King's College Prep School A GSG School Review
What is included in the King's College Prep School review?
Academic results & facilities
Up to date results for GCSEs, A levels, BTECs and IB; we go to places league tables can’t reach.
Pastoral care and inclusivity
From how the school reacts when something goes wrong to how they tackle thorny issues like substance abuse, consent and mental health. We check they’ve got it all covered.
Fees, scholarships & bursary information
An independent education is a major commitment; our review enables you to compare everything from fees to hidden costs, as well as giving detailed information on scholarships and bursaries.
Information about the head
Our unparalleled access to the head teacher means we can tell you exactly what to expect when you meet them – from leadership style right down to the décor of their study and what they’re currently reading.
Teaching and learning approaches
Entrance & admissions information
Exit information - where do the children go next?
Learning support & SEN information
Arts, sports and extracurricular
What The Good Schools Guide says..
King's Prep is your archetypal stunning prep; tick long sweeping drive, glorious parkland setting, honey-coloured Georgian façade and rich history dating back to the 1700s. The grounds are clearly well loved and well used – from reading dens and fire pits hidden away in the ‘big woods’ to expansive adventure climbing frames, walled garden playgrounds with painted football goals and acre after acre of pitches and fields. What is notable however is that, once inside…Read more
- King's College Prep School
- Head: Justin Chippendale
- T 01823 285920
- F 01823 285922
- E [email protected]
- W www.kings-taunton.co.uk
- King's College Prep School is an independent school for boys and girls aged from 2 to 13 that offers boarding. King's College Prep School day fees are £9,990 - £20,400 and boarding fees are £23,250 - £29,98 pa. Want to know more about King's College Prep School? Read our review here.
- Boarding: Yes
- Local authority: Somerset
- Pupils: 302
- Religion: Church of England
- Fees: Day £9,990 - £20,400; Boarding £23,250 - £29,985 pa
- Open days: Please see website for details
- Review: View The Good Schools Guide Review
- Ofsted report: View the Ofsted report
- ISI report: View the ISI report
- Linked schools: King's College (Taunton)
What the school says...
King's College Prep School is a Woodard school and the prep school to King's College, Taunton which is on a separate site about three miles away. The school is built around Pyrland Hall, a magnificent Georgian house on the edge of the Quantock Hills. The simply stunning 50 acre estate is entirely surrounded by National Trust farmland but is also within a mile of Taunton, the county town of Somerset. Bristol and Exeter are within easy reach whilst London is a two hour train journey or three hours via motorway.
There is an excellent record of academic, musical, dramatic and sporting achievements underpinned by a strong, family orientated sense of community. There is a programme of continual development: in the last twelve years this has included a new sports hall, performing arts centre used for concerts and drama productions, new changing areas, a computer centre for the Pre-Prep, an extensive ICT centre and an astroturf pitch as well as a superb Forest School as part of the estate. ...Read more
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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.
UK Independent Schools’ Entry Test
Equestrian centre or equestrian team - school has own equestrian centre or an equestrian team.
What The Good Schools Guide says
Since 2009, Justin Chippendale BSc. Welcoming, warm and refreshingly candid; parents praise ‘his clever mix of the modern and the traditional approaches to education’ and it is a topic he enjoys discussing. He has dedicated the last 13 years of his life to King’s Prep and believes that his legacy is one of a school focused on ‘building people’, not simply achieving results. He is proud of the level of trust, support and involvement in the school’s parent community and of the ‘institutional culture of kindness’ that he has overseen at the school. The school’s strong reputation, particularly in sport, drama and academia is, in his own words, ‘a by-product of the successes in kindness, collaboration and consideration with which children lead their lives here’.
His own education and career bounce back and forth between the Dragon School Oxford and King’s College Taunton, at both of which he was a student and subsequently taught. Eleven years at the Dragon School, ultimately as housemaster, were punctuated by three years of study at Oxford Brookes University. After this, he was deputy head of Charfyn Grove School Salisbury for four years before coming to King’s Prep.
Viewed by all as an inspirational head; parents describe him as ‘engaging, approachable and very involved – he really knows every pupil’. He expounds on his beliefs that children should have the freedom to explore ‘who they are as much as what they know’ and be able ‘to reflect on how they feel about themselves without fear of being judged’. Fellow staff praised his motivational assembly presentations and described him as ‘a brilliantly positive role model for the pupils’.
He is married with three children, the youngest at King’s College in the sixth form and the older two at university. When not at school, he is passionate about food and travel and keen to head off on an exploration of New Zealand as soon as time allows.
Nursery from 2 years old, virtually full, with staff warning parents to beware that they will never want to take their children out of the school once they start. Many move from nursery to pre-prep and numbers grow with the year groups. An annual bulge of new admissions in years 7 and 8, mostly from local primary schools before common entrance at 13+, by means of the headmaster's assessment day in year 6 comprising interviews, tests and activities .
For years 1-4, prospective pupils are informally assessed during a welcome day; for years 5-8 they are tested in maths, English and verbal reasoning. Special preparation is not required, says school. Plenty of physical space for larger numbers so intakes are not limited and subject only to suitability assessment.
The majority (around 85 per cent) to King’s College at 13+ with places offered before Common Entrance by the end of year 7. On the very rare occasions staff feel that King’s College would not be the right fit, the discussion with parents starts long before this point. Head is keen to point out that he doesn’t ‘sell King’s College’ and a handful of pupils annually head off elsewhere, usually to the single-sex boarding options of Eton, Harrow, Sherborne schools, Winchester, Cheltenham Ladies’ and St Mary’s Calne.
Two scholarships in 2023.
Famous ex-pupils include actress Juno Temple, founder of Everyday Sexism project Laura Bates, and mad adventurers Ross and Hugo Turner.
King’s Prep is your archetypal stunning prep; tick long sweeping drive, glorious parkland setting, honey-coloured Georgian façade and rich history dating back to the 1700s. What is notable, however, is that the atmosphere inside is far from pompous; ‘down to earth, inclusive and not a cocoon from reality’ is how parents described it, highlighting its ‘strong sense of community and homely happiness’.
The grounds are clearly well loved and well used – from reading dens and fire pits hidden away in the ‘big woods’ to expansive adventure climbing frames, walled garden playgrounds with painted football goals and acre after acre of pitches and fields.
Nursery and pre-prep are housed in a wonderful walled off area with its own ‘little wood’, school chicken coop, ride-on trikes aplenty and classrooms sited in purpose-built Norwegian-style log cabins. Plenty of bright light and colourful displays. Class sizes here are small, with 10 to 15 in a class, and children were quietly engaged and well behaved, arms flying up to answer questions and actively listening to each other’s responses.
Tech is warmly embraced. We watched as year 2 children practised their weekly spellings by playing games on ‘learn pads’ before reading along with the teacher, an interactive camera hovering over her text. Year 3 were in a newly branded TPR class (theology, philosophy and religion – we had to ask too) and took great pleasure in confidently sharing their knowledge about Diwali celebrations in India with us.
From year 3, children in the prep take advantage of the full school site, moving around to subject-specific classrooms and broadening their timetabled subjects. Pupils spoke fondly of gaining their ‘Bunsen burner licence’ and the excitement of the ‘loads of practical experiments’ that they were doing in chemistry. The lab was clean, bright and hugely inspirational, with a jungle theme – toy primates climbing the columns, plants painted on the walls and pupils stopping to say hello to Everest and Turbo, the resident tortoises.
English and maths are taught in sets from year 4, according to ability and speed of learning. From year 6, every year group is split into streams with specific scholarship sets for the most able. Pupils say that streams hold no stigma and were keen to echo the head’s view that ‘we all have different strengths and weaknesses, it is not something that we compare between each other.’ Class sizes are small and pupils were quiet and attentive, standing up when we walked into the room and politely answering any questions we asked.
This remains a Common Entrance prep school and exams are seen as good preparation for life rather than a stressful focal point. ‘We believe in good worry,’ explained the head, who sees Common Entrance as something ‘tough but attainable’ that ‘offers a broad skeleton to their curriculum and is a good standardised tester of ability but not an ultimate decider of anything. The experience is more valuable than the outcome.’
Extra educational support, from learning English as a foreign language to assistance with dyslexia, dyspraxia or dyscalculia, is handled by a dedicated team of staff in the learning strategies department. Parents praise how ‘forthcoming and brilliant the academic help on offer is’. School says, ‘We draw the line at children who need one-on-one, in-classroom support’, acknowledging that they would be the first to say if they were unable to help a child get the best out of their school experience. About 30 per cent of children tap into the support at some time with only six per cent needing long term investment.
Drama is big here with the annual productions described by parents as ‘quite something’ and by pupils as ‘the highlight of our time here’. When we visited, rehearsals were in full swing for the year 8 production of Moana with pupils wired in to radio mikes, confidently singing solo parts and sound checking like professionals.
Music is ‘ambitious and really impressive’, according to parents, who sang the praises of the aptly nicknamed head of music, Mr D-J. The music block offers peripatetic classes in all the usual suspects, from piano, brass, wind and strings to percussion, and the school has a solid selection of orchestra, choir and solo performance opportunities to bolster the experience of learning an instrument. ‘Music is in everything we do here,’ said the head, and this is borne out by successes at local music festivals and pupils regularly joining the county youth orchestra.
Art is in a light-filled room and adored by pupils. We watched year 8 pupils learning how to accurately put together a painted self-portrait with some impressively successful results. Alongside the art block is a DT suite, with students creating everything from hand-sewn pencil cases and aprons to ‘coronavirus shaped’ wooden clocks and light-up key fobs.
Outdoor education is strong. Parents spoke of the ‘fantastic creativity used in outdoor learning with a clear purpose to make academic lessons memorable through taking children outside’. Tales of year 4 history lessons spent re-enacting battles on the adventure playground and exciting geography treasure hunts around the ‘big woods’ back this up. Older pupils complained about not having a freer rein to roam and explore around the whole site at breaktime but school assured us that apart from trying to fairly timetable key breaktime favourites (namely the Astro pitch and the adventure playground), pupils were not overly curtailed in their adventures.
King’s Prep has a strong local reputation as a sporty prep and, with its acres of pitches, huge sports hall, outdoor pool and 3G hockey pitch, it’s easy to see why. Not to mention the fact that their achievement document is like reading a roll call of firsts: 2022 county cricket champions for U12 and U13s and a regional IAPS win for the U11s; hockey U12 regional champions in 2022 and U13 qualification to the national finals. Rugby U11 boys won a recent IAPS festival and even football, which pupils repeatedly bemoaned not having coaching in, does well here, with both U11 and U13 boys coming second in the regional qualifiers. Whilst we were there, a phone call came in from a nervous PE teacher at a rival prep, asking for the rugby team to go easy on them that afternoon.
Does the high level of sport make it impossible to get into a team? ‘No,’ according to one pupil, who eloquently expanded on his opinion that ‘you can usually wiggle your way in… choice is not simply based on being good, you have to demonstrate your ability to be a team player.’ All get the chance to represent the school in some capacity during their time here.
Extracurricular activities are broad. Clubs happen at lunchtime, after school and on voluntary Saturday mornings in everything from squash, fencing, horse riding, swimming, gym and football to cookery, jewellery making, photography, debating and more.
Twenty children board full time; 60 per cent are international students (mainly Chinese), with plenty of others taking advantage of the school’s open flexi-boarding offering. Most boarders are in year 5 and above, and boarding houses are split by sex and age, in large functional rooms of eight beds with shared bath and shower rooms along each corridor. Good-sized common rooms have games consoles, TVs and even a pool table to make evenings fun.
Boarding staff try and make the experience as akin to living at home as possible with sleepovers allowed at day pupils’ houses, plenty of activities on offer at the weekends and access to wider community clubs permitted if logistics allow.
Generous arrangements are available for Forces families, and scholarships, open to all, are awarded at 11+. They continue through the college, subject to annual review.
The last word
A genuinely lovely prep school with well-mannered and well-rounded pupils who achieve great things across a fabulously broad range of disciplines without seeming arrogant or elitist. A wonderful start to any child’s educational experience.
Special Education Needs
Although not a specialist school, King's College Prep makes provision for pupils with mild learning difficulties. The SEN Department was praised by ISI Inspection in 2004 as being a strength of the school. It is also recognised by the Services Education Allowances (SENA). 09-09
|Cheltenham Ladies' College||2023||1|
|King's College (Taunton)||2023||85% to the senior school|
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