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Kensington School

Kensington is an all-through day school with 260 pupils offering the English national curriculum, GCSE and A level.

  • Kensington School
    Carrer dels Cavallers 31-33
    Pedralbes
    08034 Barcelona
    Spain
  • T +34 93 203 5457
  • E admin@kensingt…nschoolbcn.com
  • W www.kensingtonschoolbcn.com
  • Lower School Ages: 3-11
  • Lower School Sexes: Co-ed
  • Middle School Ages: 12-15
  • Middle School Sexes: Co-ed
  • Senior School Ages: 16-18
  • Senior School Sexes: Co-ed
  • Total School Numbers: 260 boys and girls
  • Teaching Language: English
  • SEN: SEN considered case by case
  • Boarding: Not available
  • Uniform: Yes, apart from sixth form
  • School Year: September - June: three terms
  • Annual Fees: Half day EYFS: 5.810,00; junior school and full day EYFS: 12.525,00; senior school: 16.635,00
  • Fee Information: One-time charge per child paid on registration: junior school and EYFS: 4.175,00; senior school: 5.545,00; trips, uniform, optional school lunch, some extracurricular activities
  • Religion: Non-denominational
  • Memberships: BISA
  • State/Independent: Independent: privately owned (individual/corporation)

Curricula:

  • A levels
  • GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education)
  • IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education)
  • National Curriculum for England Used In Conjunction With an Adapted Curriculum

Accreditations/Inspections:

  • National Association of British Schools in Spain (NABSS)

No school can pay to be in
The Good Schools Guide International. Period.

What The Good Schools Guide International says

Headmaster

Since 2021, Duncan Giles BSc MA PGCE. Articulate, affable and walking in the steps of his father who founded the school in 1966. Duncan attended Kensington himself and seemed destined to return one day. Clearly continuing his father’s legacy - traditional curriculum, strong exam results and high teacher retention - but has put his own mark on by enhancing the day to day experience. He tells us that if visitors walk out of the school gates thinking 'that was a bit special' he will have done his job. From what we can see, he has.

A history graduate with a love of people (‘people making decisions equals history’), his own school days were full of camaraderie. He has successfully replicated that same team spirit and sense of togetherness at Kensington. He’s hands on - teaches PSHE to key stage 4, spends time in the staff room and conducted our tour of the school himself. He has created a happy school and was keen to show it off in a typically understated way - as only the British know how!

His former headship at Baleares International College in Mallorca, part of the Orbital Group of schools, was an invaluable experience highlighting the differences between belonging to a group vs a family owned school. The benefits of being a teaching head are huge. It ‘evens the field’ as he’s doing the same thing as the other teachers in the classroom and can join in the staff room chat.

Operates and runs the school based on common sense, and students, teachers and parents get the benefit. ‘Funny with a great sense of humour’, ‘Asks a lot of questions’, ‘Takes on board ideas from Kensington parents’, ‘very present – at the gate each morning,’ are just some of the comments we hear.

Entrance

Non-selective in early years and junior. Nursery to year 3 ‘relaxed’ regarding English levels as school is confident it can get students to where they need to be. English assessments thereafter. School is not unnecessarily rigid - common sense used and honest discussion with parents. Students admitted without reference to ability or aptitude, however admission is dependent on having a good school report and a genuine commitment to want to learn. The admissions system is tighter in secondary as there are very few places available. Very often a waiting list. Trial day available.

Entry requirements for sixth form: at least five GCSEs at a 5 or above including English and maths, and 7-9s at GCSE level in proposed A level subjects. Students arriving from schools not following the British system may be asked to sit an assessment in their chosen A level subjects so as to ascertain access to the curriculum.

Exit

Sixty-six per cent of students are accepted to UK universities and a good half of those are Russell Group. UCL, LSE, King’s College London and Imperial College London are popular choices with Kensington students. Twenty per cent secure places in Barcelona. Law, economics and business are all popular choices at the prestigious ESADE business school and law school. Any student with A level qualifications is able to access Spanish universities, however, additional requirements may be necessary for certain competitive courses such as medicine.

Latest results

Excellent results achieved with experienced teachers working with relatively small groups of motivated students. In 2023, 53 per cent grade 9-8 and 75 per cent grade 9-7 at GCSE. At A level, 65 per cent A*/A and 90 per cent A/B. Consistent with pre-pandemic results.

Teaching and learning

Welcoming teachers with ‘a spark in their step’ and ‘personality’. Parents appreciate the small classes and and say that ‘individual attention is amazing’. ‘There is no way to slip under the radar.’ ‘No-one can hide away and kids have to be present in every lesson.’ Parents consistently mention that teachers know each child well and nurture a strong belief in their abilities - students who were average achievers in previous schools get top marks here. ‘VIP teaching and very personal relationships,’ said one parent, who felt the teachers had brought their child out of their shell and given them confidence.

With a 260 student limit in the whole school, one class per year group and 20 maximum in any one class - although we didn’t see any full classes - it’s not hard to see why pupils thrive here. All junior school classrooms have access to outdoor space which is often used as an extension of the classroom itself. Combined with two floating assistants in years 1-6 we saw pockets of learning in different spaces.

Personalised learning isn’t just a slogan at Kensington. The curriculum is tailored to meet students' needs, and teachers do that in imaginative ways. Maths in primary incorporates financial capabilities - interest rates, borrowing money and budgets - and sixth formers are encouraged to be unofficial teaching assistants, to deepen their own understanding when breaking down the subject and teaching to younger pupils. Mixed ability maths in forms 1, 2 and 3 (note the use of forms 1-4 and then lower and upper 6th). Form 4 (year 10) split into two maths groups with ratio of 1:2 so the smaller group gets extra help.

Choice of A levels is limited to traditional subjects but school offer all A levels needed to reach any course at university. Some parents would like to see a slightly wider choice - sociology, economics and music were mentioned. All students take four subjects in lower sixth and some drop one at the start of upper sixth (having taken it to A/S level). A typical class size is five or six although some classes have less and it’s not unknown to have one student in a class.

Offers Spanish nationals the opportunity to continue their studies along the local pathway incorporating Spanish, Catalan and Medi into the curriculum from junior 2 until form 5. All students who have followed four years of consecutive study in the local pathway (ESO equivalent) will be eligible for ‘convalidacion’ - a Spanish equivalent of the British.

Teachers are largely recruited from the UK for their relevant experience. One form entry means no need for year group coordinators, resulting in teachers from all years working in close proximity with each other and allows teachers an autonomy they might not find in a larger school (when they have to report to year heads). This is a school with a lot of good will. Teachers are treated well and give back as a result. Students see that the teachers really want them to do well and the knock-on effect is students who work hard. Older students mentioned the communication between staff and pupils is great and teachers are open to constructive criticism. Teachers tend to stay for the long run. The Wendy Playground is a fitting tribute to one early years teacher who stayed for 42 years. A sense of happiness was palpable throughout our visit.

Learning support and SEN

Small class sizes make it much easier for teachers to flag up issues, adapt the materials (depending on requirements) and offer in class support. Also one to one for pupils with a diagnosis - after assessing to see if it is a learning delay or difficulty. Guidelines are written up for teachers and strategies implemented. School coordinates with an external agency when needed.

High achievers are taken out of the classroom for extra help too, which reduces the spotlight on special needs pupils.

Language Support

Second language English students are kept within the classroom environment as much as possible but there is also small group work outside of the classroom and one to one tuition if necessary. Parents talk about a personalised focus for those who are struggling and additional support teachers for reading and writing. English classes divided into two groups with support teacher, with both groups doing similar work but on different levels so pupils don’t feel they are missing out.

The arts and extracurricular

An adequate arts offering but it not extensive. Weekly music lessons until end of year 10 but no real opportunity to learn an instrument. Favourite after-school clubs in primary are yoga, sewing club, cookery club and arts and crafts (the latter two are taught in Spanish). After-school activities change each term depending on teacher availability. External companies offer drama, ballet, yoga, fencing and taekwando (at extra cost). The two large yearly concerts - Christmas concert and the ‘excellent’ end of year show - are both popular. 'Matilda the musical' a recent highlight.

Trips are a popular part of the Kensington experience - mixed years ski trip and summer camps (which alternate each year between the mountains and sea). Recent trips to Iceland with the geography department, and Berlin with history department were a great success while the art department makes the most of the array of art, design and architecture on its doorstep. ‘The head has excelled on the choice of trips and all are reasonably priced,’ parents report happily.

Sport

Kensington is a small city school so not surprisingly sport facilities are limited. A broad understanding of sport - ball, racket, track and field - all introduced during primary. Fencing is popular and one student has been the national winner of his year group for a few years. Secondary students use the facilities at a local university campus. Sport options chosen by students in the senior school - past choices have included badminton and table tennis. Two annual sport days with competing houses (also held at the university campus), complete with teachers’ egg and spoon race. One-off fixtures are occasionally arranged with other similarly-sized private schools but the majority of pupils will join a local sports club - particularly for football, basketball and volleyball. Everyone we spoke to was passionate about ultimate frisbee.

Ethos and heritage

Edward Giles, the father of the present head, founded the school in 1966. When working in Spain he saw an increase in British families moving to the country and felt there was sufficient interest in a British school for it to be successful. It launched with a clear purpose, and it is precisely this clarity that continues to make Kensington so successful. Our visit ended with a chocolate-coated liquorice brought back from a recent geography field trip to Iceland, accompanied of course by an afternoon cup of tea - the perfect mix of quintessential English and global adventure.

School’s original licence was as a British school for foreign students (and not able to accept Spanish nationals.) This delicate situation was rectified in September 2023 when Catalan and Spanish were introduced into the curriculum (a requirement for local students).

The school moved to its current purpose-built location in 1988. Queen Elizabeth II opened the building, a book of condolences was available at the school when she died and a coronation party was held for King Charles III complete with egg and cress sandwiches and Pimms. Celebrating Britishness but without forgetting where they are, there is also a nod towards local traditions such as celebrating St Jordi, the patron saint of Catalonia, when people give one another a rose or a book.

The current campus was designed to accommodate around 260 students, allowing for the family atmosphere to be retained. Constructed over four floors, every section of the building is tailored to the needs of its specific year groups. Clearly there are limitations for growth and with no plans to move to a larger premises, the head is continually improving existing facilities. Yearly design projects to improve what they have - installation of a lift and a new chemistry lab were recently completed and next in the pipeline are improvements to the sports hall.

Lunch is cooked on site - ingredients come from Casa Ametller Origens Group (the region’s benchmark for high-quality fresh foods). The open-plan kitchen/dining area for all to see was immaculate.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

Pastoral care shines through. Teachers accompany the pupils on their journey through the school - they never lose sight of them, literally as everyone is in the same building. Specific needs and struggles are identified early and concerns are flagged up in teachers’ meetings. PHSE weekly until the sixth form when there is change to monthly meetings about careers, mental health, coping with stress and finances (taxes, real world situations, student loans).

Student councils are very popular. The primary council choose two charities and work with teachers and parents to organise fundraising activities. The secondary student council has sub-groups for charity, diversity & equality, there’s an events team and student ambassadors. Recent initiatives include a buddy system with native English speakers helping the international students with language skills, and homework tokens - each student is allocated two tokens a term granting a two day homework extension to help students feeling under pressure.

Mrs Giles (head’s wife) heads up the admissions team and the school feels welcoming from the moment you enter. Parents are welcome in for a chat and pupils can have a cuddle with Rocky and Rex, Mrs Giles’ two dogs, which sit at her feet all day complete with school bandanas.

Pupils and Parents

Kensington is not a typical international school, rather it is a British school with international pupils attending. You’ll find international families here seeking a British experience. Feet on the ground and lots of chat at the school gate - the family-friendly and caring environment cannot be stressed enough. ‘Down to earth inside and out’ - families are not elitist at all.

The website and correspondence are in English only. An unofficial committee make sure information is communicated via a small network for families who don’t speak English. Free Spanish classes for parents (and English possibly coming). Parent community always happy to help new families. New parents chat with old parents and a culture day celebrating different nationalities and foods was introduced under the head’s watch.

A small school often means limited peer groups - particularly for older pupils - but teachers and students agree that the small groups allows students to create tight bonds and friendships and they say it is a very positive environment. There’s a blend of year groups - students of all ages mix and there’s no distinction in terms of age and class. Sixth form are given some autonomy - eg timetabled periods in the library and also free periods. They can leave for lunch and also go home after lunch - subject to various criteria. They are aware this is a privilege which can be revoked.

Money Matters

Kensington is less expensive than some of the other established international schools in the area, reflecting its smaller campus and limited facilities, but ‘as it is such a small school the value add is the personal attention received by the children'.

The last word

Not your typical international school, rather a very British school with international students. A distinct air of formality combined with a cosy family feel. Small class sizes, nurturing teachers and academic success all make this a school in high demand - register early as there is no guarantee of a place.


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