Warwick School (Senior)
Muddy says: A superb independent boys’ day and boarding school (Yrs 7 - 13) in the lovely historic market town of Warwick with exceptional facilities including a super-cool new shared Sixth Form Centre, excellent pastoral care and an impressive new head.
Looking for a senior school with a reputation for academic and sporting excellence, an emphasis on pastoral care and personal development? Say hello to this Warwick day and boarding option for boys in 50-acres stretching down to the River Avon.
One of the oldest boys’ schools in England, Warwick School is believed to date back to the times of warrior queen, Aethelflaed, the oldest daughter of Alfred the Great and Lady of the Mercia who ruled Mercia in the Midlands from 911. The main red-brick Victorian building is striking with a grand staircase and the welcome is warm and friendly. Despite its long and proud academic tradition, the school is modern and forward thinking, with Warwick Independent Schools Foundation investing heavily to update and build state-of-the-art facilities. It’s also very close to Warwick Castle, which is more than a location – it’s an educational resource!
Notable alumni include Christian Horner, Team Principal for the Red Bull Racing Formula 1 team – who’s married to Geri Halliwell – and royal florist Simon Lycett!
The school is full of life, with a real sense of community both between the boys themselves and the town. Recently Year 7 boys were challenged with building and sleeping in their own cardboard shelter overnight to appreciate what it means to be homeless – raising £3,000 for Helping Hands.
Currently, numbers are 977 – 699 in Years 7-11 and 278 in the Sixth Form – with average class sizes of 22-25 and smaller teaching groups for some GCSE and A Level subjects. Most boys start school in Year 7, after taking the Entrance Exam following on from Warwick Prep and the Junior School, or Year 12 (Lower Sixth).
The most recent headline news is Project One Campus which sees the relocation of King’s High School onto the same campus as Warwick School and Warwick Preparatory School in September 2019. This is an opportunity for greater collaboration outside the classrooms between the schools, while teaching remains single-sex.
A big USP for the sixth form is the brand new Sixth Form centre shared with girls from King’s High offering pupils the ‘best of both worlds’ before they head off to uni. Facilities include a large social space with self-service kitchen and café; specialist study spaces, social areas and a Careers Hub. It’s beautifully-designed and open-plan with a Scandi-feel, stunning main wooden staircase, light and airy with gender-neutral toilets and the most amazing rooftop views – Kevin McCloud would surely swoon.
On the day of my visit, it was Year 13’s last day before sitting A levels. I was warned they would all be in fancy dress. Several cars of Luigi’s from Mario Kart had been spotted en route to school; seeing them in person was very entertaining – there was even a group dressed up as clergy, bizarrely. GCSE’s were also underway – I walked into the Sports Hall to this scenario which took me straight back to being 16 again – deep breath, exhale!
I was given a school tour by an eloquent and emotionally intelligent Year 12, who’s not only a talented young musician (playing viola, violin and piano) but plays in two orchestras and is a keen member of the Hockey team. He’s studying Maths, Further Maths, Economics & Politics and is considering a history degree at uni. He was very proud that 11 boys had achieved places into Oxbridge and was telling me how exciting it was to meet broadcast journalist John Simpson recently. The BBC foreign correspondent came to school to deliver the latest in the school’s series of Sir Ben Kingsley lectures on his 50-year career and new book, Moscow Midnight.
Here’s an outdoor sculpture installation we passed on my tour, created by pupils and Head of Art Mr Ramsay as part of the school’s inaugural ‘Discovery Festival’ in 2018. A boat was brought into the grounds and students were taught how to work with willow as a sculpture medium to create a Kraken, a legendary sea monster, by visiting artists, Mark and Rebecca Ford and some wonderful student artwork in Warwick Hall (below).
We also met enthusiastic head librarian Angela Best whose team have created a fab selection of bookmarks with reading list suggestions in various genres. I came home with the entire collection – in the hope it might inspire my own kids! The school has just launched a new project focusing on 10 minutes’ reading every day during form time with the emphasis on ‘reading for pleasure’.
The list of co-curricular activities is endless, including 90 clubs and societies as diverse as Politics Society featuring lectures from prominent politicians including Lord Hattersley, Sir Patrick Cormack MP and Jeffrey Donaldson; Biology Film Club; Altiora Dancy Company led by professionals from international contemporary dance company Motionhouse with girls from King’s High; Scuba Diving; Mural-Makers, Classics Club and Bundesliga X Box Club. More than 80 took part in Duke of Edinburgh expeditions during 2018, plus there’s an abundance of trips and tours.
Boys can also join the Combined Cadet Force (Army, Navy and Air Force) here – they love it because it’s a lot of fun and develops confidence, character and leadership.
Exceptional. Sports music and drama are a BIG DEAL at Warwick School and it’s not difficult to see why with these kinds of facilities. The school has enjoyed an impressive £40m programme of development in recent years. Facilities include a refurbished £2.7m Sports Pavilion, comprising of a 25m swimming pool, sports hall, squash courts, hospitality suite, climbing wall, gym, and all-weather sports facilities including a new 3G pitch.
There’s also The Masefield Centre for IT and Library services, the fully equipped purpose-built state-of-the-art Cheshire Science Centre, outstanding bespoke Art and DT facilities and a music school with acoustic teaching pods for music lessons.
The big wow building is Warwick Hall, a top-class regional auditorium seating up to 1000 with a balcony, plus smaller drama/dance studios which opened in 2016.
On the drama front The Bridge House Theatre, opened by Dame Judi Dench in 2000, seats around 300. It also hosts visiting professional productions and community events. The School Chapel dates to 1879 with its stunning stained-glass windows by Henry Holiday and Francis Spear and war memorials. All the boys attend a chapel service once a week with lovely, welcoming School Chaplain, the Revd Dr Alycia Timmis. On most Sundays, in term time there’s a family service.
As you would expect from a selective school, the results are consistently excellent. In 2018 they had a 100% pass rate at A Level with 55% of boys gaining A*or A grades with 16 boys securing the grades needed for Oxford and Cambridge. GCSE results were similarly outstanding, for the first time in the school’s history, more than half the grades (55%) were at A* or the equivalent in the new system (9-8). 78% of grades were awarded at A*-A (9-7) with 94% at A *B (9-6). Impressively 11 boys achieved a clean sweep of 10 A* grades!
I’d say the school does a fantastic job with the brightest boys while also supporting the less academic. Degree apprenticeships are also embraced.
The 2018 ISI report is ‘Excellent’ all-round.
Nationally six bands entered the National Concert Band Finals at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, winning five platinum awards and one gold award – a record for the number of entrants from one school, with all performing incredibly well! Sixth Form Chemists recently participated in the Royal Society of Chemistry Olympiad, with students achieving Bronze, Silver and Gold medals.
The Rugby team made it to the 2019 Schools Cup Final at Twickenham, after winning 14 of their 18 fixtures this season. Doing equally well the 1st XI hockey team made it through to the quarter-finals of the Notts Sport Boy’s Schools Championships, after being the only team to win all their matches. Although many of the school’s teams perform at a high level, they are keen to involve every boy in competitive sport and finding sports all boys can excel – with a vast number of weekly fixtures at different levels and a huge choice of sports clubs.
In March three Young Enterprise Teams, including both Warwick School and King’s High students, progressed to the County Finals, with all teams winning awards. Team Imperium won an award for Best Company and progressed to the Young Enterprise National Finals in June 2019.
Music & drama:
The school is a National Centre for the Arts and there’s music oozing from every corner. You’ll find a huge amount of musical talent here with more than 750 boys taking music lessons each year and more than 40 orchestras and ensembles including a symphony orchestra, concert bands, Woodwind and Brass ensembles, Chapel and Choral Choirs, Jazz and Rock bands, which is phenomenal! In addition to their class music lesson, all Year 7 students have the fantastic opportunity to learn a new instrument as part of the Year 7 Music scheme, with tuition taking place each week in small groups. Young musicians regularly participate in national music festivals, achieving national successes including Oliver Simcock who made it through to the finals of BBC Young Chorister of the Year (top 8 in the country) and Joe Bain for gaining a Performing Scholarship for Classical Guitar from Liverpool University.
Love drama? Then you’ll love it here. As well as some of the best facilities for drama in the country and experienced professionals, there’s workshops, trips and performance opportunities including the first student-led House Drama competition. Former pupil Ralph Davis graduated early from RADA and is now a rising RSC star, recently performing in the critically-acclaimed Tamburlaine alongside Jude Owusu and Timon of Athens with Kathryn Hunter. Current pupil Rhys Mulligan successfully auditioned for the RSC’s Christmas 2018-19 production A Christmas Carol, performing in 18 shows.
Currently, there’s a small boarding community with 60 international boarders, from China, Hong Kong, Macau and Nigeria aged 13+ living in modern accommodation split across two School Houses run by resident ‘house parents’. Each boarder has their own Boarding Tutor The school also caters for weekly boarding and flexi-boarding.
Strong. It’s all about ‘Knowing the individual’ here. Warwick has been well ahead of the game when it comes to Pastoral care, recognising the stresses and pressures of teenage years. The school started teaching Well-Being in September 2015, popularly called ‘happiness class’ taught by Well-being coach Reverend Hewitt, who also writes a regular column on the school website. There’s also counselling, mindfulness lessons and a Therapy dog.
Head Master, Dr Deneal Smith, hit the hot post in September 2018, taking over from Gus Lock, who moved to The Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School in Elstree, London. Previously he was Under Master (Senior Deputy Head) at Westminster School – fourth in the top 100 UK Independent Schools GCSE League Table 2018 (Warwick School was 55).
Married with two children he lives on-site in the beautiful main school building with his family. Born in Blackpool he graduated from St John’s College, Cambridge, with a first-class degree in Mathematics and Astrophysics, and a PhD in Observational Astronomy, where he did briefly encounter the late Stephen Hawkins. Martin Rees, the current Astronomer Royal, was one of many “fantastic role models” within his department. He began his teaching career at Winchester College before becoming Head of Sixth Form and then Director of Studies at Magdalen College School, Oxford.
A warm, welcoming and interested man, he is clearly passionate about the academic ambition of the school as well as the pastoral side. It’s been a real joy to celebrate the boys’ achievements in sport, music and drama, he says. He impressed me greatly with his immense pride in all the boys, including the recent successes of the Sixth Form Rugby and Hockey teams commenting on how mutually supportive they were – travelling to each other’s finals’ – and celebrating their achievements without a hint of arrogance. After GCSE mocks he endeavoured to see every Yr 11 boy to offer congrats or pep talks and to find out more about their interests and the directions in which they’re heading, praising their politeness and thoughtfulness.
Dr Smith still teaches maths at A level which he loves – he likes to feel part of the day-to-day school experience. He’s recognised for possessing a very strong pastoral instinct, excellent leadership and strategic thinking. His Head Master’s blog is witty, reflective and insightful, whether highlighting the school’s latest Green Team initiatives on Climate Change for Ditch the Car Day or delving into the school’s ancient past.
The Warwick Town Crier is traditionally invited to school every year to ‘request’ that the Head Master grants permissions for an extra week’s holiday at half-term for the boys. The boys gather together to hear the announcement, which is always greeted with ecstatic cheers.
From Year 9 upwards, Friday afternoons are set aside for boys to take up extra activities they wouldn’t normally be able to follow within curriculum time – academic and extra-curricular. These range from Cooking for University to furniture making, sailing and yoga.
Impressively one pupil unicycled Coast to Coast (208km) raising funds for Water Aid – now that’s something I don’t come across very often!
Fees & scholarships:
Average for across the region. £4,640 per term (£13,920 annually); full boarding from £10,477 per term including tuition fees. Warwick School offers Academic, Music and Choral Scholarships, and a range of bursaries for eligible pupils. See here.
Word on the ground:
Word is that the school is very nurturing and has a warm, inclusive ethos with a big emphasis on enrichment and personal development. Clearly, the parents who send their sons here have high expectations for their academic path and success and the school delivers to the brief. Pupils also say the school responds quickly to support any boys’ individual welfare needs and the strong feeling among boys across all ages is that they’re very proud to be part of this vibrant school community.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: It’s hard to know a boy who wouldn’t enjoy it here. It has the rolling acreage and pristine playing fields of a top country school but happens to be conveniently just outside the centre of Warwick. It’s inclusive and has amazing results but the style of teaching and the huge amount of music, sport, drama and extra-curricular activities mean the lads have a great time too – with many boys enjoying a through education from nursery to Sixth Form.
Not for: Boys who prefer a fully co-ed experience.
Dare to disagree? Oh, be my guest! There’s an Open Evening on Fri July 5, 7pm – 9pm with tours led by Year 8 boys or prefects including an opportunity to see the new Sixth Form Centre, PLUS, talks from the Head Master in Warwick Hall (times to be confirmed). To book your place you need to register online here.
Warwick School, Myton Road, Warwick, CV34 6PP, 01926 776400, warwickschool