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Pupils, looking back, told us first day nervousness had quickly disappeared because the teachers were 'really supportive' and, in modern management-speak, 'always ready to go the extra mile'. This had made them 'way more organised'. Pastoral care further up the school also stands out – ‘The heads of year are particularly good at spotting problems and when issues arise, they are very hot on dealing with them,’ said parent. Pupils we met admitted to a degree of pressure, sparked by the school wanting to…

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What the school says...

An education at RGS Worcester is inclusive, challenging and academically stimulating. In the Senior School, we offer an outstanding education for boys and girls aged 11 18 years with an extensive range of opportunities both in their studies and in their co-curricular experience of school life.

Our aim is to deliver excellence in all areas starting with high quality teaching and exceptional pastoral care. RGS Worcester, as one of the oldest schools in the country, combines a sense of history, community and place in the City of Worcester with state of the art facilities, spacious grounds and a determination to see each child achieve their full potential. We are pleased that our pupils attain the qualifications necessary to go on to the leading universities in the UK and abroad, and are particularly proud that they develop the personal qualities of working together, respecting one another and their community and being open and friendly towards others.

While the website should give you a flavour, only a visit can give you a real sense of the welcoming atmosphere, positive relationship between pupils and staff and our purposeful approach. We strongly encourage you to come and see us, either on a formal open day or even on an ordinary school day. You will have the opportunity to speak to staff and, in particular, to meet some of our pupils who look forward to showing you their school and all that they enjoy here.

John Pitt
Headmaster
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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.

Sports

Rowing

Fencing

What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since 2014, John Pitt (40s). Educated at Dulwich College, he studied history at Cambridge and remained in Fenland in order to gain his teaching qualification. Started his career at Whitgift where he became head of sixth form, before moving to Portsmouth Grammar as deputy head (academic). He then returned to Whitgift for eight years as second master. Conspicuously devoid of the ego and the swagger that can go with the territory of some in the headmaster jungle, there is a little of the top-ranking surgeon about him as he dissects our questions crisply, methodically and perspicaciously. ‘Understated’ and ‘humble,’ agree parents. ‘Never one given to being dramatic, he is measured, supportive and accessible,’ said one.

So what’s been top of his in-tray since our last visit? First, the school has grown a fair bit, which has brought its own challenges. He’s upped the ante academically – results are as about as good as they can be without moving into hothouse territory, report parents. Pastoral care – a long-term strength of the school – has been moving with the times, including during the pandemic. And extra-curricular has increased in both quantity and quality, again including during Covid, with everything from concerts to house competitions and play rehearsals all business as usual. But the real star of the show has been digital learning, we heard. Introduced in 2014, it has developed at such a pace that the school was able to offer online lessons and assessments, as well as regular updates to parents, within 24 hours of the first lockdown – you could almost hear the communal sigh of relief from families as far as Birmingham. Now an ‘Apple distinguished’ school, RGS is frequently asked to present at conferences to show other schools how things can be done. ‘It was the school’s digital learning programme that swung it for us,’ said one parent – ‘We didn’t think it would be a factor, but when we saw it in action, it blew us away and during lockdown, our kids have not once scratched their heads not knowing what is expected of them.’

Any notion of achieving any sort of work/life balance is swept away as Mr Pitt insists he ‘lives the life of a head.’ And so, along with teaching history to year 8 he blends, for example, weekend time on the touchline with taking his three young children to their activities. Being married to Anna, a prep school teacher who understands the breadth of school life, is undoubtedly a great help. In the holidays, he likes sailing and exploring the Malvern Hills, whilst favourite authors are CJ Sansom and Graham Swift.

Entrance

At 11+, English, mathematics and verbal reasoning exams. Around 70 to 80 pupils transfer from the three prep schools – RGS The Grange, RGS Springfield and (most recently) RGS Dodderhill - who, along with RGS, constitute the RGS family of schools. A further 50+ pupils join from around 40 other schools, with about a 50/50 spread of state and independent sector. For sixth form entry, six grade 6s at GCSE.

Exit

Around 15 to 20 per cent leaves after GCSEs. Russell Group institutions increasingly beckon, but not exclusively and the school is fine with that, with parents confirming that all aspirations are valued and supported. Cardiff is popular on account of being relatively close Nottingham, Exeter and Birmingham also feature. Courses range from art history to aerospace. Three Oxbridge in 2020, plus four medics.

Latest results

In 2020, 66 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 57 per cent A*/A at A level (87 per cent A*-B). In 2019 (the last year when exams took place), 60 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 39 per cent A*/A at A level (71 per cent A*-B).

Teaching and learning

Not highly selective, with the school attributing its increasingly impressive exam results to a focus on personalised learning. Support is on tap both inside the classroom and via additional clinics and one-to-ones, report parents. Learning is flexible too – most take 10 GCSEs, but the school has no problem with some taking eight, nine or perhaps 11, with the breadth beyond the core subjects meaning there’s no straitjacket around subject options. Creative subjects such as art and textiles pull in good numbers and do well, and there’s not one but two DT options – engineering and resistant materials. ‘Pupils can really play to their strengths,’ thought parent, while another told us they felt their ‘very bright children are stretched to the max without ever feeling the pressure.’

Setting in maths from year 7 and in English and science from year 9 – all very fluid. French, Spanish and German offered on a carousel in the first term of year 7, with pupils choosing two to see them through to the end of year 9, when they are encouraged to take one or even both at GCSE (‘a language at GCSE is not compulsory but is strongly recommended’). School does marginally better in maths than English on results day – possibly a Worcestershire thing, where the focus on engineering means a lot of parents are maths buffs, says head. Homework steady and consistent – never set just for the sake of it. Not unusual to see mixing of year groups in classrooms to help with mentoring and leadership skills - the language lab year 8s were testing year 7s when we visited.

Offers 24 A level subjects, plus a BTec in sport and CTec in business. Pupils generally take three A levels or can mix and match with the more vocational offerings. Maths and sciences get the biggest take-up and indeed the biggest smiles on results day. Around a quarter do an EPQ - school hopes to increase numbers, having recently appointed a new head of EPQ.

Award-winning careers department organises the Annual Careers and Higher Education Expo (the largest in Worcestershire), 30 careers lectures and numerous work placements. Targets pupils from year 7 upwards, with initiatives such as the Enterprise and Employment scheme, which runs in conjunction with Worcester University’s Business School.

Learning support and SEN

The head of learning support leads a team of five teachers across all four schools, with support mainly outside the classroom via small group and individual tuition. Some 15 per cent of students benefit from this over varying periods of time. School runs exam clinics from December onwards for both GCSE and A level students.

The arts and extracurricular

Music strong and getting stronger. ‘More range than there used to be,’ said parent. Classical to jazz to modern pop now all widely catered for, with one pupil having recently got her EP into the charts up against Ed Sheeran – and she’s not the first. The chamber choir annually sings evensong at the Christ Church Oxford and St Paul’s Cathedral, while the annual choral concert, featuring all four RGS Worcester schools in Worcester Cathedral, is a centre-piece of the year. There is a big band, a senior jazz ensemble, any number of instrumentalists at tea-time recitals and a senior piano concert. The music department also provides the band for the annual whole school musical in the new performing arts centre, most recently Les Mis. Wannabe dramatists can also get stuck into separate junior and senior performances, plus the house competition and year group performances. Phantom of the Opera, The Crucible and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory have all recently featured. We love the sound of the DIY Theatre Company – once a year this group of senior pupils are in charge of the whole shebang for a big production including the casting, acting, directing, marketing, tickets, lighting, the works. ‘Gives them a good idea of what it’s really like in the world of theatre.’

Pupils’ art works adorn the walls, brightening up corridors that could otherwise be lacklustre. Lots of freedom to express yourself. Pottery particularly popular. We especially enjoyed our visit to a year 9 art class which had been given the task of interpreting Vivaldi’s most famous concerto in painted form, using colour to depict the mood and shape of the four seasons in a target-time of 53 minutes. ‘Facilities are fabulous and the teacher has completely inspired our daughter to the point where she can’t get enough of her art and textiles,’ said parent.

Forty-eight clubs and societies at last count, including some that are pupil introduced and led. Gardening, cooking and even slot car society – if they suggest it, school tries to make it happen. Many - including book club, coding and art - carry on virtually during lockdown. One parent told us she ‘loves watching the cookery sessions – you see all these pupils working away having fun in their different kitchens’. Competition in a wealth of activities, including creative writing, the Christmas card contest and golf, all spurred on by the house system. This comprises Elgar (after the composer), Ottley (to mark the school’s 2007 merger with Alice Ottley School), Wylde (after a 16th-century benefactor) and the exotically named Whiteladies (named after a building that used to house a nunnery, complete with secret tunnel to the cathedral). The debating society’s year culminates with a black-tie dinner (presumably with some discussion over which course should be eaten first) and the Billingham Society for academic enrichment. This is named after a former pupil who became NASA’s chief of the extra-terrestrial research division. It is open to everyone but scholars must attend. DofE gets good take up, with most doing bronze and around a third reaching gold; there is also CCF. Over 175 trips a year, including regular sports tours and a higher than usual number of arts trips from Cornwall to New York.

Sport

High calibre, with main sports rugby, football, hockey and cricket for the boys, while for the girls it’s hockey, netball, cricket and athletics, with some rugby. Girls have been national finalists for indoor hockey for the past two years and two year groups recently got to the national finals in netball. For boys, rugby and cricket bring in the most silverware. Rowing is conspicuously strong, as are cross-country and fencing. Parents approve of the expectation for every child to represent the school in the younger years – ‘Our daughter, who had never played hockey before coming here, got in the B team and went on all the trips so it’s been a real confidence booster.’ That said, one parent felt ‘the coaching is lacking on the side-lines for the lower teams – sometimes it feels more of a box ticking exercise than there being any real passion behind it.’ Much sporting interest develops through the rivalry between the school and King’s Worcester that has as its showdowns The Superball (netball played at Worcester University’s indoor arena), a rugby clash at Worcester Warriors’ Sixways Stadium and a football match at Sixways Stadium. Wonderfully, these local contests attract up to 6,000 spectators – such crowds are almost unheard of for interschool competitions. Niche sports also available – everything from table tennis to yoga. Excellent facilities include two sports hall and an Astro on site, plus 50 acres and Astro at nearby The Grange – parents are grateful they are spared the flooding that much of the local area falls victim to during rainier seasons. A new hockey centre is being built in association with Worcester Hockey Club, which will also be open to the public and (subject to planning) there’s an LTA indoor tennis centre on the cards. The fitness suite is packed with modern muscle-building machinery and in regular use especially by older pupils in search of six-packs.

Ethos and heritage

In bursarland some scroogey financiers are of the opinion that lawns and flowers, hedges and fresh scrunch on the drive are ‘vanity projects’ that matter little when compared to the ‘core business’. However if the school cares about everything then it is likely that students will follow its lead, and parents on tour will feel that they are on some kind of National Trust trail. The highlights here consist of a number of Georgian and Victorian buildings (school dates back to the seventh century and celebrated its 150th anniversary on its present site in 2018) such as Britannia House, where head has initial meetings with parents. Conversely, there are the odd post-war architectural examples that could be classified as carbuncley. An extension to the art department, for instance, resembles an ugly UFO or a giant lunar capsule from a moon landing and adjoins some tennis courts, with their park-like surfaces and saggy nets, that took us back to the age of wooden rackets and green flash plimsolls. Pleasingly, plans are afoot for their refurbishment. Elsewhere, however, things are far more impressive and parents on tour should definitely ask to visit the library, situated in the early Victorian Eld Hall. Most school libraries are just full of volume-filled shelves and workstations but here, in central position, is a giant, gold- lettered honours board in gratitude to those staff who have served the school for 25 years or more. RGS Worcester inspires loyalty not just among pupils but staff too. Then there’s Joe’s Café for sixth form coffee and snacks - a spacious L-shaped facility, well in advance of normal Starbucks décor, that features Chesterfield sofas and framed prints on the walls and is mercifully free of the table-football and pool tables that some schools seem to think are necessary to create a ‘relaxed atmosphere’.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

Pupils, looking back, told us first day nervousness had quickly disappeared because the teachers were 'really supportive' and, in modern management-speak, 'always ready to go the extra mile'. This had made them 'way more organised'. We were impressed with the work they do around socialisation too, especially those transitioning into year 7 who perhaps find that aspect of school life tricky. Pastoral care further up the school also stands out – ‘The heads of year are particularly good at spotting problems and when issues arise, they are very hot on dealing with them,’ said parent. The two school counsellors are available round the clock, including (and some would argue especially) through lockdown and that goes for parents and staff as well as pupils. Mindfulness sessions, drop in chats around anxiety – they’ve all been on offer for students stuck at home and appreciated by the vast majority of parents, though one parent felt ‘they could have done more on the social, friendship side.’

Pupils we met admitted to a degree of pressure, sparked by the school wanting to 'push our potential', but said that much of it was caused by trying to balance their academic and extracurricular lives. Apparently, though, staff are quite understanding if requests are occasionally made to miss clubs so that academic deadlines can be met.

Strict? ‘Firm but fair,’ prefers school; ‘No-nonsense,’ say parents. A tiered detention system aims to nip more minor transgressions in the bud, with the head handing out around eight to 10 temporary exclusions a year for more major offences (increasingly internet based). No permanent exclusions in recent years. Uniform and haircuts matter but not too much – a quiet reminder usually does the trick. Nobody we spoke to had heard of recent bullying incidents, though school isn’t complacent. It’s all helped by the general vibe being friendly and supportive – it’s in the bones of the place. Recently, when a year 7 pupil was unwell on the train, a sixth former scooped him up and brought him to the school nurse, then came back to check on him later in the day – that, say parents, is the RGS way. Inclusive too – societies from LGBTQ+ to anti-bullying all feature, though parents shouldn’t come here expecting huge ethnic diversity – the school is more reflective of Worcester itself than the wider melting pot of the West Midlands.

Pupils and parents

The actress Lauren Bacall was of the opinion that 'character, character is all that matters', and although that is momentarily irrelevant when examination result envelopes are torn open each August, it is in the personalities of its pupils that the heart of a school can be found. We were toured by the head girl and boy (both of whom were sitting on Oxbridge offers) who demonstrated the sort of easy affability, wit and willingness to talk that eludes many adults. Equally at lunch, representatives of different years waited to be given permission to start their meal and were the best of company, speaking with a sustained enthusiasm about their school and the multiplicity of opportunity that it offers.


Ideally, they would like a swimming pool on site (although it’s only a few minutes away) but spoke enthusiastically about the influence of the school council that has led to a more varied menu and ended the monotony of cod goujons and chips each Friday. In response to our question for some nouns to summarise what the school has given them they answered 'guidance', 'confidence' and 'independence'. The most impressive statement, from a lower sixth girl, was 'school is about who you become'.

Parents range from taxi drivers struggling to make ends meet through to the owners of showier cars at pick up time – around half are first time buyers. They hail from as far as Birmingham and Cheltenham, though most come from Worcestershire. Parents praise the school’s flair for communication, with teachers trusted to reply to emails rapidly. ‘When you pick up the phone, they remember your name, even in reception – goes a long way,’ said one. Mixed views about the sense of community – whereas some raved about it, others felt that ‘like at any senior school, you can feel a bit removed.’

Money matters

A range of scholarships (academic, music, sport, drama, art and DT and textiles) are available at 11+, 13+ and 16+. Means-tested bursaries of up to 110 per cent.

The last word

Polished and welcoming, this is a school that produces pupils who learn to stand on their own two feet, look adults in the eye and demonstrate humility, as well as being prepared to give things a go. Academically, a safe bet too with current head not one to rest on his laurels.

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

We have limited provision for children with very mild learning disabilities eg dyslexia, dyspraxia. We have a full time SEN teacher who can provide up to one hour per week of out-of-class one to one support. At present we offer a range of Challenges for especially able students eg Maths Challenge, Physics Challenge. There is currently an accelerated maths programme where the top set take their GCSE examination a year early.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
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
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

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