The King's School in Macclesfield A GSG School Review
What is included in the The King's School in Macclesfield review?
Academic results & facilities
Pastoral care and inclusivity
Fees, scholarships & bursary information
Information about the head
Teaching and learning approaches
Entrance & admissions information
Exit information - where do the children go next?
Learning support & SEN information
Arts, sports and extracurricular
Pupils & parents (what are they really like?)
What The Good Schools Guide says..
In a geography lesson pupils were playing a board game, Tectonic Plates, the aim being to get to the centre of the earth. A casual glance at a school display of Twitter contributions suggested social media is being used as a force for good, with historical debates around ‘why Edward IV gained the crown in 1461’. A huge range of junior school clubs on offer from construction to cookery. Boys enjoy a spot of yoga and dance...Read more
- The King's School in Macclesfield
- Head: Mr Jason Slack
- T 01625 260000
- F 01625 260022
- E [email protected]
- W www.kingsmac.co.uk/
- The King's School in Macclesfield is an independent school for boys and girls aged from 3 to 18 that does not offer boarding. The King's School in Macclesfield fees are £12,420 - £15,315pa. Want to know more? Read our unbiased review on The King's School in Macclesfield here.
- Boarding: No
- Local authority: Cheshire East
- Pupils: 1,330; sixth formers: 187
- Religion: Church of England
- Fees: £12,420 - £15,315 pa
- Open days: See website
- Review: View The Good Schools Guide Review
- ISI report: View the ISI report
What the school says...
The Kings School in Macclesfield offers great academic results and superb extra-curricular opportunities. From the ages of 3 to 18, Kings offers every child a unique curriculum designed to develop independent learners, inquisitive minds and well-rounded individuals with the skills and attributes to succeed long after they leave school.
Our results are outstanding. Add the string of international sportsmen and women King's regularly produces, the eclectic range of musicians, artists and inventors, the 100 clubs and societies King's provides for all ages and the fact that our explorers have the opportunity to venture right across the globe - now you don't just have a school, you have the start of an amazing life long journey. ...Read more
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All-through school (for example 3-18 years). - An all-through school covers junior and senior education. It may start at 3 or 4, or later, and continue through to 16 or 18. Some all-through schools set exams at 11 or 13 that pupils must pass to move on.
Choir school - substantial scholarships and bursaries usually available for choristers.
Equestrian centre or equestrian team - school has own equestrian centre or an equestrian team.
What The Good Schools Guide says
Head of Foundation
Since September 2020, Jason Slack (40s), studied physics at Durham followed by a PGCE. He went through university on an accountancy scholarship programme and took a year out working for a big firm before coming to teaching which he felt was always going to be much more enjoyable. Previously head of King Henry VIII School in Coventry, before that deputy head of Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Wakefield.
Despite starting his headship amid the challenges of Covid, Mr Slack’s enthusiasm for his new post - ‘I am absolutely loving it’ - is palpable. True, he can’t meet the parents in person as he would like to and pupils are confined to Covid bubbles, but he seemingly takes these challenges in his stride. In fact he’s no stranger to the odd baptism of fire, he started his previous headship plunged into the nerve wracking task of ensuring a group of pupils, stranded overseas by the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud, got safely home.
His commencement as head also coincides with tectonic shifts of another kind. The biggest change in King’s 500-year history is underway as the school moves from its much-loved flagship building in Macclesfield to the sparkling 60-million, 80-acre site in Cheshire’s Golden triangle, along with the transition to co-ed from its previous diamond structure. Indeed, it was the energy and bold vision of all this change which drew Mr Slack to the post, ‘There is a sense of ambition and aspiration about the place,’ he says proudly, ‘it has aimed high’.
The move certainly seems to be paying off with record numbers now sitting the exam for year 7 places (3:1). If there were any parental qualms about the shift to co-ed, these seem to have been quelled. Either that or the cloud of Covid has shrouded them. It probably helps that Mr Slack is a passionate believer in co-education. Having experienced both sides (his post as deputy head was in a boys’ school) he is clear that ‘in terms of the holistic side of a child’s development, co-education is absolutely the right thing to do’.
Parents, we imagine, will also be applauding his push towards a greater academic focus. Although King’s has an illustrious academic heritage, its intake has been slightly broader in recent years, something which now looks set to tighten: there will be greater selectivity and a raised entrance exam threshold. While the range of university destinations for King’s has always been dominated by Russell group, Oxbridge places have recently been harder to come by. While all independent schools are grappling with this challenge (Oxbridge state school quotas inevitably have an impact), this is nevertheless an area on which he will be focusing. Overall, though, he is keen for King’s to maintain its emphasis on development of pupil learning habits (the school is working towards various awards relating to this); nurturing questioning, resilience and a love of learning.
Mr Slack enthuses about the new site’s outdoor classrooms and also the exhibition area, referring in passing to a ‘phenomenal’ butterfly display of art work in the junior division. He describes the stunning views through vast windows in both senior and junior, emphasising that the school will be drawing on its location and environment as much as possible. It all sounds wonderful and we look forward to judging for ourselves very soon.
Once Covid restrictions are lifted he hopes to build greater links with Macclesfield and open the school’s facilities to community use. Forging greater cooperation between school, pupils and home is also high on the agenda. For now he has to rely on an armoury of online tools to communicate with parents but he is very much looking forward to those informal occasions where he can just wander round at a school play and chat. We imagine he excels at parent chat. His warmth and Northern candour certainly make for an easy conversation; when he says that he is ‘happier coming to school now than I have ever been’ it really does ring true.
In his downtime – not that he has much – he plays the violin (rather well, he used to be a member of the Warwickshire Symphony Orchestra) and tries to get outside as much possible, hiking across the Peak District. His family are his key priority he says, with one daughter now at university, the other about to move to King’s…having ‘downtime’ is more of a dream than reality though.
Head of junior school since 2018 is Rachel Cookson, modern languages degree (Southbank University) and PGCE (primary and early years), previously head of lower school at Queen's Chester. A forcefield of vivacity and the empathetic, she is immediately likeable so it’s no surprise to hear parents say that ‘her positivity comes through all the time to the children.’
Although the infant and junior school has always been co-ed, Mrs Cookson is relishing the recent move to a purpose-built junior school complete with gleaming age-appropriate spaces and kit. She is also keen to tap into the senior school expertise across areas like philosophy and expand the languages offering, adding Japanese to the current mix of French, German and Spanish, as well as ramp up the drama offering, starting LAMDA and using the senior school theatre.
Entry into the pre-school at 3 is non-selective; from reception onwards entry to all year groups is selective. No entrance exam for junior pupils into the senior; assessed places are offered based on internal assessments during year 5 and year 6. Scholarships for the senior school available to King’s juniors. Around 95 per cent go on to the senior (those who don’t usually due to relocation/change in fiscal circs).
Fifty per cent enter the senior from outside via the entrance exam. School stresses that Kings’ is ‘not incredibly highly selective’; it’s a broad pool of the national average and above. Sixth form applicants need a minimum of two grade 7s or above, plus four grade 6s or above. Grade 7s are desirable in subjects to be studied at A level.
Twenty per cent leaves after GCSEs. Durham, Newcastle, Loughborough, Bristol, Bath, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield, Warwick, York, Aberdeen, Glasgow, UCL and Imperial recently popular. Courses diverse, including engineering, sciences, law, archaeology, English, psychology. Two to Oxbridge in 2023, 62 per cent to Russell Group and five medics. One student headed to the University of Arizona to study aerospace engineering.
In 2023, 65 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 48 per cent A*/A at A level (80 per cent A*-B). In 2019 (the last pre-pandemic results), 61 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 41 per cent A*/A at A level (71 per cent A*-B).
Teaching and learning
Small class sizes at infant and junior. Broad curriculum kicks off in infants: alongside English and maths, ICT, music, PE, swimming, French, science and DT. Use of cross-curricular themes and specialist teachers across subjects like music and French.
The curriculum is described as Learning Challenge, an enquiry based approach where teachers incentivise pupils via an enquiry question, such as why were the Romans rich? After flushing out what pupils know, they set them loose exploring what they don’t know. This might involve a trip to the Roman centre in Chester, looking at poetry, having a Roman banquet (neatly tying up lots of different learning styles from auditory to kinaesthetic). Being child-led, adds school, may mean a discussion on Monet could lead (as happened recently) to questions about Brexit or the protests in France (hmmm….with teachers probably wondering what quagmire they’ve got themselves into). The enrichment weeks are a lovely addition to the curriculum, just recently ‘magical maths’ where architects and engineers (frequently parents) popped in to show maths in practical action.
Every child is assessed and tracked throughout the year in English and maths (and every two years in non-verbal reasoning). Year 2 pupils take an advisory assessment in maths, English and reasoning in preparation for the junior years.
In the senior school, results remain strong. Some GCSE subjects gathered a real swag bag of top marks including biology, chemistry, physics, English Literature, geography and maths. The three sciences, economics, geography, history and maths fared best for the top grades at A level.
A broad curriculum kicks off in year 7, 18 subjects including critical thinking. From year 8, pupils are in sets for maths and English and choose two languages (from French, German, Latin and Spanish).
Lessons seemed innovative; in a geography lesson pupils were playing a board game, Tectonic Plates, the aim being to get to the centre of the earth. A casual glance at a school display of Twitter contributions suggested social media is being used as a force for good with historical debates around ‘why Edward IV gained the crown in 1461’.
Pupils typically select 10 GCSE courses from a broad choice. At A level, options remain wide with psychology, Latin, government and politics and PE on the menu. In year 12, students also take an IGCSE in global perspectives (we looked in on a lesson and it sounded interesting, talking to pupils across the world by Skype) and in year 13 around half take EPQ, with the arts award, sports leadership, Japanese, theatre studies or other options.
At A level, in the co-ed sixth form, there seems to be no gender splits in subject choices, the exception being computer science, which is boy-heavy. The parents we spoke to seemed happy with the teaching. They said if they raised an issue, it was dealt with immediately.
SEN department has been completely transformed (backed up by the 2015 Inspection report which singled it out as ‘an area of excellence’). Far more targeted than previously with a scientific approach towards supporting students: short spells of intervention, followed by an assessment to see if it has worked.
Learning support and SEN
Pupils with learning differences are well supported at King’s; the new site has a Learning Support Centre with three full- time staff and six assistants. The head sees the department as central to the School’s academic ethos and is full of praise for its personalised approach (sometimes taking pupils out of class or having an assistant in class).
The school looks out for any SEN issues towards the end of year 1, by which point assessments are under way. Early intervention is key, says school, but it might involve ‘lots of little interventions’, like extra reading or sessions of Numicon in maths (experimenting with different ways of approaching a subject).
Very able children will have stretch activities and the Challenge & Enrichment programme for talented pupils opens up opportunities in inter-school events. ‘It’s all out in the open with everyone’, says school, ‘and we celebrate them coming back’.
The arts and extracurricular
A huge range of junior school clubs on offer from construction to cookery. Boys enjoy a spot of yoga and dance, girls play alongside boys at football (though year 5 girls now have their own team).
Music and drama is important; lots of choirs, orchestras and groups from Woodwind Wonders to String Stars and opportunities to perform. Billy the Bus was a recent infant play. There is a year 4 panto, Jack and Beanstalk recently, and Joseph a recent year 6 musical.
School trips are frequent; it might be to Manchester Museum or to York but also wild cards, such as the Jaguar Land Rover facility. Just recently, pupils found themselves pressing apples on BBC’s Countryfile.
Likewise at senior level, there is a vast array of societies – 100 to be precise – nicely eclectic, Greek club, taekwondo, fantasy gaming club. Book café in the library seemed pretty great with a speaker’s corner. So too the zoo club, advertising ‘Pythagoras the python’. Initiative seems to be rewarded; one parent spoke of her child starting up a school newspaper off his own back.
Music runs the scales from barbershop to King's Cambiata plus orchestras; choirs tour from St Paul’s to the Vatican. Big scale drama productions include the whole school, recently Oliver!, next Blood Brothers (played in part by two female students). One parent summed them up as ‘outstanding.’
The house system means a wide range of competitive events, including poetry competitions, University Challenge and football competitions.
Trips all over, from Iceland and New York recently (geography) to sports tours to South Africa. Curricular enrichment at sixth form includes some really interesting speakers, neuroscience experts, literary professors on translating poetry, a crime writing masterclass and a robotics expert.
There is a huge amount of choice all round but it’s reassuring that the school says it does not like children being overloaded and believes ‘keeping children, children’.
Sport described as ‘the spine of the school’ and provided you want to do it (ahem, that’s the child, not parent) you can compete at A, B and C team levels. Lots of competitive fixtures; the school maintains a strong connection with the state sector as well as independent. Boys have regular football, rugby and cricket fixtures; girls currently have netball, hockey and rounders (though there is a girls’ football club). All the usual sport suspects run throughout the year; cross-country, swimming, athletics and trampolining. One parent did suggest the sport would benefit from greater coaching expertise though.
Sport is high profile and with a high degree of trophy-grabbing success, all the main ones of course plus added extras like basketball. At senior level, there is a girls’ football club and, with one of the teachers once women’s cricket captain for Cheshire, there is a girls’ cricket team.
Cheerleading is popular – the school’s team is the national UK team and ranked third in the world. We confess to being a little sceptical here (thinking pom-poms and Sandie from Grease) but no, it’s about acrobatics, high-skill gymnastics. One of the largest DofE centres in the country, with 300 children taking part. Generally a lot of outdoor pursuits and orienteering from North Wales to the Lakes.
A school equestrian squad, competes in eventing, show jumping and dressage as part of the National Schools’ Equestrian Association (NSEA) national inter-school events. Sailing on local Redesmere lake is a boon and an option for year 10 upwards during games lessons.
Ethos and heritage
King’s Macc, initially a boys’ school, has a 500 year history. The whole school is now based on a new £60m campus on the edge of Macclesfield. The rural campus opened in September 2020 and means that all pupils are now taught co-educationally. The brand new site means all facilities can be used by both junior and senior divisions. Everything certainly sounds top notch; the performance spaces are in a different league to the old building (the shabbiness of which was becoming more difficult to ignore) and on a basic level, the sheer size alone allows for a multiplicity of extra-curricular sport options plus outdoor learning (two outdoor classrooms and forest school). For the juniors, this means lessons based outdoors and for the seniors, lots of Duke of Edinburgh activities
The corridor vibe (which always speaks volumes about the school) in the the junior is a blaze of colour designed to arouse curiosity from interpretations of Picasso’s Blue Period, Greek vases and questions: ‘How do natural and man made changes affect the world around us?’.
The senior is similarly adorned; every single corridor has really engaging displays to arouse intellectual curiosity and pique interest, like Fibonacci rabbits in maths.
Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline
Inevitably, going co-ed has meant restructuring the pastoral side. There is now a ‘Pastoral Leadership Group’ which includes the principals of sixth form, senior and infant and junior divisions and co-ordinates the pastoral provision of the school.one overall pastoral head. Happily it continues to maintain one of its unique facets: ‘Pupil Managers’ – described by the head as ‘sympathetic, empathetic individuals’ who are there to provide an extra layer of support, perhaps organisation help or with friendship issues or difficulties at home.
The school's behaviour code SCARF (safe, caring, respect and resilience, friendship) is all tied up with a merit system. We noticed each classroom had post-it notes from children logging their Scarf moments from happy birthday being sung to someone lending them a ruler. Lots of well-being initiatives and a week devoted to the topic. Heaps of pupil responsibilities available from being an ambassador to the school council.
When bullying occurs (as it does in every school), school says they seek to get to the bottom of the problem with the bully as much as the bullied, so it’s chats with both parents and pupils. Pastoral records are kept, concerns logged and this travels with the pupil to the senior school.
A clear pastoral structure prevails in the senior school, which has recently been bolstered by some dedicated appointments in this area. There is an on-site nurse, online reporting facility and 30 staff have been trained as ‘mental health first aiders’. They ‘see’ all issues and are geared up for them. One parent said they ‘notice if my child has not had a good lunch or their homework is off key’. Another felt her child, who had a few extra health issues, was really well cared for, the school going out of its way to make accommodations. Another parent said when her child had briefly felt bullied, staff ‘responded exceptionally well’ (sanctions were sensitive and proportional).
All parents spoke highly of the award and merit systems which they felt really worked in motivating. Old school style discipline prevails, with ‘Sir’ and 'Miss' and stand ups on entering the room. One parent felt the discipline might be a little tighter on the boys than the girls.
Pupils and parents
Parents mostly dual-income, loyal to the school and trusting (like everywhere, we hear it has a small component of hyper-competitive ones).
Comms between school and parents in the juniors seem to have upped a gear recently; parents say the weekly bulletin is now ‘vibrant and up to date’ (apparently it used to be factual list of fixtures’).
At senior level, one parent said she would value another parents’ evening each year (there is currently only one), but the online ‘show my homework’ facility was very good.
Pupils come from a wide radius: Macclesfield, Knutsford, Congleton, even as far as Disley or the Peak District. Looking at a classroom collective of pupils, there was an air of pleasing dishevelment (you don’t stay pristine when working hard).
Not the cheapest, not the most expensive. Sibling discounts available. No increase to fees when it moves to its new fandangled home. Plenty of bursaries at year 7 and 16+.
The last word
A terrific academic school with good results and lots of on offer to round character and encourage intellectual curiosity. Has been fully co-ed since September 2020 when it moved to a new campus with fantastic facilities.
Overall school performance (for comparison or review only)
Results by exam and subject
Special Education Needs
Please enter a general description of your SEN provision here.
|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|
|HI - Hearing Impairment|
|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
|Altrincham Preparatory School||2023||3|
|Greenbank Preparatory School||2022|
|Hale Preparatory School||2023||2||1|
|Lady Barn House School||2023||1|
|The Ryleys School||2023||4||1|
|Wilmslow Preparatory School||2023||3|
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