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  • The King's School Canterbury
    25 The Precincts
    CT1 2ES
  • Head: Mr Peter Roberts
  • T 01227 595579
  • E [email protected]
  • W
  • The King’s School Canterbury is an English independent day and boarding school that educates over 800 boys and girls aged 13 to 18. Located in the city of Canterbury, Kent, it was founded in 597 AD and it is claimed to be the oldest continuously operating school in the world. A mainstream independent school with a linked junior school.
  • Boarding: Yes
  • Local authority: Kent
  • Pupils: 853; sixth formers: 373
  • Religion: Church of England/Christian
  • Fees: Day £27,495; Boarding £37,455 pa
  • Open days: 13+ March, June and October. 6th Form: October & April
  • Review: View The Good Schools Guide Review
  • Ofsted report: View the Ofsted report
  • ISI report: View the ISI report
  • Linked schools: The Junior King's School

What says..

Astonishingly busy day - one of the first lessons the children learn is how to plan their time - but there is still room for lots of fun. ‘Children do not seem to realise how much they cram into the day, it is just normal for them,’ said one mother. Stunning William Butterfield designed library (1848) is centre of academic life with a hushed and studious atmosphere and combining the best of the old and new with ...

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What the school says...

Headmaster Peter Roberts writes

At the heart of a Kings education is the dual pursuit of academic and extra-curricular excellence. The self-discipline, intellect and wide-ranging interests that such a pursuit engenders are highly prized in our modern global society. The quality of the teaching and the breadth of the activities outside the classroom mean that the lessons learnt and the skills acquired stay with the pupil for life.

I would identify as an essential feature of this process, the way that it does not matter if your passion is sport, music, acting or chess (to make a random selection of the plethora of opportunities for young people at Kings). All pupils also share the importance of working hard towards academic excellence.

That all this takes place in such a beautiful and historic context with the support and guidance of a talented and dedicated staff explains why I am so proud and enthusiastic about leading this fine school.
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What the parents say...

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2015 Good Schools Guide Awards

  • Best performance by Girls taking Spanish at an English Independent School (GCE A level)

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


Since 2011, Peter Roberts MA PGCE (50s), previously head of Bradfield College for eight years. First in history from Oxford followed by a PGCE at London Institute of Education. Started teaching career at Winchester as head of history, then also as master in college. Always immaculately dressed – ‘sometimes a vision in tweed and sometimes besuited’. He is super brainy and regarded as ‘quirky and eccentric but with a good sense of humour and perfect for the job – we would not want anyone who was run of the mill,’ said a happy parent. A thoughtful academic ‘who works unbelievably hard and is always out and about with his dog.' He attends every play, recital and concert and even the matrons’ meeting, describing his job as ‘vastly enjoyable.’ Teaches the Shells (year 9) 'when he can'.

Describes the ethos of the school as ‘interactive osmosis’. 'It is the richness, the diversity and range of our lives here that makes it distinct and special.’ He feels the school ‘gives a strong sense of belonging, a realisation that King’s helped to make them (the pupils) what they are’ and 'this creates the wish to give something back in return’ and sees the atmosphere of the school as ‘like a massive confidence-building machine’. Expects very high standards from the children at every level. Each week the Robertses invite 15 different pupils, one from each house, to lunch in their private dining room. Much expected, too, from staff and light being shed on the few pockets of less than good teaching.

Married to Marie, an elegant and accomplished Frenchwoman who was head of department at two large state schools and, in addition to playing an active part in school life, is also a harpist. They have three daughters. They enjoy spending time in France where he sails, and they both practise calligraphy and paint watercolours - helping to uphold the renaissance ideals of what is technically the oldest school in the country.

Academic matters

The pursuit of academic excellence is at the heart of everything the school does but co-curricular activities given equal weight and pupils have a ‘rich’ day. The brightest take some GCSEs early, allowing a head start on A level subjects; the less academic may drop a subject at GCSE. Pupils encouraged to take a creative subject like art, drama IT or music alongside academic subjects. In 2018, 57 per cent A*/A at A level, 73 per cent A*/A at GCSE (IGCSEs for most subjects). Strong across the board and languages particularly good – mainly taught by native speakers and housed in the Old Palace. Most subject combinations can be accommodated even if some have to be taught outside the timetable. School always looking at ways to stretch the most able and curriculum constantly adapted. Currently 27 subjects to chose from at A level (including geology), including seven at Pre-U, and advanced extension awards in most. Astronomy offered as a GCSE along with Italian, Russian and Mandarin GCSE ab initio in sixth form. Strong work ethic and ‘Children do not seem to realise how much they cram into the day, it is just normal for them,’ said one mother.

Pupils encouraged to think about their broader academic profile and alongside A levels there are enrichment subjects such as critical thinking, perspectives on aesthetics, globalisation and science and the extended project. Careers advice starts in the first year on a drop-in basis and fifth form have timetabled careers periods to help with A level choices and beyond.

Stunning William Butterfield designed library (1848) is centre of academic life with a hushed and studious atmosphere and combining the best of the old and new with 30,000 books and a range of periodicals and European newspapers as well as DVDs and online reference sources. It is a great source of pride and always staffed and open every day until 10pm and at weekends. Somerset Maugham and Sir Hugh Walpole both left their personal libraries to King’s.

About six per cent need extra help, mainly for mild dyslexia, and any pupil can ask for help with study skills. Probably would not suit anyone with bigger difficulties and some parental concerns that children do not get as much support as they need. EAL for a handful of pupils but all must be fluent on arrival.

Games, options, the arts

Acres of playing fields about 15 minutes’ walk away as well as a modern sports centre incorporating pool, indoor courts, climbing wall, café and gym – more akin to the smartest private leisure centre than the school sports department. Huge choice of sports – girls’ hockey thriving with 15 girls in the English hockey training system. Cricket and rugby going from strength to strength and several boys have been selected to play for Kent U18s; school has also produced several international fencers. Rowing on the up for boys and girls after a period in the doldrums and old boy Tom Ransley won gold at Rio 2016. Sports coaches include an England cricketer and an Olympic hockey player. Not everyone represents the school in matches but still play sport for 'fitness, health and fun’ and most people find something they enjoy. Everyone is expected to get involved and participation is everything – ‘you don’t have to be brilliant but just give it a go and have fun.’ Sporting trips all over the world – rugby in Argentina, cricket in Grenada and netball in South Africa.

Long tradition of excellent drama and music and anyone involved is definitely awarded ‘cool status.’ Fab new junior music school opened early 2016 and new performing arts centre in former Victorian malthouse due 2019. Symphony orchestra plus numerous bands and ensembles; the pupil-run jazz club is particularly popular. Plenty of choral groups, from the Crypt Choir which tours annually, most recently to China, to the choral society which is open to anyone who enjoys singing, including parents and staff. ‘Wherever you go around the school there is always music coming from somewhere’. Masses of drama both on and off the curriculum – house plays, GCSE and A level productions, drama competitions, fashion shows, full school plays – ‘Wherever there is a quiet corner, you will find a rehearsal going on,’ as well as regular theatre trips to London. Busy art department housed in 12th-century priory has a different artist in residence each year. Photographic studio and pottery centre opened by old boy Edmund de Waal.

Huge range of activities continues into sixth form – anything from academic societies with visiting speakers to mountain biking, cryptic crosswords, debating and the Model United Nations. CCF once again a popular option. Community work and volunteering are central to school life, often part of DofE, and include teaching science in local primary schools, riding for the disabled and help with swimming for handicapped children.

The famous King’s week at the end of the summer term is the highlight of the year for pupils and parents alike and is a festival of music, drama and dance with events being staged in all corners of the school every day for a week – parents and friends come bearing picnics and it is a major social event culminating in Commem Day and the leavers’ ball. ‘The quality and variety are phenomenal’ and there is everything from Shakespeare, classical concerts and jazz as well as a lighter touch provided by the house harmonies. Those not involved do not feel excluded and have as much fun as those taking part.


Six boys’ and five girls’ senior boarding houses (latest, Kingsdown House, for girls, opened in 2015). Half the houses clustered round the cathedral and the other half across the road on the St Augustine site where they have their own dining hall. Pupils equally happy to be in houses in either location, most popular houses booked up years in advance. Boarding houses friendly and welcoming with areas where pupils can make their own snacks and relax. Small dormitories for younger children and individual study bedrooms for sixth form. Large and popular social centre open for the whole school during the day and for sixth formers in the evening.

Background and atmosphere

Set in the shadow of Canterbury Cathedral and part of a World Heritage Site, this has to be one of the most inspiring settings for a school. Founded in 597 when St Augustine arrived in Canterbury and then re-founded as The King’s School during the reign of Henry VIII after the dissolution of the monasteries - not many schools can produce a list of headmasters going back to 1259. Beautiful ancient buildings and cloisters and immaculate gardens with the busy city life going on just beyond the gates. Pupils enjoy the contrast and the fact that the city with its shops and cafés is on the doorstep and say, ‘it makes us feel part of the real world’. The headmaster says the combination of the cathedral and a vibrant student city ‘grounds the children in a wider reality’. The school sponsors the Folkestone Academy and lends its facilities to the wider community.

Took girls into sixth form in 1970s and went fully co-ed in 1990. Boarding houses plus day houses and a smaller sixth form girls’ house in a variety of architectural styles from the 13th century Meister Omers to 21st century Grange. A close knit community, ‘it’s got everything, the spiritual dimension from the cathedral and a sense of beauty and history’. Former pupil Michael Morpurgo said, ‘King’s is like a university designed for younger people.’

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

Smart uniform worn throughout the school, pinstripes, wing collars and a jacket – and a brooch for the girls. All look very professional and businesslike; monitors wear purple gowns and are, unsurprisingly, known as Purples. Astonishingly busy day - one of the first lessons the children learn is how to plan their time - but there is still room for lots of fun. Strict rules and punishments regarding drugs, alcohol and parties and children know where they stand. Strong Christian tradition and moral values. The main school services held in the cathedral but different religious and cultural backgrounds recognised and valued.

Children have a healthy respect for each other and are generally self-regulating regarding bullying and other misdemeanours, and honesty and integrity are highly valued. Pastoral care comes in for particular praise from the inspectors. Big effort to address everyone’s happiness with several staff/pupil committees to ensure all have their say.

Regular communication with parents especially through housemasters and house mistresses. Good interaction between year groups facilitated by mixed age tutor groups and mentoring from older pupils. New Shells have a top year mentor. Day children and boarders mix well and ‘you can’t tell the difference,’ according to one pupil.

Pupils and parents

A good mix socially and culturally with a wide catchment area – popular with locals, London and county sets and Foreign Office families and increasing numbers from abroad. About 20 per cent foreign nationals. Doesn’t really produce a type but pupils are articulate, well rounded and very supportive of each other, appearing genuinely to celebrate each other’s achievements. ‘The finished product is amazing,’ according to one mother. ‘The boys and girls are charming, personable, not shy or arrogant and have a great sense of fun but are still ambitious’.

The recently formed King’s Society, a cultural, social and educational society for parents and friends, now comprises over 300 families. Members organise lectures, music recitals, tours of the cathedral with the dean and social events. Old boys and girls include potter and writer Edmund de Waal, astronaut Michael Foale, Patrick Leigh-Fermor, Christopher Marlowe and William Somerset Maugham, supermodel Jacquetta Wheeler, Olympic silver medallist and world champion rower Frances Houghton and Anthony Worrall-Thompson.


At 13+ by common entrance. School's own exam and an interview for those who have not been prepared for CE. Occasionally spaces in year 10. About a third come from Junior King’s but they still have to take the same exams as everyone else; rest from a range of Kent and Sussex prep schools and London day schools. Pass mark has recently been raised to 60 per cent but school likes to keep families together and takes an enlightened view if someone is borderline. It is also possible for pupils to take an entrance exam to Junior King’s at 11+ which would guarantee entry to the senior school – they would still have to take CE for setting purposes. About 30 join in the sixth form with entrance by competitive exam and interview in Nov before entry with minimum of seven 6s at GCSE - also required of current pupils.


Those who leave after GCSEs (very few), usually go to local schools or London day schools. Vast majority of sixth formers depart to top universities – 19 to Oxbridge in 2018, with UCL, Exeter, Edinburgh and LSE all popular. Increasing numbers to American universities (two to UCLA and two to NYU in 2018). Languages, sciences and economics/business management most popular degree subjects recently.

Money matters

Up to 20 King’s Scholarships and exhibitions as well as music and sports and art scholarships, all with a rigorous selection process and worth up to 10 per cent of fees. Three or four sixth form scholarships awarded for outstanding performance in the sixth form entrance exam. Greater emphasis on bursaries – the King’s foundation has been set up to fund both scholarships and bursaries and allocated over £1 million a year. Parents means-tested annually and can receive up to 100 per cent of full boarding fee.

Our view

Thriving academic school with highly motivated pupils. ‘The children never stop – I do not know they fit everything into their day and still have time for a busy social life,’ said one parent. Not a heavily religious school but the Benedictine tradition of care for body, mind and spirit is very much in evidence.

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 school caters very well for those with mild levels of learning difficulty but it is not in a position to provide continuous extra teaching for those with significant difficulties. Specialist teachers work with individuals on a one to one basis.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
English as an additional language (EAL)
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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