Skip to main content

What says..

Academically the right buttons are being pressed, but although results across the board are strong, ‘it doesn’t feel like a hothouse,’ approve parents, and there is an inherent disregard for league tables. The arts, maths, sciences and languages stand out, but the results of...

Read review »

What the school says...

The School is a caring and nurturing school, with a real sense of warmth and community. Woodbridge focuses on providing an education in which academic results are highly important, but ultimately can only be achieved by innovative approaches to teaching and learning, excellent extra-curricular provision, outstanding pastoral care, and a particular emphasis on the personal development of its pupils.

The central aim of a Woodbridge education is to help equip our students with the qualifications, personal attributes and characteristics that they will need to thrive in a rapidly changing world.
...Read more

Do you know this school?

The schools we choose, and what we say about them, are founded on parents’ views. If you know this school, please share your views with us.

Please login to post a comment.

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

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

Fencing

Shooting

Sailing

What The Good Schools Guide says

Head

Since January 2020, after a period as acting head, Shona Norman. Attended Wisbech Grammar School in Cambridgeshire, studied English lit at London University and PGCE at Cambridge before joining Woodbridge as a newly qualified teacher in 2002, and has worked her way up through the ranks. Roles as housemistress, EPQ co-ordinator, mental health first aid instructor, deputy head (pastoral) and senior deputy have all been taken in her stride, as has the recent completion of a masters in Educational Leadership and School Improvement at Cambridge. Students say she’s an inspirational leader and outstanding teacher; parents are ‘delighted’. ‘She is experienced, well-supported by the staff, kind and compassionate, while being firm in her decision-making,’ says one. 'She really cares for her students and staff team,’ enthuses another.

‘The wellbeing of each child is at the heart of everything we do at Woodbridge, at all times,’ she confirms, and although new to headship when the pandemic hit, under her guidance the school responded sensitively, minimising disruption. ‘The usual timetable was delivered live via Teams at both the prep and the senior school and we also ensured that the co-curricular programme of music, drama, sport and chess continued – through the use of much imagination and ingenuity.’ Required to steer the ship through unprecedented choppy waters having only just been appointed as head, she is grateful to have been well established at Woodbridge already. ‘Knowing the community was essential,’ she says. ‘We all worked together in our different areas to ensure that school, in its new form, could continue. As the world seemed so uncertain, I took great comfort and reassurance knowing that our school would get through it together.’

Married to Michael who is in the Royal Marines, she ‘devours’ books and loves going to the theatre when she is able. She is also passionate about wildlife and the environment and feels fortunate to have the River Deben on her doorstep.

Entrance

All candidates invited to a taster day and private meeting with the head. Entrance test, together with a report from present school, and interview at 11+, 12+, 13+ or 14+. Two-thirds of intake at 11 transfer from the prep, the rest from local state and private schools. About three-quarters of those tested are accepted. Entry to the sixth form is based on an interview, test and GCSE predicted grades.

Exit

Few leave after GCSEs. Great majority leave sixth form for university – Edinburgh, York, Newcastle, Oxford Brookes and Reading currently popular, as are sciences, modern languages, English and business and finance courses. Four to Oxbridge in 2020.

Latest results

In 2020, 68 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 75 per cent A*-B at A level. In 2019 (the last year when exams took place), 58 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 75 per cent A*-B at A level.

Teaching and learning

Academically the right buttons are being pressed, but although results across the board are strong, ‘it doesn’t feel like a hothouse,’ approve parents, and there is an inherent disregard for league tables. The arts, maths, sciences and languages stand out, but the results of middle-range ability pupils reflect solid achievement – always pleasing. Pupils are banded from year 7 and setted in certain subjects, including maths. Classes around 20. All take French in year 7, adding Latin and Spanish or Mandarin in year 8; at least one modern language to GCSE, with Mandarin and Japanese optional extras and classics including Greek available at GCSE and in the sixth form. Teachers are lauded by parents as ‘highly qualified and experienced’.

Learning support and SEN

Around 80 pupils have mild learning difficulties; several full-time teachers offer support individually and in groups. The emphasis is on keeping pupils fully integrated into the mainstream classes. Strong EAL provision for overseas pupils. This is a school that works for all abilities.

The arts and extracurricular

Music regarded as mainstream. Half the school learns one or more instruments and singing is cool. A close association with Aldeburgh and Snape means masterclasses, courses and recitals take place in these inspiring surroundings. Proliferation of choirs, ensembles, orchestras and bands. Drama also wildly popular with eight plays and shows performed annually in the impressive Seckford Theatre, as well as student performances at the Edinburgh Fringe. Dance increasingly popular. DofE and successful CCF, which has its own facilities in the grounds. Pupils spend periods of up to three weeks at linked schools and the school’s international programme provides visits and exchanges throughout Europe, Russia, China and Japan.

Sport

Impressive pitches – including a new floodlit astro for hockey – and courts, plus a sports hall housed in an Eden Project-style Dome, which has plenty of space for several classes to be active together. Indeed, sport is for all here and everyone has the opportunity to play competitively in the school teams, often trouncing the opposition. The Elite Sports programme is devised to encourage the most talented pupils, many of whom catch the selector’s eye at county and international levels, and there are dedicated coaches for hockey (parents would welcome similar investment in rugby and athletics). Cross country running is a real strength with Woodbridge representing England at the World Championships in 2020. The school also has its own equestrian team and reaches the national finals every year. Friday afternoon is timetabled for the Seckford Scheme, an extraordinary range of non-academic activities in which the whole school (staff included) joins. All interests and tastes are encouraged. School has its own chess international master. Running club is strong (the school is a key supporter of the Woodbridge 10K road race and also sponsors the youth and mini sections of Woodbridge Rugby Club). Rowing and sailing on the nearby river Deben.

Boarders

Although some from the UK, boarders mostly from overseas – representing 17 different countries including Spain, Russia, Germany, Nigeria, Turkey, Thailand, China and Hong Kong. All are fully integrated into the school – and as they are so few in number, they have a close relationship with the boarding houseparents in ‘School House’, which celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2020 and is situated at the heart of the senior school campus, with views of the valley and chapel. Boarders are free to visit the town after school and at weekends when excursions to London and Cambridge, for example, are laid on alongside outings to parties, paintballing, the cinema etc. English language top-ups available.

Ethos and heritage

Founded in the 17th century, the school is part of the Seckford Foundation and has occupied its current site in the town since the 19th century. The extensive grounds are on a hilly plot, dotted with a collection of buildings of various vintages, from the Victorian to the strikingly contemporary Seckford Theatre and sixth form centre. Top-level all-weather astro pitch recently installed and there is a five-year plan to add further facilities. Fully co-ed for 40 years, there is a palpably studious atmosphere in the classrooms, library and many spaces for independent study. Time wasting is frowned upon and every moment not in class is filled with sports and activities. ‘Pupils can have a crack at everything going – there is a niche for everyone,’ approves a parent. Pupils themselves are friendly and polite – teachers, if anything, even more so. Unstuffy relations all round, and the staff give praiseworthy loyal service.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

‘One of the school’s key values is “kindness to others and to self”, which permeates all that we do,’ says head. ‘The students themselves reinforce this through societies and clubs, such as MUN and Pupil Support.’ This commitment does not go unnoticed and parents praise pastoral care as ‘excellent’. Says one, ‘Every member of the team seems happy and supportive of the pupils, including the catering team, admin support team and grounds staff.’ All pastoral staff are mental health trained with a focus upon the individual as central to the pupil experience as their academic studies. ‘During the pandemic, tutors called pupils individually to check on them, as well as meeting as a tutor group,’ report appreciative parents.
Vertical tutoring system works well – years 7 and 8 are kept together and separate from the older years; after that, years 9 to 13 – day pupils and boarders – are mixed for tutor groups. ‘They get to know older and younger pupils and gain an appreciation of different stages of school life,’ recognise parents. Also leadership opportunities for sixth formers. Few discipline problems.

Communication with parents is taken very seriously. As well as the usual parents’ consultations, staff are available on a day-to-day basis via telephone or email.

Pupils and parents

Pupils are ‘bright, friendly and supportive of one another,’ says a parent, who also notes that ‘all-rounders do well’. Drawn largely from professional East Anglian families, many have a media background (Aldeburgh, BT close by), but a fleet of buses brings pupils from as far afield as Norfolk, Felixstowe and Colchester. School is very popular in the town and many parents have moved out from London to the Suffolk riverside to take advantage. New pupils and parents integrate well and are made to feel welcome. International students attend for long or short periods and ginger up what would otherwise be a very English school.

Money matters

Academic scholarships and means-tested bursaries available, but competitive. Music, sport, chess, drama, all-round and art scholarships also available.

The last word

A good all-round ‘country school in the town’, where happy pupils of all abilities do well academically and throw themselves into an exceptionally wide-ranging co-curricular programme for what is, largely, a day school.

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

Pupils who have specific learning difficulties are given support both inside and outside lessons by qualified and experienced learning support teachers.

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 Y
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

Who came from where


Subscribe for instant access to in-depth reviews:

30,000 Independent, state and special schools in our parent-friendly interactive directory
 Instant access to in-depth UK school reviews
 Honest, opinionated and fearless independent reviews of over 1,000 schools
 Independent tutor company reviews

Try before you buy - The Charter School Southwark

The Good Schools Guide subscription

GSG Blog >

The Good Schools Guide newsletter

The Good Schools Guide Newsletter

Educational insight in your inbox. Sign up for our popular newsletters.

The Good Schools Guide manifesto for parents