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A traditional school steeped in history, it takes great pride in the 'Rendcomb family'. Not just a marketing strapline, we were told by parents; ‘Rendcomb has an amazing community spirit…an all-round, family inclusive, friendly feel.’ This is an ‘outdoor’ school that makes the most of its setting, with regular events like treasure hunts for the juniors and laser tag days for the boarders. Technology is taken seriously. This forward-thinking department won the ICT Facility Award at the Education Business Awards in 2017 and were shortlisted for…

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What the school says...

Set in an idyllic 230 acre Cotswold estate between Cheltenham and Cirencester, Rendcomb College provides a stimulating, challenging and exciting all-round education. Strong academic results are achieved and there is a full programme of sport, drama and musical opportunities for all to explore. Scholarships are available at 11+, 13+ and at 16+ and bursaries can also be applied for.

Our mission is to develop thoughtful, adventurous and academically ambitious young people who are life-long learners. We aim to prepare them with the character and skills to succeed in the ever-changing world after school. Our pupils have the freedom to experience, explore and enquire about the world around them. We aim to encourage independence and tolerance in a safe, caring community and magnificent natural environment.

Younger children regularly use the large forest school and woodland classroom facilities and outdoor education has been developed throughout the age ranges for team building and leadership training. In addition to the magnificent listed buildings that house the school's classrooms, a deer park, golf course and wilderness area are all available on site.

A new Performing Arts Centre is currently under construction and is due for completion in autumn 2016 ready for the 2016/17 academic year.
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What the parents say...

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Other features

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

Polo

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

Rowing

Fencing

Shooting

Sailing

What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since 2015, Rob Jones, previously deputy head at Shiplake College. Educated at Swansea (economics), Worcester (PGCE) and Buckingham (MEd). After a brief period mixing banking with elite rowing, he became a teacher and has taught economics and business at Canford, Clifton College, King's Worcester and Dauntsey's, as well as coaching rugby and rowing and running boarding houses. Teaches business economics to sixth formers at Rendcomb.

A keen sportsman, parents say he is an excellent head teacher. One explained, ‘When we first met he told us that if there wasn’t a lot of noise and laughter in the corridors there was something wrong…[He] runs a caring, happy, pupil-focused school.’ Another added, ‘He has a compelling vision for the future of the school, with the interests of the students at its heart, and isn’t scared to innovate and modernise.’ Lives in the college grounds with his family.

Head of junior school since 2017 is Gavin Roberts, previously deputy head. Before that he was senior tutor (academic) at Cathedral School, Llandaff, for 11 years. Teaches year 5 English and is ‘warm, down to earth and approachable,’ parents told us. ‘The children absolutely love him to bits; he allows them to be who they are…. There is always a lot of fun when Mr Roberts is around.’ A rugby man, he is a qualified WRU referee. Lives in the village with his wife.

There is a One College approach at Rendcomb, one ethos and one vision for juniors and seniors. The two heads are very much united on this and we get the feeling that this fairly new team are steering Rendcomb College towards a bright future.

Academic matters

In 2017, at A level, 66 per cent A*-B grades, and 43 per cent A*/A grades. At GCSE, 37 per cent A*-A/9-7 and 63 per cent A*-B grades.

Twenty-three A levels offered including a new design and technology option and a travel and tourism BTec. EPQ optional. Consistently strong subjects are the sciences and maths. Oxbridge applicants are supported well with external business experts conducting mock interviews and providing feedback. Bespoke courses for overseas pupils available.

French is taught from nursery along with some Latin and German in the later junior years. French, Spanish and German are the main languages in the senior school. Specialist teachers teach art, music, drama, PE, English and maths from year 3. Talented junior pupils are encouraged to take part in senior school activities. One parent told us, ‘Our son has gone from struggling/being somewhat disenchanted with school to really finding himself. His academic side has picked back up extremely well and he has taken up new hobbies (rock band, film club) and the school has been great at helping him open up and grow.’

Technology is taken seriously. Computers are upgraded every three years, the latest have facial recognition and touch screens. There is a maker-space full of bits and bobs – we saw game consoles under construction and 3D printed prosthetic limbs have been created in the past. There is also a computing laboratory, 3D printer and Oculus Virtual Reality headsets. This forward-thinking department won the ICT Facility Award at the Education Business Awards in 2017 and were shortlisted for the ICT Innovation category for the use of technology across the school’s 230-acre campus. Even the juniors have been crowned Gloucestershire’s Coding Champions and are ranked first place in the Discover Education Coding League Table.

SEND department caters for the whole school. Provides one-to-one support as well as catch up programmes in small groups. Needs include dyslexia, dyscalculia and dyspraxia. Specialist dyslexia teachers teach pupils from 4 to 18. The department has a quiet room. More complex needs are considered on an individual basis.

Games, options, the arts

Not the sportiest of schools. As it is small, teams are mixed ability and often mixed year groups. However, the school ethos is that everyone tries their best and gets the opportunity to represent the school. Outdoor facilities, including the 10-acre sports park known as Top Pitch, are excellent, but parents would like to see indoor facilities to match.

‘Rendcomb is probably not going to be first choice for the highly competitive, sports-mad child,’ we were told, but parents would still like to see more than just the traditional sports on offer. Badminton and basketball fixtures are arranged throughout the year but these are minor sports, offered as clubs. Equestrian club and clay pigeon shooting are offered from year 5. Shooting teams ‘hold their own’ against larger and more experienced schools like Harrow and Eton. An athlete development programme supports pupils competing at county and national levels. Junior pupils have swimming lessons from reception. From year 5, in the summer, the outdoor swimming pool is used.

Forest school is one of the stars of the show at Rendcomb (the other is The Griffin Theatre). The site has been in the grounds for 10 years, run by four fully trained staff and used by everyone. Every week nursery pupils have two sessions and juniors have one afternoon up to year 4. After that it’s an extracurricular option. Nestled amongst the trees they have a fire pit, several dens, rope swings and an eco toilet. Senior pupils have their own dedicated space as part of the outdoor education curriculum.

Art, music and DT are in one building with art studios, textiles and a design technology studio. A small exhibition area at the entrance confirms the standard is high. Upstairs is the music department; plenty of practice rooms and pupils told us they can practice whenever they like. Four concerts a year include both staff and pupils. Around 50 per cent learn an instrument. Plenty of music clubs and particularly talented juniors are welcome to join senior groups.

In 2017, the £3.3m Griffin Theatre opened, the first development in almost 30 years (Godman boarding house in 1989 was the last). An impressive building, it has a 350-seat auditorium plus a dance studio and drama classroom, it will undoubtedly inspire pupils to take part in performing arts. First production was Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, next will be Les Misérables. Past senior productions include Macbeth, Jerusalem and Footloose, whilst the latest junior production was Porridge. All juniors get a part, (even the head), and all year 6s get a speaking part. Next up is Pirates of the Curry Bean.

Classical ballet is offered from 3 years and contemporary dance from 11 years. Royal Academy of Dance and Contemporary Dance Association exams and grading. Stretch and tone classes offered to grade 3 pupils and above. Performance group club encourages pupils to choreograph pieces and enter dance competitions such as the great big British Dance Off and Cheltenham Festival of Performing Arts.

Good range of extracurricular clubs including debating, sailing, dissection, martial arts and gardening. Juniors can opt for mixed year and ability sports or music clubs, knit and stitch, scrabble, or clay pigeon shooting (ammunition is extra). Sixth formers can choose an in-house leadership programme, a buddy scheme or D of E.

Funds for expeditions to places like Patagonia must be fundraised by pupils. Other trips are kept affordable, including a trip to Norway for hiking and trekking, a sports tour to Netherlands, language exchanges and outdoor challenges in the UK. Junior trips include a year 6 outdoor challenge residential, and a biennial French trip for years 5/6. Day trips include Bristol and Cheltenham Literature Festival.

Boarders

From year 7. Around 45 per cent board either on a full, weekly or flexi (up to three nights a week) basis. Only about 10 per cent of years 7 to 9 board, meaning numbers at weekends are low (four to 12 in each house). However, numbers increase in the older years with around 55 per cent of years 10 and 11 boarding and 70 per cent of sixth formers. At weekends there are around 30 to 40 pupils in these houses. Some 75 per cent of boarders are from overseas covering some 14 nationalities. Year 11 students from Germany do short stays.

There are five houses, all on campus. House system is horizontal rather than the traditional vertical. All have common rooms with pianos, table football, projectors, TVs, X-Boxs, private Skype rooms and kitchens (used for cooking as a family at the weekends). We were impressed with the homeliness of the houses; rooms are well looked after and the houseparents are friendly and caring. Gap students help out in the younger boarding houses.

The Old Rectory is a grade II listed building with plenty of character and has been housing year 7-9 boys since 1966. The girls are in Godman. Dorms are a good size, for threes or fours. Phones and such are removed at lights out. Both houses have gardens.

Years 10 and 11 boys are in Lawn House, and the girls are in Stable House. Here, boarders have individual bedrooms with a study space. In the boys' house there is a large media room for quiet study, and in the girls' there is a library, a hobbies room and a gym. Plus two house dogs.

Park House is the mixed sixth form house. Again, all rooms are individual. A short stroll away is Garden House, a cottage in the village. All sixth formers spend two separate weeks here; they budget, shop, cook, wash and get to school on their own as an introduction to university life. Some fare better than others, we were told, but the excitement around this was ubiquitous.

A boarders' committee decides on evening and weekend activities. These include dance or yoga, craft nights, laser tag or climbing on the grounds, shopping and cinema trips, roller discos or canoeing down the River Wye.

Plenty of socialising between boys and girls, and across year groups. Years 10 and 11 have The Barn and sixth formers have a bar, open twice weekly. This is tucked away in a basement with sofa snugs, a snooker room, poolroom and a dance room. Think, no windows, flashing lights, graffiti walls – every teenager's dream; they absolutely love it. No place for parents, but rest assured this is a fully supervised, responsible zone.

Background and atmosphere

Founded in 1920 by Frederick Noel Hamilton Wills as a boys’ school with just 12 pupils; girls were introduced into the sixth form in 1972 and the school became fully co-ed in 1992. The junior school was added in 2000 and the nursery five years later. There are now some 280 seniors and 90 juniors, with around 30 per cent from overseas.

Set within 230 acres of parkland in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds, the school is in, and very much part of, the small village of Rendcomb. Cheltenham and Cirencester are nearby. Within the beautiful grounds lies a deer park, home to over 70 fallow deer and classified as an ‘ancient tree hotspot’ by the Woodland Trust. This is an ‘outdoor’ school that makes the most of its setting, with regular events like treasure hunts for the juniors and laser tag days for the boarders. ‘Our children come home with pink cheeks and muddy trainers and yet still excel in the classroom,’ parents told us.

A traditional school steeped in history, it takes great pride in the 'Rendcomb family'. Not just a marketing strapline, we were told by parents; ‘Rendcomb has an amazing community spirit…an all-round, family inclusive, friendly feel.’ Pupils are often seen chatting sociably with teachers over lunch, and ‘the children all mix and play together regardless of age.’

The main house is stunning inside and out. The staircase has stained glass windows that beautifully illustrate the Aesop's fables. The school recently held a concert here (yes, this is no ordinary stairwell), taking full advantage of the acoustics and backdrop. Heating and maintaining a building like this with its huge windows and stone corridors must be challenging and the school reflects this; it is practical and far from flashy.

The grand dining hall is used solely for dining. Huge floor to ceiling windows and ornate ceilings give a sense of tradition and old-fashioned splendour. Next door is a large reading room and beyond that is a library with a 150 year history; it doesn’t get more authentic than that.

Juniors have the luxury of sharing the senior facilities. Junior school is attached to the main building and classrooms are based around a quad with the nursery (‘excellent,’ reported parents) tucked snugly in the middle. Rooms are large, overlooking the outdoor swimming pool or gardens, and class sizes are small (16 max). Large art, design and technology classroom is upstairs next to a modern and rather grown up science lab. Daily assemblies are run by ‘the very funny’ head of juniors. Achievements are celebrated and parents happily join too. ‘When they have been awarded a distinction they go up and tell the school and the parents why they were awarded it... a clever way to get used to public speaking at a very young age!’

Boarders and day pupils share the same boarding houses. All pupils register at their houses to 8am daily. Most day pupils are still on-site at 4pm and, for a small fee, can stay on for evening activities or supper. No lessons on Saturdays just sports fixtures.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

Excellent pastoral care. ‘During some challenging health issues…the children now view the school as a part of their extended family,’ one mother told us. Another added that the nurturing environment 'brings out the best in each pupil regardless of their abilities or likes/dislikes. It instils confidence, encourages and builds an all round sense of respect for fellow pupils and staff.’

Pastoral care is further reinforced by the family ethos, including big sister and big brother events when younger pupils are shown around the houses. This sense of ‘looking after each other’ is not exclusive to these events, we were told. ‘I am really impressed with how many students across all years know each other and support one another,’ parents said.

Services once a week in the listed St Peter's Church on site are conducted by the school chaplain, Reverend Bob Edy, an old Rendcombian with many a story to tell.

Pupils and parents

Day pupils commute from Gloucester, Swindon, Stroud, and as far as Oxford. ‘The parent community is really friendly, refreshingly unpretentious and richly diverse,’ one new parent confirmed. Another added, ‘The teachers and students have very strong relationships and the parents are welcomed into the community as well.‘ Communication with parents has improved under the current head.

Inclusive too. ‘With its Noel Wills ethos of offering an inclusive education - even to a child who would not otherwise be able of afford it - we felt much less intimidated and genuinely welcomed and valued in the Rendcomb family,’ one parent confided. In 2015, the school reduced sixth form day pupil fees and numbers have since doubled.

‘We love the way the school not only provides the children with academics but teaches them manners, confidence and to be all round great children.’ Based on the pupils we met, this is definitely true. Interests and passions are encouraged rather than stifled, resulting in a real mix of children here. Rules are of course in place, but this isn’t a strict school in the traditional sense. More of a place where pupils will be ‘steered by conversation’ as a parent would at home.

Smart blue uniform with a touch of red. Sixth formers wear business dress.

Entrance

Nursery from 3. For junior school entry, taster days plus assessments in English, maths and verbal/non verbal reasoning, plus school reports.

For senior school entry, entrance exam and interview with the head. Automatic entrance for juniors, but all pupils must sit the exam for assessment purposes. Entrance day tests include exam in the morning followed by an outdoor education session so children can be observed working in teams in a relaxed, fun environment. Overnight stays available.

Transition is seamless from junior to senior school. ‘New pupils settle in quickly and are not judged by whether they are good at maths, music or throwing a ball,’ parents told us.

Sixth form entry is based on GCSE results, an interview with the head and school reports.

Exit

Around 80 per cent of juniors go on to senior school, others to Pate's Grammar, Marling School, Cotswold School and Stroud High.

Around 75 per cent stay on to sixth form with 90 per cent then going onto university. Destinations include Exeter, Bath, London and Nottingham. One to Oxbridge in 2017.

Notable Old Rendcombians include Issy Bailey, Paralympian (shooting); Jonathan Suffolk, technical director at the National Theatre; Richard Dunwoody, jockey; David Tyler, chairman of Sainsbury’s.

Money matters

Scholarships are awarded at 7+, 11+, 13+ and 16+. Noel Wills Scholarship and the Rendcomb Scholarship are offered at 11+.

Our view

A small family-focused school where everyone knows everyone. One parent summed it by saying, ‘When it comes to kids, nothing top trumps the development of character, and on this metric I haven't seen a school in the area that comes close to Rendcomb.’ Set in amazing grounds, this outdoorsy school is traditional with some modern twists - an impressive performing arts centre and a forward-thinking ICT department. Not for competitively sporty types, but Rendcomb is a bit of find if you’re looking for a school that nurtures individuals.

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

In keeping with our philosophy of catering for the individual, we provide individual tuition and support for children with mild learning difficulties. Rendcomb College will accept pupils who have specific learning difficulties provided it is confident that the pupil can access and cope with the demands of the mainstream curriculum as delivered by subject teachers. The Learning Support Department aims to provide specialist tuition in reading, spelling, maths and study skills for any pupil in the school who is in need of extra teaching at any stage in their school career. Support and guidance is given to pupils with specific learning difficulties who do not need extra tuition so that they are able to achieve their full potential.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Aspergers
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia Y
Dysgraphia Y
Dyslexia Y
Dyspraxia Y
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 Y
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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