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Hampton is riding high. Though head is conscious that ‘we can sometimes hide our light under a bushel here,’ they would be justified in shouting their achievements from the rooftops. There is currently a real energy about the school and boys appeared to be genuinely happy. One of the aims of the school is for Hamptonians to strive ‘for personal success while supporting those around them.’ If the boys who showed us around are anything to go by ...

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What the school says...

Hampton offers an excellent all-round education, encouraging high aspirations, independent thinking and mutual respect in an energetic and happy environment. The curriculum is enriched by an extensive co-curricular programme which forms an essential part of the balanced education which the School provides. Music, Drama and Sport are all strong.

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What The Good Schools Guide says


Since 2013, Kevin Knibbs MA (early 40s). Joined Hampton as deputy head in 2007. Previously history master, head of lower school and senior master at Bolton School Boys’ Division. Educated at King Edward VI Grammar School, Chelmsford and read modern history at Oxford (gaining two football blues in the process). A career schoolmaster who still teaches history to youngest boys. ‘I happen to run a big business, but that’s not why I chose teaching in the first place,’ he tells us. Not one to hog the limelight. At his happiest when talking about the boys, of whom he is fiercely proud.

Very visible head who can often be spotted at weekends on the touchline and towpath, supporting Hampton boys and chatting to parents. Friendly, approachable and generous spirited. ‘I am lucky to lead a school that is on this trajectory and I want to keep it going. It’s a privilege to be in this job. I love it. I hope that comes through.’ It does.

His wife is one of the chemistry teachers. He has a weakness for off-piste skiing in Colorado.


Highly selective; now more than six applicants per place. No sibling policy. Pupils generally enter the school at 11, 13 or 16. The 11+ route is normally for 125 boys; current batch from Hampton Prep and from 75 other feeder schools (54 per cent of them joined from state primary schools, the remainder from preps which finish at end of year 6). At 13+ a further 65 boys enter the school, from about 25 different independent prep schools. Around 10-12 boys join in sixth form though few places up for grabs at this stage.

At 11+, entry is via school’s own entrance exam (maths, English and reasoning) plus interview and reference. For 13+ entry, boys must sit the pre-test at 11; from 2020 offers will not depend on common entrance scores. Entrance at sixth form is via personal statement, head teacher’s report, written and online assessment and interview. Boys must also get a good clutch of GCSEs, with a minimum six 9-7 grades including English and maths. The staggered entry at 11 and 13 works well and one teacher made it clear that ‘we’re standing firm with the 13+’.

Head devotes hours to speaking to prospective parents and says he tries ‘to be clear about our ethos to parents. The families we choose need to be on board. It has to be the right fit for their son.’ Warns parents not to ‘force the pace’ but to aim to put their son in an environment where he will be happy. Looking for boys who are academically able, inquisitive and hard-working, but they also need heaps of stamina to keep up here. A willingness to join in and try new things is crucial. ‘Along with appointing staff, it is the most important thing I do,’ says head. He manages to make the selection process as personal as possible and sends out good luck cards to all 1,200 applicants before entrance exams. A characteristically thoughtful gesture.


School is keen to point out that ‘we do not cull anyone post-GCSEs’ and there is no minimum number of GCSEs that internal boys must gain to be allowed to stay into the sixth form. ‘We do talk to parents and pupils openly, however, if a boy is struggling. They might choose to put in place a contingency plan.’

Up to 20 boys head for Oxbridge each year in a wide range of subjects. Head explains, ‘We don’t get obsessed about it. It is certainly not a case of Oxbridge or die.’ Vast majority (95 per cent) tends to head for Russell Group universities. Occasionally, boys venture to the Continent while others choose medical schools, drama schools or conservatoires. Favoured universities include Warwick, Durham and Nottingham. A handful disappears off to Ivy League colleges in the US, often on sporting scholarships. Boys regularly return for career advice long after they leave.

Latest results

In 2021, 97 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 92 per cent A*/A at A level/Pre-U (98 per cent A*-B). In 2019 (the last year when exams took place), 91 per cent 9-7; 79 per cent A*/A at A level/Pre-U.

Teaching and learning

In lower years, all boys study chemistry, biology and physics as separate subjects, computer programming and coding, at least one language out of French, German, Spanish, Russian or Mandarin, and Latin which is compulsory in years 7 and 8. Setting in maths and modern languages from third year.

Currently physics, chemistry, history, philosophy, German and Mandarin (short course) offered at Pre-U. At A level, maths remains perennially popular with regularly 30 per cent taking further maths. As one teacher explained, ‘maths is like a magnet for these boys.’ High uptake of chemistry, physics and economics too. In sixth form, all boys follow an enrichment programme which includes six-week courses on topics including university life and finance, mindfulness and current affairs. School offers its own extended project qualification, with recent essays focusing on quantum gravity and the feasibility of time travel.

School is no slouch on the computer front, with eight different ICT suites and a new coding room. Boys bring in their own iPads and use them in every subject. School council currently hotly debating whether to replace text books with ebooks.

Hamptonians impress regularly in national competitions, including as winners of the UK Maths Trust challenge for two years running, and in winning essay and poetry prizes.

Over a third of staff have been at school for more than a decade. Each year roughly 10 per cent leave, so constant flow of fresh blood, including some sparky graduates who are grabbed straight out of university and are trained on the job. Head acknowledges that ‘we are a springboard school and people want our staff. Any of my senior team could run their own school but I am clinging on to them.’ Approximately 40 per cent female teachers. ‘That’s changed a lot. When the boys leave here they know exactly who is in charge,’ smiles the head. Pupils feel their teachers are friendly. One of the younger boys explained, ‘Homework got the better of me at the beginning. But if you email a teacher to say you are struggling with the work, they are more than happy to go through it the next day. You just need to give them the heads up.’ All the lessons we observed were lively and led by dynamic teachers, many of whom have grammar school backgrounds and like the down-to-earth ethos of the school.

Learning support and SEN

Around 185 pupils have some kind of SEN. Support tends to be small group intervention (currently around 40 such groups) with lunchtime drop-in sessions popular, especially as exams loom. ‘Some of our highest achieving boys are on our learning support register and that’s how it should be,’ states head. Forty pupils are classified as EAL, though none requires additional support.

The arts and extracurricular

With over 50 clubs on offer, including model aviators, debating, and photography, there does seem to be something for every taste. Over 200 boys take part in DofE scheme each year. Adventure society, open to all years, offers a heady mix of kayaking, power-boating, orienteering and sea-cliff climbing. For the more sedentary, chess is thriving: five teams regularly represent the school. One pupil was recently U18 national chess champion. Beekeeping society is the latest club on the list.

Performing arts have taken off in the last decade and serious resources have been funnelled towards both drama and music. The Hammond theatre seats 380 and boasts a hydraulic orchestral pit, hi-tech lighting and sound systems and, one pupil told us, watching plays here ‘feels like being at the West End’. Well-equipped art/DT department, and some stunning artwork lines the corridors, though surprisingly few take these subjects at A level. School produces a steady stream of Arkwright engineering scholars.

Around 400 boys have music lessons, many on more than one instrument. Significant numbers attain grade 8. Two current pupils with diplomas. Plenty of performances from rock, jazz, keyboard to strings and boys have 23 music ensembles to choose from. Celebrated male voice choir, Voices of Lions, enjoys a high profile and performs at Edinburgh Fringe. The lively rendition of Drunken Sailor in school assembly was apparently ‘legendary’. Nine Hampton musicians have received organ scholarships from Oxbridge in recent years.


School is well-known for its excellent sports provision, with at least 17 different sports offered. Over 27 acres of playing fields so all facilities (bar the Millennium boathouse) are on site and head has been known to joke that he would move the Thames if he could so that it could flow closer to the school. All-weather 3G sports ground very well used, including at break time when swarms of boys congregate there and kick balls about with great gusto. ‘It’s good for morale and improves concentration in the classroom,’ states head. One boy told us that ‘my mum loves the 3G grass as I never come home muddy!’ Another told us that he fell in love with Hampton the moment he saw the huge number of pitches stretching into the distance.

Sports practice mostly takes place at lunchtime to enable those travelling home by coach to participate. Boys can choose which sports they want to play and the school excels at most. As always, Hampton is competing at the highest levels in national schools’ competitions and churning out some exceptional sportsmen. Deserves its reputation for being one of the top football, rugby and rowing schools in the country. No hockey offered which one parent found ‘disappointing, as many boys would be keen to play it’. School stresses importance of participation for all, and multiple teams are fielded in all age groups. One mother we spoke to was not so sure, saying that ‘in reality, there may be some who struggle to make a team.’ Starry old boys include Olympic gold medallists Greg and Jonny Searle as well as Surrey and England all-rounder Zafar Ansari.

Head insists that school is not just for those who can perform brilliantly on the games pitches. ‘There are many quiet, effective learners who find their own niche. We want to make sure that all boys get opportunities’. Boys agree that ‘there is no hierarchy of worth. Being in the first XV is not seen as being any better than being in the Voices of Lions.’ School has worked hard to encourage this view and head is adamant that that academic, musical and dramatic successes are now celebrated just as much as sporting triumphs.

Ethos and heritage

The school was set up over 450 years ago thanks to a bequest of property and land by local brewer and businessman, Robert Hammond. Formerly a grammar school (went independent in 1975). Not the most beautiful of schools (though a recent building project has provided new classrooms, science labs and learning support suite, plus some new outside space), but the warmth and friendliness of both staff and pupils makes up for the lack of architectural splendour.

School is outward looking and has developed links in the local community and abroad. Boys help in local primary schools and put on a Christmas party for elderly locals. School provides a Latin class for GCSE pupils from local state schools. Also has an association with a safe haven in Malawi. Hampton is proud of being a ‘beacon school’ for Holocaust education and raises awareness of more recent genocides. Certainly not a school that just looks after its own.

Close ties with neighbouring girls’ school, the Lady Eleanor Holles School. Since the appointment of the current head there, there is ‘an enhanced desire to work collaboratively, especially at sixth form level’. Schools already share much, including drama productions, language exchanges and Oxbridge interview preparation.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

School takes great care to integrate boys who arrive at 13 with the well-established 11+ cohort. Pupils are supported by a pastoral team, including their form tutor and head of year, as well as sixth form mentors, though one parent we spoke to said ‘the lack of a house system and small tutor groups may mean that some boys may slip through the net, no matter what the school tells you.’ Some reports of bullying in the early years, though parents felt this was generally stamped out quickly. Head runs a weekly pre-school drop-in for boys to approach him on any matter they wish and he meets with head boy and his deputies once a fortnight and jokes that ‘they tell me how to run the school’. This head has his ear to the ground.

Head has helped establish Hampton as a national leader in mindfulness. ‘We’re one of the early pioneers of it,’ he says proudly. Believes it is a useful tool for helping these boys deal with ‘the ups and downs of teenage life in this high-achieving setting’. Mindfulness, life issues and well-being/resilience taught for nine weeks as part of the curriculum in fourth year, followed by a top-up session before GCSE study leave begins. One pupil we spoke to admitted that ‘it can be a struggle to balance everything as there is so much going on here, but mindfulness helps.’ Head believes that it is no coincidence that since it has become a mainstream part of the school, ‘the academic results have improved, and the school has become a kinder, gentler and calmer place.’ Head adds, with a smile, ‘If it’s good enough for Jonny Wilkinson…’

Pupils and parents

Diverse mix of boys. Many parents have state school backgrounds and choose it for its unpretentiousness. Increasing numbers of European parents whose sons are bi/trilingual. Many boys walk or cycle to school and older boys can drive, provided they park at a distance. Extensive coach network (run jointly with LEH) attracts families from all over west and southwest London and Surrey. Coach journeys with girls apparently awash with witty banter.

Parents are very involved with the school, often helping with careers advice and fundraising. Head admits the parents can be demanding, but ‘we’re better off than some schools in that respect. We seem to attract families which do not tip over the fine line between aspirational and obsessional.’

Money matters

Fifty-six boys are on full bursaries and another 127 are on substantial bursaries. Plans afoot to provide more such places and this is a matter close to the head’s heart. ‘In terms of the school’s future, to maintain our grounded feel, and with fees going up, we need to make sure that more bursaries are available. We do not have a big endowment so have to do it through fundraising.’ Academic, all-rounder, art, choral and music scholarships carry a remission of up to 25 per cent of fees. ‘If there are financial issues, we do try to help,’ says head.

The last word

Hampton is riding high. Though head is conscious that ‘we can sometimes hide our light under a bushel here,’ they would be justified in shouting their achievements from the rooftops. There is currently a real energy about the school and boys appeared to be genuinely happy.

One of the aims of the school is for Hamptonians to strive ‘for personal success while supporting those around them’. If the boys who showed us around are anything to go by, they are accomplishing their goal admirably. Hampton is producing young men of integrity. No wonder the head is so proud of them.

Please note: Independent schools frequently offer IGCSEs or other qualifications alongside or as an alternative to GCSE. The DfE does not record performance data for these exams so independent school GCSE data is frequently misleading; parents should check the results with the schools.

Who came from where

Who goes where

Special Education Needs

Please contact Hampton School for details of SEN provision. 10-09

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
English as an additional language (EAL)
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class Y
HI - Hearing Impairment
Hospital School
Mental health
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
PD - Physical Disability
PMLD - Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty
SEMH - Social, Emotional and Mental Health
SLCN - Speech, Language and Communication
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
VI - Visual Impairment

Who came from where

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