Skip to main content

What says..

A small school historically renowned for music, though headmistress points to broader curricular achievement in recent years. Parents praise the ‘value added’, taking pupils ‘beyond their considered capabilities’. They like the way their children are ‘gently encouraged’ in an environment fostering ‘hard work’, yielding ‘increasingly good results’...‘It is easy to sit in the shadow of a medieval cathedral and say, “Aren’t we lucky”, but it is our duty to see those who have not and do something...Since 2003 they have given over 15,000 children in over 150 schools access to music programmes by sharing their resources and experience

Read review »

Do you know this school?

The schools we choose, and what we say about them, are founded on parents’ views. If you know this school, please share your views with us.

Please login to post a comment.

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.

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

What The Good Schools Guide says

Head teacher

Since 2015, Sue Hannam. Born and educated locally in Sutton Coldfield, a stone’s throw from Lichfield. Father was a professional goalkeeper for Aston Villa, mother in accounts. Completed English degree and PGCE at Birmingham University, grasping, ‘with both hands’ a foreign exchange to Innsbruck University, Austria, ‘expanding my horizons and overcoming language barriers’. To fund an MA, took short term teaching job in Cirencester but stayed for three years. However, the plan was always for law. Graduating from Chester Law School, took articles with local firm of solicitors, turning down a permanent role when she developed a ‘hankering for the classroom’. Honed her teaching skills at secondary establishments Polesworth then Coleshill, where she remained for six, ‘very happy’ years.

In 2009, Lichfield Cathedral School (LCS) enticed her to set up their brand new sixth form. Success brought temporary headship following incumbent headmaster’s retirement. Deputising paid dividends - in 2015 Hannam became the first headmistress in the history of LCS. ‘I was in the best position for continuity and could hit the ground running. The culture, ethos and commitment to developing individuals felt so right.’

Mrs Hannam believes her study boasts, ‘arguably the best view of any head teacher’. Mullion windows dramatically frame the west wall of the medieval cathedral, so close you can almost touch the carved stone. Cloaked by a rich burgundy ceiling, the cream walls are adorned with examples of school’s significant artistic talent; past and present.

Mrs Hannam is modestly reluctant to talk about herself, ‘It’s not about me, it’s about how we produce glorious individuals who are comfortable in their own skin’. Yet we have to touch on her recent appearance as headmistress in BBC’s 2019 ‘Back In Time To School’ series. ‘It was such fun and fascinating’ she admits. Pupils loved seeing their headmistress on television, ‘she was great’, said many and one gushed, ‘Our headmistress is a celebrity!’

Proud both of results, ‘Looking at our data I don’t believe you could tell we are non-selective’ and school's response to the pandemic. Mrs Hannam admits it was ‘epic and exhausting but that didn’t stop us. The children went home on Friday and by Monday we had a full, live online resource up and running’.

Parents find her ‘hugely approachable’ with ‘vision for the future’, one gushed ‘she’s fabulous we can’t praise her enough’. Pupils comment that she is ‘so busy’ - she also teaches the sixth form, and ‘she pops up all over the place!’

Entrance

Non selective although interview and assessment establish ability to access curriculum. Almost 50/50 even split boys to girls. Entry to sixth form, minimum five GCSE’s grades 9-6 with some specific requirement subject (eg maths and further maths A level require grade 9-7 at GCSE).

Exit

Very little fallout; most continue to GCSE then sixth form where A levels and BTECs offered. Universities include: London School of Economics, St Andrews, Keele, Nottingham Trent, Royal Agricultural University. Medics to Kings College, Aston University and University of Buckingham. Veterinary at Harper Adams.

Latest results

In 2021, 64 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 70 percent A*-B at A Level. In 2020, 46 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 80 percent A*-B at A level, no BTecs taken. In 2019 (the last year when exams took place), 39 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 24 per cent A*- A and 68 per cent A*-B at A level; 53 per cent three Dist*- Dist, 100 per cent Dist*- Merit at BTec.

Teaching and learning

A small school historically renowned for music, though headmistress points to broader curricular achievement in recent years. Senior class sizes kept to 18-20, with three classes per year, allowing teachers to track pupil’s progress continually. Juniors, two classes per year, up to 20 per class.

In contrast to the senior school, junior school is architecturally uninspiring yet the rambling six acre Longdon plot boasts playing fields and woodland galore. Parents praise headmistress Joanna Churton as, ‘enthusiastic’ and ‘a wonderful headmistress’. Staff laud her as ‘inspiring’, creating, ‘brilliant working relationships with staff and parents’.

Pre-school and nursery boast large open plan spaces with plethora of resources. Two reception groups cohabit in colourful, roomy zoned work and play areas. Outside early years provision really stands out with secure wrap around terrace overlooking a number of larger recreational grounds and fields beyond. ‘Out in all weathers’ there’s plenty to occupy and entertain including a magical wooded area complete with bug hotel, mud kitchen and climbing logs. Bikes and ride ons galore. French taught from reception on.

Bright, light classrooms for years 1 to 4, packed with pupil’s creative work, led by ebullient staff. Regular use of iPads for class and project work. Autumnal kitchen garden displayed the remains of a bountiful crop. Exciting and ambitious plans afoot for a ‘smallholding’ farm in current Forest School, a charming wooded area that currently falls short of its potential. We look forward to seeing this develop.

‘Rigorous’ tracking throughout junior and senior schools ensures development documented and individuals stretched. Mrs Churton reflects, ‘Attainment is important, they can come clever and leave clever but we want to see a marked improvement’.

Despite extensive external acreage, a lack of square footage internally sees multifunctional school hall doubling up as dining room and library as occasional classroom.

Years 5 and 6 move to senior site in self-contained building with secure play area. Parents like, ‘the sense of senior school’ and, ‘use of some facilities before transition’.

Senior parents praise the ‘value added’, taking pupils ‘beyond their considered capabilities’. They like the way their children are ‘gently encouraged’ in an environment fostering ‘hard work’, yielding ‘increasingly good results’. Formal streaming from year 7. Parents approve additional tutoring ‘isn’t necessary’.

Senior classrooms dotted around cluster of medieval dwellings in the quintessential Cathedral Close. Our tour took in a fairly sparse looking science lab, yet school assures us this is due to their current stringent regulations necessitating removal of displays not considered ‘covid safe’.

We like the broad range of options including business studies, photography and law at GCSE, law and criminology at A level and BTECs in applied law and music tech. Many take EPQ qualification.

The senior Forest School was a welcome surprise and an inspired use of steep stepped banks behind main school building complete with own classroom. ‘We learn to light fires’, our tour guide enthused.

Learning support and SEN

Junior School head of learning support values regular connection with parents. Pupils assisted in classroom or timetabled in dedicated room. Senior department housed centrally. Experience with ADHD, autism, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, dyslexia, Barth syndrome. Neither school currently set up for wheelchair access or mobility issues but, ‘provision could be made’.

Pupils carry ‘passports’ documenting requirements so teachers always informed. Access to external agencies where necessary. Head of learning support tells us, ‘It’s about being inclusive, ensuring children don’t feel separated’. Open door policy for parents and pupils.

The arts and extracurricular

As expected, ‘LCS is very musical’ say parents. Sixteen ensembles include: jazz band, strings, woodwind, barber shop, a burgeoning rock band (currently rehearsing for live gigs). Around 300 individual lessons per week. Music teacher proud to ‘embrace the modern’, with music tech offered in a brand new suite at GCSE and BTEC.

Bustling sixth form art studio displays outstanding level of creative achievement. No further view of the art department on our tour, yet headmistress champions the, ‘wonderful’ art and DT spaces encompassing the entire top floor of school house - complete with classrooms, workshops and pottery studio - home to one of the most popular after school clubs.

Busy drama department and successful - since 2011, 83 per cent of GCSE candidates have achieved top A* or A grades. We spied advertisements for the latest production, ‘School of Rock’ garnering the excitement of pupils (and in house rock band). Joint junior and senior school productions staged at the local Garrick Theatre. Onsite senior ‘Black Box’ drama studio for rehearsal and smaller productions. LAMDA and English Speaking Board available from year 2. We were privy to a spellbinding dualogue rehearsal based on the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement. ‘Show must go on’ attitude pervades - during lockdown productions performed, filmed and sent to parents rather than cancelling.

After school senior clubs include: Makaton sign language, bell ringing, animation, stained glass window making, debating, science. Juniors: Animal planet, musical theatre, exploding science and more.

In addition to extensive chorister tours in Italy, America or Germany, usual raft of school trips include: Birmingham theatres, Sea Life Centre, Blists Hill Victorian museum, London theatres and museums, England football training centre, St George’s. Residential trips include bonding in York, skiing in Europe.

Sport

Traditionally not first choice for the seriously sporty, yet now a number play for county with a handful training at international level. Headmistress asserts that the sport at LCS has come on ‘in leaps and bounds - if you’ll pardon the pun’. Head of sport expands that ‘a shift of focus in sport in the last few years is beginning to bear fruit’. Over 250 fixtures with local independent and state schools from year 3 to U6. Breadth to offer everyone the chance to represent. ‘Middle of the road’, said a parent but ‘really inclusive’. Uptake for PE GCSE and A level small, ‘but growing’. Sports scholarships offered to attract greater competitiveness. Sports leadership in year 9 curriculum, sporting dinners hosted. Annual ‘cross country’ race around school, weaving through the raft of ancient buildings in Cathedral Close, evokes scenes reminiscent of Chariots of Fire.

Junior school’s spacious acreage offers football pitches and tennis courts, used to ignite an interest that can be continued in senior school, but parents grumble that senior site simply ‘isn’t ‘big enough to have many of its own facilities’. Our tour did not permit time to see it but but a number of pitches sit on a playing field to the rear of main school for rugby or football, a Multi Use Games Area (MUGA) for netball or basketball and a slightly tired looking Astro - a pupil told us they would love to see this furnished with goals rather than using jumpers. No sports hall, gym or internal spaces on offer, save a small assembly hall for table tennis, gym, dance and fitness. Lack of space explained as, ‘a symptom of a city centre school in a medieval cathedral close’, has been addressed by forging partnerships and investing time and money in local clubs. Pupils transported by minibus the short distance to local grounds for hockey, tennis and cricket or local leisure centre for squash and badminton. Swimming at a local pool. Tennis main summer sport; school partners with the Tim Henman Foundation to develop access to and coaching for local schools.

Ethos and heritage

Lichfield Cathedral has been responsible for educating male choristers since 1315 but it was not until 1942 that Chad’s Cathedral School came to Cathedral Close, taking residence in the former bishop’s palace. Co-ed in 1974, renamed Lichfield Cathedral School in 1981. In 2006 the junior school moved off site to Longdon and the school extended to GCSE. Four years later LCS sixth form created. In 2012 girl choristers were installed in the Choral Foundation.

‘Being a chorister expands a child’s horizons in endless ways’ says headmistress. The commitment is significant for both pupils and parents, practices run each weekday morning and most evenings for weekend services. ‘Elitist?’ we asked - after all this is a fee paying school and all choristers must attend, ‘Definitely not’, chimed the headmistress, ‘boys and girls who show choral talent are offered means tested bursaries and scholarships so it really is open to all’. Other senior choirs to consider when chorister voices outgrown. We were heartened to hear, in the interests of gender equality, that under this headmistress’ tenure and thanks to the cathedral chapter, female choristers are finally being given the opportunities their male counterparts have always enjoyed - joining alongside boys in year 2 rather than year 5 and attending the same number of services (about time too).

We asked parents whether they thought the close affiliation with the cathedral may put some prospective parents off considering LCS. They were quick to respond. ‘Religion underpins the day to day but is not force fed, all are welcome’. Despite being only 40 mins from multicultural Birmingham, diversity is limited. ‘There’s not much of a mix’, parents confirmed, but it is ‘inclusive’, however, headmistress points out, ‘with a catchment that extends to North Birmingham, LCS is the most diverse school in the city’.

One could be swept away by the grandeur, architecture and compelling history of these buildings, forgetting that housing an educational establishment was not their original purpose. The fact that the palace is a grade one listed 17th century building indicates some of the challenges faced in running a 21st century school. The gauntlet is readily picked up by Mrs Hannam and we look forward to seeing how this, as one parent put it, ‘forward thinking head’, resolves space and functionality issues.

Strong commitment to, ‘give back’ to the community. The headmistress told us, ‘It is easy to sit in the shadow of a medieval cathedral and say, “Aren’t we lucky”, but it is our duty to see those who have not and do something’. She expands, ‘We want pupils to leave with a social conscience; to use academic ability to make a difference. Confident but with lashings of humility and fire in their belly to make it count’. This outlook won the school the Times Education Supplement Partnership award 2019 for their music outreach programme (the largest in the country). Since 2003 they have given over 15,000 children in over 150 schools access to music programmes by sharing their resources and experience.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

Parents say they rarely hear of bullying but issues are dealt with deftly. One commended the school’s ability to keep parents broadly informed using opportunities to ‘reiterate school policy’ without revealing unnecessary detail. Pupils report, ‘We can usually sort it out ourselves or with our friends’, and if needed, ‘teachers can step in’. We asked a group of sixth formers for their opinions on ‘Everyone’s Invited’. None had heard of the movement, yet all were confident and clear on how to react to issues of peer on peer abuse and the wider issue of equality, diversity and inclusion. Teachers said they have protocols in place but there has been no need for them.

When we asked pupils if they have a voice within the school, we were delighted by many animated responses. One successful pupil petition gave girls the choice to wear trousers and a sixth former request to remove a slave owner as one of four figureheads of the house system was granted. He was swiftly replaced by a freed slave with historical connections to the school. All this in addition to the standard student councils from reception up.

Issues surrounding drugs, vaping and alcohol apparently not an issue. ‘That doesn’t happen in school’ said sixth form pupils during an informal chat. A middle school pupil told us, ‘we don’t want to let anyone down’. Online safety taken seriously with education for parents as much as children. Even a ‘helpful’ chat with parents about their WhatsApp group and potential pitfalls - Oh, to be a fly on the wall for that one!

The covid response was ‘quick’ and ‘efficient’ on both sites, say parents. Senior pupils had full online teaching while junior school offered more varied approach with pre recorded lessons, pastoral social time and online gallery to showcase home artwork. At parents’ request, individual tutor sessions offered. When permitted, juniors took‘covid safe rambles’ in class bubbles on school site. Teachers commented online lessons still vital to those isolating or absent - this resource will continue.

New online portal welcomed by a couple of parents, who commented that communication is area for improvement, citing occasional ‘late messages’ or ‘radio silence’ about changes to policy.

School meals are, ‘on everybody’s minds at the moment’ mentioned one senior school parent. School highlights this as a covid related, ‘circumstantial’ issue with kitchen staff shortages and illness, shining a light on the stresses and strains the pandemic has placed on the day to day running of schools. No such feedback from junior parents for whom the same company provide catering. During our visit to the senior school we enjoyed a filling and nutritious lunch in the company of a charming and enthusiastic cohort who tucked into their meals with gusto. Children bemoan lack of a tuck shop but revel in the break time biscuits, ‘everyone wants to be at the front of the queue for Bourbons,’ we were told by more than one pupil.

Pupils and parents

Plenty of parking and attendants on hand at the junior school. Senior provides drop off and pick up points adjacent to the cathedral close to avoid congestion. Many walk, others use train or bus. Most are very local say pupils, rarely travelling more than 30 mins to school.

Parents praise the down to earth attitude all associated with LCS. ‘Don’t be put off because it’s private. It’s not just for those who roll up in a Bentley, it’s a good school, full stop’. ‘Really active’ PTA recently funded the senior Forest School building and the MUGA (multi use games area). Regular social events, quiz nights and school discos for pupils.

At break times and between lessons smart, relaxed, animated pupils cascade from classrooms and pour into Cathedral Close chattering unselfconsciously despite being on show to the public and tourists - who in turn compliment their ‘immaculate behaviour’ and ‘smart’ black and yellow uniforms. Well respected by the local community LCS is renowned for, ‘polite pupils’ and a ‘significant amount of charity work’. Parents say they are ‘happy’, ‘nurtured’ ‘well rounded individuals’ and we certainly found them to be so as they eagerly conversed with us and their peers on the tour, at lunch or when we visited classrooms.

Money matters

Significant number of bursaries and scholarships on offer, usually around 25-30 for: music, choral, cantorum, sport, art, drama, academic, all round, head’s award.

The last word

Is it the awe-inspiring, majestic setting that gives Lichfield Cathedral School its heart and soul? We believe not. It is the acknowledgement that together each member of their community is a custodian, whose responsibility is to work hard, look after each other and give something back. This underpins everything they do. A good allrounder with heart.

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.

Who came from where

Who goes where

Special Education Needs

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Aspergers
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia
Dysgraphia
Dyslexia
Dyspraxia
English as an additional language (EAL)
Genetic
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class Y
HI - Hearing Impairment
Hospital School
Mental health
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
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

Subscribe for instant access to in-depth reviews:

☑ 30,000 Independent, state and special schools in our parent-friendly interactive directory
☑ Instant access to in-depth UK school reviews
☑ Honest, opinionated and fearless independent reviews of over 1,000 schools
☑ Independent tutor company reviews

Try before you buy - The Charter School Southwark

Buy Now

GSG Blog >

The Good Schools Guide newsletter

The Good Schools Guide Newsletter

Educational insight in your inbox. Sign up for our popular newsletters.

The Good Schools Guide manifesto for parents