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Wherever we went we were met with open friendliness, a willingness to chat and ready smiles. There were plenty of moments of quick and enjoyable repartee. A previous visitor remarked, ‘this is one of the few schools where enrichment is genuinely as important as the academic’. In fact they feed on each other. Cookery classes for third year pupils combine the joys of creating delicious food with scientific considerations involving different herbs and spices, temperatures and mixtures. Bags of music...

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What the school says...

King Edward VI High School for Girls offers a number of means tested assisted places as well as academic and music scholarships. Entrance examinations consist of: At 11 - 2x English and 2x Maths, no interview. At 16 - interview. No past papers available. The exams are accessible to all those following National Curriculum work. ...Read more

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Cambridge Pre-U - an alternative to A levels, with all exams at the end of the two-year course.

What The Good Schools Guide says


Since September 2020, Kirsty von Malaisé MA (Cantab) PGCE (Roehampton university) (40s), previously head of Norwich High. Trained as a musician at the Purcell School (was BBC Young Musician of the Year string finalist in 1990) and won a scholarship to the Guildhall, but chose instead to study English at Cambridge and to follow a vocation for teaching rather than performing professionally, though music continues to be central in her life. Head of English in two London state schools then at Francis Holland before moving to Putney High as deputy head.


The examinations are particular to KEHS. At 11+, in October of year 6, three papers (two English, one maths) - no reasoning. Emphasis is on creativity and potential rather than what the candidate has been taught. Applicants might be faced with some creative writing or a poem to elucidate. Occasional places at 12+ and post-GCSE into the sixth form. Winning a place into the sixth form is, as with everything here, more than just a question of grades. There are exams in the relevant subjects, ‘tough but fair’ interviews and consideration of the previous school’s report.


Around 10 per cent leave after GCSEs. KEHS does not offload low performers and remains faithful to its commitment. The school’s integrity is justly rewarded: very, very few drop below a C grade and most go on to a good spread of universities (Nottingham, Birmingham, UCL and Leeds currently popular), generous helpings of Oxbridge (12 in 2020) and medicine and thence to impressive jobs. One off to Harvard in 2020. The variety of university subjects chosen (from fashion design to international relations) is impressive and a tribute to the school’s help and advice, encouraging the girls to pursue their own particular passions.

Latest results

School isn't releasing 2020 results. In 2019 (the last year when exams took place), 93 per cent 9/7 at GCSE: 75 per cent A*/A at A level (95 per cent A*/B).

Teaching and learning

One inspirational teacher – we didn’t meet any who were not obviously passionate and fired up about teaching and, noticeably, not just their own subject – told us there were no cohorts, no clipped wings, no shaping and conscious moulding into a ‘type’. What is required and encouraged is intellectual curiosity: ‘creative living and critical thinking’. ‘Trouthe schal delyvere’ (‘Truth will conquer’): those words of Chaucer appear above an entrance to the school. The great man would have been pleased, as was a recent inspector who wrote: ‘The school has established a practice of probing enquiry and clear investigation in lessons, rather than delivery and acceptance. This has been welcomed by the pupils, who consequently participate eagerly and successfully.’ This we can confirm and very refreshing it is.

‘We take it all in our stride,’ one girl told us without a trace of arrogance or smugness. The atmosphere, the energetic quest for knowledge and discovery is well summed up on the school’s website: ‘The ethos of the school is one whereby we want all girls to develop a love of learning and respect for the life of the intellect that will continue throughout their lives as well as achieving highly in public examinations.’ More important than any of this is the breadth: about 30 per cent of A level candidates do mixed arts and science subjects. The most popular subjects are maths, chemistry and biology followed by history and English. Good results; happy candidates. Everyone studies at least one language and linguists can now add either Italian or Greek ab initio. Years 9s can choose two creative subjects, and year 10 enrichment options range from engineering to food to sports leadership.

The academic facilities are excellent. There are seemingly hundreds of science labs, all impressively kitted out. Wonderful library where the librarian recommends, introduces and discusses with the girls what they have read. Pupils and staff blog tirelessly on a huge variety of subjects: uplifting blogs on how to keep happy; challenging blogs on matters of the intellect. One girl described the blogs as the beating heart of KEHS.

The arts and extracurricular

A previous visitor remarked, ‘this is one of the few schools where enrichment is genuinely as important as the academic’. In fact they feed on each other and the energy generated by both creates a powerful, tangible warmth. The cookery classes for third year pupils, for instance, combine the joys of creating delicious food with scientific considerations involving different herbs and spices, temperatures and mixtures. When we visited, discussions were ranging from developing countries to healthy living, from farming to supermarkets.

Art is extraordinarily good in the bright, open studios. Superb ceramics. Amazing drama, where we saw some wonderfully innovative work involving movement and dance, creativity and imagination, all run by a teacher whose energy and passion would have made a Catherine wheel seem like a jacket potato. KEHS has one of the finest concert halls of any school we have visited: the Ruddock Performing Arts Centre, shared with the boys of King Edward’s School next door. Bags of music, with a tremendous variety of concerts, from smaller intimate lunch times to large, sweepingly impressive symphony concerts. Parents spoke of them with much enthusiasm, even if they didn’t have a child of their own playing.

The sums of money raised for local and international charities, the different workshops run for local primary schools, the visits and the hostings all confirm the responsible and generous position of the school reaching out to its surrounding community.


Sport is prolific with excellent results. Swimming, football, hockey, netball, badminton, fencing, tennis, indoor rowing, snorkelling, gymnastics, on and on goes the list. You name it, it’s available and KEHS girls, as one pupil told us, are up for anything. Tours abroad, including a memorable and all-conquering trip to the Caribbean, are a joyous part of the overall experience.

Wonderfully bright and enthusiastic sports staff, genuinely involved in all round well-being. Moments of activity and physical involvement are balanced with moments of silence, of stillness, ‘de-stressing’: the effect spreads right through the school. The result is that everything - intellectual and academic activities, music and art, friendships and sporting rivalries - all seem to blend into one harmonious whole.

Ethos and heritage

‘What a lot of schools were founded during the brief reign of Edward V1,’ someone said to us the other day. It isn’t quite like that - only King Edward's School for boys was founded by Edward VI - but there are eight schools of King Edward VI in Birmingham, six state and two, including this one, independent. All are part of the same foundation and all bursarial work is carried out jointly. The high school was founded in 1883; it followed King Edward’s School to its present site next door, in fact adjoining, in 1940. Thus, as is often said, both schools have the best of both worlds. The campus is delightful: pleasing red-brick (but not the aggressive shade), with a dignified sense of space. The result is an atmosphere of happy, busy activity: intent but not too intense. Just as the girls felt they could take things in their stride, so the staff seemed happy to stride along with them. One mum told us of the excellent individual help girls could expect from their teachers, at almost any time. Most schools boast of the happy family atmosphere of their establishments. We heard no-one extolling happiness here. No need to: it just is.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

‘It’s all built on trust’, we were told. As a result there is no obvious hierarchy amongst the girls, no prefectorial system, no head girl. But there is an unobtrusive structure of which everyone is aware. It’s based on an awareness of those around you, a shared endeavour and common sense. Girls who had recently arrived spoke appreciatively of the warmth of the welcome they had received and the friendliness of the older girls. Sixth form tutor groups are composed of a mixture of upper and lower sixth. This not only dilutes any stultifying sense of hierarchy, but makes it much easier for new sixth form girls to settle in. The sixth form council meets regularly with the director of sixth form to discuss any suggestions and ideas. When a new sixth form centre was being considered, there was much discussion about where it should go. In the end it was decided to adapt rooms within the main building so as to avoid any feeling of separateness or aloofness. Jolly nice it is, too. The cake looked delicious.

Pupils and parents

Wherever we went we were met with open friendliness, a willingness to chat and ready smiles. There were plenty of moments of quick and enjoyable repartee. They were amusing about the business of sharing buses and transport with the boys at King Edward’s. Both groups come from a wide catchment area: Lichfield, Bromsgrove, Wolverhampton, Solihull etc. A healthy and delightfully friendly ethnic mixture ('we love arguing in religious studies'). Parents, mostly from professional backgrounds, feel involved and ‘part of the community.’

Money matters

‘Currently almost a quarter of girls in the school receive some form of bursary support thanks to funding provided principally by the Foundation but also by alumnae through donations and bequests.’ There are energetic and determined efforts to make the school increasingly accessible financially to a wider range of parents. This is proving successful.

The last word

This is certainly a top academic school but it’s more than that. It’s a community where intellectual lessons are imbibed for life along with emotional and creative experiences; where disappointments are often confronted with courage and triumphs with modest pleasure. And lest this all sounds a bit earnest, it is worth emphasising that we were constantly made aware by lively, cheerful pupils – and staff - that for the most part life at KEHS, Birmingham is a lot of fun.

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

The school selects girls by means of a competetive academic test. The curriculum provides for the needs of those girls, some of whom are exceptionally gifted and are catered for through a variety of curricular and extra curricular, formal and informal opportunities. The teaching staff are chosen as those most likely to meet the needs of academic girls. The turbulent years of adolescence mean girls will often experience emotional highs and lows and staff are committed to and experienced in supporting girls at those times, in the various forms the emotional difficulties might take. 10-09

Who came from where

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