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Academic performance has soared under current headship, with 9/7s at GCSE up by around 75 per cent and A level results at all-time high. As such, school is edging ever closer to nearby powerhouses like Hampton and RGS. No wonder locals are waking up to educational excellence on their doorstep and, in growing numbers, starting to make this their first choice. Elsewhere, pupils’ brilliance polished till it shines but personalities remain unchanged. Here, parents feel…

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What The Good Schools Guide says

Head

Since 2014, Mark Hoskins BA MA MSc (50s). Previously second master at RGS Guildford for nine years. Before that, spent eight years at Whitgift, starting as head of economics and business studies in 1997 and then becoming head of middle school. First posts were in highly regarded maintained schools – two years apiece at Rosebery (comp, girls) and Wilson’s (selective grammar, boys). Mixed sixth form here first foray so far into co-education. Has two masters under his belt, the second in economics from the University of London, accomplished post-marriage with small children and combined with full-time teaching.

Laid-back, unassuming and very much at home with Zoom – good news for parents (and us) who need to chat to him online during lockdowns. Equally at ease, we noted, with admitting when he doesn’t know something or feels something’s not perfect – the epitome of authentic leadership. Praise from parents comes thick and fast. ‘I think it’s safe to say he’s unanimously liked by all of us.’ ‘Always available.’ ‘Actually listens and always takes things on board.’ ‘A good speaker, personable and relates to people.’ Credited with upping the ante academically without losing the ethos of the school. State educated himself and with a strong moral purpose, he’s also upped the numbers of foundation places for disadvantaged pupils. ‘Surrounded by a fantastic team,’ we also heard.

Lives on site with wife Sharon and two children – a son (at the school) and daughter (not quite old enough). An able sportsman, he coached soccer in US during gap years.

Entrance

At 11+ (and 13+ from 2023), ISEB common pre-test, taken at school in January for entry in September. For 13+, register a good three years in advance, pre-test in year 6, CE in June if at prep school. Other candidates sit English, maths, science, modern language and VR papers. Around 50 places become available in sixth form – hopefuls do entrance tests in the subjects they want to study (for which they need 7s at GCSE, with some exceptions eg for siblings), plus interview.

Heavily oversubscribed at all entry points, but while greater competition inevitably means more able applicants achieving well beyond pass mark, head doesn’t go by grades alone. Good relationships with prep heads mean that the refence of the headteacher, previous attainment is also taken into account if the child has had a bad day.. More good news for parents is that school has grown so takes more pupils (75-80 at 11+; 50 at 13+) than in the past.

Can flex entry criteria for siblings, and the 10 per cent of foundation pupils – that is, pupils who have lost the support of one or both parents and where there is a financial hardship as well as the need for strong pastoral support . Need to sit entrance exams and will also have home visit. Siblings also get preferential treatment (though no guaranteed entry) – over half the girls coming in to lower sixth were siblings when we reviewed the school.

Exit

Less than 10 per cent exits post-16 – fewer each year – freedom offered by local sixth form colleges (‘longer hair and earrings,’ says head) being the main lure. Those who want to stay almost always can – even if shy of required GCSE grades, though substitute subjects may be imposed (DT rather than physics, say), ‘We are not a school who asks pupils to leave in order to enhance our A level league table position.

Translates into gamut of places: Bristol, Exeter, Leeds, Loughborough, Nottingham, Durham, Newcastle, Oxford Brookes, Southampton feature most years. Courses ditto Classics to Chemistry, Economics to Engineering, Modern Languages to Music.. Good numbers of medics – eight in 2020, plus four to Oxbridge and two overseas (Colgate University, USA; University of California, USA); pupils have also achieved sports, academic and music scholarships at Princeton, Berkeley, Michigan and Chicago in recent years.

Latest results

In 2020, 79 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 60 per cent A*/A (89 per cent A*-B) at A level. In 2019 (the last year when exams took place), 74 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 50 per cent A*/A (78 per cent A*-B) at A level.

Teaching and learning

Academic performance has soared under current headship, with 9-7s at GCSE up by around 75 per cent and A level results at all-time high. As such, school is edging ever closer to nearby powerhouses like Hampton and RGS. No wonder locals are waking up to educational excellence on their doorstep and, in growing numbers, starting to make this their first choice. Elsewhere, pupils’ brilliance polished till it shines but personalities remain unchanged. Here, parents feel pupils’ characters have room to grow, too.

‘Good at catering to all academic capabilities – they find and nurture the potential,’ said parent. Many have more than one child at the school, often streets apart in terms of brains and motivation, and told us they cater well for both. ‘The pace has definitely picked up, but it’s avoided the hothouse feel,’ said another. Whether you’re a budding medic or haven’t found your forte yet, the staff (one to every eight students) will do you proud. ‘We’re not a grammar and don’t try to be.’ Self-confidence and self-esteem are seen as key building blocks, and there is more assessment for learning and feedback than there used to be, with boys awarded bronze, silver and gold grades for effort as well as achievement. ‘They spend time teaching boys how to work too, making sure they do study plans and use them – has certainly helped organise my boys,’ said parent.

Small class sizes - 17 up to year 11, 10 in sixth form. ‘Fairly fluid’ setting in maths and science from year 7; English from year 10. Pupils pick between French and Spanish in year 7 and German is currently (but this is being reviewed) added in year 9. Latin also from year 7. A language is ‘strongly encouraged,’ but not compulsory, at GCSE. Japanese, Mandarin and Arabic available as extra-curricular, plus Italian as a non-exam course in sixth form. Nine GCSEs is the norm, with the top two maths sets adding further maths. Around two-thirds do triple science. Geography, history and computing popular. Post-16, there are 24 A level options – all the traditional ones, plus graphic design, media studies and psychology. Maths is most popular, followed by geography, sciences, history and English. Will also keep subjects going for tiny numbers. Most take three A levels, plus EPQ (around a third take this) or additional courses such as AS in photography or PE. School also runs its own study programme for sixth formers, covering everything from politics to cooking for university.

Staff enthusiasm is boundless – you’ll encounter your history teacher on the hockey pitch or your English teacher in choir, all making for stronger relationships with pupils. You can teach, motivate and inspire until the cows come home, but the magic dust – says Head – lies in knowing pupils as individuals.

Lots of subject stretching by way of societies eg medsoc. Futuretech programme popular - DT reimagined to give free rein to ‘what if’ projects linking STEM subjects. DIY model wind turbines created by second years and visit from TESLA among the many highlights. Careers advice praised – cascades right down to year 7s and kept going right through pandemic. In fact, school hit the ground running with online learning, largely thanks to new appointment of head of digital in 2016, but also due to its focus on interactivity – online lessons with cameras on right from day one, along with tutor groups making breakfast and ensuring no overload of screen time with eg treasure hunts in biology. ‘Well ahead of other schools in the area during Covid, from what I can gather,’ said parent.

Learning support and SEN

School is notable for quality of support – currently offered to around 80 pupils, vast majority with assorted dys difficulties, and very small numbers with ADD, ADHD, ASD, visual or speech and language issues. Just under 20 with EAL are supported individually or in small groups. Academic support classrooms are purposefully located smack, bang in the middle of the school. No stigma – in fact, school has opposite problem of tearing some pupils away from this supportive environment. Lovely to hear of eg dyslexia talked about in positive terms by staff – what it can bring to the table, not just the obstacles it creates; one dyslexic pupil recently gained a place at Oxbridge. ‘My son struggled with some sensory processing issues and the support he was staggering,’ said parent.

The arts and extracurricular

Strength of arts - performing and visual - particularly impressive, from scale of ambition to levels of investment and numbers involved (over 200 individual music lessons each week). Music increasingly a reason parents choose the school – ‘It’s gone from strength to strength and everyone adores the concerts,’ said one parent. Teachers crack on even when limited to online learning, with a full schedule of rehearsals and lessons – ‘My son is up in his room every week doing Jazz band, wind band, virtual song writing and more,’ said parent. Plenty of choirs, orchestras and ensembles, and a good dose of rock and roll too – one band recently released an album on Spotify and has gigged all around London. Foundation pupils often find taking up an instrument life changing, reports school.

While smaller scale than music, drama is also popular. New drama studio provides a decent professional space, though a larger performance centre is on wish list. Whole school plays, plus year group performances; good numbers at GCSE and A level.

No end to the imaginations of budding artists here – an installation of a door recently bagged a top grade at GCSE. Breath-taking quality across a range of styles. More space too these days, thanks to head having doubled the size of the studios. At A level, you can take fine art or graphics and there’s an AS in photography.

Ham-fisted, two-left feet or otherwise, everyone will have talent, however limited, coaxed out of them. Clubs - 100 plus, ranging from archery to golf and robotics to silk painting - cater for dabblers as well as enthusiasts. Pupils are compelled to do at least three. Kung Fu among latest offerings, while parent raved about film club (‘my son gets to eat pizza and talk about the film’s theme – brilliant’). Popular DofE (bronze is compulsory) and good numbers for CCF. Doesn’t neglect social skills either, with everything from debating club (including during Covid) to Toastmasters for older pupils. Many new sixth formers, compelled to try previously hated activities (two a week in years 11, 12 and 13; three to year 10) converted into fans. Brilliant for bonding even if not, thought pupil. Charitable endeavours part and parcel of school life, even in lockdown – staff made visas for NHS, while sixth formers wrote to elderly people in care homes, with younger ones sending pics. ‘Lots of collections for food banks too,’ added parent.

Sport

Along with music, sport is a huge selling point for families. Recent winner of Times Educational Supplement sports award, beating the likes of Wellington and Repton. On the achievement side, tennis, golf and skiing are top dog – all have their own academy, offering elite coaching (every major sport comes with own professional), flexible timetable and extra training (before or after school and – in case of skiers - sent off to the snow), plus strength and conditioning department. Plenty of individual successes at national and county level across a range of sports; ditto for stonking team triumphs. Hockey does increasingly well – current national U18s champions - not bad given that all are home grown, demonstrating that value added isn’t confined to the classrooms. ‘My son arrived not even knowing how to hold a hockey stick and they got him in a match that weekend that he loved – says it all about inclusivity and encouragement,’ said parent.

Whatever your specialist interest, facilities excellent, packed in on relatively compact site. Trees know their place - confined largely to the perimeter so space can be given over to cricket, rugby (big and little pitches), two Astros and tennis courts. Whole shebang has accolade of being accredited by Tim Henman Foundation as model primary school outreach programme for others to follow. Wow-factor indoor cricket centre is available to outsiders as well as pupils; includes system that 'combines motion tracking and video analysis'.

Youngest sports scholars enjoy substantial perk of all day trackies to avoid frequent changes of clothes. Sixth formers allowed to devote some private study time to sport – strength and conditioning programme particularly popular for this age group. Sixth form girls far from sidelined – six girls’ netball teams and four each for girls’ cricket and hockey. Impressive levels of cooperation between academic and sports staff – can be the make or break of sporting success, we’ve learned. Another secret weapon is sizeable number of teachers so blessed with charm that can even make punishments a laugh a minute. ‘If we forget our kit, coach makes us run and touch all the lines on the pitch – there are about 500,’ said junior pupil, chortling at the very memory. ‘Makes it so funny.’ You probably had to be there.

Boarders

‘Doesn’t feel like a boarding school as boarding element is so small,’ said parent, and that was from a parent of boarders. Of the 15 per cent that board, juniors are housed in The Close, seniors in School House, sixth formers upstairs in own courtyard block (recently refurbished and now unrecognisable with glassed-over study area and café – ‘I’m sure there are grander, but it’s given it a wonderful lift,’ said parent). Sixth form girl boarders, a particularly minuscule group (under a handful in upper sixth), flock together and take pleasure in niche status, downstairs common room a homely oasis of papers and possessions. Offers full, weekly or occasional B&B – a boon to any child with a late finishing match or parents with work commitments. Despite low numbers, school rarely feels empty, say pupils, all of whom talk about the sense of community.

Accommodation is spick and span, white and magnolia the prevailing signature décor, eye-catching touches headed by world’s reddest kitchen in School House, neon signs and slinky bar-style seating for its 36 year 9-11 boarders. Elsewhere, communal areas are businesslike rather than breathtaking, though as long as there’s space enough to pack in the crowds for must-watch TV (usually matches, we’d assume), pupils clearly don’t mind.

Tempo of life is exceedingly brisk and a marvel of logistics, junior boarders showered and powered into breakfast in just 30 minutes – even faster when bacon’s on the menu (food – bar some evening meals - generally excellent) - while all-action weekends for everyone are filled with (more) sport, mixed age cinema trips, shopping (in groups of three, one phone compulsory) and doughnutting (descending Sandown Park’s dry ski slope in rubber ring).

Pace of life here may account for absence of personal touches. Some pinboards stay empty because there’s just no time to unpack. ‘Too much to do,’ said pupil, who’d had initial reservations about absence of down time. No longer. ‘Now realise that being busy is perfect.’

Cheerful matrons keep everything ticking over, washing machines permanently on spin cycle (18 loads of laundry in one day a personal best), aided and abetted by thoughtful, compassionate houseparents proffering small hours hot chocolate and DVDs when homesickness strikes and with welcome ability to tread the fine line between firmness and latitude.

Ethos and heritage

Founded in 1813 by Andrew Reed, social reformer, minister and serial setter upper of charitable institutions (and upsetter of fellow trustees), but the only school to survive intact, discounting change of name (originally the London Orphan Asylum), location (arrived here via Clapton, Watford and – briefly during WW2 evacuation – Totnes), and financing (fee-paying pupils first admitted 1950s, though charitable focus on foundationers has never changed).

Handy for M25 and with Gatwick and Heathrow just a 30-minute drive away, it’s a cinch to get to, as long as you avoid rush hour and don’t take address too literally (says Cobham but actually in Oxshott - it’s a postal area thing).

Heart of the school is restored arts and crafts building, home – among other areas – to attractive chapel and library, surrounded by separate music school, labs, classrooms and airy sixth form block with lecture theatre which doubles as venue for film screenings. Packs a lot on to 40-acre site, with most recent additions including drama studio, cricket suite and sixth form centre, while next in line is a vast extension to the science labs which will link up other departments including art and humanities.

Overcoming pupil/space dilemma by corralling outside areas and roofing them over - small courtyard is now a conservatory-style dining hall extension while The Close boasts an impressive stretch reception, 100 or so tennis balls trapped on the roof a happy reminder of previous incarnation as impromptu sports pitch.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

Cordial relations between staff and pupils ensure that lines are clearly drawn, usually toed and rarely crossed. Mild misdemeanours seen as part and parcel of growing up, though – ‘children make mistakes and school should be a safe environment for that to happen,’ says head. Flexes disciplinary muscles for serious breaches (as with other schools, drink and drugs the main culprits) – offenders likely to be asked to leave. Not a shouty school – ‘I can’t abide that,’ says head.

Everyone very much at home here, much emphasis on age-appropriate three-day induction programme. For year 7s includes on-site camping and games of chubby bunnies (‘See how many marshmallows you can get in your mouth and still say “chubby bunnies”,’ said pupil – well, of course). Activities for new sixth form girls include rather more sophisticated (and confectionery-free) meal out in Kingston.

For first two years, The Close, a separate building, is a world in miniature. ‘Opportunity to settle very well without being overwhelmed - a home away from home,’ said parent. Have own houses, games, activities and responsibilities, plus quality pastoral back up from sixth form mentors, a high profile and popular presence, who dispense quiz questions and chocolate brownies, organise house drama and deal with acts of minor unkindness.

School tracks emotional health – ‘useful for detecting issues before they arise.’ And there is a whole raft of professionals waiting in the wings when needed – counsellors, psychologists, behavioural therapist and good links with eg bereavement charities. Pastoral care ‘outstanding’ during Covid, say parents – everyone gets tutor time, opportunities to socialise, weekly comms with parents, cameras on during lessons etc.

Pupils and parents

With just a handful of expats and generally no more than six international students (half from Hong Kong), most families are UK-based Brits living maximum of an hour’s travel time away, network of school bus routes reading like estate agent’s bumper book of desirable destinations (Putney, Richmond, Wimbledon and Guildford).

End product includes plenty of high-grade sportspeople (Tim Henman most glorious example), though crop of musicians, actors and entertainers is almost as substantial. One 1980s batch (they organise alumni by decade here) yielded two opera singers, an art dealer and a Jordanian prince. Plenty of somethings in the City as well. Sports, arts or royalty, Old Reedonians stay in touch. ‘Once a Reedonian, always a Reedonian.’ Partners, we were told, like to swap notes, finding ORs nicer and gentler than the common herd.

Judging by today’s happy mixed age lunchtime throng, pupils impressively (and unusually) relaxed about talking about their feelings, oldest pupils encouraging the youngest to speak, everyone giving strong impression of liking everyone else, nothing much has changed. No surprise, then, that foundationers, some with traumatising early life experiences, are painlessly absorbed. There’s room for all here: ‘Nerdy, quirky, eccentric, they all fit in here – you don’t really get the cool gangs except in the younger years and they quickly grow out of it,’ said parent.

Money matters

Bursaries for foundationers up to 110 per cent of fees – these numbers are on the up. Also range of scholarships - DT and drama at 13+ and in the sixth form – also open to existing pupils, plus headmaster’s award for able but not quite scholarship level candidates at 11+ and CE; additional scholarships awarded to existing pupils during school career if merited. Some grumbles about fees – ‘I feel we pay boarding fees, when there aren’t many boarders,’ said one. Worth noting, though, that they include majority of extras from meals to choir tours.

The last word

One parent equated school to post-privatisation Jaguar – took a while for shift in quality to be recognised. ‘Took years for prices to catch up, but they did.’ With current head in the driving seat, this revamped model is definitely proving an all terrain winner.

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

School caters mainly for mild/moderate dyslexia. SEN details added by us.

Who came from where


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