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Very relaxed atmosphere between pupils and staff, but mutual respect apparent. Parents spoke of ‘excellent teaching staff who know our children well and want them to succeed.’ Not flashy, but classy. Pupils ambitious and not fazed about leaving their rural idyll for urban sprawl; they are being well prepared. The distinctive purple, black and white striped blazers dominate, possibly an acquired taste...

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What the school says...

If you’re looking for outstanding value, all-round education - day or boarding - we’re well worth a visit. Academic excellence is at the heart of everything we do, but it is our kind and caring ethos that sets us apart.

Visitors comment on the quiet confidence of our pupils; boys and girls who aim high and are motivated to achieve their very best in all aspects of school life. With a historic castle setting and facilities for the digital age, Kimbolton is an inspiring place to learn – come and see for yourself! ...Read more

What the parents say...

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2015 Good Schools Guide Awards

  • Excellent performance by Girls taking Government & Politics at an English Independent School (GCE A level)

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

Unusual sports

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

Rowing

Shooting

Sailing

What The Good Schools Guide says

Head

Since 2002, Jonathan Belbin (50s). History at Bristol followed by PGCE. Sporty so decided could combine sport and history by teaching. Spent a lot of time as sports coach. Joined independent sector by chance and never looked back. Moved around country expanding his roles before first headship at Kimbolton. ‘I liked that Kimbolton was co-ed and boarding and I could see lots of potential.’ Very well established and popular with parents, ‘a bit of a shining light,’ said one parent.  ‘He’s interested in the kids,’ was another take. All spoke of his high profile around the school and at matches and productions. 'He’s very professional, not gushing or effusive, slightly distant from parents, but in a good way. I don’t want a friend, but a professional, which is just what he is,’ said one perceptive parent. ‘He has good people skills,’ was said by another. Has handled tricky situations well according to parents, ‘dignified and straightforward, measured in his responses and manages the school well, in good times and bad.’ 

Has overseen many building projects and refurbishments, bringing facilities up to date over the years, the most recent being the new science and maths block opened in 2015. Numbers have expanded by 150 under his tenure. Still teaching PHSE and history to certain years so knows all the children. Profile high around prep school as well. Smartly turned out, youthful looking, friendly and welcoming. We got the impression of a head very much on the ball and comfortable and confident in his role. His children have all been educated at Kimbolton.  

Head of prep since 2015, Philip Foley (50s). Studied education, so could spend more time playing sports, before spending a year in industry, then drawn back into teaching, ‘the best decision ever.’ Kimbolton is his fourth headship. Establishing himself well and knows all the children. ‘He is making positive changes, slowly without upsetting anyone.’ Parents like what they have seen of him and say he is very accessible, and always outside at the end of the day.  Softly spoken and mild mannered, teaches years 2 and 4 so getting to know children well. Daughter joined sixth form on his arrival.

Academic matters

In 2017, 56 per cent A*-A/9-7 at GCSE, 58 per cent A*-A at A level, 80 per cent A*-B. Results have steadily increased over the last few years. Spanish and French available at GCSE and A level, taught from reception. Not many take two languages at GCSE, nine or 10 a year. Half the year group take all three sciences. Pupils taught in mixed ability groups apart from maths and languages. Maths is the most popular subject at A level. All parents, throughout both schools, spoke of excellent academic progress and close contact with teachers. Academic problems picked up on quickly and help offered in both schools. Lots of subject workshops and drop ins available and popular with pupils. Prep pupils taught by class teacher until year 5 when subject taught and pressure ramped up, subtly, with more homework, getting them ready for senior school life. Maths set from year 3 onwards.
 
Excellent facilities throughout both schools, some - such as halls and sports - shared. Impressive new science block, please say hello to Colin the fish in one of the classrooms. Pupils working hard and more than happy to chat, pleased to show off their work. Very relaxed atmosphere between pupils and staff, but mutual respect apparent. Parents spoke of ‘excellent teaching staff who know our children well and want them to succeed.’ Most said, ‘staff handled child well, knew them and brought the best out in them,’ others spoke of their child ‘flourishing.’ One parent noted that 'the odd teacher appeared to be marking time and needed moving on,’ but was sympathetic to the situation and said, ‘these individuals are now a rarity here.’  IT embraced, computing and programming taught to a high level and right up to date, so much so that our sixth form guides were slightly at a loss, we completely so. Excellent artwork on display in both schools. DT, textiles and cooking for all, in both schools. Sixth form offers ‘life cooking skills’ as an extracurricular course.  
 
Class sizes small, average of 17 in prep, 21 in senior with an average of seven in sixth form, so nowhere to hide, which is appreciated by parents. Some 40 pupils receive extra support throughout both schools, but only two are statemented. A handful of pupils bilingual, 18 on the EAL register. One-to-one available for learning and language support if necessary. UCAS support exemplary; staff appear to be very much on the ball. Sixth form common room in basement equipped with comfy chairs. Very much their own space, with large study rooms also available, and well used.  

Games, options, the arts

As expected with two heads who are ex-sports teachers, games plays an important part at Kimbolton. ‘We aim to get everyone out at least once a year representing the school,’ said the prep head. Lots of silverware in the cabinets and lots of choice, bar rugby, which is not played. Football plays a major part, along with hockey for boys and girls. Prep girls are campaigning for football and cricket teams and head is open to the idea. Swimming on site with own pool and lots of pitches within the grounds. Please note the lake where canoe practice takes place. Lots of teams for all levels. Plenty of sports clubs and after-school practices; 85 per cent of prep pupils stay after school. Most parents very complimentary about sport and facilities. All other parents spoke about the children being ‘taught well and lots of choice.’
 
Music and drama popular and well represented. Lots of individual lessons, including over half of pupils in upper prep. Parents spoke of sensible way these lessons are timetabled, particularly in the senior school, so less academic do not miss essential teaching time. Dramatic productions spoken of highly in both schools. Lots of productions, choirs, orchestras, bands and after-school clubs. You name it, they have it.
 
CCF very popular with vast majority of pupils taking part from year 10 upwards. D of E also popular, up to gold. Lots of school trips, sporting and curricular.  

Boarders

Boarding available from year 7. It’s not a major part of the school, which is predominantly a day school with boarders making up about seven per cent of pupils.  Boarders housed in two houses at each end of Kimbolton’s High Street (it’s not very long) and never the twain shall meet. Girls' house is full, boys' house has the odd space. Full and weekly boarding offered, flexi if space available. Some 45 per cent of boarders from overseas, others based just outside travelling distance, most within two hours. Quite a few children have parents in the Forces as the school is quite close to some RAF bases. 

Parents impressed with boarding. ‘The house is run really well and the weekly and flexi boarders are treated as full boarders, welcome to go on trips and excursions.’ Parents spoke about children being kept well occupied, ‘there is always a full term of events, booked in advance.’ Parents of girls spoke about ‘the mumsy chats’ the staff have with their daughters. Curfews upheld and respected, older boarders given more independence. School happy for boarders to visit day pupils, with parental permission.
 
The two boarding houses are well equipped and modernised; tall boys will need to duck in certain rooms, with low ceilings and ancient buildings. Three in a room maximum, sixth form have own rooms. Communal common rooms for all age groups well used. We get the impression that because there are so few boarders they are a close knit, but welcoming, little unit. Lots of encouragement to participate in sports and extracurricular life. Supervised prep for younger years, older ones do it in their rooms at set times. They cook their own breakfast at weekends.

Background and atmosphere

Located in the small pretty village of Kimbolton, The Castle, originally an ancient castle and now a magnificent Georgian mansion, dominates the village sitting at the end of the High Street. Very little teaching actually takes place in The Castle, but admin and head housed magnificently, with sixth form in the basement. The prep school, at the other end of the village, an old red brick purpose built Victorian school house, was once the senior school. Originally a boys’ grammar, dating back over 400 years, the school bought The Castle from the Duke of Manchester in the 1950s for a reputed £11,500, and a further 200 guineas for the magnificent paintings when the governors were offered them at the last minute – they had a quick whip round to raise the money.  Since then the school has thrived and succeeded, reflecting rather sadly on the opposite fortunes of the Manchester family. The Castle housed Catherine of Aragon when she was exiled from London. She died in what is now the head’s office and historians still pay an annual visit to pay homage. This is not as macabre as it sounds, but do note the secret panelled door into the head’s office. 

The prep school was opened in the 1950s, and became co-ed in the 70s. Both schools are accessible via a brisk walk through parkland. There’s lots of space, 120 acres, to absorb pupils, who make the most of their magnificent surroundings.
 
Very much a family orientated school, and being relatively small, this atmosphere prevails with the school seeming to know parents well too. Pupils know each other, and the staff, well. Parents really appreciate this and, for many, was the reason they chose the school. ‘My child isn’t lost in large numbers,’ was alluded to many times. A jolly, relaxed atmosphere prevails with a warm welcome for everyone. The distinctive purple, black and white striped blazers dominate, possibly an acquired taste, and not the easiest colour combination for everyone to look good in. Sixth formers wear black business suits. Purple dominates the school, it’s their school colours and it’s everywhere. Even the Christmas decorations are purple on the tree, matching the purple carpets et al.  We’re sure you get the picture. Food raised its ugly head with parents. It’s raved about in the prep school, but standards slip when pupils move to The Castle.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

Every parent praised pastoral care. ‘I don’t know how they manage it,’ said one parent who went on to praise the’ kind, patient, supportive, caring teachers,’ and believed this atmosphere is absorbed by the children, who behave in the same way. ‘They pick up on problems quickly,’ was said numerous times. Many parents spoke about the ‘feel of the school’ when they first visited, the friendliness of pupils and parents, and wanted that for their children. ‘The children and parents are nice.’ Friendship issues dealt with kindly and effectively. Counsellors available and well used.  

Pastoral care and safeguarding so effective that the odd parent feels independence is being lost. But those with older children spoke about ‘independence and more freedom in the sixth form.’ Sixth formers a familiar sight in the High Street where they congregate at a popular coffee shop. Discipline at acceptable standards. ‘They have high expectations which are usually met,’ was said. Pupils in prep aware that if attitude unsuitable they will not be going up to The Castle. We are not aware of this happening in recent years so all appear to toe the line. Suspensions incredibly rare and low detention numbers. Pupils and parents happy that discipline is fair and appropriate. Lots of mentoring between pupils and effective school councils in both schools.

Pupils and parents

Most families rural dwellers from surrounding villages and small towns. Traditionally a farming and Forces school, this is now changing with many families moving from London whilst parents still work there. More families now coming from Cambridge’s outskirts, so more medics and techy parents joining the fray. Most parents both working to pay fees and want a good value for money, all round education for their children, ‘involved parents,’ said the prep head. 

Parents welcome flexibility school offers with boarding and late pick ups. Many children second, even third generation. Pupils happy and chatty and seem very relaxed, but ambitious and not fazed about leaving their rural idyll for urban sprawl; they are being well prepared.  

Entrance

Pupils for reception assessed in small groups and teachers visit them at local nurseries to see that they are ready to learn. School happy to say no at this stage. Older children assessed and spend taster morning at school. No automatic transfer to senior school; all pupils take entrance exam. External candidates interviewed as well. Those from prep who won’t make grade kindly weeded out in earlier years, but this is a rare occurrence. 

Numbers double in senior school 1st year (year 7) with external pupils, 45 per cent, coming from up to 30 local primaries with a small intake in year 9. Senior school full, the odd place in prep. About 20 join the sixth form, virtually all from state schools, the odd one from independents. These pupils all interviewed by head and head of sixth form. Six GCSEs, grade B/6 or above needed including English and maths.

Exit

All pupils from prep went to The Castle in 2017. Occasionally one or two leave for other boarding independents, following family tradition. Nine or 10 leave after GCSEs, usually to vocational courses at local colleges, the odd one to board elsewhere in sixth form, again following family tradition. ‘We don’t cull,’ said the head, ‘they are good kids,’ so those who want to go into sixth form usually do even if they don’t make the grade, but must have the right attitude. Virtually all go to university, the odd one straight to employment, gap years minimal. Two Oxbridge places in 2017, as for most years. Apprenticeships not being embraced as yet, but school open to it.

Money matters

Scholarships available in senior school only, up to 20 per cent of fees, the vast majority academic, but the odd sports, leadership and arts available at 13+. The equivalent of six full means-tested awards at senior school per year group, usually given to 8-10 applicants, most subsidised by at least 80 per cent of fees.

Our view

This small school, housed in beautiful surroundings, appears to be a well kept secret, much to some parents' bemusement. ‘Why is it not more well known?' said by many. We get the impression that there's no need; the school is virtually full, has an excellent reputation locally and is providing a good all round education for local families wanting to use the private sector. Pupils can spend their whole education at Kimbolton enjoying the benefits of a happy environment, small class sizes and excellent pastoral care. Not flashy but classy. Those parents in the know appreciate that a Kimbolton education is money well spent. Shhhh.

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Special Education Needs

We aim to equip all of our pupils with the skills to achieve their full potential across the curriculum, becoming independent and confident learners. Thus advice and support is offered to all pupils within the school, not just those identified as having specific difficulties. Our teachers are adept at recognising pupils who cause concern and our academic support staff work closely with colleagues to ensure they target the specific areas children are struggling with. Support may be provided in a group, paired or one-to-one format either in or out of the classroom. It may be offered for a single term through to the duration of a pupil’s time at Kimbolton. Parents are fully involved in the initial implementation of support and ongoing reviews of progress. Any parent may contact Academic Support for advice or to discuss an assessment or referral. For further information see: http://www.kimbolton.cambs.sch.uk/AS

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia Y
Dysgraphia Y
Dyslexia Y
Dyspraxia Y
English as an additional language (EAL) Y
Genetic
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class
HI - Hearing Impairment Y
Hospital School
Mental health Y
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty Y
PD - Physical Disability Y
PMLD - Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty
SEMH - Social, Emotional and Mental Health Y
SLCN - Speech, Language and Communication Y
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty Y
VI - Visual Impairment

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