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  • Haberdashers’ Adams
    High Street
    TF10 7BD
  • Head: Mr Gary Hickey
  • T 01952 953810
  • F 01952 386301
  • E [email protected]
  • W
  • A state school for boys aged from 11 to 18.
  • Boarding: Yes
  • Local authority: Telford and Wrekin
  • Pupils: 940; sixth formers: 346 (105 girls)
  • Religion: None
  • Fees: Day free; Boarding: £11,790 - £13,260 pa
  • Review: View The Good Schools Guide Review
  • Ofsted:
    • Latest Overall effectiveness Outstanding 1
      • Outcomes for children and learners Outstanding 1
      • Quality of teaching, learning and assessment Outstanding 1
      • Effectiveness of leadership and management Outstanding 1
    • 1 Full inspection 28th November 2013
  • Previous Ofsted grade: Outstanding on 24th January 2008
  • Ofsted report: View the Ofsted report

What says..

The sixth form pupil who showed us round was a poster for the well-rounded Adams’ student; studying double maths and physics at A level, he had a place at a top university to read music. Vast array of clubs which is quite astounding for the state sector: astronomy, debating, creative writing, raspberry pi robot building, engineering, sculpting, taiko drumming. If the Adams pupil of today likes rugby (and plenty do), it will be rugby plus Chekov ...

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What the school says...

A selective state grammar school for day pupils and boarders, judged outstanding by Ofsted, and located in the market town of Newport, Shropshire. We welcome boys aged 11-18 as day boys or boarders and girls aged 16 - 18 as day girls in our sixth form.

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School associations

State boarding school

State grammar school

What The Good Schools Guide says


Since 2015, Gary Hickey BA (music, Manchester Metropolitan University) MA in education (Birmingham) and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Previously deputy head at Ercall Wood Technology College in Wellington, became deputy head at Haberdashers’ Adams in 2009, head in 2015. Since then, he has set about transforming the outlook and ethos of this boys’ state grammar (also offers boys’ boarding and open to day girls at sixth form) with great vigour and a clear social focus.

Ten years ago, he tells us, Adams was perceived as a closed shop to locals. One parent described it as ‘the Willy Wonka’ factory, iron gates firmly shut. ‘Elitist and inward looking’ is how he himself sums up the ghost of Adams past, a school turning out hearty medics with a penchant for rugby. A lingering perception he has set about dismantling. For starters, he has strengthened school’s links with the diverse community it serves, actively seeking to attract as broad base of pupils as possible. One of his three deputy heads has a specific outreach remit and spends a lot of time in local primary schools. Mentoring is offered and pupils on free school meals have priority entrance, as do local pupils. He has also done his best (he concedes this is a WIP) to make its entrance exam tutor-proof. Open events see parents, whose children are in local state primaries, flooding in. Oiling the wheels for social mobility in this way, it’s no wonder he was invited to 10 Downing Street to discuss the role grammars might play in society.

Another key change has been a greater emphasis on the arts. Mr Hickey alludes to the 46 after-school clubs on offer; you put opportunity on the table, he says, and then it is up to every pupil to take advantage. As a serious professional musician himself, who also directs plays and films (as you do), he feels the arts are crucial in creating well rounded personalities. So if the Adams pupil of today likes rugby (and plenty do), it will be rugby plus Chekov.

We imagine all these changes have caused a ruffled feather or two among the hearty old Novaportans who thought things were just fine the way they were, so it’s only right to stress that these changes are not in any way about eroding Adams’ enriched 400 year heritage. On the contrary, Mr Hickey is, in fact, incredibly proud of the school’s heritage, so much so that in 2018 the school’s name was changed to Haberdashers’ Adams (which - surprise, surprise - also proved a tad controversial with a certain segment of parents). It is a change that reinforces the school’s links with its founder, Alderman William Adams, a haberdasher. The backing and support from the Habs’ brand, he says, runs through the school like a stick of rock. It is part of the Haberdashers’ Adams Federation Trust, which also includes Haberdashers’ Abraham Darby.

Married to Rhian, a teacher, they have three children. A quietly spoken innovator, he is mightily high profile as well as being something of a polymath; invited to give lectures at international ‘Inspiring Leaders’ conferences, garnering a special commendation in the National Teaching Awards and gaining a fellowship from Cambridge University. In his beautiful wooden panelled office, there is a notice on the wall: ‘Follow your heart but take your brain with you’. This sums up both the man and the reinvigorated spirit of the school over which he presides.

Academic matters

Mr Hickey believes in breadth of curriculum; an overview of the results, however, suggests that while results in GCSE English language/ literature and modern languages are strong, the school still really excels in maths and the three sciences, with GCSEs and A levels boasting a swag bag full of A*s (and 8s and 9s) across those subjects year on year. That said, the humanities do pretty well too. At A level in 2019, 46 per cent A*/A and at GCSE 61 per cent of entries were A*-A/9-7.

The sixth form pupil who showed us round was a poster for the well-rounded Adams’ student; studying double maths and physics at A level, he had a place at a top university to read music. Music A level had not been on offer but a few pupils had been keen to take it and so hey presto, it had been sorted. This is not necessarily the norm, however, one parent mentioned her son had not been able to take the (fairly standard) combo of arts subjects he wanted. Yet things are transitioning, the curriculum is being broadened, geology is a recent addition as an A level and drama GCSE is next in line. All pupils have to take two languages from year 7. At present, 98 per cent of pupils take one language at GCSE but only around three per cent go on to study a language at A level. All pupils sit EPQ in sixth form.

One parent grumbled a little about the recent emphasis on languages, his son not having a flair for them, but he was impressed by the support plan offered in the form of booster lessons and mentoring. Performance is tracked carefully at Adams and monitored every six weeks. Every pupil sits down with a mentor-tutor twice a year to discuss progress. Parents say the school works on small weaknesses and although class size is around 30, the teachers are tuned in to nuance. They describe the teaching as outstanding across the board.

Another key change in the school is a greater emphasis on helping pupils with barriers to learning. Mr Hickey is keen on this. One to one is available and there is every effort to identify issues at an early stage. The school uses information from previous schools, listens to the concerns of our pupils and parents, and undertakes its own observations and assessments.

One parent queried the value-add to Adams’ pupils, suggesting a tough entrance exam meant only the academic cream got through and so the crop of stellar results was not surprising. Conversely, another parent said her son failed to get in at 11, got in at 13 as a boarder, didn’t necessarily fit the academic mould but had been catapulted into straight As. Go figure.

Games, options, the arts

Every school says they are about the well-rounded child but, here, this is no empty cliché. Yes, the school excels at science and maths but parents say the drive is about cross fertilising interests, getting students to find other passions.

Alongside the usual character-building DoE and CCF, there is an astounding array of clubs: astronomy, debating, creative writing, raspberry pi robot building, engineering, sculpting, taiko drumming. Clubs start up if a pupil wants it, Mr Hickey says, referring to bridge club with its handful of members.

Sport figures highly – playing fields are down the road - boys can choose from rugby, hockey, football, cricket, athletics, badminton and cross-country. A swimming pool (now with roof) is an added bonus. Sixth form girls have hockey, netball, rounders and athletics. Athletics and cross country are strong, as is the recently introduced dance option.

Lots of trips; recently Washington, charity trips to Africa and sport tours to South Africa, not to mention a music tour of Australia. Likewise, heaps of competitions, such as the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Schools Analyst Competition, Young Enterprise, Maths Feast…it goes on. Mr Hickey has also kick started a rich array of speakers on world affairs, topics like, ‘what’s the difference between a refugee and a migrant?’, all presented like university lectures.

The house system means lots of competitions, small to large scale. Parents enthused about the house music, where participation levels were very high and the full spectrum of opportunity available, including choirs, swing bands, saxophone group, and guitar groups.

A greater emphasis on drama now within the school. One or two school productions happen per year, most recently Cabaret and Guys and Dolls.

Responsibility in the final year comes in fairly traditional form – team captains, house captains and head boy and head girl. Lots of opportunity to experiment, too, the lower sixth had developed an AGS radio station.


The school is one of nine state boarding grammars in the country. There are around 100 boarders, of whom 25 per cent are international students. Boarders can go home at weekends but some choose not to, to take advantage of trips to Alton Towers, treasure hunts or archery competitions. There are themed events, such as the circus when magicians and jugglers came. A wilderness weekend saw them camping out and skinning rabbits. Two houses, Longford Hall for years 7 to 10 and Beaumaris for years 11 to 13.

Diving down an off-track road and seeing a Georgian mansion at the end (Longford Hall) seemed more Mr Darcy than state grammar. Overlooking vast playing fields, it took our breath away. It has a welcoming entrance (likewise the house master was warm and cheery) very decent rooms, charming sash windows, many with great views. Boys are bussed in and out each day (five minute journey). Dorms are 3-5 boys, bunk beds until years 9 and 10. The configuration of pupils tends to stay the same but boys can request a move if they feel the dynamic isn’t working. Lovely TV room which, with its long billowy curtains and high ceiling, reinforced the stately home air. Mobile phones are allowed till 9pm. In the spring/ summer evenings, the boys play outside on the vast playing fields after school, with chance to let off steam, then tea and prep. Parents very happy with the communication and the way in which school deals with any issues. One mother said she felt listened to and spoke glowingly how the school had eased her child’s initial home sickness.

Senior boys board a couple of minutes away from the school and while Beaumaris is a modern building, it is also a wonder to behold. Chairs, beanbags, cushions in vibrant jewel colours, a huge graffiti mural on entering saying ‘senior’. The kitchen – hold the dogs – is a replica of an American diner with all the Juke Box 1950 trimmings, great attention to detail. The house mother exuded warmth and a realistic understanding of what makes teenage boys tick. (Put it this way, those boys know not to leave mess in the kitchen and understand how to use a washing machine.) Rooms are single, double or triple, all en suite and very roomy. Great games room and every effort made to integrate the new arrivals. Paint balling is a typical ice breaker. Lots of theme nights, sushi nights, Halloween party (even a Valentines’ night – clearly just a crafty excuse for a jolly but the boys looked mortified when it was mentioned).

Mentoring system in place and everything seemed super organised. Older pupils can go out into Newport which, boasting agricultural University Harper Adams, has a student feel.

Background and atmosphere

The school was founded in 1656 by Alderman William Adams. Within, it has a traditional vibe, corridor displays were varied, some departments opting for huge glossy photos, others for more modest subject-related poster displays. It is a mish mash of the new (the sixth form centre was completed in 2013) and the historical. While there are some aspects in need of funding – the sports pavilion – others are laden with charm. The main library, where the school was started originally, is dripping with heritage, vast black and white photos of previous heads on the back wall.

Science labs are nice and dapper, music department newly minted. Performance spaces adequate. A general sense of focused industriousness as we walked about. Lots of quiet study places for students. It’s a team-driven school, the huge poster showing all the staff is in alphabetical, not hierarchical, order and in a nice quirky touch has mug shots of the school dogs.

Ex Dragon’s Den Judge Nick Jenkins is an old boy, so too the current leader of the labour party, Jeremy Corbyn. The latter, not being a fan of selective education nor his school days, was invited by Mr Hickey to see the many changes to the school. The invite was never taken up but the story made it onto national TV news. Mr Hickey says pupils especially love listening to old boy, Radzi Chinyanganya (ex-Blue Peter and Winter Olympics’ presenter), talk about his time at school.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

Pastoral care is centred round the house system (Clive, Darwin, Talbot or Webb). Parents said this fostered a great sense of belonging and was a buffer zone between the leadership team and the pupils. The pupil showing us round was a tad more low key about it, saying that like anything else the blend of people in your house was a matter of chance.

One parent, whose son took a while to settle into the school, spoke enthusiastically of the ‘bespoke pastoral programme’ the school had assembled, structuring it around ex-curricular activities. His son went from not wanting to go to school to absolutely loving every day. It wasn’t so much the immediate success of the plan, the parent told us, more the fact that they all worked together and would have carried on working together until a good solution had been forged.

Alongside all this, there is a respecting and valuing diversity programme. Or as Mr Hickey niftily puts the latter ‘challenging the rugby ethos’.

Disciplinary matters or a perceived whiff of bullying are dealt with quickly. One parent told how her son had been sent home after a misdemeanour for an afternoon of cooling off and had been dealt with brilliantly.

In the sixth form the ratio of boys to girls is roughly 2:1. This would not suit every girl and in the past – perhaps when the school had a different vibe - some girls apparently found it was not for them. It is worth re-emphasising that Mr Hickey is laying down a very different sort of culture within the school now. One parent told us their daughter loved it, felt the teaching was better than her previous (very good) all-girls school and her confidence had grown enormously, so much that she was now able to do public performances in music where previously she had felt inhibited.

Pupils and parents

Social mix is broadening and 60 per cent of pupils, the head estimates, have two working parents. Mr Hickey’s initiatives have only been going since 2015 so it will take a little while for parents to feel there is a true cross section of society but it is getting there. All parents enthused about how much their sons loved it, some children making the voyage from initial uncertainty to a life-defining loyalty by GSCE stage.

The boys we spoke to – across all years at school - seemed down to earth, friendly, enthusiastic and without arrogance.


Priority is given to those on a pupil premium. The school has introduced an ‘attendance area’ (catchment area) and priority is now given to boys who live locally - although there is a possibility that this may expand to whole of Telford and Wrekin Borough from September 2020 - watch this space. In 2017, pupils actually came from around 40 different schools.

Hugely over-subscribed; 1000 sit the exam for a 100 places. One of those state grammars where parents might be tempted to fake ID or pretend a distant cousin is really a younger brother to get a place. Beware. Stringent scrutiny is applied. No one makes it through the Adams ID-detector, even with a cunning plan and a fake moustache.

The entrance exam, according to a pupil, has a science/maths bias and Mr Hickey agrees with this but says the test is being reviewed to make it more creative.

External candidates, including girls, may enter at sixth form (application form and reference from previous school). (Five GCSEs at grade 7 required and at least a grade 7 in their chosen A level subject).


Most stay on to sixth form (17 per cent left after GCSEs in 2019). In 2019, eight to Oxbridge and 12 medics. Leavers go to universities all over the UK, though Newcastle is very popular, followed by Birmingham, Leicester and Manchester. A smattering go on to study arts and humanities, but most opt for science or business: biology, bio-chemistry, engineering courses, economics, maths.

Money matters

Boarding is a fraction of the cost of the independent sector and the accommodation great.

Our view

A wonderful state grammar with stellar academic standards and a multitude of enrichment activities on offer to create real depth of character. Boarding is incredible for the price.

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

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Interpreting catchment maps

The maps show in colour where the pupils at a school came from*. Red = most pupils to Blue = fewest.

Where the map is not coloured we have no record in the previous three years of any pupils being admitted from that location based on the options chosen.

For help and explanation of our catchment maps see: Catchment maps explained

Further reading

If there are more applicants to a school than it has places for, who gets in is determined by which applicants best fulfil the admissions criteria.

Admissions criteria are often complicated, and may change from year to year. The best source of information is usually the relevant local authority website, but once you have set your sights on a school it is a good idea to ask them how they see things panning out for the year that you are interested in.

Many schools admit children based on distance from the school or a fixed catchment area. For such schools, the cut-off distance will vary from year to year, especially if the school give priority to siblings, and the pattern will be of a central core with outliers (who will mostly be siblings). Schools that admit on the basis of academic or religious selection will have a much more scattered pattern.

*The coloured areas outlined in black are Census Output Areas. These are made up of a group of neighbouring postcodes, which accounts for their odd shapes. These provide an indication, but not a precise map, of the school’s catchment: always refer to local authority and school websites for precise information.

The 'hotter' the colour the more children have been admitted.

Children get into the school from here:

most years
quite often
sometimes, but not in this year

Who came from where

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