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  • The King's School in Macclesfield
    Cumberland Street
    Macclesfield
    Cheshire
    SK10 1DA
  • Head: Dr Simon Hyde
  • T 01625 260000
  • F 01625 260022
  • E [email protected]
  • W www.kingsmac.co.uk
  • An independent school for boys and girls aged from 3 to 18.
  • Boarding: No
  • Local authority: Cheshire East
  • Pupils: 1,120; sixth formers: 319
  • Religion: Church of England
  • Fees: £4,935 - £12,990 pa
  • Open days: October, January and April plus weekly tours all year round
  • Review: View The Good Schools Guide Review
  • ISI report: View the ISI report

What 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...

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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 both the strongest possible academic education and amazing opportunities outside the classroom. Our unique curriculum is 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 Kings regularly produces, the eclectic range of musicians, artists and inventors, the 50 clubs and societies Kings provides for all ages and the fact that our explorers have the opportunity to venture right across the globe - now you dont just have a school, you have the start of an amazing life long journey.
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Sports

Equestrian centre or equestrian team - school has own equestrian centre or an equestrian team.

Fencing

What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since 2011, Dr Simon Hyde MA DPhil. Born Macclesfield, old boy, degree in modern history at Oxford, doctorate there too (previously deputy head at Haberdashers' Aske's Boys, Herts, for seven years). Reflective, calm, oozing intelligence and experience, Dr Hyde is clear on the benefits that the proposed September 2020 school move to a new site (with a shift to co-ed) will bring to King’s.

Make no mistake, this move is huge; not just because King’s is uprooting to a brand new location with all the whizz bang pop of everything ‘state of the art’ there is to be had but because the school will be leaving behind its current diamond structure, operating out of two sites (where boys and girls are educated separately at senior school until sixth form) to embrace co-ed on one site. Co-ed can’t have been an easy to sell to current parents (and let’s not even think about the alumni, all very attached to its current, now slightly shabby, flagship building) but it seems the parents have rallied behind it, since only two families opted out.

‘There are real educational benefits’, Dr Hyde stresses, ‘in diversity of opinion in class’ which you get from mixing genders. Having commissioned a research paper on gender and teaching, he is clear there is no convincing evidence of any benefit to educating boys and girls and separately. There are also the practical aspects; right now, clubs are separated into those operating out of the girls’ school and those operating of the boys’ with the unfortunate consequence that jewellery-making is listed on the website for girls, electronics for boys. An erroneous distinction since boys and girls are shipped to and from any clubs that interest them; girls to the boys’ for electronics, the boys to the girls’ for pistol shooting. Even so, perhaps it’s time for these unintentional semantic inferences to be eradicated.

The ethos of King’s teaching, Dr Hyde emphasises, is geared towards ideas being generated by pupils; ‘the most important thing is their ability to question, to originate, to have creativity’. As a historian, he alludes to questions buzzing around a primary source. Asking these questions, he emphasises, is a key transferable skill for life, especially, he adds, when looking at sources on the internet. Quite so.

Parents said that while they tended to see the divisional heads more on a day to day basis, particularly the girls (currently based on a different site), his presence at concerts, performances, matches and knowledge of the pupils was appreciated by all.

Head of junior school since September 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 relishes the prospect of the move to a purpose-built junior school (right now they share a science lab with the senior girls), complete with gleaming age-appropriate spaces and kit, which have perhaps been lacking. 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.

Academic matters

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, Mrs Cookson adds, 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.

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, Mrs Cookson says, 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’, Mrs Cookson says, ‘and we celebrate them coming back’.

In the senior school, results remain strong. Out of the 2018 GCSE results, a third of all grades were 9-8/A*, with 47 per cent per cent 9- 7/A*-A. Some subjects gathered a real swag bag of top marks including biology, chemistry, physics, English Literature, geography and maths.

At A level, in 2018, over 43 per cent of grades A*/A. The three sciences, economics, geography, history and maths fared best for the top grades.

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 seems well catered for or as Dr Hyde says, ‘completely transformed’ (backed up by the 2015 Inspection report which singled it out as ‘an area of excellence’). He says it is 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.

When the co-ed changes kick-in, things will feel different in the classroom and although parents are on board, some gave off a whiff of apprehension, saying mixing was ‘not a bad thing’ or they were ‘slightly nervous’ about the new dynamic. Another, however, was briskly pragmatic, saying it was ‘a more 21st century option for education’.

Games, options, the arts

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.

Mrs Cookson describes sport 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.

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.

There is a huge amount of choice all round but it’s reassuring to hear Mrs Cookson say she does not like children being overloaded and believes ‘keeping children, children’.

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.

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.

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.

Background and atmosphere

King’s Macc, initially a boys’ school, has a 500 year history. The boys’ division current location is currently onits third site, a mish-mash of old and 60s-modern. The flagship building has been there since 1856, though, so the uprooting to a new site has a whiff of the seismic about it. The girls’ site (an old girls’ high school) was acquired in 1993.

As the school is moving, we will restrict our focus here to the corridor vibe; in the junior, it 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, no matter how worn the building, has really engaging displays to arouse intellectual curiosity and pique interest, like Fibonaccis rabbits in maths.

Does the fabric of school feel ready for a facelift? Yes it does, and perhaps this bolder move to a new site in nearby (well off) Prestbury is timely. The Guide will revisit and report back after the move. The plans look swanky and it is hard to think of anything pupils will need, facilities-wise, which won’t be there in all its brand new box-fresh glory.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

In the junior, Mrs Cookson poetically describes pastoral care as ’the golden thread which runs through the school’. She alludes to their behaviour code SCARF (safe, caring, respect and resilience, friendship), 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), Mrs Cookson says she seeks 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, Dr Hyde says, 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 since the arrival of Mrs Cookson; 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).

Entrance

Entry into the infants at 3 is non-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. Dr Hyde stresses Kings’ is ‘not incredibly highly selective’; it’s a broad pool of the national average and above.

Exit

Northern universities popular (Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool) but students some spread all over the UK from Bath to Cardiff. Courses diverse from engineering, sciences, law, archaeology, English, psychology. Two for medicine in 2018.

King’s has always had a consistent history of getting pupils through to Oxbridge yet despite the school adopting the same methodology and despite having similar A level results to other comparable schools in the area, this has recently and bafflingly faltered. One place in 2018. We talked at length with Dr Hyde around the many external reasons why this might be so. Suffice it to say, the school is working on refreshing its tried, tested and previously successful approach and is recognising that it may need to pull something new out of the hat.

Money matters

Not the cheapest, not the most expensive. Sibling discounts available. No plans to increase fees when it moves to its new fandangled home. Plenty of bursaries at year 7 and 16+.

Our view

A terrific academic school with good results and lots of on offer to round character and encourage intellectual curiosity. Its diamond structure goes co-ed in 2020 when it moves to a new site with fantastic facilities.

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 enter a general description of your SEN provision here.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia
Dysgraphia
Dyslexia
Dyspraxia
English as an additional language (EAL)
Genetic
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class
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

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