Skip to main content
  • King Edward VI High School for Girls
    Edgbaston Park Road
    Birmingham
    B15 2UB
  • Head: Kirsty von Malaisé
  • T 01214 721834
  • F 01214 713808
  • E [email protected]
  • W www.kehs.org.uk/
  • An independent school for girls aged from 11 to 18.
  • Boarding: No
  • Local authority: Birmingham
  • Pupils: 666; sixth formers: 192
  • Religion: Non-denominational
  • Fees: £16,614 pa
  • Open days: Sixth form open evening: October; Whole school open morning: June
  • Review: View The Good Schools Guide Review
  • ISI report: View the ISI report

What says..

No clipped wings, no setting, no moulding, no ‘types'. Nurturing intellectual curiosity is the name of the game, with even greater efforts to encourage pupil participation in lessons since Covid (as with all schools, there has been inevitable Zoom fatigue and some hiding behind facemasks). Enrichment and academics seen as two sides of the same coin. The cookery classes for younger years, for instance, combine the joys of culinary skills with…

Read review »

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

Do you know this school?

The schools we choose, and what we say about them, are founded on parents’ views. If you know this school, please share your views with us.

Please login to post a comment.

Curricula

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

Principal

Since September 2020, Kirsty von Malaisé (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 an offer of English at Cambridge proved too hard to resist. While freelancing as a musician afterwards, she taught on the side to make ends meet. ‘I loved it and realised my vocation.’ Following her PGCE (Roehampton), she worked as head of English in two state schools (Holland Park School and St Marylebone CofE School) then at Francis Holland before moving to Putney High as deputy head.

Unpretentious and straight talking, she has so far focused on three main areas - updating IT (eg putting webcams in all classrooms for blending learning) and enrichment (previously a bit ad hoc but now all year groups study a philosophy, politics and economics course, and there’s also wellbeing, cookery, sports leadership and more general leadership on curriculum). But it’s her plans to widen the curriculum (eg adding Mandarin, computing and DT) that have won the most hearts and minds. ‘The curriculum has been too narrow for too long,’ declared a parent, while pupils told us of having to pick GCSE subjects they weren’t keen on ‘because there just aren’t enough options.’ ‘She’s bringing the school into the 21st century at last!’ raved a parent.

Her office may be centrally located but some parents and pupils wonder if she spends too much time there. ‘Could be more present,’ ‘You don’t see her around the school much – more of a behind-the-scenes head’ etc. But in her defence, she joined during Covid and teaches weekly poetry classes to all year 7s (‘a nice part of the English course to hive off and means I get to know all the girls’) as well as running a weekly break time club for older girls to churn over a newspaper article (‘their economic and political understanding is seriously impressive’).

Lives locally with her son who is coming up for secondary school age. Music still central to her life – she coaches a chamber group and is currently doing a master's in musicology. Also loves walking – ‘any excuse to get out.’

Entrance

At 11+, in October of year 6, candidates sit an exam specific to KEHS with three papers (two English, one maths) - no reasoning. Emphasis is on creativity and potential rather than what they’ve been taught, though most are tutored regardless. ‘Papers are double, and sometimes triple, scrutinised – we take an incredibly personalised look,’ claims head – the idea being to spot interesting approaches, formulas etc even if the answer is wrong. Occasional places at 12+. Around 60 apply for the 10-20 sixth form places – applicants need a 6 in maths and a 7 in English, plus 7s in any subjects they want to study at A level (8s for some subjects).

Exit

Around 10 per cent leave after GCSEs. Good spread of universities – Durham, ICL, King’s College London, LSE, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, UCL, Exeter, Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford and Warwick currently popular. Generous helpings of Oxbridge (five in 2023) and one to the US. Decent numbers study medicine and dentistry (a staggering 28 in 2023), the rest into a wide range of subjects; English, economics and geography also on trend. Careers advice ‘better than it was,’ said a parent – now includes networking events in year 9, careers talks in year 11 and careers week.

Latest results

In 2023, 97 per cent 9-7 at GCSE: 78 per cent A*/A at A level (95 per cent A*-B) In 2019 (the last pre-pandemic results), 93 per cent 9-7 at GCSE: 75 per cent A*/A at A level (95 per cent A*-B).

Teaching and learning

No clipped wings, no setting, no moulding, no ‘types'. Nurturing intellectual curiosity is the name of the game, with even greater efforts to encourage pupil participation in lessons since Covid (as with all schools, there has been inevitable Zoom fatigue and some hiding behind face masks). We watched sixth formers quizzing their teacher about beta particles in a physics lab and year 11s discussing (with a few blushing cheeks) the difference between sex organs and cells in biology. ‘Prove it!’ came the friendly demand from an English teacher to his year 9 class on To Kill a Mocking Bird – ‘I agree with you but I want the evidence!’ Chaucer’s words of ‘Trouthe schal delyvere’ (‘Truth will conquer’) appear above an entrance to the school and we’re confident the great man himself would approve of what lies within.

Investigation of personal interests is par for the course. Year 7s pick projects for a Show and Tell type presentation – parents are invited to come in and ask them questions about it. And the Athena Programme means a week off homework so girls across all year groups can explore a chosen topic through reading or a visit to a gallery, museum etc. Pupils and staff blog and podcast tirelessly on a huge variety of subjects - our tour guide was involved in a physics related one called Spherical Cow and told us about another that viewed life from the perspective of a disabled pupil at the school. There’s an KEHS poet laureate and many departments have links with relative departments in neighbouring Birmingham University.

Four forms, max of 24 in each (occasionally 26), are split into five classes for English, maths and sometimes one or two other subjects. Drops to 16 max at A level but most are much smaller. High expectations for homework, say pupils – ‘it’s quite a jump from primary school,’ remarked one wide-eyed girl. Courses in leadership and Mandarin recently introduced for year 8s, and politics, philosophy and economics for Year 10s.

Big on languages. French from year 7, then in year 8 girls pick two from French, German, Spanish and Mandarin with a final decision on at least one in year 10, when Ancient Greek is also introduced. Latin from year 7, also available at GCSE. ‘They’re good at making languages fun – we were learning about French slang through text speak on our phones last week,’ grinned a pupil.

Consistently ranked top of the national league tables at both A level and GCSE, the school faces no weak spots on results day. PE, DT and computing GCSEs recently introduced. Drama, geography, history and RS all popular at this stage while maths, chemistry, biology, history, English and drama get the lion’s share of pupils at A level. All sixth formers kick off with four A levels because, says head, ‘its’ too easy to make the wrong choices and that can hamstring you at university entrance.’ Around 40 per cent drop to three at the end of year 12. Two-thirds take EPQ.

‘Teachers are the star of the show,’ summed up a parent about what makes learning special here, ‘they figure out what makes a girl tick and really work with that.’ Pupils agree – ‘Even the ones I don’t like so much teach well!’ said one, though another felt a few teachers are too ‘test oriented.’

Learning support and SEN

Though SEN isn’t common (‘a bit of dyslexia, a degree of autism’), we were surprised to find the school has only just employed a designated SENDCo (previously, it was covered by one of the senior leadership team). Still, say parents, they’ve made up for lost time with tailored, targeted individual educational programmes. ‘Lots of liaising with parents and staff so nobody gets missed,’ said one, who told us her daughter had received support for motivation and extra sessions with sixth formers at lunchtimes, both of which had ‘helped tremendously’. Recent staff training day on dealing with autism in the classroom proved a big hit. One-to-ones at no extra cost, with school at pains to point out that many who access these are top performers.

The arts and extracurricular

Enrichment and academics seen as two sides of the same coin. The cookery classes for younger years, for instance, combine the joys of culinary skills with scientific considerations involving different herbs and spices, temperatures and mixtures. And practically every sixth former we met runs a club or society – from crochet club to physics soc. All pupils we met belong to at least two – everything from sports, music and drama through to criminology club, Model UN and debating, though we heard a few grumbles from girls struggling to find enough time to wolf down their lunch and get to their lunchtime club in time.

Outstanding musicianship. Many could hold their own in a music school. Opportunities to perform at least twice weekly from smaller intimate lunchtimes to large, sweepingly impressive symphony affairs, the latter taking part in the enviable concert hall, the Ruddock Performing Arts Centre, shared with the boys at King Edward’s School next door (with whom many of the performances are joint). Parents effusive even if they don’t have a child of their own playing, though one reckoned music is ‘a bit elitist,’ while a younger pupil felt aggrieved that girls were judged on their musical ability via grades alone - ‘I learn an instrument, I just don’t do grades,’ she shrugged.

Director of drama is a former puppeteer for Disney – means costumes, props and design matter as much as the acting, say pupils. Must be the first school we’ve seen which exhibits previous performance costumes on mannequins – made for a fun game of ‘guess the play’ with our tour guides. As part of the sixth formers’ Friday enrichment afternoons, many choose to be stage crew for the next production (there are separate annual junior and senior plays, both joint with the boys’ school). Tweets of pupils’ bleeding faces were common during lockdowns thanks to an online theatre make-up course.

Art department champing at the bit to move from temporary prefab to grand new premises – just months away, said head of art with fingers firmly crossed. Known as something of a visionary in KEHS, he is credited with inspiring classroom creativity – ‘art should be personal and interpretive, not formulaic,’ he told us. Indeed, for a project on food, one girl was busy illustrating diseases of obesity and diabetes, while another took the geopolitical stance of food inequality and another posed the question of whether it’s morally appropriate to eat animals. Wide range of media used - ceramics, sculpture, engraving, lino print, drawing, painting, latex moulding, origami etc. ‘My daughter’s standard of art has rocketed,’ said a parent. Still, numbers are small – around 16 per year for GCSE and 10 for A level.

Sixth formers teach languages, swimming and maths in local primary school pupils. DofE bronze for all, with decent numbers for silver and gold. Outdoors programme also includes walking and cycling trips. Some girls were on Spanish trip to Barcelona when we visited, with a German exchange coming up later that month. One of our tour guides was off to London to see Life of Pi with the drama department the following week. Not that you’d know all this from the corridor displays of trips, some of which date back six years or more - ‘partly Covid, partly that they can get quite lazy with updating noticeboards,’ felt a pupil.

Sport

Emphasis on participation, with over 80 per cent of pupils in teams. ‘You don’t have to but if you want to represent the school, you can,’ said a pupil. Fixtures most weekends, mainly in netball and hockey – they do well in both. School wants to grow cricket – big smiles from pupils we met on this front. Swimming, football, badminton, fencing, tennis, indoor rowing, snorkelling, gymnastics also available - on and on goes the list. ‘They’re up for you making new recommendations too,’ commented a girl. Some pupils are on national pathways – currently in swimming, archery, ultimate frisbee and badminton: ‘tends to be individual pursuits at the elite end,’ says head. Older years can do lifeguarding, gym and aerobics sessions (school has own gym and also use the university’s next door) and even long walks to clear the head. Bouncy, enthusiastic sports staff certainly seem genuinely involved in all-round wellbeing.

Ethos and heritage

Edward VI did a heck of a lot of founding of schools during his brief reign, if local school names are anything to go by. It isn’t quite like that - only King Edward's School for boys was founded by Edward VI - but there are 12 (soon to be 13) schools of King Edward VI in Birmingham, six state grammars, four (soon to be five) state comprehensives and two, including this one, independent. All are part of the same foundation and all bursarial work is carried out jointly. This one was founded in 1883, moving with King Edward’s School to its current site in the late 1930s, but although the two schools are adjoined, we didn’t spot a single boy during our visit. ‘The schools could do more together,’ say pupils – but plans are afoot, including some joint PSHE and possibly some joint teaching though head is adamant about keeping STEM distinct.

Super campus with pleasing red-brick and a dignified sense of space. Performing arts centre and sports centre are the newest additions; new design centre to follow soon. We lost count of the science labs, all impressively kitted out and brought together by Sherlock Bones, the school skeleton who is dressed up for Halloween and Christmas. Large silent library and smaller one for scholarly chat; the librarian recommends, introduces and discusses with the girls what they have read. Girls helped decide where sixth form centre should go, deciding on a central spot within the main building. Jolly nice it is too. Don’t miss the classics department if you do the tour - pupils have been painting murals featuring the likes of Hector and Achilles in the corridors for over 20 years. Huge food studies area. Overall vibe is busy, happy and studious with lots of cheerful corridor chinwagging between lessons following the bone shaking bell. No complaints about food – our mushroom stroganoff was pleasant enough.

Notable former students include Reeta Chakrabarti (journalist and newsreader), Winifred Cullis CBE (physiologist and academic and the first woman to hold a professorial chair at a medical school), Lindsay Duncan CBE (actress), Natalie Haynes (writer, broadcaster, classicist and comedian), Sally Jones (the first woman sports presenter on BBC Breakfast News and former real tennis world champion), Dr Kate Pretty CBE (archaeologist and academic), Susie Rogers MBE (paralympic swimmer) and Lauren Zhang (BBC Young Musician of the Year 2018).

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

‘It’s all built on trust,’ says head. Bags of mutual respect between staff and girls though some teachers are inevitably ‘stricter than others,’ according to the younger girls (who are also more likely to report the sweating of small stuff - ‘We had our earrings measured recently,’ said one). The lack of obvious hierarchy among pupils (no prefectorial system, no head girl etc) also sets the tone, though girls told us they’re looking forward to some ‘friendly competition’ with the re-introduction of houses after a 30-year hiatus. Current head has bolstered the pastoral team since Covid (‘it needed it,’ said a parent) – support is both proactive (lots of visiting speakers, for example, and an openness about the realities of self-harm, eating disorders, low level anxiety etc) and reactive including triaging where necessary. Two part-time counsellors, though only the much older girls we met were aware of this; also a matron and ‘very part-time’ doctor.

‘It isn’t a hothouse but of course there is pressure and girls need to be able to cope with that,’ caution parents. Transition is praised - ‘She found it hard for the first six months and then one day something just clicked and she settled – the school were brilliant throughout that time,’ said a mother. Others speak of the ‘warmth’ and ‘family feel,’ and say the school is good on sorting out friendship fallouts – ‘they seem to know when to stand back and when to wade in.’ Strong student voice – pupils recently persuaded the school to swap the ‘arbitrary’ 1-4 exam marking system ‘because even 94 per cent could land you a 2 or 3’ with actual percentages.

Tolerance, respect and inclusivity is the norm, with a good healthy ethnic mix and LGBTQ+ society. Everyone’s Invited issues not shied away from, with one girl telling us that a group of them asked for more joint discussions with the boys’ school following the Sarah Everard case – ‘that was on the Friday and it happened on the Monday so we felt really listened to.’

Pupils and parents

Academics (mainly from University of Birmingham) and medics aplenty among the parent cohort; the rest a real mixture. By all accounts, a hardworking, grounded lot. Wide catchment area: Bromsgrove, Wolverhampton, Solihull, Walsall, Sutton etc. There’s a shared school bus system with boys’ school (handy as many of the girls have brothers there) and easy access to public transport (the university station is a five minute walk away). Good luck if you drive, say parents – ‘drop off and pick up is a nightmare.’ Pupils are polite, good conversationalists and wholesome – rolled up skirts and mascara a rarity.

Money matters

Fees competitive for the area. Almost a quarter of girls on some form of bursary support (up to 100 per cent) provided by the Foundation or alumnae via donations and bequests. Academic and music scholarships on entry, with 40 per cent fee remittance at top end though 15-20 per cent more common. Music and sport scholarships in sixth form.

The last word

Forget rote learning and spoon feeding - this top academic school teaches via intellectual debate, with enrichment a given. Strong on creative experiences too, though we’d like to see more take-up of these subjects at GCSE and A level. For academically inclined girls, it must feel like coming home. No wonder there’s such a strong sense of community and loyalty among pupils.

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


Subscribe for instant access to in-depth reviews:

☑ 30,000 Independent, state and special schools in our parent-friendly interactive directory
☑ Instant access to in-depth UK school reviews
☑ Honest, opinionated and fearless independent reviews of over 1,000 schools
☑ Independent tutor company reviews

Try before you buy - The Charter School Southwark

Buy Now

GSG Blog >

The Good Schools Guide newsletter

Educational insight in your inbox. Sign up for our popular newsletters.