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Kings College (Taunton)

What says..

This school is flying, brimming with enthusiasm and passion for learning, smashing it on the sports field and bounding with extracurricular opportunities. It has gradually – and with ‘a deliberate strategy’ – lifted its academic game. While still standing by its inclusivity banner and celebrating the not (overly) selective image that it fosters, it is quietly...

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What the school says...

King's College, Taunton is a leading co-educational independent boarding and day school that comprises King’s Prep for children from nursery to Year 8 and King’s College senior school from Year 9 to Sixth Form. The schools are situated on separate sites in the heart of the west country, just two-hours from London.

King's College offers a holistic education, strong on values of scholarship and community, together with all-round, world class provision in sport and the arts.

The school has a strong boarding ethos, creating a home from home environment for pupils. Weekends are busy and purposeful, with lessons and sport on Saturdays, and activities and trips often taking place on Sundays. Boarders and day pupils live and study side-by-side. Friendships developed are often extraordinarily long-lived. Boarders come from far and wide. Many are local. A few live closer to the school than some of their day pupil friends. Others come from the south west of England; others from further afield in the UK and some from overseas. This makes for a varied and vibrant community within the houses.

The school occupies a secluded and beautiful site of over 80 acres on the south side of Taunton, just a few minutes from the town centre. The main building is an outstanding example of nineteenth-century architecture, and the School Chapel is a striking blend of ancient and modern. The Sixth Form Centre to the north of the Chapel is anchored in sustainable energy principles, flooded with natural light and echo the environments of higher education institutions. The school also benefits from extensive sports pitches and facilities that include an indoor cricket school with PitchVision technology, a tennis and netball dome, indoor 25m swimming pool, indoor climbing wall, squash courts and a strength and conditioning suite. The modern library and business suite caters of pupils of all ages and the 240-seater theatre sees performances, lectures and all manner of events in between, take place on a regular basis.

The school's achievements include BBC Song's of Praise School Choir of the Year; Wisden's most successful school cricket team in 2009 and runners up in 2010; Jos Buttler presently playing cricket for England; U16 girls' Hockey County Champions; Olympic gold medalist Maddie Hinch is a former pupil; winners of the Good Schools Guide best A level DT department award and four Arkwright Scholarships in the past four years, including the Royce Award; winners of the coveted Sir Steuart Pringle Marine Cadet Trophy in 2009, 2010 and 2011, runners up in 2015 and winners again in 2016 and 2022.
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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.

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




What The Good Schools Guide says


Since September 2022, Michael Sloan, previously deputy head at Brighton College, where he rose through the ranks from assistant head (head of middle school). Grew up in Northern Ireland and attended the Methodist College in Belfast before reading ancient history and politics at Newcastle. After commissioning from the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, he served as an officer in The Rifles for six years, during which time he was deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo. No stranger to the South West, he gained a PGCE from Bristol before starting his career as a history teacher at Emanuel School in Wandsworth, where he was also a head of year.

Married to Hannah with three young sons at the school. He is a keen sportsman, having played rugby and football to a good level, an avid reader and an enthusiastic cook. His family enjoys travelling and walking.


Aims to take 90 into year 9 via a meeting with the head and sitting the school’s own tests in maths, English and verbal reasoning on the headmaster's assessment day. Places are usually offered before the CE results come out so these are used for setting rather than as entry criteria.

Most come from their associated prep, King’s Hall, with others joining from prep schools across the south west (most notably Hazlegrove), Bristol or London day schools and overseas. They look for ‘passionate all-rounders, rather than being restrictively academically selective’ and are not afraid to say if they feel it is not the right choice for a child. Of the current cohort, 17 per cent are from military families and they have a cap of 25 per cent on international students.

Another ‘10 or so’ in for year 10 GCSEs and an additional 15 into year 11, usually international students, ‘predominantly Germans’, to take advantage of the school’s reputation in delivering a one-year intensive GCSE core subject course. Around 25 to 30 new starters in the sixth form, at which point they offer a 16+ scholarship programme and attract very good people from local state and independent schools. The school looks for a minimum of five grade 6s at GCSE (7s 'strongly recommended' for A level subjects and compulsory for maths and science), with at least a grade 4 in English and maths; hopefuls will also do two subject papers in chosen A levels and a verbal reasoning paper. Scholars will sit a general assessment paper in addition, plus panel interview.


Between 10-15 per cent leave after GCSEs. Just under half head to Russell Group universities. Exeter, Bath, Durham, Nottingham and Newcastle are the top five destinations currently. One to Oxbridge in 2023. Sometimes one or two medics, though none in 2023. Some follow their hearts and skills into further education in music, drama or professional sport (they are justifiably proud of the England cricketers Jos Buttler and Tom Banton, who started his professional contract from here). The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire recently popular. Sometimes a few head to overseas universities.

Latest results

In 2023, 38 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 37 per cent A*/A at A level (71 per cent A*-B). In 2019 (the last pre-pandemic results), 50 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 45 per cent A*/A at A level (77 per cent A*-B).

Teaching and learning

This is a school that gradually – and with ‘a deliberate strategy’ – has lifted its academic game. While still standing by its inclusivity banner and celebrating the not (overly) selective image that it fosters, it is quietly achieving great results. The erudite deputy head lauded the teaching team for galvanising this turnaround, encouraging a culture among pupils to work hard in a happy, collaborative environment without the need for divisive competition. Teachers work by the same approach, mentoring each other with a focus on sharing ideas (there is a weekly staff breaktime forum to do just this) and developing pedagogy to ensure that pupils want to learn. Parents welcomed the fact that ‘it is cool to be clever here’. The ‘long boarding day’ gives teachers ample time to enhance this ethos.

Refreshingly, teaching is decisively not constrained by the criteria required to pass the exams but rather designed to ‘inspire thought, provoke questions and foster deep enjoyment of each subject’. The effect of this has not been missed by parents – ‘The children are really enthused and inspired by their teachers who all seem to have an incredible passion for their subjects and are able to creatively connect each child to their topic,' said one. Exemplary provision throughout the global pandemic, they told us; if anything, they strengthened the academic offering – ‘My son felt as though he had a personalised experience in every subject,' said one parent.

Year groups are streamed from the start into five groups based on English and science performance. There is some additional setting for maths. Only the top three sets sit single GCSE science exams, with the others following the combined science curriculum. Taking one language is highly recommended for most students, with a broad range on offer and multiple options available for good linguists.

Pupils are encouraged across all subjects to ‘give it their best shot and know that they can make mistakes in a positive environment’. They are also actively involved in their teachers’ appraisals, completing anonymous questionnaires on each teacher’s performance, a modern approach that is praised by parents as ‘encouraging excellence’.

At A level they aim for 70 per cent A*-B and have hit this for the last two years, primarily through better steering and advice for pupils on subject selection – ‘Obviously we want them to follow their dreams but they need their results to open doors for them as well.’ The school has set a high bar – ‘We would like to be the top A level school in Somerset.’ They offer 24 subjects at A level – biology and maths are the most popular together with a sprinkling of the other sciences; good results in arts, humanities and psychology. The offer of an extended BTEC diploma in sport has been revolutionary for those wanting a different path, taken at differing levels from the highest (worth three A levels) to a two A level equivalent – it is drawing in around four new students to the sixth form a year as its reputation grows. Students completing this route have gone on to study sports management and social sciences at Newcastle and Exeter.

Learning support and SEN

An SEN team that parents describe as ‘phenomenal’, accessed through a ‘learning strategies’ programme and adept at identifying and assisting those with additional needs. Around 20 per cent have entitlement to additional exam access arrangements and, of these, 10–15 per cent have additional lessons with personalised support. School is small enough to tailor support to the needs of the child and can handle most minor educational needs from dyslexia to mild autism and ADHD. They draw the line where ‘with the best will in the world’ they cannot facilitate the required help – they are unable, for example, to supply constant one-on-one care or a permanent teaching assistant.

The arts and extracurricular

School believes that ‘the creative is equally as important as the analytical,’ so it comes as no surprise that the arts are strong. All students are immersed in music, music tech, performing arts, drama and DT, in line with the ‘have a go’ encouragement fostered in all – and there are some discernible results.

The Silvermead arts building provides four floors of light, bright studio space, leaving parents singing the praises of its ‘design brilliance’ – the investment has left the subject thriving with pupils gaining access to prestigious art colleges post A level. Fine art, film, photography, DT and textiles all on offer. The DT department is self-professed as ‘one of the best in the country’ and has won Arkwright scholarships and GSG awards on several occasions.

Peripatetic lessons available in 17 musical instruments, including singing. About half the school learn one, with brass especially popular and a notable jazz band. Some grade 8 and diploma-level players among senior students. Singers abound, their repertoire from the popular to the highbrow, from rock bands to the chapel and chamber choirs, via the barbershop quartet.

Performing arts are big news here with dance classes in urban, tap, ballet and musical theatre, LAMDA training and lots of on-stage happenings: from termly showcases of dance, music and drama to impressive annual whole-school productions where everyone including the band and the backstage crew are pupils. Recent spectacles include Macbeth and Grease, all performed in the school’s own theatre. Junior plays offer performances such as Jason and The Argornauts and Lady in the Van in the school amphitheatre. Performing arts scholars take it one step further with unique showcase performances accompanying a black-tie sit-down meal and audience interaction – shy parents be warned.

The house system provides myriad inter-house activities and competitions in everything from debating to general knowledge quizzes and the opportunities to get involved and do your best are endlessly encouraged.

‘Super curriculum’ sixth form options include a scholar programme that has seen them crowned as south west champions in debating ‘three times in the last five years’ and university-style academic societies in most core subjects. Academic and career next steps are facilitated by a school networking website, giving pupils access to coaching and work experience from alumni and parents plus an impressive timetable of external speakers that managed to host virtual sessions with speakers including the director general of the BBC and the president of AstraZeneca UK.

Outdoor activities abound, overseen by a full-time head of outdoor education – primarily through the ever-popular CCF but also via DofE, Ten Tors and countless domestic and international expeditions. This school is endlessly on the go, from climbing up mountains and canoeing down rivers to mountain biking and surfing trips.


While they have upped the ante academically, this remains a sporty school and – in line with the exuberance for everything on offer here – the sports menu is muscle tingling; there is literally something for everyone. School considers itself ‘the best cricket school in the world’ – top notch training facilities and close links to Somerset County Cricket Club. They also excel at girls’ football (winning the nationals numerous times), hockey (top eight nationally), squash and swimming – the school describes the coach as ‘messianic, an absolute force of nature!’

Year-round impressive facilities and beautiful pitches in the heart of the school, although parents moaned that ‘the gym needs some updating’. They punch well above their weight for a small school and pupils are encouraged to be sporting all-rounders, not simply a master of one, to ensure full teams and great results.

Traditional offerings of rugby, football, hockey and netball covered with strong coaching and excellent results in a full programme of fixtures against other titans of the west country, Millfield always being the one to beat. Parents say what sets King’s apart from others is the resounding encouragement, whether their team wins or loses – ‘It blows me away every time we go to a match to see the heartfelt warmth with which the older ones support the younger teams.’

The latest addition to the sport menu is a fully updated equine offering, teaming up with Taunton Polo Club to give glossy stabling, a sand school and professional instructors as well as (in the not-too-distant future) polo coaching. Pupils can keep their own horses at the school or ride the school’s own mounts, with an enviable option to do so every afternoon.


While this is predominantly a boarding school (over 65 per cent fully board) King’s prides itself on its inclusion of day pupils. There is no day house but every boarding house has a percentage of day pupils and each of these can stay – at no extra charge – for one night a week, with flexi boarding options impressively bendy. ‘Whilst both of our sons are day pupils, they choose to stay at school for all their meals, to do prep, sports clubs etc. It is so inclusive that they almost seem boarders in everything but name,’ said one local parent.

Boarders come from all over the UK and there is a good peppering of international students with children of 21 different nationalities. Aside from China and Hong Kong, they have a good pool of European students and strong links with Kenya, South Africa and the Emirates.

Boarding houses are tight knit across year groups – ‘They are literally her other family,’ felt one parent. Inter-house competition is healthy and fun with no one house coming out consistently as top dog. There are seven different boarding houses (three for girls and four for boys) where boarders sleep predominantly in rooms of four, although sixth formers have privilege of single rooms or sharing with one friend. Houseparents and an army of live-in assistants run the house, senior pupils hold vital mentoring roles in looking after younger members of the house.

Food is served in the central dining hall so pupils can all eat together. As with most schools, there were mumblings amongst parents and pupils about quantity and stories of lugging cases full of top-up snacks back to school with them; no surprise for growing teenagers doing this amount of sport and strongly rebuffed by the school. Sadly, the pandemic restrictions made it impossible to us to form our own opinions this time.

Ethos and heritage

A Woodard School, one of about 30 founded by a visionary Victorian cleric. Today ‘religious literacy’, in the words of the resident chaplain, is inculcated without a whiff of evangelism. Collective worship is a big part of school life; all faiths and none are made welcome. The roots of the school go back to an ancient boys’ grammar, founded in the ninth century (allegedly by Alfred the Great) and relocated to its current site in the 1860s.

It’s fair to say that it still feels and looks quite traditional, from the impressive gothic façade to the conventional uniform of designer tweed jackets and blue shirts. Parents describe the buildings as ‘characterful’, with ‘a bit of an obvious update needed in some areas’. Plans for a brand new sixth form building - all natural light and sustainable energy - came good in 2023. ‘It’s not the glitziest or the most stunningly slick but there is something really special about this place,’ sums up one parent.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

Inclusivity is a given here – friendship and integration are key selling points of the school and oft-repeated buzzwords among staff and parents. Both are done remarkably well, with the arms of friendship wrapping around the world in every year group.

There is a clear, strong pastoral network including tutors and house staff, overseen by deputy head pastoral and consistent across the school. Sixth formers choose their tutor from the academic staff to ensure strong relationships. Parents feel in touch with their child’s emotional as well as academic progress and questions are answered swiftly. Punishments are rare, with the school claiming that they are ‘a pretty biddable lot’ with ‘very seldom any major disciplinary issues’. Parents concur – ‘Through a zero-tolerance approach, the historical laddish culture has disappeared and there is a lot more respect,' said one. Parents value the encouragement of distinction – ‘There is no shaping or moulding into a King’s College clone here, they celebrate and applaud individuality.’

Pupils and parents

This is a school where children thrive. In the words of one parent, ‘Everyone seems to leave here with impressive life skills: they are grounded, hard-working, great to have around, confident at communicating with adults, full of beans, diligent and ambitious.’

Parents are an upbeat bunch including the Somerset county set with historic links to the school to those working every hour to send their children here. Pupils and parents alike seemed unpretentious, happy to be there and grateful for all the opportunities the school offers.

Alumni, known as Aluredians (spotlighting the tenuous link to Alfred the Great), include Laura Bates (writer), Jos Buttler MBA (England cricketer), Geoffrey Cox QC MP (Attorney General 2018-20), Maddie Hinch MBA (GB hockey player) and Ted Nash (mobile media entrepreneur).

Money matters

Scholarships for academic, sporting and artistic prowess – to a maximum value of 20 per cent of the day fee – are awarded at 13+ and sixth form. Academic scholars are expected to contribute to the intellectual life of the school, not just pulling in stonking exam results.

The last word

This school is flying, brimming with enthusiasm and passion for learning, smashing it on the sports field and bounding with extracurricular opportunities. Children here are not babysat but encouraged and celebrated in achievements across the board and respond with a genuine happiness to be at the school. ‘This is a brilliant choice,’ summed up one parent.

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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