Blundell’s is a senior day and boarding school for 615 students aged 11-18 years; the majority of students are either full of flexi boarders and there are around 230 day students. It has a Pre-Prep and Prep school (3–11 years) with around 250 students) on an adjoining site and the two schools share some facilities including swimming pool, Astro-turf pitches and theatre.
It’s popular with international students (they make up about 12% of the total number), and there’s around 23 different nationalities here; the majority come to Blundell’s from China, Germany, India and Thailand.
The school talks about giving its students ‘Roots and Wings’. “Roots that ensure our pupils remain grounded, with values that provide a foundation on which to build their lives, with wings of ambition and aspiration, the confidence and courage to realise their full selves.” It’s an ethos that is rewarded with a community of confident, ambitious but down to earth students.
With a history spanning over 400 years, Blundell’s is a high performing school. It is ranked among the top schools in the UK for value-added data, and regularly achieves national success in academics, sport, music, and drama. The school has been effectively led by Headteacher Bart Wielenga for the past four years; he was previously Second Master at the school.
Blundell’s has developed an holistic curriculum that encourages students to find the right style of learning for them, whether that is quiet reflection and research, debate, or discussion and group work. The school runs from Monday to Saturday for all students, who have timetabled lessons on Saturday mornings then games in the afternoon.
There’s a wide choice of subjects at GCSE and A Level including business studies, art, drama, Latin, PE, psychology, music and music technology. At GCSE, students can study up to 11 subjects from the 20 available; Sixth Formers choose three or four subjects at A Level from a choice of at least 27, and many choose to also undertake independent research for an Extended Project Qualification (EPQ).
What really stands out in the curriculum here is how Blundell’s offers enrichment at every stage of a students’ education. As the school says, exam results are seen “as a way of opening doors in the future, rather than an end unto itself.
In Years 7-8, students learn about fake news, gardening, hands-on learning with live animals and engineering. There’s the ‘Phoenix Society – for the intellectually curious’ when Years 9-11 get the eye-opening opportunity to visit places such as Hinkley Point power station and the Houses of Parliament. Sixth Formers then attend a range of compulsory and optional talks covering everything from basic cookery skills to banking and astronomy.
The school has a particular strength for music. Over 25% of students study music at GCSE, well above the national average, and the majority of students achieve grade A*-B in A Level music and A*-A at GCSE. It’s a thriving department where many students have individual tuition (there are over 350 music lessons a week), participate in the annual musical production, and join one of the many choirs an ensembles.
There are many others to get involved with the arts, from school productions, set building, junior photography club, and the newly launched Trinity College Certificate in the Arts Award. In the classroom, students can study art and design, fine art and photography, and drama at GCSE and A Level.
The main sports here are rugby (one of the school’s strengths), hockey, football, Fives, rugby sevens, squash, netball, cricket, tennis, athletics and swimming. There are also teams in cross-country, golf, equestrian and rounders. A highlight of the sporting calendar is the annual Russell cross-country run, when all students run around the fantastic countryside surrounding Blundell’s.
The list of extra-curricular activities offers something for everyone, from magic club or horse-riding to knitting or karate. mOutdoor activities are valued for encouraging “resilience and resourcefulness” and include the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, the Ten Tors’ Challenge and the Devizes to Westminster canoe challenge. The school has just launched an adventure and leadership programme that gets students tackling gorge-walking, survival training, surfing and team- building games as they work towards an ASDAN qualification.
In 2021, at A Level, 68% of grades awarded were A* or A, while 87% grades were awarded A*-B. Most students most move on to Russell Group universities, including Oxford and Cambridge. Four 2021 leavers, and one 2020 leaver, secured places at Oxford or Cambridge to study PPE, Biochemistry, Physics and Philosophy, Classics and Natural Sciences. 85% of students were successful in gaining a place at their first choice University.
At GCSE, 62% of results were at the highest 8-9 level (the old A*), with 76% at 7-9.
There’s boarding for 11-18 year olds, who stay within one of seven boarding houses on campus. Years 7 & 8 stay in School House, a ‘school within a school’ which offers the most nurturing and supportive environment of a House run specifically for 11-13 year olds. In Year 9 students move into one of five senior, single-sex Houses, and all Year 13 boarders have their own house, Westlake, which focus on their move to more independent living.
Blundell’s is located on the edge of the market town of Tiverton, and set within a huge campus with plenty of wide open space. Specialist facilities include two Mac composition suites and a recording studio as well as 12 practice rooms, each with a piano; the Ondaatje Theatre; four large art studios; a darkroom; purpose-built computer room; and research library
The main entry points for Blundell’s Senior School are 11+ (Year 7), 13+ (Year 9) and 16+ (Year 12). Admission for Year 7 is based on the school’s own Entrance Tests in English, mathematics and the New Group Reading Test. Year 9 applicants sit the 13+ Common Entrance, and the minimum requirement for entry to the Sixth Form is five GCSE passes at grade 5 or above.
The school offers scholarships for academic, music, sport, art and drama, which are valued at up to 30% of the fees.
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