Warwick Junior School, Warwick
Set on the 50-acre site of one of Britain's oldest surviving grammar schools, there's nothing stuck in the past about this warm, nurturing and creative day school for boys aged 7 to 11 in beautiful Warwick.
Highly-regarded Warwick Junior School is part of the Warwick Independent Schools Foundation, consisting of a prep, girls’ senior King’s High School and Warwick School, a senior boys’ school (day, aged 11-18, and boarding aged 13+). It’s located on the Warwick School site, just outside the attractive Georgian/medieval town centre, overlooked by stately Warwick Castle and River Avon. There are 250 boys on roll with a maximum class size of 20 in the first year, rising to 22 in Year 4 and 24 in Years 5 and 6. Pupils live within a 50-minute drive.
Academically strong with exceptional pastoral care, it has fantastic ISI reports (excellent across the board), a great reputation for sport and co-curricular activities. The most exciting development in 2019 was the relocation of King’s High School onto the same Myton Road campus as the other schools allowing for greater collaboration between each, while teaching remains single sex.
Hugely impressive. As you might expect with such amazing acreage, cracking facilities exist both in the standalone Junior School site and are shared with the boys at Senior School. There’s a large recently refurbished Sports Centre with a 25m swimming pool, sports hall, squash courts and new floodlit 3G rugby pitch.
There’s a music school and acoustic teaching pods for music lessons; the 300-seater Bridge House Theatre auditorium, where drama productions are staged, and stunning £10m state-of-the-art Warwick Hall, a large regional performance venue, with seating up to 1,000.
Within the Junior School there is a new bespoke science laboratory, two IT computer suites with new computers, iPads and Learn Pads, as well as wonderfully-equipped bespoke Art and Design & Technology rooms. On my tour led by the Headmaster I could see they were filled with the boys’ imaginative creations from mini-electronic fairground rides using the Scratch computer programme to their very own Trebuchets.
Judged ‘excellent’ for the quality of pupils’ academic development by ISI inspectors in 2018 see the reports here. The boys almost entirely move up to the Senior School at the end of the Junior School, having passed the entrance exam with several each year getting a scholarship to the Senior School, including musical awards. The school makes the most of single-sex education, so it’s very bespoke to the way boys like to learn, working in pairs and small teams.
There’s a stimulating and well-balanced curriculum in a supportive environment with a breadth of opportunities for sports, music, hands-on design technology, cooking, art and science – so hopefully something for everyone. As the boys progress into the Upper School (Year 5 and Year 6) specialist teachers take an increasing number of subjects, including English, Maths, Science, Art, Computing, Design and Technology, French, Geography, History, Music, Performing Arts and RE. Humility, perseverance and creativity are core values.
Warwick Junior has invested heavily in great resources and quality teaching. Boys are encouraged to develop a good work ethos early in Years 3 and 4 – referred to as ‘the Warwick Way’ (good order, discipline and being ready to learn). Pupils apparently quickly adapt to this approach, getting into good studying and homework habits – they get 30 minutes homework a day.
Year 6 boys sit the competitive Entrance Examination for Warwick Senior School. After finishing their exams each year they’re given a variety of challenges including developing their own companies and to write and illustrate their own Mr Men story. I visited on the day they were sharing these with children in Warwick Prep. It’s such a great idea! Recent guest visitors have including best-selling children’s authors, Michael Morpurgo and Cressida Cowell.
Boys can join up to 60 super-cool clubs and societies (yess 60!), which as well as music, sports and drama include a Bake-Off Club, Countdown Club, Cartoon Club, Buggy Builders and many more. A couple of boys are doing 13 clubs every week – wow! Here’s the full list.
Music and singing talent oozes from every corner. Three groups won through to the Finals of the National Music Festival: Orchestra, Big Choir and the ‘All Stars’ Wind Band. Boys in the school choir have performed at St Paul’s, Royal Albert Hall and Coventry Cathedral. In the Junior School there are 17 different orchestra, music groups and choirs including three rock bands and a handbells group. All genres are pretty well covered from a very early age, as well as music composition and theory club.
Boys in Year 3 are all part of a ‘Strings Project’ and are loaned, free of charge either a violin, viola, cello or double bass for the year and provided with expert tuition.
Onto sports, the school has twice won a major Rugby Cup hosted by QEGS Wakefield and swimmers have reached several national finals with the school’s freestyle swimmers – impressively winning an IAPS national relay! As well as representing the school, teachers are also keen to involve every boy in a variety of competitive sports. Frequently they have 20 or more fixtures a week in rugby, football and cricket – so it’s not just the top A teams who compete.
THE HEAD MASTER
It’s Andrew Hymer’s fifth year at the school. He was formerly Head of Wolverhampton Grammar Junior School, which he impressively started up from scratch in 2011. With 34 years’ teaching experience, and two adult sons he understands young minds. But Andrew very nearly embarked on a different career path. After studying Ancient History and Classical Archaeology at Sheffield Uni he briefly joined the police before training as a teacher. He’s always liked the energy and enthusiasm of junior aged children, and still teaches history.
A calm, very approachable and good-humoured presence, he’s genuinely interested in learning about every boys’ strengths, challenges and interests before they join the school, as well as congratulating their achievements. On most days, boys come to see him to receive special Headmaster’s Commendations. Boys receive a certificate and a personal email is sent to their parents with a photograph of their smiling son receiving his award.
Andrew is a very active Headmaster and really passionate about the benefits of outdoor adventure and bushcraft skills. He’s introduced an enriching programme of high-quality residential trips for Years 3, 4, 5, and 6 to help boys become more confident, resilient and assertive. In Year 6 the boys spend a week following their entrance exams at an outdoor centre in Snowdonia climbing, canoeing, gorge walking and caving as well as night-time adventure activities. Others include a camp for Year 4 boys at the start of the year and an annual ski trip.
An extended day is available to all boys daily from 8am – 5.45pm for up to £7. After-school clubs range from Kung Fu to Fencing, LAMDA to Lego Club, Ultimate Frisbee, Writer’s Club and Debating. Alternatively, they can complete homework with a member of staff. Holiday Club provision is also on offer.
Every Wednesday the boys attend a School Chapel service.
‘Oyez, oyez, oyez!’ Warwick’s Town Crier first visited the Junior School in 1912. His annual trip is now one of the most recognisable and loveliest quirks. He arrives on the playground in full regalia, just before the Michaelmas half-term requesting the Head Master’s permission to allow the boys an extra week’s holiday. It makes for a brilliant photo opportunity – the bewildered look on the faces of the younger boys who haven’t seen it before; and the older boys smiling knowingly.
It’s cool to sing here. The Junior School choir, open to all boys, is 150 strong, previously the boys made their own music video to accompany their cover of Katy Perry’s Firework.
Budding Heston Blumenthal’s will love the two cookery clubs – they are very popular. Every year the school holds its own annual Bake-Off run in exactly the same way as the Channel 4 TV show. The boys put their names forward and compete in various rounds, practising their signature dishes at home aiming to impress the judges, including the Head Mr Hymer, doing his best Paul Hollywood impression.
On the reasonable end of the independent school price scale. From £4,094 – £4,347 per term. Lunches are an additional £215 per term. Two choral scholarships of £1,650 per year may be awarded to boys aged 7 – 11 selected to sing for the Choir of St Mary’s Collegiate Church, Warwick.
WORD ON THE GROUND
They are very happy parents at Warwick Junior School. The mums I spoke to say there’s a wonderful sense of continuity with the younger boys looking up to the senior pupils at Warwick School as role models. What comes through repeatedly is the excellent welfare initiatives ensuring pupils pastoral needs are met, the caring, happy ethos and the attention to each boy.
Clearly staff take the academic side of the school very seriously and create a structured approach to study encouraging boys to succeed. A very large majority of parents feel the school is an incredibly enriching environment and supports their child’s personal development. I liked the atmosphere too, very friendly, well-ordered and relaxed.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Anyone wanting the ease of keeping their children at the same school from 3-18. A superior all-round option, boys nurtured, brains engaged and the opportunity to get involved in loads of different activities in a caring environment.. But it’s not an academic hothouse, some boys will be super-bright, others may have talents elsewhere. Speaking to the Headmaster it’s all about breadth of opportunities, so particularly good for boys who are willing to try out lots of different things and not be afraid to make mistakes. The school makes the most of single-sex education, so it’s very bespoke to the way boys like to learn, working in pairs and small teams.
Not for: Hot housers. Mostly the assessment process will identify those who prefer, or are better suited, to a more laid-back, less structured school experience than this.