What it’s like
As part of the Cathedral Foundation the school has origins in the 7th century
but was re-founded in 1541 by Henry VIII. It has a fine site in the precincts of
the cathedral, close to the castle in a conservation area. The older buildings
have historic associations and are complemented by a prep school and excellent
facilities including sports hall, indoor pool, language laboratory. There are
strong links with the cathedral and its life. Religious education is important
in the curriculum; attendance at services and chapel is compulsory and all
pupils take religious studies at GCSE. The school has been fully co-educational
since 1993, although the sixth form first admitted girls in 1976. Academic
standards are high and examination results very good. There are strong music,
art and drama departments, a wide range of sports and games (with national and
regional representation) and a good range of activities. A vigorous CCF and a
lively commitment to local community services.
Pupils & entrance
Pupils: Total age range 3–18; 720 pupils, 667 day (460 boys, 207
girls), 53 boarding (39 boys, 14 girls). Senior department 13–18, 301 pupils
(214 boys, 87 girls).
Entrance: Main entry ages 3, 11, 13 and 16. Common Entrance and own exam
used. For sixth-form entry, 5 GCSEs at least grade C (usually grade B in
sixth-form subjects, A for maths and sciences). No special skills or religious
requirements. Majority of pupils from own prep school, King’s Preparatory School
(tel 01634 888577).
Scholarships, bursaries & extras Approx 28 pa scholarships, value
25%–50% tuition fees (up to 100% means-tested): 20 academic, 1 sport, 1 art, 5
music, 1 organ. Governors exhibitions (all means-tested), up to 100% fees.
Choristers’ scholarships 40% tuition fee reduction. Variable number of
bursaries, based on financial need. Remissions of tuition fees for children of
clergy(10%), service personnel (20%) and siblings. Parents not expected to buy
Parents 85+% live within 30 miles; up to 8% live overseas.
Head & staff
Headmaster: Dr I R Walker, in post from 1986. Educated at Sydney Boys’
High, Melbourne College of Divinity and at universities of Bristol and Wales
(accountancy, theology, philosophy). Previously Housemaster and Head of Divinity
at Dulwich. Also member HMC and Admiralty Interview Board; FRSA, FCP, Associate
Bankers’ Institute of Australasia. Publications: articles in philosophical
journals and reviews; books include Plato’s Euthyphro, Christ in the Community
(Chairman and ed.), Classroom Classics, Faith and Belief.
Teaching staff: 86 full time, 26 part time and peripatetic. Annual
turnover 6%. Average age 38.
GCSE: In 2003, 53 pupils in upper fifth: 74% gained at least grade C in
8+ subjects; 17% in 5–7, subjects. Average GCSE score 55 (56 over 5 years).
A-levels: 64 in upper sixth: 11% passed in 4+ subjects; 69% in 3; 20% in
2 subjects. Average final point score achieved by upper sixth formers 326.
University & college entrance Almost all 2003 sixth-form leavers went
on to a degree course (6% after a gap year), 2% to Oxbridge. 4% took courses in
medicine, dentistry & veterinary science, 25% in science & engineering, 6% in
law, 65% in humanities & social sciences.
Curriculum GCSE, AS and A-levels. 22 GCSE subjects, 22–24 AS/A-level.
Sixth form: Most sixth formers take 4 subjects at AS-level, 3 at A-level;
in addition, all take AS-level general studies. 18% take science A-levels; 37%
arts/humanities; 45% both. Key skills not formally introduced or examined but
covered through general studies and academic subjects.
Vocational: Work experience available. Also certificate in basic
competence in IT.
Special provision: Special teaching for EFL and dyslexic pupils.
Languages: French, German, Russian and Spanish offered to GCSE and
A-level, French, German and Latin compulsory to 14. Regular exchanges (France
and Germany). Number of contacts with eg ministries in Germany, EU bodies;
visits to eg Kreisgymnasium Bargteheide, Schleswig-Holstein, St Etienne.
ICT: Taught both as a discrete subject (1 lesson/week in Years 7–11) and
across the curriculum eg scanning and drawing in DT, composing in music,
internet research, spreadsheets in many subjects. Most pupils take level 1 basic
competence in IT. 150 computers for pupil use (8+ hours a day), most networked
and with e-mail and screened internet access.
Music: Over 25% of pupils learn a musical instrument; instrumental exams
can be taken. Some 10 musical groups including orchestras, choirs, brass groups,
wind band etc. Pupils in national youth orchestra; former Kent Pianist of the
Drama: Many pupils are involved in school and house/other productions.
Art & design: On average, 12 take GCSE, 7 A-level. Design, pottery and
photography also offered. Fine art scholarship to Brown University, US; winner
of national Child Accident Prevention Trust and NSPCC greetings card design
Sport & activities
Sport: Rugby, hockey, cricket, netball, athletics; PE (gymnastics,
volleyball, basketball, health-related fitness), rowing, cross-country, fencing,
swimming, 7-a-side rugby, tennis, weight training, badminton. BAGA, RLSS exams
may be taken. 3 pupils in national ski squad; regular county/district rugby,
Activities: Duke of Edinburgh Award, CCF (from 14, optional from 16) with
community service. Up to 30 clubs, eg geographical, history, art, music, chess,
computer, debating, photographic, pottery, technical, bellringing.
Uniform: School uniform worn throughout.
Houses & prefects: Competitive houses. Prefects, head boy/girl, head of
house and house prefects, appointed by the Headmaster after pupil vote and staff
Religion: Compulsory C of E services and chapel.
Social: Organised trips to France, Germany and Russia; classics tour to
Italy, Greece or Turkey; skiing to North America/France; rugby, cricket and
netball tours overseas. Pupils allowed to bring own car to school. Meals
self-service. School shop. No tobacco or alcohol allowed.
Discipline Pupils failing to produce homework once might expect a
verbal warning; detention system; anyone involved with drugs can expect
expulsion. There is a Commendation system.
Boarding Most senior (13+) pupils in single or double study bedroom;
all in one house. Resident qualified nurse. Central dining room. Senior pupils
can provide and cook own food. 4 weekend exeats each term. Visits to the local
town allowed after school (13+).
Alumni association is run by Michael Grant (President).
Former pupils John Selwyn Gummer MP; P C Richard Dadd (artist);
Russell Thorndike (novelist); Percy Whitlock (composer); Sir H A Atkinson (PM of
New Zealand); Sir Francis Head (privy councillor); Dinsdale Landen (actor); Sir
Lionel Dakers (composer); Clive King (children’s author).