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Warwick School

What says..

One of the oldest surviving schools in the world, believed to have been founded by Aethelflaed, Queen of Mercia, in 914. Within the huge range of co-curricular opportunities there are some that reflect the technological focus of the West Midlands, for example buggy building and young engineers in the junior school, electronics and robotics for seniors. Lots of teams are sent out every week and much effort is put into finding opposing D teams to play at all age levels. In the junior school, triumphalism at matches is not encouraged and parents are asked not to whoop from the sidelines ...


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What The Good Schools Guide says

Head Master

Since 2020, James Barker, an Old Warwickian and philosophy graduate who began his teaching career at Banbury School before returning to his alma mater for the first time in 2004. He was upper master (head of sixth form) at Abingdon and the assistant head co-curricular at the Royal Grammar School in Worcester before re-joining Warwick as deputy head in 2015, moving to senior deputy head in 2018.

As teacher and former pupil Mr Barker has had a 30-year association with Warwick and his commitment to the school and its pupils is immediately apparent. His academic specialisms are theology and philosophy and he is a firm believer that schools should inspire intellectual curiosity and equip pupils to think critically and independently. The school’s curriculum places an increasing influence on these skills alongside an ongoing drive for excellence in teaching and learning.

Having led and managed co-curricular activities in his previous posts, this aspect of Warwick's provision is one in which he takes a particular interest. He has even gone so far as to sign himself up for the school’s music scheme which requires every pupil to learn an instrument during year 7. He has also played a key role in developing the voluntary service pathway that forms part of every pupil’s experience, ‘so boys leave Warwick School as well-rounded young men who can play a positive role in the world’.

Mr Barker represented his university on the rugby field while studying in Cardiff, and still has a firm interest in sport.

Junior head since 2016, Andrew Hymer (50s), formerly head at Wolverhampton Grammar Junior School which he helped to set up. Before that he was deputy head at King’s Hawford School, Worcester and had also taught at RGS Worcester. He has introduced a structured outdoor education programme and gets stuck in there himself – literally. On a recent potholing expedition, there are reports of a very wet and muddy Mr Hymer.

One of those heads who rolls his sleeves up and can be found making tea at parents’ evenings and out in the car park at crunch times, his personal interest is hugely valued by the boys and their parents. Parents feel his comments on the boys’ reports show he understands their sons and his head’s commendations for good work are keenly sought. Teaches history to year 5, in part so he can be an advocate for the boys with the senior school when the time comes. He sends a photo to parents of him giving the boy the commendation certificate – the sort of personal touch that adds all round value. Warm, children focused newsletters draw parents into the community.

His leadership specialism is assessment and he has instigated new ways of monitoring progress through tracking. Formerly a keen cricketer, both playing and coaching, these days he tends to be a keen spectator of all sports. This is nicely balanced with his interest in art - he describes himself as a modest collector and the school art rooms and high standard of displays are testament to someone with an eye for the visual. His wife is a GP and they have two grown-up sons.


Boys moving from Warwick prep to the junior school are assessed internally and almost all move on to senior school. External candidates sit tests in English, maths, reading and short story writing. The head meets with any year 5 parents individually where there is a query about suitability for senior school. The main senior school intake is at 11+ with some additional places at 13+. The exams consist of English, maths, ability and science and a modern foreign language for 13+. There is also a short interview.

At sixth form, the minimum requirement is 51 points from the best eight GCSEs. There is also an interview with the head of sixth form and a deputy head.


Nearly all boys go through to the sixth form and thence to a range of universities, 90 per cent Russell Group. Nottingham, Exeter, UCL, Bath and Durham all popular. Sciences and medicine are popular as is computer sciences. Five to Oxbridge in 2021, plus seven medics. School is starting to encourage the boys to look at the top-end apprenticeships eg Aston Martin, Barclays, IBM, Jaguar Land Rover, PWC, Shell, Warwickshire County Council and Police.

Latest results

In 2021, 84 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 80 per cent A*/A at A level (95 per cent A*-B). In 2019 (the last year exams took place), 66 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 48 per cent A*/A (75 per cent A*-B).

Teaching and learning

Chemistry and maths consistently top performers along with computer science, DT, economics, art and Latin.

Although fairly traditional, the curriculum is evolving to provide greater depth and breadth. In the senior school ICT has been separated into coding and functional skills. The year 7 language offer allows the boys to choose two languages and is now focused on linguistics and the value of learning a language rather than just naming family members and asking the way to the shops. There is work going on to encourage boys to reflect more on their own learning and on the links between subjects. All boys start Latin in year 7 and ancient Greek is taught as an option from year 9 to A level. There is some flexibility in this to suit individual needs, particularly for those with English as a second language or dyslexia. Recent curriculum developments in the senior school have included critical thinking for year 7, independent projects in year 9, a year 10 philosophy course and from 2020 the entire year 12 cohort will work on EPQs. The whole aim, driven by Dr Smith, is to reinvigorate academic curiosity and scholarship.

Staff themselves are heavily involved in research projects. There are teaching and learning groups and coaching conversations which are both part of the staff performance management and work with the boys. Consensus is that this is raising the profile of pedagogy in an exciting way.

The junior school introduces specialist teaching in year 5 and doesn’t set boys, though there are intervention groups for those who require support in a particular area. School is pressing ahead with all aspects of technology to improve teaching and learning, keeping a watching brief on AI and forging ahead with VR sets to bring the wonders of the natural world alive, among other things. Five science lessons a week ensure boys have a very sound early foundation in STEM.

Class sizes of between 20 and 24 are a bit bigger than in some independent schools, but this is mitigated by the high quality of resources. There are strategically deployed teaching assistants and both junior and senior staff say that quality of teaching and ethos are more important for progress than class size.

Learning support and SEN

The academic support department is highly commended by parents. One mother of a dyslexic boy praised the willingness of the school to be flexible - her son doesn’t do a foreign language, using the time for support lessons in English and maths instead. There were comments that boys had to make some effort to access support – they needed to do more than just sit there and wait for it to happen to them.

The arts and extracurricular

Parents say that the school offers everything a boarding school can in terms of opportunities for co-curricular pursuits. Music is huge. It starts in the junior school with small group strings lessons for all, a 150 strong choir, big band, rock bands, jazz groups, hand bell ringers, quartets and larger orchestral groups. All boys are given an orchestral instrumental to learn when they join the senior school with the most able having musicianship lessons. Everyone is involved in a performance at the end of year 7. Parents and staff say that going to concerts never feels like a chore, the standard is invariably high.

The Warwick Hall can accommodate the whole school and is a concert and drama venue of professional specifications, indeed professional touring groups hire it regularly. It includes an exhibition space where as well as senior students’ work, local primary schools have been invited to exhibit. A separate venue, Bridge House Theatre, seats 250. From year 6 boys start taking responsibility for all the backstage technical stagecraft supported by a professional backstage theatre team.

School is particularly keen to get as many boys involved as possible in the arts and an arts festival is held every couple of years. A project from the last one resulted in a striking installation of a wicker kraken devouring a boat which has joined the series of powerful outdoor sculptures on display around the 50-acre site.

Within the huge range of co-curricular opportunities there are some that reflect the technological focus of the West Midlands, for example buggy building and young engineers in the junior school, electronics and robotics for seniors. The school hopes to further develop academic societies to promote wider research skills and give opportunities for boys to present topics to each other that are way beyond the school curriculum.


All sport is on site and the facilities are impressive, some are used by the local community and there are plans to expand involvement in this area. School has a very strong sporting reputation, particularly for rugby, but is keen to shine the light on recent triumphs in other sports such as junior squash, county hockey, cricket, swimming and water polo. The aim is to get boys to try out lots, with an emphasis on having a go, doing your best and learning from each other. In the junior school, triumphalism at matches is not encouraged. Parents are asked not to whoop from the sidelines and there are no knee slides when goals are scored. Lots of teams are sent out every week and much effort is put into finding opposing D teams to play at all age levels.


Although boarding is available from year 9 it’s essentially a sixth form affair with around 60 boarders, mostly from Hong Kong and China. In some ways this is surprising as schools often tell us that overseas families prefer schools with a majority of UK boarders. Warwick’s experience goes to show that parents are quite happy for their children to live in a reassuringly familiar culture so long as the academic offer is delivering. International boarders mix well with the home pupils in lessons and are paired with an English ‘buddy’ when they arrive. Full boarding of this kind does mean that the boarding houses are bustling at weekends - there is no grand exodus to homes within travelling distance.

Boarding houses are in the historic part of the school and some rooms have views over the Avon to Warwick Castle. Communal areas are brightly painted and attractively decorated with huge photos. House staff arrange plenty of low-key weekend leisure activities.

Ethos and heritage

Warwick is one of the oldest surviving schools in the world, believed to have been founded by Aethelflaed, Queen of Mercia, in 914. The Victorian building on this site was constructed in the 1870s and speaks of the ambition and confidence of those years when secondary education for more than just a highly privileged few was starting to be taken seriously by the good and the great. The spacious and thoughtfully designed campus is nearly finished after work to bring all the Foundation schools together on the one site. Details of the Foundation’s ancient history (such as a statue of Aethelflaed) sit alongside the contemporary new builds. Visually the schools convey what is important to a lot of parents – a sense of successful tradition combined with forward-facing vision.

Staff understand parents are busy people and try very hard to make communications simple and clear. Both schools receive very positive press from parents who say that they are quick to respond via email or face to face, as appropriate. Close relations between senior and junior schools are clearly effective but at the same time both maintain their individual atmospheres. Parents say the contrast is important so that the boys feel they really have moved on when they go to the senior school at 11.

The senior school is large (nearly 1,000 pupils) and some feel this is not the school for a boy who would struggle academically or lacks confidence. One parent said ‘the average boy might feel he was failing’. However, the general feeling is that the size is an advantage in terms of opportunities and also that it caters for a diverse range of boys. School is making determined efforts to mitigate the potential anonymity of being in a large institution.

Everyone went out of their way to tell us that the school’s reputation for being posh wasn’t fair. This may be so, but to us it seemed a bit less diverse than similar schools in Coventry and Birmingham.

Eclectic list of old boys includes several rugby internationals, a couple of MPs, Iain Pears the novelist, Marc Elliott (East Enders), Christian Horner (Red Bull motor racing), theatre critic Michael Billington and, from the ranks of the departed, the poet John Masefield.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

The junior school has a warm but disciplined atmosphere and this is where the social ethos of the schools starts to be embedded. Staff model positive behaviour and virtues such as humility and considerate manners are articulated for the boys so that they learn the language to express good behaviour. Match teas are still sit down events where you are expected to talk nicely to the opposition. Gentleness and kindness are recognised through consideration certificates.

Boys who don’t want to spend their break times in high octane communal activities can chill out (not literally) in an 'igloo'. A card system has been introduced for misdemeanors with a rather gentler nomenclature than the former ‘strikes’. Juniors may get a yellow card for talking when the teacher talks and the boys assure me that most of the boys and their parents take these very seriously. There are red cards and you can get suspended for eg racist comments or deliberate acts of vandalism.

In the senior school the house structure has been reinstigated. The pastoral concerns tracking system allows for early intervention where any problems, often quite small, are picked up.

Considerable effort goes into ensuring a smooth transition between year 6 and year 7, both for those already in the school and those who are arriving from elsewhere. As well as pre-Autumn visits there is a bonding trip after the first few weeks that seems very popular. There are two form tutors to each form in year 7 so the boys will all feel they are known as individuals quickly. The school is considering more mixed age tutor groups to enhance the community feel.

Grass roots pastoral care happens effectively at form tutor level and time for tutors to spend with their group has been extended in the senior school to allow for relationships to be strengthened and for form tutors to pick up the small changes that can be significant. PSHE supports pastoral development with sessions on mindfulness and self worth. There are two school counsellors plus teaching assistants in classes where there are boys with special concerns such as high anxiety. Teachers have received useful pastoral training particularly round autism. The school does not shy away from difficult gender issues and uses its single-sex status to allow the boys to explore subjects such as consent and pornography.

In the senior school, yellow cards can be given for eg chewing gum or using your phone when you shouldn’t. Parents think the school has done the best it can when there are serious discipline issue. There were a few grumbles about card-happy teachers and inconsistency generally in punishments from the boys, but no more than we usually hear about when visiting senior schools.

The head of sixth form likens his role to that of a boarding housemaster. The pastoral work goes on through relaxed conversations and leading by example. What he and other pastoral leaders are aiming for is that each boy will feel that there is someone who is genuinely interested in them and their wellbeing. Parents report that he has got this absolutely right.

Pupils and parents

This a school where pupils are quite likely to be the children and grandchildren of alumni. Staff assured us that there is a range of parental backgrounds from landed gentry to those who need full bursary support, though the cars dropping off boys suggested rather more towards the top end of the spectrum. Nearby Jaguar Land Rover is a big employer (and source of some of those cars!) as are local large hospitals and universities. Some parents commute to London.

Parents told us that one of the lovely aspects of the school was how charming their sons’ school friends were so we were looking forward to chatting with the pupils. As it turned out the boys we met, while perfectly well mannered, were rather reticent and trying to get anything beyond platitudes out of them was like pulling teeth. Apparently their teachers were ‘great’, the school was ‘great’, the head was ‘great’, oh and ‘nice’ as well. Either we didn’t ask the right questions or else we didn’t get to meet the right boys!

Money matters

Fees towards the top end for Midlands day schools. The school is fortunate in benefiting from a number of ancient charities, some specifically aimed at boys living in the town of Warwick. Scholarships are offered in music and academics but not for sport. About a quarter of boys in the school receive some financial assistance.

The last word

The Warwick Foundation feels it has its version of the diamond model right: boys and girls together up to year 3 then separated for lessons. It will be interesting to see how this develops in coming years now the girls’ High School has moved onto the site and there is a new joint sixth form centre. This school is a Midlands institution that manages to be dynamic and forward facing without losing sight of its historic past. The fact that it perhaps lacks the edginess of the nearby big city schools is part of the attraction for many families.

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 Academic Support Department provides study skills which enable all boys, including the very able and talented, to achieve their full academic potential; and to ensure that no boy’s progress is held back by any kind of learning difficulty. We are needs-led and person-centred in approach to young people. Central to the policy is the recognition that very able and highly intelligent individuals may have difficulties in particular areas; we aim to help such boys realise their true potential. The service provided is an integral part of the curriculum; it supports learning and the acquisition of skills in all subject areas which involve literacy and numeracy, and forms a key ingredient to success in public exams. The focus of all our work is to prepare our boys for adulthood, promoting peer relationship and community inclusion in all we do. There is no additional charge for extra provision required to meet a young person’s needs.

Who came from where

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