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Pupils have the kind of easy affability, wit and willingness to talk that eludes many adults. Extra points for asking us questions too (and good questions at that) – happens in far fewer schools than you might think. At lunch (tasty roast gammon), year 7s were the best of company, speaking with enthusiasm about their school and the many opportunities it offers. School attributes increasingly impressive exam results to...

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What the school says...

An education at RGS Worcester is inclusive, challenging and academically stimulating. In the Senior School, we offer an outstanding education for boys and girls aged 11 18 years with an extensive range of opportunities both in their studies and in their co-curricular experience of school life.

Our aim is to deliver excellence in all areas starting with high quality teaching and exceptional pastoral care. RGS Worcester, as one of the oldest schools in the country, combines a sense of history, community and place in the City of Worcester with state of the art facilities, spacious grounds and a determination to see each child achieve their full potential. We are pleased that our pupils attain the qualifications necessary to go on to the leading universities in the UK and abroad, and are particularly proud that they develop the personal qualities of working together, respecting one another and their community and being open and friendly towards others.

While the website should give you a flavour, only a visit can give you a real sense of the welcoming atmosphere, positive relationship between pupils and staff and our purposeful approach. We strongly encourage you to come and see us, either on a formal open day or even on an ordinary school day. You will have the opportunity to speak to staff and, in particular, to meet some of our pupils who look forward to showing you their school and all that they enjoy here.

John Pitt
Headmaster
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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.

Sports

Rowing

Fencing

What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since 2014, John Pitt (40s). Educated at Dulwich College, he studied history at Cambridge and remained in the fens to gain his teaching qualification. Prior to RGS, he topped and tailed his teaching career at Whitgift where he worked his way up to head of sixth form before moving to Portsmouth Grammar as deputy head (academic) then returning to Whitgift for eight years as second master. Conspicuously devoid of the ego and the swagger that can go with the territory in the headmaster jungle, there is something of the top-ranking surgeon about him as he dissects our questions with crisp, methodical perception. ‘Understated’ and ‘humble,’ agree parents – thus it surprised them (not to mention the pupils) all the more when he had a Hugh Grant moment during lockdown (remember the PM’s dance in Love Actually?). ‘Really looks to the future,’ ‘thoughtful and considered,’ we also heard. ‘Always stops for a chat,’ ‘really friendly’ and ‘caring’, say pupils. Teaches year 8 history.

So what’s been top of his in-tray since our last visit? Besides dealing with more pupils (the school has grown 10 per cent in the last two years), he’s upped the ante academically – results are as about as good as they can be without moving into hothouse territory, report parents. Pastoral care – a long-term strength of the school – has become even more of a focus, including during the pandemic. And extra-curricular has increased in both quantity and quality, again including during Covid, with everything from concerts to house competitions and play rehearsals all business as usual. But the real star of the show has been digital learning, we heard. Introduced in 2014, it has developed at such a pace that the school was able to offer online lessons and assessments, as well as regular updates to parents, within 24 hours of the first lockdown. Now an ‘Apple distinguished’ school, RGS is frequently asked to present at conferences to show other schools how things can be done. ‘It was the school’s digital learning programme that swung it for us,’ said one parent – ‘We didn’t think it would be a factor, but when we saw it in action, it blew us away.’

RGS is a family affair – his wife Anna teaches at RGS The Grange, which their youngest child also attends; the older two, both teenagers, are at the senior school. ‘It is not lost on us that Mr Pitt is an RGS parent – probably explains why he’s so quick to see things from our point of view,’ felt one parent. When time allows, he likes sailing and exploring the Malvern Hills; favourite authors include CJ Sansom and Graham Swift.

Entrance

Selective, but not highly. About 120 places up for grabs in year 7, spread across six forms. Two-thirds transfer from the three prep schools – RGS The Grange, RGS Springfield and (most recently) boys from RGS Dodderhill – tests only in VR and NVR for them; external applicants join from around 40 other schools (a 50/50 split across state and independent) and take exams in English, maths and VR. Siblings are encouraged. Occasional places available further up, increasingly snapped up by families escaping London, with a bit of an influx from preps in year 9. Between 20-30 pupils join at sixth form – six grade 6s required at GCSE.

Exit

Up to 20 per cent leaves after GCSEs, usually to one of the local sixth form colleges, swiftly replaced with similar numbers joining. After A levels it's off to Russell Group universities for many. Cardiff, Birmingham, Exeter, Leeds, Manchester and Nottingham all popular. Courses range from art history to aerospace. For some pupils the next step isn't university and school is fine with that, parents confirm that all aspirations are valued and supported. Degree apprenticeships promoted and recent leavers have gained places with eg Ernst & Young and Deloitte. Two to Oxbridge in 2021, plus four medics.

Latest results

In 2021, 70 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 69 per cent A*/A at A level (91 per cent A*-B). In 2019 (the last year when exams took place), 60 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 39 per cent A*/A at A level (71 per cent A*-B).

Teaching and learning

School attributes pupils' increasingly impressive exam results to personalised learning. It’s no gimmick, with support on tap both inside the classroom and via additional clinics. Pupils looked genuinely bemused when we asked what happens if you fall behind: ‘You wouldn’t because the teacher would spot that you needed help,’ said one. Emphasis on value added means it’s not a place where only the brightest shine, but parents of children at the more academic end also report ‘plenty of stretch.’

‘There’s more than one pathway’ could be another school strapline. ‘They don’t value one subject over another any more than they value academics over the extracurricular – my son loves sport and they consider that just as important,’ said a parent. Likewise, while most take 10 GCSEs, they have no problem with some taking eight, nine or perhaps 11, with breadth beyond the core subjects meaning there’s no straitjacket around options. Creative subjects such as art and textiles pull in good numbers and do well, and there’s not one but two DT options – engineering and resistant materials. ‘Pupils can really play to their strengths,’ thought a parent.

‘Have you ever fasted?’ asked the RS teacher in a lively Ramadan themed lesson we dropped into on our tour; meanwhile young geographers were making 3D draining basins to stick in their exercise books. Ipads were out in around two-thirds of the lessons, with Python coding practically a second language to year 8s in ICT. Class sizes average around 22, occasionally creeping up to 25, though all are smaller by GCSEs and in the lower sets (there’s setting in maths from year 7 and maths and sciences from year 9). French, Spanish and German offered on a carousel in the first term of year 7, with pupils choosing two to see them through to the end of year 9, when they are encouraged to take one or even both at GCSE (though we met plenty of students who were doing none). School does marginally better in maths than English on results day – possibly a Worcestershire thing, where the focus on engineering means a lot of parents are maths buffs, reckons head.

Offers 24 A level subjects (most recent addition is psychology), plus a BTec in sport and CTec in business (and possibly soon in engineering) – that focus on more than one pathway again. Pupils either take three A levels or mix and match with the vocational qualifications. Maths and sciences get the biggest take-up and also the biggest smiles on results day. Around a quarter do an EPQ - school hopes to increase numbers, having recently appointed a new head of EPQ.

Award-winning careers department organises the Annual Careers and Higher Education Expo (the largest in Worcestershire), 30 careers lectures and numerous work placements. Targets pupils from year 7 upwards, with initiatives such as the Enterprise and Employment scheme, which runs in conjunction with the University of Worcester Business School.

Learning support and SEN

Once a weak spot, now a strength. ‘The school was brilliant with my dyslexia – I got weekly sessions which really helped,’ said our guide, who was heading off to Nottingham. Head helped set up two learning development centres in previous schools and is adamant not to confine SEN assessments to the lower end of the ability scale. A SENCo leads a team of five SEN specialists across the four schools, who have strong links with the teaching staff. Some 15 per cent benefit from their support over varying periods of time. Group interventions are included in the fees; one-to-ones cost extra. School runs exam clinics from December onwards for GCSE and A level students.

The arts and extracurricular

‘Music was a big draw for us – there are so many opportunities,’ said a parent whose daughter is in a lunchtime choir and wind band. ‘The peris are great – they really encourage the children to get involved in things.’ More range than there used to be, reckoned another, with the list of clubs advertised on the noticeboard covering classical to jazz to modern pop; one pupil recently got her EP into the charts up against Ed Sheeran. Very performance driven – the chamber choir annually sings evensong at Christ Church, Oxford and St Paul’s Cathedral, while the choral concert, featuring all four RGS Worcester schools in Worcester Cathedral, is a centre-piece of the year. Facilities fine but not mind-blowing; head is considering moving music department to another part of the school.

School musicians also make up the band for the annual whole school musical (most recently Les Mis) in the new performing arts centre. ‘Oh, Les Mis!’ mused our guide dreamily as we stood on the plush red carpet looking out to the stage. With seven performances – one for local primary schools – it was, she said, ‘my favourite thing ever in my time at the school.’ Wannabe dramatists can also get stuck into separate junior and senior productions, plus the house competition and year group performances. Billy Elliot is up next. LAMDA on offer. Facilities top notch – even the smaller performance spaces are properly lit, and there’s a well-used green room. We love the sound of the DIY Theatre Company – once a year this group of senior pupils are in charge of the whole shebang for a big production including the casting, acting, directing, marketing, tickets, lighting, the works. ‘Gives them a good idea of what it’s really like in the world of theatre.’

A huge and really quite profound painting of a pupil’s forlorn looking grandad stopped us in our tracks in the art department – ‘it depicts the theme of boredom during lockdown,’ explained the teacher. Oodles of studio space, housing years 7/8 downstairs, middle school upstairs and a sixth form only area on the second floor. Lots of freedom to express yourself. Pottery particularly popular; etching too – we watched year 10s scratching away at their self-portraits. In textiles, pupils were creating mood boards and mind maps, using architecture as an influence. ‘The teacher has completely inspired our daughter to the point where she can’t get enough of her art and textiles,’ said a parent. In DT, we passed a pupil-built green car that goes up to 30mph (the smallest year 7s get to actually drive it), while year 10s were making intricate copper lamps and adjustable spanners under the supervision of – hallelujah to this – their female teacher.

Forty-eight clubs and societies at last count, with every pupil we met belonging to at least one, though it’s not compulsory. Gardening, cooking and even a slot car society; if a pupil suggests a club, the school tries to make it happen. Many, including book club, coding and art, carried on virtually during lockdown. One parent told how she loved ‘watching the cookery sessions – you see all these pupils working away having fun in their different kitchens’. Competition in a wealth of activities, including creative writing, the Christmas card contest and golf, all spurred on by the house system. The debating society’s year culminates with a black-tie dinner (presumably with some discussion over which course should be eaten first). DofE gets good take up, with most doing bronze and around a third reaching gold. There is also CCF, members make use of school's underground rifle range. Over 175 trips a year, including regular sports tours and a higher than usual number of arts trips from Cornwall to New York.

Sport

High calibre and under new dynamic leadership. Main sports are football, hockey, rugby and cricket for the boys (the latter two bringing in the most silverware), while for the girls it’s hockey, netball (for which they are national finalists), cricket and athletics, plus some rugby. Rowing is strong, as are cross-country and fencing. Parents approve of the expectation for every child to represent the school in the younger years – ‘Our daughter, who had never played hockey before coming here, got in the B team and went on all the trips so it’s been a real confidence booster.’ Highlights of the sporting calendar are annual showdowns against rival King’s Worcester at The Superball (netball played at Worcester University’s indoor arena), a rugby clash at Worcester Warriors’ Sixways Stadium and a football match at Sixways Stadium. Wonderfully, these local contests attract up to 6,000 spectators. Niche sports range from table tennis to yoga – some parents felt there could be more but pupils disagree.

Excellent facilities include two sports halls and an Astro on site, plus 50 acres and Astro at nearby The Grange – parents are grateful these have been spared the flooding to which much of the local area falls victim. A new hockey centre is being built in association with Worcester Hockey Club and (subject to planning) there’s an LTA indoor tennis centre on the cards (head wants to make tennis available for all pupils – ‘because it’s so great for fitness, you can play at any level, give it up but always pick it up again and play until you’re 80). Swish fitness suite is packed with modern muscle-building machinery for those in search of six-packs.

Ethos and heritage

Dates back to the seventh century (first written reference to the school is from 1265) and claims to be the sixth oldest school in the world, RGS has two Royal Charters and celebrated its 150th anniversary on its current site in 2018. Non-denominational from the off (unusual for such an old school), it went co-ed in 2002 and merged with neighbouring girls-only Alice Ottley School in 2007. Despite handy location right in the middle of town, parents on tour might feel they are on some kind of National Trust trail, thanks to the manicured grounds and Georgian and Victorian buildings. Inevitably there are also one or two post-war architectural efforts that could be classified as carbuncley. Extension to the art department, for instance, resembles an ugly UFO or a giant lunar capsule from a moon landing, but pleasingly, plans are afoot for refurbishment. We recommend a visit to the ritzy performing arts centre with its magnificent theatre and the library. In the latter a giant, gold-lettered honours board records gratitude to those staff who have served the school for 25 years or more (the school inspires loyalty not just among pupils but staff too). Then there’s Joe’s Café for sixth form coffee and snacks featuring Chesterfield sofas and framed prints on the walls. ‘No swimming pool,’ grumbled a few parents, but there's one only a few minutes' away.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

Has always been pastorally robust, ‘form tutors really know their children and heads of year are good at spotting problems, but it’s more than that – there’s just a touchy-feely vibe to the school,’ said a parent. Two school counsellors are available, though younger pupils we met didn’t seem aware of this. During lockdown, mindfulness sessions and drop in chats around anxiety were also on offer. ‘There can be pressure around exam time, but it comes more from the pupils than the school,’ reckoned a pupil. Lots of integration between year groups – ‘one of my favourite things about the school,’ said more than one pupil, house events are embraced with gusto (‘you get extra points for participation so nobody minds looking stupid!’ laughed one pupil).

Strict? ‘Firm but fair,’ prefers school; ‘No-nonsense,’ say parents. A tiered detention system aims to nip more minor transgressions in the bud, with the head handing out around eight to 10 temporary exclusions a year for more major offences (increasingly these are internet based). No permanent exclusions in recent years. Uniform and haircuts matter but not too much – a quiet reminder usually does the trick. Nobody we spoke to had heard of recent bullying incidents, though school isn’t complacent. We heard how a year 7 pupil was recently unwell on the train and a sixth former scooped him up and brought him to the school nurse, then came back to check on him later in the day – that, say parents, is the RGS way. Inclusive too though currently no society for LGBTQ+ ‘just because pupils haven’t requested one.’ Pupils were impressed that the head asked their views around the Everyone’s Invited website (on which it has not been implicated) before doing an assembly on the subject – ‘He took nothing for granted about it.’

Pupils and parents

Pupils have the kind of easy affability, wit and willingness to talk that eludes many adults. Extra points for asking us questions too (and good questions at that) – happens in far fewer schools than you might think. At lunch (tasty roast gammon), year 7s were the best of company, speaking with enthusiasm about their school and the many opportunities it offers. ‘Friendly’ was a word used by almost every student we met – ‘really does feel like a family,’ said a sixth former.

Less of a country set than at some neighbouring schools – about half are first time buyers and many make considerable sacrifices to send their offspring here. Gives an unpretentious feel to the place. Geographically, families come from further afield than ever – as far as Birmingham, right down to Cheltenham and quite a long way east and west too. From north and south, most pupils come by train, the rest by bus or school bus – school had just added a route from Malvern when we visited. Parents praise the school’s communications, and teachers are trusted to reply to emails rapidly. ‘When you pick up the phone, they remember your name, even in reception – that goes a long way,’ said one. Mixed views about the sense of community – whereas some raved about it, others felt that ‘unless you come from one of the feeder schools it can be harder to get to know people, although the school does try.’

Money matters

Scholarships (academic, music, sport, drama, art and DT and textiles) are available at 11+, 13+ and 16+. Means-tested bursaries of up to 110 per cent.

The last word

Welcoming, unaffected and academically on the up and up, while still valuing the breadth of opportunities outside the classroom. ‘Busy people do well – once you come here, you really get that,’ summed up a pupil. Who wouldn’t it suit? After a lot of chin scratching, pupils and parents we spoke to couldn’t think of anyone.

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

We have limited provision for children with very mild learning disabilities eg dyslexia, dyspraxia. We have a full time SEN teacher who can provide up to one hour per week of out-of-class one to one support. At present we offer a range of Challenges for especially able students eg Maths Challenge, Physics Challenge. There is currently an accelerated maths programme where the top set take their GCSE examination a year early.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
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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