state-of-the-art school. It will be on the pedestrian-friendly Myton Road campus where Warwick Prep and Warwick School are already situated.

A glimpse of the new-look hall

Already well-underway Project One Campus will see the creation of a new main school building, a new shared music building with super-duper acoustics, an innovative new glass-fronted Sixth Form Centre shared with Warwick School for social, study and extra-curricular (not teaching) – and improved Bridge Sports Centre. New sports pitches – including 3G and all-weather surfaces – will also be built on site. Cutting-edge designs for the 5 new buildings have been drawn up by top London based architects Nicholas Hare, who created the award-winning iconic, brutalist David Attenborough Building at the University of Cambridge. This will all be completed for September 2020, with the main King’s building and Sixth Form Centre ready for September 2019.

Green space abounds just outside the historic town centre. St Nicholas Park and the entrance to scenic Warwick Castle are close-by. At present, the School playing fields, a new floodlit Tiger Turf and Bridge Sports Centre are a 10 – 15-minute walk away on the Myton Road site and provide further hockey, netball and tennis courts. King’s girls also swim, fence and climb with their ‘brothers’ at Warwick School.

WHAT ELSE?

Narnia school production

King’s High was one of the finalists for Senior School of the Year in the Times Education Supplement (TES) Independent Schools Awards 2018. And shortlisted for two more awards: Well-Being Initiative of the Year and Strategic Education Initiative of the Year for the King’s High Baccalaureate.

Science thrives here! Girls 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. An extensive extracurricular programme of trips and lectures, competitions, and clubs encourage pupils to believe science is accessible, challenging and inspiring. Each year several Sixth formers participate in university-style research and in Year 8 girls study engineering.

Sports is very strong with girls winning multiple County Championships in netball, water polo and clay pigeon shooting. Although girls and boys will continue to be taught in single-sex classes, parents and teachers feel it’s important for them to work and socialise together. They collaborate hugely most visibly in music and drama productions, and there’s a joint Sixth-form Literary Society. This will be further enhanced when girls will share the new Sixth Form Centre with its roof terrace and glass frontage with boys from Warwick School.

King’s is very proud of its Pastoral Care which involves girls meeting their tutor twice each day, where they get the opportunity to discuss both academic and pastoral matters. They can join mindfulness classes and have a dedicated well-being mentor. The ‘Mother-and-daughter’ mentoring system works particularly well – Year 7’s are paired up with an older girl in Year 12 or 13, and a big sister in Year 8. As girls travel from far and wide younger pupils also have travel buddies on the Foundation’s school buses.

SIXTH@KING’S:

Sixth@King’s have their own separate modern block opened by Dame Judi Dench in 2006 and an impressive new microsite. Voila! September’s new cohort will be the first girls to benefit from the new shared Sixth Form Centre with Warwick School’s boys in September 2019. They will experience the extension of a coeducational extracurricular programme, but remaining single-sex teaching. Best of both worlds!

It’s academically driven but vocational with it. As well as A Levels girls can complete the King’s High Baccalaureate, a new qualification, accredited by EduQual and recognised by UCAS, which sits alongside the A Levels, to develop skills highly sought by universities and future employers. As part of the sixth form’s Leadership Programme girls run their own societies and some enterprising Year 12 journos created their own mental health themed magazine called Mentis, shortlisted for an award at the Shine Media Awards (a national journalism competition for schools).

Speaking as a parent of a Sixth form boy at a Warwickshire grammar another really good, insightful initiative for girls in year 10-12 is the King’s Links programme where the most recent ‘Old Girls’ take current students around their uni’s and give them the low-down on uni life. Recent trips have included: Bristol. Cambridge, Manchester and Oxford.

ACADEMIC RESULTS:

In a word, impressive. For GCSE in 2017: 78.4% of entries achieving A* – A and 50.4% of entries graded A*. And A levels saw 71.1% awarded A* – B with 41% gaining A* or A. The Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) Inspection Report 2017, rates King’s ‘Excellent’ in all areas.

HEADTEACHER:

Richard Nicholson was appointed head in September 2015. Previously he was Deputy Head at The Lady Eleanor Holles School in Hampton, Middlesex, an independent girls’ school.  A big champion of girls’ education he feels it’s very important girls know they can be leaders.

He’s very enthusiastic and in a relatively short time is putting his mark on King’s. His philosophy is that girls need to feel they can do anything – free from the burdens of gender stereotypes- and facilitating that by providing lots of choice and talented teachers.

Mr Nicholson’s introduced a Leadership Programme for Sixth formers, opening up opportunities for student-led academic societies, clubs and supporting other girls. Recent speakers have included the Pro Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, a High Court Judge, Gold Medal Olympians and the Rt Hon Attorney General.

Another new initiative is the Inspire enrichment programme offering girls a very broad curriculum including the choice of 25 A Level subjects and an academic Supra-Curricular, offering extra-curricular activities relating to a subject, such as Cafe Scientifique – an innovative science group with its own blog.

You sense his pride in the girl’s accomplishments – big and small – whether in a painting (there’s striking student’s art everywhere – I mean, really everywhere), or a win on the hockey field.

QUIRKS:

Theatre Director John Caird, who directed the original Les Misérables, gives top tips to students rehearsing Les Misérables

The Head was a chorister at Southwell Minster, Notts, a Music Scholar at Denstone College in Staffs and has an MA in Music from Pembroke College Oxford. Needless to say, Mr Nicholson’s very musical AND has a beautiful grand piano in his office. How many heads can say that?

Hollywood actress and former pupil Sophie Turner – Sansa Stark in Game of Thrones – was the Landor Association’s Inaugural speaker in January 2018 with her pop star fiancée Joe Jonas in tow! How totally cool is that?

Drama and music is highly regarded here. When rehearsing their recent production of Les Misérables pupils received a masterclass from John Caird, an Honorary Associate Director of the RSC, who directed the RSC’s own production of Les Mis. What an amazing experience for any young actor and musician! There’s also an all-girl rock band; alongside more traditional classical music groups. Pupils regularly see RSC productions and top actors visit to give masterclasses, including Paapa Essiedu, who’s starring in the critically-acclaimed Hamlet currently on tour.

Lights, camera, action: King’s joint production of Les Miserables with Warwick School.

Another interesting quirk is the appointment of a Space Scientist-in-residence (no, sadly not Brian Cox!) after one of King’s pupils applied for a Live Link up to the International Space Station. Girls spoke to US Astronaut Ricky Arnold, as the ISS orbited the UK. There’s also an artist-in-residence.

FEES:

£4,159 per term. After school care is £3.75 per hour and Music or LAMDA lessons £260 per term. A wide range of scholarships are available and this year there’s a new Performance scholarship in Dance and/or Gymnastics for Year 7 girls entering the school in 2019.

WORD ON THE GROUND IS:

The parents I spoke to were excited about the plans for the new school, and talked of “the brilliant pastoral care, supportive tutor staff and caring peers”. They were impressed at the wide variety of over 120 extra-curricular activities, easily accessible an open to all abilities. A few with girls in earlier years had concerns about the walk to the playing fields, but recognise this will be resolved by the move. Most views reflected the positive ISI report that came out in May 2017.

THE MUDDY VERDICT:

Good for: Spirited academic girls with a flair for creativity. King’s places great emphasis on getting girls ready for the world, creating independent, free-thinkers and well-rounded women with a progressive curriculum.

Not for: Hard to find fault with this lovely, academically strong secondary day-school. The current town centre location does means green spaces and sports facilities are a walk away and peak time traffic congestion. This will be resolved with the move to the new single school campus with linked green spaces and courtyards, the creation of 500 parking spaces, as well as appropriate pick up and drop off areas for parents and buses.

Dare to Disagree?! Have a look for yourself at the Year 10 Sixth@King’s Open Event on Tuesday June 21. This is an opportunity for girls in Year 10, from local schools, to join current students to experience a bit about life in the Sixth Form at King’s High. With the opening of a new shared Sixth Form Centre with Warwick School in September 2019, these girls will be the first to benefit from the extension of coeducational Sixth Form co-curricular programme, alongside single gender teaching.

Interested students should contact: n.dumbleton@kinshighwarwick.co.uk for more information and to register.

Landor House, Smith St, Warwick CV34 4HJ, Tel: 01926 494485, kingshighwarwick

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