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Science and maths results lifting: wonderful light and airy new building specifically for these subjects. Fantastic science labs - a science trip to CERN was a highlight for one student doing physics. ‘Atheists a minority at Kingham,’ according to one parent, but pupils were encouraged to explain and discuss their points of view; ‘free thinking encouraged’ and ‘no indoctrination’. The school farm, run by the chaplain’s wife, is a real asset - ‘my son’s favourite day is when he has farm club after school’. We saw a child leading round the school a pony that was larger than her, we met Casserole the rabbit...

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What the school says...

Kingham Hill School is in the heart of the glorious Cotswold countryside, just 80 minutes from London Paddington, in a 100 acre estate where pupils have a safe place to explore and make their home. With just over 300 pupils Kingham Hill remains small to allow the school to sustain its caring, home-from-home community where every child is nurtured, challenged and inspired to succeed academically and within their personal lives. Named recently as a 'Top Small Independent School' for highest A level results by The Telegraph.

Highly qualified, specialist staff offer a broad and challenging curriculum (27+ courses at A level) to ensure every pupil has opportunities to learn, excel and realise their potential. Top class facilities, including a new £4m Maths and Science building and a new £1.5m library, ensure pupils have the best amenities to enhance their learning. Small class sizes deliver a bespoke learning experience that can be tailored to individual needs to help discover the talent in every child.
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What the parents say...

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2016 Good Schools Guide Awards

  • Best performance by Boys taking Additional Applied Science at an English Independent School (Vocational GCSE Single Award)

Other features

Music and dance scheme - government funding and grants available to help with fees at selected independent music and dance schools.

Choir school - substantial scholarships and bursaries usually available for choristers.

Sports

Unusual sports

Fencing

Shooting

Sailing

What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since 2008, Nick Seward MA BEng (40s). After a fairly international childhood, he boarded at Millfield School and went on to do aerospace engineering at Imperial College. His interest in the dispossessed and the homeless in particular, however, led him to work with homeless people in Blackburn and London; after a year travelling he went to Durham to study theology including a masters with a thesis on CS Lewis. He worked as a curate for four years but eventually moved to teaching at Magdalen College School (it was that CS Lewis connection that attracted him - Christianity with literature and deep intellectual curiosity). He was mentored and inspired by the head who ‘celebrated eccentricity’ and he saw that ‘hard work, rigour and routine delivered challenges and results for the bright boys’. It must have been a transformative teaching experience, where he saw how school could encourage and channel individual interests.

He has brought the same ethos to Kingham Hill, which he joined because he was drawn to its ‘Christian ethos, strong heart and the non-selective admissions policy’, and he believed it was a school where he could make a difference. And it would appear he has. The parents, teachers and pupils are ‘impressed’ and ‘adore’ him for his commitment, his humanity and humility. Interests include go karting, sea fishing, camping holidays with his family and running the local football club. And this on top of teaching (economics) up to a quarter of a full teaching timetable and preaching or taking services in the local church.

He brought in big plans ('Realising our Vision') and has delivered well before schedule - increasing pupil numbers, improving exam results, raising funds to build fabulous new facilities (library, maths and science block), and all these improvements whilst sticking faithfully to an inclusive admission policy. He would like to increase bursaries and maintain the founder’s intention to provide ‘education for the poor’.

Married to ‘the lovely Hannah - the clever part of the marriage’. She was previously a director of music (explained one child who is a chorister). She helps out as informal school matron and joins on the joint annual skiing trip with Magdalen College School. They have one daughter and three sons.

Academic matters

Small classes, traditional teaching, an emphasis on handwriting and ethical behaviour over technology, and a very individualised level of input gives pupils clear boundaries. It means that lessons are calm and directed. Some limited setting in classes; pupils learn tolerance and teachers manage to differentiate. Science and maths results lifting: wonderful light and airy new building specifically for these subjects. Fantastic science labs - a science trip to CERN was a highlight for one student doing physics. Languages and humanities in the old school, wood panelled classrooms where history lessons referred to pupils from the First World War era who had sat in the same rooms and belonged to the same school houses.

The size of the school and close teamwork of teachers (several live on site) allows for some cross-curricular work - French/history trips, biology/sports, English/music. Evidence of interactive whiteboards but education here is more about discussion and explanation than technology. French or Spanish compulsory initially, but currently not a very high take up at GCSE or A level (nearly all A level linguists take Chinese or Russian). Good GCSE results - especially for a non-selective school. Thirty-three per cent A*/A grades at GCSE in 2016. Popular subjects are maths, sciences and history. And very good and improving A level results - 45 per cent A*/A grades, double the number from the year before, with mathematics, government and politics, economics and business studies very popular and maths particularly successful. Students spoke of ‘wide opportunities’ and having ‘more ways to choose’ because of the breadth of opportunity.

The brightest children from each year are invited to join the Octagon society, where they are extended in an ‘academic society’. Students felt that it ‘allows us to really push our thinking’ and teachers enjoyed the chance to ‘motivate’ and ‘enrich outside the usual school curriculum’. It is about philosophical and ethical questions and encourages articulate explanations and leadership. Several pupils we spoke to felt very proud and privileged to be part of the Octagon society, which ‘pushes me’.

The school has a successful learning support department with students given both individual and group support (sometimes instead of taking a foreign language), and some choosing to go along for extra homework help, study skills, revision help and advice about technological support for learning. In-house assessments possible and extra time for exams and laptop use for those with dyslexia where needed.

This has the ‘vibe of an international school but is still very British,’ explained one student. It is accredited by New England Association of Schools and Colleges and is recognised by the US Department of Education. This means that US pupils can study in Kingham Hill and still gain American school credits and, if they stay to the end, can graduate with a US diploma. Perfect for students moving to and from the States.

Games, options, the arts

Acres of space for sports with both PE lessons and school team sports for all - we were pleased to hear from the girls that their sports are taken just as seriously as the boys’. Fencing, hockey, basketball, watersports, climbing, mountain biking (all those wonderful rolling hills and forests). Rugby very popular with boys we spoke to. Girls in the football teams. Lots of matches against local school teams, but room for those who want to pursue individual sports - swimming, gym, long distance running. The warmest school swimming pool we have come across with pupils also gaining certificates in lifeguarding and being able to earn money and experience doing this at weekends. The pool is open to pupils’ families - parents reported using it regularly in the morning after dropping children off at school, and at the weekends.

Years 7 and 8 have the opportunity to learn a new musical instrument with free music lessons, and then often join the school orchestra or one of the ensembles. Singing is part of chapel service every morning (‘it sets the tone for the day’) led by school choir and backed by an organ scholar from Oxford. A ‘taste of the Anglican choral tradition,’ according to the head, as well as four different choirs including gospel.

Art is in an older workshop - creative chaos with many media including the rare treat of a pottery studio with kilns. DT (resistant materials, course) led by very long-standing teacher who clearly loves the fact that students explore and lead the learning. His own background in aeronautical engineering is evident from the many large model planes made by students as well as metalwork, 3D digital printing, woodwork. We saw garden benches that transformed into tables, book cases and finely jointed boxes. Hugely practical and creative.

Performing arts in a good drama hall - musicals, speech and drama, straight acting - any chance to perform welcomed and is the highlight of the school according to one pupil we spoke to. Drama scholarship pupil has ‘new confidence since joining the school’, and drama awards announced in assembly alongside sporting achievements.

The school farm, run by the chaplain’s wife, is a real asset - ‘my son’s favourite day is when he has farm club after school’. We saw a child leading round the school a pony that was larger than her, we met Casserole the rabbit, saw the new lambs being fed by bottle, and were introduced to the one-eyed horse. And this is a real little farm, not a petting zoo - pupils are taken to the abattoir when the time comes and learn about real agricultural practices ,not just pet keeping. A touch of sanity and a chance to keep pupils’ feet firmly on the ground and in the mud.

Boarders

Some 60 per cent of students board (almost entirely termly boarders, though a smattering of weekly boarders too) in a range of small houses. A maximum of 33 pupils to a boarding house with resident houseparents. These houses are home for boarding students, with clean, bright bedrooms and sitting room areas. A house for day pupils too, so they have a space to gather together each morning, leave their bags and get changed for sports. Boarding houses used in the morning for house meetings (aka checking diaries, reminding about music lessons and special notices), at lunchtime to collect themselves and their books, and after school for homework and recreation. Slightly more boys than girls board, but this is slowly equalising, especially with creation of the Lodge for more independent living for sixth form girls, which is a highly prized destination - day students stay occasionally too if they have evening practices or activities. Students in the Lodge do their own laundry and have more freedom than those in other boarding houses. Both parents and pupils reported that there was no division between day pupils and boarders. Local parents regularly welcomed boarders from further away for long weekends or exeats.

Background and atmosphere

Purpose built in 1886 by a philanthropist who wanted to educate the poor from the East End of London and get them out into the country, the wooden beamed chapel and mixed outbuildings still feel more like a country manor than a school. Well kept grounds and buildings, but not precious. It is set high in the Cotswolds with views all round of rolling hills and distant villages mid way between Stratford upon Avon, Cheltenham and Oxford. A hundred acres of grounds allows for wonderful playing fields and space to breathe. Chapel central to the school with daily services and the chaplain a big presence in the school. ‘Atheists a minority at Kingham,’ according to one parent, but pupils were encouraged to explain and discuss their points of view; ‘free thinking encouraged’ and ‘no indoctrination’. Pupils expected to ‘back up their ideas’ rather than repeat dogma. Christian values ‘core to the school’ with prayer central too.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

Pupils call the close-knit community that exists at the school the ‘Kingham bubble’, and we can see why - set in some isolation in the countryside, with older and younger pupils mixing unselfconsciously and both adults and pupils ‘treated with respect as individuals whose opinions are valued’. No teachers on first name terms, but no pupils called by their surnames either. Pupils ‘on a par with teachers’ who ‘chat to them’, and pupils say they ‘feel listened to’. This school is ‘more about the whole child’ and is ‘not pressurised’. The teachers ‘find out about the kids’ and ‘interact with the children’. There is ‘an ease between teachers and pupils, it is respectful but jovial at the same time’. Parents like the fact that the school is ‘warm’ and ‘happier’ than most and reckon that teachers must be better because the school is not selective but get such ‘good added value in terms of academic achievement’. Parents spoke of pupils not being pushed but of being ‘given opportunities and encouraged’ and of choosing the school precisely for that reason.

Pupils and parents

Famous old boys include Andrew Adonis, Pink Floyd’s Guy Pratt and even an air-vice marshal. This range of interests and careers sums up the school - space for pupils to be individuals. Approximately 15 per cent of students from families in the Forces or Foreign Office, with 10 per cent American students (state department or embassy families), some 70 per cent of students British and 20 per cent overall international. School works hard to ensure no large groups of international students so a medley of some 20 nationalities (we met a German student, a boy from Uzbekistan and a Chinese girl just for starters). British students primarily fairly local. There is no pressure to be a ‘cool kid’ at this school, which ‘doesn’t attract the more pushy parents’. Parents spoke of the joy at finding an alternative to the very academic and driven schools that abound in the area, where pupils have time and are encouraged to have extracurricular interests rather than focussing entirely on academic studies.

Entrance

No academic selection and the school will take children needing learning support but ‘rarely’ those with ADHD, autism or behavioural difficulties. Head meets all families when they visit and/or apply and then there is an assessment in English, maths and reasoning, as well as sight of previous school reports. Assessment by agents if pupils from abroad. Taster days possible for prospective pupils - so reassuring for parents and pupils to know the school before committing. Applications for scholarships (up to 25 per cent of fees for academic, art, performing arts and sport and at sixth form, one 50 per cent organ scholarship and three 75 per cent academic scholarships) by October.

Exit

Serious effort goes into career guidance provision throughout the sixth form, with presentations and careers evenings - attendance, needless to say, by MOD and agricultural colleges, but also a wide range of other career talks. Americans tend to go back home for university (Ohio State, Virginia Tech), with other internationals mostly going back to their home countries, but otherwise a fair number stay local and go to Bath and Bristol or Oxford Brookes. Many move to London - Imperial, Kings, UCL, LSE. The school is very proud of several past students who came from backgrounds in care to go on to Oxbridge.

Money matters

Fifteen per cent of revenue from the school is spent on concessions and school bursaries (means-tested bursaries of up to 50 per cent are available and a generous 100 per cent of school fees for able sixth form pupils). Scholarships of up to 25 per cent of fees for academic, art, performing arts and sport and at sixth form, one 50 per cent organ scholarship and three 75 per cent academic scholarships. The school has a proper set of 12 governors - rare and reassuring in a private school, as well as trustees who oversee Kingham Hill Trust. At present, building projects are funded from revenue, which appears solid.

Our view

The overriding approach at Kingham Hill School is ‘what can the school do for the pupil rather than what will the child bring to the school’. The Kingham bubble is a supportive community of pupils and teachers treating each other with respect and kindness in this area of outstanding natural beauty. A traditional English boarding school with Christian values and prayer at its core, giving a solid education in its widest sense to both English and International pupils.

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Special Education Needs

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Aspergers
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia Y
Dyscalculia Y
Dysgraphia
Dyslexia Y
Dyspraxia
English as an additional language (EAL) Y
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
Not Applicable
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

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