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Expect long days. ‘My child is worn out by Sunday,’ said one more than one parent (a good or bad thing, depending on your outlook). From 4-5.15pm daily, there are timetabled activities. For year 9s, these could be anything from writing CVs to Bromsgrove Badge (feeds into CCF, which is compulsory from year 10), music, sport and drama. Or why not choose from one of the 350+ clubs, which also run before school and at lunchtimes? You could build and race an electric car, do beekeeping, gardening, debating, play golf, go horse riding or join (or set up) an academic society, to name a few. Academically, breadth, flexibility and support are the stars of the show. Impressively, A level, IB and BTEC all on offer in sixth form, and students rave about how they can…

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International Baccalaureate: diploma - the diploma is the familiar A-level equivalent.

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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.





What The Good Schools Guide says


Since 2022, Michael Punt MSc PGCE, previously head of Chigwell School and before that, academic deputy at The Perse. An Essex boy, he was educated at Brentwood School, did his physics degree at Oxford and has a master’s in semiconductor science from Imperial, which led to an initial career in the electronics materials industry. Finally gave in to his ‘calling’ in 1993 at St Dunstan's in London, which he combined with an on-the-job PGCE. He is an ISI inspector and vice-chair of the HMC pastoral committee.

As we sit and chat on the Chesterfields in his large, immaculate office, he radiates Labrador-like enthusiasm about the school: ‘It’s just such an exciting place!’ There’s a kindness, soft edge and sociability that pupils feel has lightened the mood. They particularly appreciate that he and his family (wife Gill, and two sons; the other one is at university) eat with the boarders at least four times a week, and that he ‘often does the rounds of lunch tables too’. ‘A real people person,’ agree parents. No walkover, though, with parents telling us he has ‘flexed his muscles around a few discipline issues – within a few weeks, he got rid of several people, which was absolutely needed.’ Doesn’t currently teach, ‘but I’m not ruling it out.’

No sweeping changes on the cards but keen to make ‘pastoral care even better and the academics even more solid’. Staff can be sure to be kept on their toes. Loves the great outdoors, especially walking and cycling.


At 13+, CAT 4 tests and an essay. Three-quarters come from the school's two preps – no automatic entry, but parents say they’re given ample warning and advice if a child is unlikely to be accepted. The remaining quarter – around 50 students – come mostly from middle schools in the state sector, others from local preps. Around two applicants per place. Small intake of 25 students into year 10, and around 30 international students join at year 11 for the Accelerated Learning Programme – a one-year course preparing students for an English education in the IB or A levels; two-thirds of these students transfer into sixth form (more stay than intend to).

Around 80 join the sixth form, where candidates need an average of grade 6 across their GCSEs (7s in any subjects to be studied).


A mere two per cent, if that, leave after GCSEs – that’s far better retention than most local independents and, when you see the sixth form offering, it’s easy to see why. Over 95 per cent to university, the rest into employment, an apprenticeship degree (most recently, Jaguar Land Rover) or a gap year. The London universities, notably UCL and King’s College, are popular, as are Cardiff, Reading, Bath and Bristol. Five medics in 2023, and three off to Oxbridge. Significant numbers overseas – nearly 20 in 2023 including to Columbia University, McGill University Canada, University of Toronto, University of Southern California, University of Colorado. Also to European universities in Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Denmark and Germany. Courses are as diverse as the student body, with economics, engineering, business, psychology and law all popular. Top-drawer careers advice, say students – well-staffed, including visiting speakers, good links with alumni and plenty of one-to-ones and interview practice.

Latest results

In 2023, 57 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 37 per cent A*/A at A level (73 per cent A*-B). IB results average point score 38. In 2019 (the last pre-pandemic results), 64 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 57 per cent A*/A at A level (77 per cent A*-B). IB average point score 37.

Teaching and learning

Breadth, flexibility and support are the stars of the show. Impressively, A level, IB and BTEC all on offer in sixth form, and students rave about how they can choose any combination of subjects, swap subjects as late as the end of lower sixth or trade in an A level for a BTEC (they run them in sport and business). A levels get the biggest take-up, and students like that you get two teachers per subject (‘gives a broader perspective’). They start with four subjects, usually swapping one for an EPQ just before Christmas (or why not try the school’s new cyber-security alternative?). School happy to run A levels for just one or two students. Maths, economics and business flourish. Science is big and getting bigger. Computer science introduced at years 9 and 11 and starting to feed through into subject choices. The IB group of around 130 students (across the two years) are close knit and say the teaching is ‘amazing’. Virtually all those that take BTEC get double distinctions.

Students hit the ground running with the GCSE syllabus, stretching the curriculum over three, not two, years. Means ‘you get to ditch the subjects you don’t like’ and ‘you really get to know the content inside out,’ say students. Still, 13+ is young to specialise, so what if you regret your choices? ‘You just change them,’ shrugged one. Everyone has to take a language (out of French, German or Spanish – and you can also do beginners’ courses), and two-thirds take triple science. Business, PE and geography all popular. Maths results dazzle. School has just brought in the HPQ. Loose setting in English, maths and science.

While not an academic powerhouse, every department provides stretch. In biology, we spotted noticeboards promoting Olympiad preparation, support surgeries, beekeeping activities and biology all-stars, plus all the latest journals on display. Latest thought-provoking content is laminated and displayed, alongside reminders of curriculum content. Saturday morning academic catchups run across all subjects all year round – particularly popular in the lead-up to exams. Oxbridge preparation also available, along with other academic interest groups.

Every student brings a device, but not to the detriment of good old pen and paper. ‘Where devices have really transformed things,’ says school, ‘is in how students store information and reflect on it.’ Regular ‘teacher meets’ mean teachers do a ‘lot of thinking about how we teach’. Lots of homework and testing, say students, and tons of feedback – ‘really specific and constructive’. Everyone is under the microscope here.

It was exam season when we visited, so it was either heads down, immersed in test papers, or revision sessions where we noted collaborative, stress-free and tailored teaching – and above all, real focus. Except in one classroom, where younger ones were energetically competing in a digital maths quiz – ‘They’ve just finished their exam!’ explained the teacher over the noise.

Learning support and SEN

Vast majority of the 100 or so on the SEN register are at the milder end and supported in the classroom ‘with extra help around the edges’, which can include one-to-ones (included in fees). A handful drop a GCSE to do extra learning support. The learning resources centre, split over three levels, stays open until 9pm and at weekends. ‘They come up with a really specific plan called a provision map,’ said one parent, who added that, ‘If my son has any issues, the SENCo really bats for him – for example, if a teacher expects him to copy off the board, she’s there dealing with it straightaway.’ Between 350 and 400 students have EAL, just under half of whom receive support – value added for this group is outstanding.

The arts and extracurricular

Expect long days. ‘My child is worn out by Sunday,’ said one more than one parent (a good or bad thing, depending on your outlook). From 4-5.15pm daily, there are timetabled activities. For year 9s, these could be anything from writing CVs to Bromsgrove Badge (feeds into CCF, which is compulsory from year 10), music, sport and drama. Or why not choose from one of the 350+ clubs, which also run before school and at lunchtimes? You could build and race an electric car, do beekeeping, gardening, debating, play golf, go horse riding or join (or set up) an academic society, to name a few. There are always various service projects on the go, plus Young Enterprise, DofE and Model United Nations. However hidden your talents, this school will find them.

High standards in drama (department is located in the prep and shared with them), with an annual senior school production and others for years 9 and 10 and again for sixth form. House drama, plus opportunities to learn about eg lights and sound. Music on an upwards trajectory. The department (located in senior school and shared with prep) welcomed us with spine-tingling sounds of accomplished singing. There are girls’ and boys’ separate choirs, chamber choir, an orchestra and 30 ensembles and bands, including pop and jazz – the latter driven by the pupils and often celebrating different cultures. Around a third learn an instrument, with at least one piano per boarding house. One student was excited that smaller lunchtime concerts are making a return.

Spectacular art and DT building, with modern warehouse vibe – ‘the reason I chose the school,’ said one of our guides. Stunning product design displays of roller skates, lamps, furniture etc downstairs, while upstairs textiles, photography and art, craft and design are offered as separate specialisms. Sixth form get their own gallery and workspace where ‘we go to them to teach, not the other way round – like a foundation course,’ says school. Good to see collaboration between the two departments (eg an art project involving laser cutting) but we’d like to have seen more art around the school – ‘We’re on it,’ said head of art, who agreed.

All the usual sports and cultural tours, plus curriculum-based and teambuilding. Coming up next: South Africa for rugby, Costa Rica for World Challenge (runs every two years), Malaysia and Singapore for netball. All of year 9s camp in the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley.


Huge, but not the be-all-and-end-all. ‘Sport is really not our son’s thing but there’s so much else going on for him that it hasn’t mattered at all,’ said a parent. Historically, a rugby school, with an elite rugby pathway that alone attracts some parents. But Bromsgrove brings home the silverware in other sports too – hockey and cricket (boys) and hockey, netball and athletics (girls). Cross-country, football, tennis, squash, volleyball, badminton, table tennis, fencing, basketball and swimming all feature too. A-D teams fielded every Saturday – typically 35 teams playing at any one time, against the likes of Oundle and Oakham. Say goodbye to your Saturdays, say students – ‘We travel far.’ Too far, groaned some, ‘but it’s worth it,’ they quickly added on reflection. Praise for the coaching (‘My daughter had never played volleyball and now she’s on the school team’) and a shout-out for the physio (‘I injured my knee and they gave me a whole stretching routine’). But comms around matches – and who is playing – could be less last-minute, feel some.

Fabulous sports facilities, as you’d expect – includes an indoor arena with pull-out seating for 400 where the national indoor hockey finals take place. The pool and gym are open at weekends for boarders, and the Rylands Centre – with 400m running track – has been acquired by the school, ‘so athletics is done properly now’.


Thirteen day and boarding houses are a mix of new and old, each with its own identity and reputation as the sporty one, arty one, etc (although this changes each year). So even if you don’t board (just over half don’t), your house is where you start your day for ‘roll call’ and where you can spend breaktimes and ‘frees’. School picks your house for you (bearing in mind family links) and house loyalty is instilled through events such as drama, singing, sports, ball etc. Sixth formers get their own co-ed house (rest are single sex) just over the road, although some decide not to leave their first boarding house, home from home by that stage. Around two-thirds of boarders are international – a quarter Chinese, a fifth European and the rest a mix of over 55 nationalities.

All houses boast plush common rooms with comfy seating, snooker tables etc. All have kitchens, though boarders eat in the main dining room (most rate the breakfasts and lunches, but not the dinners – ‘the menu is so repetitive’). The older you are, the more likely you are to get a single room, otherwise it’s first dibs on the doubles. Biggest dorms are four-bed. All are ensuite. ‘Are you fussy about tidiness?’ we asked a houseparent. ‘Oh yes!’ she said, and you can tell. After activities, it’s free time until dinner at 6pm, then silent prep from 7-9pm. From year 11, you get to keep your phone overnight. On Sundays, it’s brunch followed by activities such as bowling, cinema, day out in Birmingham etc. Some feel there could be more downtime.

Each house has its own internal family structure, with older students looking out for younger ones. Houseparents well thought of – one student said her whole house cried when theirs recently left. House tutor groups, mostly around 11, have an hour session timetabled a week, plus Wednesdays before school. ‘Means they know them well,’ said a parent.

Ethos and heritage

Gratefully accept one of their glossy, branded maps if you’re offered one – we couldn’t even locate our car when it was time to leave. Not that the expansive, 100-acre campus is a bad place to get lost, with the variously aged buildings and manicured gardens looking magnificent on the summer’s day we visited (although a few students grumble at the ‘keep off the grass’ ethos and many long for free play or recreational sports at breaktimes, which are simply not allowed). Inside is equally well maintained, with large, well-ordered classrooms and wide corridors. When we fell upon an untypically tired-looking IT suite, a teacher promptly pointed out that it was due for an imminent refurb – perhaps she spotted our surprise. Students have three assemblies a week, one in the chapel, and there’s a popular café, open all day, for older pupils. The large, well-stocked multi-storey library deserves a mention, as does the modern, university-style lecture theatre and lovely little school museum. The local community uses the sports and performing arts facilities.

The mood is energetic, hardworking and busy, with students walking briskly and purposefully to lessons (and even more so to lunch) and packing a lot into their days. Those we dined with were done and dusted within 10 minutes, despite large plates of food. But who can blame them for wolfing down the ‘proper’ fish and chip shop fodder, with beautifully presented salads and puds?

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

The medical centre – complete with wellbeing nurse, residential nurse and visiting counsellors – is a key touchpoint for students in need of support. Students add that tutors are ‘very supportive’ and that, actually, ‘most staff really listen’. There’s a programme of talks, including from visiting speakers, and a no-holds-barred approach to tackling teenage issues.

Self-discipline and organisational skills are essential attributes at Bromsgrove, report parents, ‘which can be a struggle for some’ (although students say the school helps via eg roll calls, helpful reminders and visual timetables). Toeing the line is also a prerequisite: ‘They like things done the right way, including uniform and hair looking tidy and polite, well-mannered people,’ said a parent. Some students feel a few of the rules could be adapted for modern times, especially around haircuts (‘Let’s hope that hair grows back behind your ears for commemoration, young man,’ we heard a staff member saying) and skirt lengths (‘Strictly below the knee, we are told, but there’s not much give in them so that makes it difficult to walk in them!’). There is the usual tiered detention system, and up to 10 students are suspended or excluded a year. Very little debate around drugs or sex – you are out (and yes, it does happen from time to time). ‘Occasionally things could have been handled better,’ felt one parent, ‘but even then, the school will listen and say, “Fair enough, we’ll do better next time.”’

There’s an LGBTQ+ group and students feel it’s a comfortable place to be gay, trans etc. ‘But I think it could be more comfortable,’ says head, who has supported a pupil-led launch of a ‘Bring your whole self to Bromsgrove’ initiative to further improve inclusivity in what is a relatively traditional environment. He has also introduced ‘coffee chats’ where students invited to challenge the school with questions like ‘Why isn’t being gay covered in PSHE?’ and ‘Why can’t I play basketball if I’m a girl?’ There’s a multi-faith prayer room, and students feel different ethnicities, cultures and religions mix well.

Pupils and parents

Pleasingly, there’s no Bromsgrove type, although all the students we met were articulate and courteous – a real asset to the school. Hats off to the student who made a point of coming to say hello when he recognised us in a restaurant the following day. Parents are, as one put it, ‘a real eclectic mix of working-class Brummies to well-to-do Cotswoldians’. Perhaps not as much old money as you might expect, with quite a few Forces families and many making big sacrifices. As one such parent told us, ‘There are people driving cars worth more than my house, but the vast majority live in the real world and most of the rich ones don’t throw it in your face.’ The diversity and global outlook that the international boarding community brings is a pull for local families. Plenty of boarders from closer to home too – the location, in a medium-sized town in central England, is ideal for all four corners of the country.

Money matters

Over five per cent of the school are on life-changing bursaries (worth 75 per cent plus of school fees). Scholarships for academic, sporting, artistic and musical talents, awarded in years 9 and 12 – no fee remittance.

The last word

If you want to spend your weekends and evenings on a couch, the Bromsgrove experience would be wasted on you. This is a full-on school best suited to naturally busy people, whose glittering prize is a vast and inspired array of extracurricular activities and an imaginative approach to academic stretch. No wonder students head, full throttle, to reach their potential and beyond. A work hard, play hard environment with all the bells and whistles – and all in a glorious setting.

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.

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