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Lessons finish at 4pm, then it’s activities until 5.30pm. ‘It’s a long day,’ concede students, ‘but you get used to it.’ You name it, it’s probably on offer – DofE, CCF, plus everything from sailing and golf to Warhammer, crochet, film, coding, debating, astronomy, astrology and more. Some of the societies are student-led – we met a girl who’d started up Femsoc. Music is part of the school’s DNA and described as ‘joyous’. You hear it in the chapel and when you walk past the superb new music facility. Around half the students learn an instrument or singing – ‘They give you a free taster lesson,’ raved one parent. Performances range from Shrewsbury Abbey to overseas...

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Since September 2023, Toby Spence, previously head at Sibford School in Oxfordshire for seven years. Grew up in Newcastle-upon-Tyne where he originally planned to go into the military, although we could hardly think of a less suitable role for this mild-mannered man. ‘Frankly, I’d have been hopeless at shooting anyone!’ he acknowledges, admitting it was the outdoors and mountaineering aspects that lured him in. A gap year in Australia proved ‘formative’ in introducing a love of teaching, so off he trotted to Sheffield to study history and PGCE, followed by 10 years in high-performing grammars in Yorkshire and Cumbria. A move into the independent sector meant ‘five very happy years’ at Bootham, a Quaker boarding school in York, where he was head of history, outdoor education and a housemaster and when he married and...

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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.

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