Skip to main content

What says..

The most academic school in the East Midlands, claims the school, and that's the main reason parents choose it. ‘But it’s not just grades, grades, grades, push, push, push,’ said one. ‘What they excel at is supporting them.’ This goes beyond the classroom to include subject clinics (promoted on practically every classroom door during our visit), enrichment (Olympiads, essay competitions etc) and, as a student pointed out, ‘Every teacher is always available for one-to-ones.’ Motivation considered essential – ‘although,’ pondered one older student, ‘you do get some floating a bit in year 7 but your peers help trigger a work ethic.’ Definitely not a school where you’d get made fun of for working hard...

Read review »

What the school says...

At Nottingham High School we have a well-deserved national reputation both for our academic achievements and for the high standards achieved in the wide range of activities we offer. We are proud of our tradition, but at the same time have a strong sense of purpose for the future. Ours is a diverse, down-to-earth school which thrives on curiosity, challenge, encouragement and kindness; a community where intelligent pupils from a wide variety of social backgrounds are given the maximum opportunity to strive for the highest standards. Full admissions policies and processes can be found on our website. Entry at 11 is by examinations in Maths, English & VR, and includes a 15 minute interview. Entry at 16 is by interview and is conditional upon GCSE performance. Entry to Junior and Infant Schools are by assessment commensurate with age of child. ...Read more

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.

What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since 2007, Kevin Fear BA PGCE. Educated at Douai and Southampton University. Previously head of history at King’s Chester before joining Nottingham High in 2000 as a senior teacher, then deputy head with academic and marketing responsibilities. Doesn’t do things by halves - under his watch, the school has gained an infant section and gone co-ed. Next on his list is a wellbeing centre – a pastoral hub that houses everything from counselling to learning support: ‘We’re proud of our results but you can’t just push kids academically without looking after them as people.’

Teaching was always on the cards, he says. Before reading history at Southampton he worked in a Devon prep for a couple of terms, ‘and that was it.’ Went into the independent sector, ‘Because of the sport, and particularly football, that I could get involved in alongside teaching’ and because, ‘I’ve experienced the benefits of private education first hand, having gone there on a bursary.’ Both feet still firmly on the ground, as befits this down-to-earth and diverse (not just culturally but socio-economically due to its own generous bursary scheme) school. He takes particular pride in telling us how his daughter (who attended the school, as did his son) was reckoned by peers she met at university to be state educated because she seemed so grounded.

‘Fear by name, but not by nature,’ said a parent (someone had to), and students concur. Doesn’t teach, they said, but turns up to everything - ‘and I mean everything,’ said one. ‘Friendly’ and ‘easy to talk to,’ they told us, while parents like that he is ‘traditional but not afraid to show his human side.’ ‘An excellent figurehead.’ His office door (surely the nicest we’ve seen: medieval in style but painted bright red) is always open – ‘literally and metaphorically,’ approved a parent. Leads into the snuggest head’s study we’ve seen, with splendid views from the leaded windows and quite the most pleasing display of ceramic frogs (made by the students, of course). In his spare time, he likes to keep fit via his Peloton bike, weekly sessions with a personal trainer and running every Sunday. Also ‘follows the fortunes’ of Arsenal FC.

Leaving in August 2025.

Entrance

Selective, but not just a school for the super bright. If your child is in the top third of the class at primary school, they’re in with a fighting chance. Entrance exams in English, maths and reasoning – and that goes for students at the junior school too (nearly all of whom move into seniors). All external candidates are interviewed. The bursaries are very competitive – around 130 apply for these 15 places. Lots of tutoring, say parents, but school categorically denies this, as well as pointing out the entrance process is about spotting potential. Around 30-40 join at sixth form, when applicants need five grade 7s at GCSE, including in subjects to be studied at A level.

Exit

Around 10 cent leave post-GCSEs (slightly more in 2023), either to study vocational courses and/or into state schools. Almost all sixth formers to university, around 60 per cent to Russell Group: Sheffield, Newcastle, Liverpool, Bath and the London universities all feature. Eight to Oxbridge in 2023 and one abroad to the university of Valencia. Sciences and engineering courses consistently popular, with 19 medics in 2023. But there’s a real range – everything from Russian to urban planning to law. Usually a few every year to art school. Top-notch careers advisor known for opening students’ eyes – just because you’re good at science doesn’t mean you have to be a doctor etc. ‘They’re never pigeonholed,’ said a parent. One student told us she was applying for a degree apprenticeship – ‘they really promote them and have been massively supportive around it,’ she told us. Some recent alumni were doing a talk to sixth formers during our visit on ‘What do you wish you’d known before you started uni.’

Latest results

In 2023, 82 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 59 per cent A*/A at A level (85 per cent A*-B). In 2019 (the last pre-pandemic results), 72 per cent 9/7 at GCSE; 57 per cent A*/A at A level.

Teaching and learning

The most academic school in the East Midlands, claims the school, and that's the main reason parents choose it. ‘But it’s not just grades, grades, grades, push, push, push,’ said one. ‘What they excel at is supporting them.’ This goes beyond the classroom to include subject clinics (promoted on practically every classroom door during our visit), enrichment (Olympiads, essay competitions etc) and, as a student pointed out, ‘Every teacher is always available for one-to-ones.’ The long lunchbreaks help, as does the easy accessibility of teachers, including by email. Homework levels high, ‘but not unmanageable,’ say students. Motivation considered essential – ‘although,’ pondered one older student, ‘you do get some floating a bit in year 7 but your peers help trigger a work ethic.’ Definitely not a school where you’d get made fun of for working hard.

History and geography popular at GCSE, and RS and drama increasingly so. Everyone takes a language (except in some cases of SEN) out of French, German and Spanish (two of which students choose from year 7, with the option of adding a third later). Nice to see food and nutrition GCSE available at such an academic school – super facilities too. No setting except a little in maths from year 8 and in English at GCSE. At A level, a traditional menu of subjects, from which students pick three, four if they’re doing further maths. Sciences, economics and maths most popular. Around a third take the EPQ, although one parent feels there’s room for improvement here: ‘It’s pot luck if you get a good supervisor,’ said a current parent (school says a new system is now in place to avoid this). HPQ (the EPQ for younger students) has been replaced by a ‘less formal, but still heavily referenced’ independent project – a student told us she was doing hers on how music can help with mental health.

All teachers get a teaching and learning focus for the year eg psychological literacy or oracy. The latter included a big push on students doing TED talks – the winner presented theirs on speech day. In classrooms we dropped in on, teachers were working the room, entertaining their audiences, questioning them constantly – not a yawn in sight. Enrichment is big – we watched a group of year 8s talking through their business plans for a project in the main hall. ‘Ah, I remember doing that,’ said our tour guide nostalgically.

We asked what happens if a student gets Bs. ‘They’d help you push it to an A,’ say students. But school says some of their greatest successes have been not from the straight-A students, but those who got into the school by the skin of their teeth or who got no As at all, citing one who is now a barrister, another who’s thriving at Newcastle University. ‘There are many ways to make your mark, not just academically,’ says head, though not all the parents see it like that.

Learning support and SEN

SENCo and assistant support the milder end of dyslexia, ADHD and autism. Students are screened on entry and support is delivered in the classroom and/or by small group or one-to-one support (no extra charge). Once the new wellbeing centre is finished, learning support will move there. It will include an ‘oasis room’, a quiet and reflective area with outside space, where students can ‘just go and chill if they find the maelstrom of school life more difficult.’ One parent was impressed that although her child doesn’t have an official diagnosis, ‘the school work with her on the basis that she has – this is in complete contrast to her last school.’ Where there are blips – perhaps a new teacher not being informed about adjustments needed – it’s acted on as soon as it’s raised with the school, we heard. Learning support team also quick to accommodate any SEN as part of the entrance test – ‘They were on it as soon as I mentioned it,’ said a parent.

The arts and extracurricular

‘So much more’ is the school’s strapline, and there really is. When asked the best thing about the school, every student felt it was these opportunities, concluding that it probably isn’t the best place for a single-minded scholar. ‘I somehow managed to pick up grade 2 fencing during my time here,’ grinned one student. From year 9, students choose between CCF, adventurous training, Young Engineers, journalism club, involvement in the production team and a community action programme. We visited on a Monday when those volunteering for the CCF were wearing their uniform. DofE is popular (the school has two staff dedicated to outdoor activities), as is Model United Nations. We didn’t meet anyone who doesn’t fill their week with clubs and societies – chess, Lush-tastic (making bath bombs), medsoc, lawsoc, debating etc. Three activity days a year too, where all go off curriculum.

High standards are achieved in music, as evidenced during our walk through the practice rooms (includes a soundproofed one for drums). ‘Traditionally very classical, but they are dragging themselves into the 21st century,’ said a parent. Students delighted in taking over a local jazz club, and had also performed their spring concert in Nottingham’s Albert Hall. One boy raved about the teatime concerts. Standalone music building includes rooms dedicated to teaching, practice for the orchestra, choirs (three of them) and ensembles, plus Mac-filled music tech room.

Little Shop of Horrors and Alice in Wonderland among recent drama productions – these are separate for junior and senior, and there’s house drama too, plus smaller performances whereby older students direct younger ones. One student felt this had been the best thing about the school – ‘I’m still friends with people I met through drama who have now left the school.’

There’s art everywhere ‘of a standard you’d gladly buy to display in your home,’ pointed out a parent. Facilities are sensational with tantalising studios including a sixth form-only area where a girl talked us through her latest installation. No cookie cutter approach – everyone gets to express themselves. Open minded too, including life drawing sessions.

Impressive trips range from sports tours (netball to Barbados, rugby to Canada, hockey to Malaysia etc) to curriculum-led ones (Iceland for geography, Paris for languages).

Sport

Work in progress. ‘You wouldn’t choose it for the sport,’ said a parent, ‘but it’s not awful and you certainly wouldn’t get away with not doing any sport.’ Students agree there are sportier schools in Nottingham but are quick to add that ‘none of them combine it with academics of this calibre.’ All agree sport on the up, ‘including for girls, which needed it.’ For boys, the mainstays are rugby, hockey and cricket; for girls, there’s hockey, netball and cricket. Plenty more besides, especially at sixth form – badminton, athletics etc. Inclusivity rules - around 20-30 teams are put out every weekend, with over 90 per cent participation rates for these games in some year groups. Lots of sport for fun too – the first rugby team (boys) and first netball team (girls) were playing a lunchtime netball match at lunchtime when we visited - £1 entry for charity and not an inch to spare in the outside spectator space. Sports hall, courts and swimming pool on-site; for the rest, they head off to a local hockey club (the biggest in the country) and Valley Road facility – ‘A bit of a pain, but you can’t have everything,’ reasoned a parent. Super gym with girls-only slots ‘that’s really helped with our confidence,’ according to one of our female tour guides.

Ethos and heritage

Founded in 1513 by Dame Agnes Mellers in memory of her husband. Originally situated in the Lace Market, moving to its present site in 1868. Not in the most affluent area of Nottingham and quite a compact site, but you’d never guess from the majestic frontage. Various extensions have been added over the years and students say they want for nothing (except perhaps ‘more sixth form study areas’ and ‘a year 10/11 common room’). The original school hall can seat up to three year groups, while a more modern hall allows for tiered seating and modern lighting. Large Victorian gothic library is split into lower and upper school areas - atmospheric and well-stocked, it’s a really special place to study. One of the nicest sixth form centres we’ve seen, the common room is a mezzanine space overlooking the magnificent dining room (and there’s a brasserie underneath, another airy infill). Food worth writing home about – different food stations allow for eg streetfood, jacket potatoes, grab’n’go, salad bar and more usual choices. ‘There was a popup sushi bar the other week,’ one of our dining companions informed us.

School started taking girls in 2015 and there's an entrenched co-ed feel, though boys still just outnumber girls 60:40 (probably down to the nearby girls’ school). Atmosphere is traditional but not stuffy – we rather liked the comparison the head made during his interview for the job, to John Lewis back in its heyday - ‘great customer service, experts round every corner, students invested in their school and a place where you get quality as soon as you walk in.’ Sixth form privileges include business dress and going home in free periods – ‘although most of us choose to stay in school.’

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

Ask anyone – staff, parent, student – about pastoral care and the first thing they’ll mention is the vertical tutor group system. ‘It’s simple - any problems, academic or pastoral, and your tutor will help or refer,’ said a student. Students stay in the same tutor group from year 7-10, then get a new one (with different expertise around preparation for university) for years 11-13. The tutors are known for picking things up quickly ‘because they know us well’ and for keeping in as close touch with families as necessary, with super-speedy phone calls and emails. There are two school counsellors – one male, one female – and a comprehensive PSHE programme, covering all the usual thorny areas of teenage life.

Inclusivity not just a buzzword, with reminders of eg Black History Month or LGBTQ+ throughout. All festivals – Easter, Diwali, Ramadan etc – are celebrated, and for Pride month they lit up the school in rainbow lights. ‘You can truly be yourself here,’ said a student. The kindness and respect they show for each other is notable, and parents told us of ‘quirky types fitting in very easily.’

Students say there aren’t any ‘silly or unfair rules’ and talk of a ‘mutual respect with staff,’ ‘even more so at sixth form.’ And while the school has high standards around things like talking in class, punctuality and uniform, a ‘gentle reminder’ usually does the trick. ‘Student will tuck their shirts in as I walk past – I don’t mind because it means I don’t have to say anything,’ says head. More leniency over things like haircuts, though nothing too wild and wacky – ‘We can’t claim to treat them as individuals then insist they all have the same haircut.’ Usual tiered detention system, but with plenty of warnings, and barely any suspensions – about two or three a year – and almost no recent permanent exclusions.

Pupils and parents

Students come from up to an hour in all directions. Many of the parents work at one of the two Nottingham hospitals and universities, and the school reflects their aspirations. But not all are high earners, with many pulling out all the financial stops to send their children here; means-tested bursaries extend the range of parental income (Ken Clarke had an assisted place here). The school works hard on this, doing outreach in deprived areas of Nottingham, bringing in children for special days, working with teachers and giving the high school students the opportunity to understand more about the social needs of others.

It all makes for a pleasantly unpretentious and unassuming student body. None of the polish or alpha confidence that you get at some big name day schools. They’re at ease with themselves, don’t take their school for granted, and are as interested as they are interesting. We sat with a particularly charming bunch at lunchtime, who asked as many questions to us as we did to them – 10 out of 10 for the art of conversation. A few niggles from parents about comms overload, ‘I’d rather it was that way round than the other,’ says head.

Money matters

School works hard to keep fees reasonable and necessary ‘extras’ such as uniform are deliberately kept simple. You can buy an Asda blazer and stick on a Nottingham High badge. Development fund provides bursaries - up to 105 per cent to allow for uniform, PE kit, and there is additional help for trips. Scholarships ‘for intellectual curiosity’ at the end of year 7 – ‘not a recruitment tool because we want to create an even playing field beyond those coming up from the junior school’ – worth £1,200 a year. Some music scholarships, which cover tuition for one instrument.

The last word

Stunning school, stunning results. But don’t just pick it for the impressive buildings and A*s, pick it because your child will get to have a go at so much beyond the classroom. And pick it because of its community feel and grounded outlook. For a bright child, it’s a remarkable school.

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

The SEN department has progressed greatly in the last few years and now has two members of staff: one full time SENCo and one subject teacher who does a part timetable in learning support. Our aim is to enable our pupils with learning difficulties to achieve their full potential whatever that might be. Pupils needing support are withdrawn on a rota basis depending on need. This can be short term or throughout their time at the school. Support sessions may take the form of specific specialist dyslexic teaching, or revision and study skills to support access to the curriculum. The department has a high profile within the school with an open-door policy for any pupil who needs support.

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 Y
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment Y
Natspec Specialist Colleges
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability Y
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
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty Y
VI - Visual Impairment Y

Who came from where


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

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