This all-boys' day school has an excellent reputation in the area for supporting the brightest and the best of students with its challenging UK and IB education.
The school was founded in 1552 by King Edward VI, and is part of a family of schools in the city including the independent King Edward VI High School for Girls and five King Edward grammar schools. KES shares a campus with its sister school, King Edward VI High School for Girls (KEHS), and there are close ties between the schools that help close any gender divide.
There’s an aspirational and progressive side to this school; in recent years, it has switched from A Levels to the International Baccalaureate Diploma (it was actually the first UK school to make this move in one go) and it has become much more socially inclusive by widening its accessibility to less affluent families. Whilst it excels academically, it is not seen as an exam factory, and parents praise the school for producing well-rounded young men. And it is committed to attracting the brightest of boys, regardless of their financial circumstances or backgrounds, by offering over 25 assisted places every year.
Dr Katy Ricks is the school’s first female head in its 450-plus year history; previously head of Sevenoaks School, Dr Ricks returned to KES, where she once taught English, in 2019. Having introduced the IB at the hugely successful Sevenoaks, Dr Ricks brought her experience of leading an IB school to KES, one of the top schools in the UK’s second city.
KES has a reputation for academic excellence. It’s a selective and high-achieving IB school with a tough admissions process and a diverse community of students; boys here need to have a strong work ethic, be intellectually curious – but also have the enthusiasm to give plenty of non-academic and creative activities a go
KES moved to the IB Diploma in 2010 – and it has never looked back. As one of just a few schools in the UK to offer this alternative to A Levels, KES is one of the highest performing IB schools in the country. Boys study six subjects, which must include English, maths, a science, a language and a humanities subject along with the Theory of Knowledge, an Extended Essay on any subject and the Creativity, Action and Service programme.
To prepare students for the rigorous and holistic two-year IBDP, boys study a broad curriculum in their first three years at the school. A challenging academic curriculum is balanced with lessons in art, music, design, drama, and PE. Latin is compulsory in Years 7-9, and in Year 9 boys can study Spanish or German.
All boys take 10 subjects at GCSE, and options include art, Ancient Greek, design and technology, drama, geography, German, history, Latin, music, religious studies and Spanish. There’s only a small number opting for art, drama or music, with many boys focused on a career as a doctor, but languages are strong.
In fact, the largest department in the school is Modern Languages, which teaches French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Latin. It’s surprising not to see Mandarin or Arabic taught here, or some of those languages so widely spoken in Birmingham such as Urdu – but KES remains committed to teaching European languages and believes in its strength to “teach boys how to learn a language and learn it well”.
There’s a dedicated Sixth Form, with private study areas, a computer suite and a common room, which plays a key role in encouraging independent learning during the boys’ last two years – which is great preparation for university.
For anyone concerned about the pressure of attending such a high-achieving school, KES has a well-considered wellbeing programme; as well as tutors keeping a watchful eye over their students, there are mindfulness and yoga lessons weaved into the timetable from Year 7.
Sports facilities here are impressive. As well as eight rugby pitches, four cricket pitches, three Astro hockey pitches, five tennis courts, a rifle range, an athletics track and seven artificial surfaced cricket nets. KES was most recently given a huge sporting boost with the opening of its indoor sports centre complete with swimming pool. Such is the quality of its sporting provision, that KES will be used as a training venue for rhythmic gymnastics, discus and hammer teams for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
The main sports are rugby, hockey, cricket, athletics and tennis, but boys have a choice of over 20 different sports to play in after-school clubs including archery, sailing, water polo, fencing and golf. With such breadth of sports, students can choose to compete or play for fun in house competitions; water polo is very strong here, and the house cross country competition is the one event that all boys must take part in.
The school’s impressive Performing Arts Centre has a 400-seater concert hall, 120-seater studio theatre, a dance studio, music technology rooms and even a rock room. It's shared with KEHS. There’s plenty of opportunity to explore the creative arts here – whether as part of the curriculum through to I/GCSE and the IB, or in extra-curricular clubs. There are 20-plus productions every year, many bringing boys together with girls from KEHS, and an annual programme of around 40 concerts and recitals. There is an incredible variety in how students perform here; several activities take students out to showcase their talents in the community – KES swing bands go on an annual tour to around 25 primary schools, for example.
While there’s definitely a focus on exam success, entry to top universities and high-earning professions, the school encourages its boys to embed their “intellectual enthusiasm” into everything that they do. Clubs are big here at KES, in fact they are a timetabled 'lesson'; there are no academic lessons on Friday afternoons, giving every child the encouragement and time to try a myriad of activities and develop new skills. Games, museum visits, Combined Cadet Force, stage crew, chess, sports, drama, Warhammer, German film Society and entomology are some on a list.
There are plenty of trips and sports tours, expeditions (including the Duke of Edinburgh) and two cycle tours every year, which challenge students – and their parents – to cycle around Holland or from Land’s End to John O’Groats. Older students can join the Personal Service Group to work in the community, sign up to KES Leadership to mentor younger students.
In 2021, seven boys achieved the top score of 45 points and 62% of the cohort scored 40 points or above; the school’s average score was 40.3 (seven points above the world average). In the previous three years, it has risen from 37.9 to 39.1.
There’s similar success at GCSE. In 2021, 73,8% of grades were A* (71.7% in 2020) and 89.3% were A*-A (88.7% in 2020).
The school has a strong track record of sending a small number of students to Oxbridge (there were six in 2020) and, such is the calibre of students here, that around a third of the cohort received offers to study at top London universities (KCL, UCL, LSE, Imperial, University of London). The largest number of students leaving KES go on to study medicine, dentistry, economics and history.
KES has an enviable campus on a 50-acre site next to the University of Birmingham. The school’s original 1930s buildings stand alongside modern facilities including the performing arts centre and science labs, a Modern Languages Department and Sixth Form Centre.
The main points of entry are 11+ (Year 7) and 13+ (Year 9), and all students sit three one-hour papers in English, mathematics and verbal reasoning, set by the school. KES’ advice is “do not seek additional tuition for the examination”; it’s sensible advice as ‘hot-housing' your child to prepare for exams may mean they struggle later on if offered a place at the school and cannot keep up with the pace of learning.
Applications are now closed for 11+ entry in 2022. Registration for 2023 entry opens in March 2022.
Annual tuition fees are £14,665. As well as assisted places, the school offers academic and music scholarships, which range in value from 5% to 50% of the annual school fees.
If you are the owner or the principal of the school and note any inaccuracies, or would like to update data, you can now open an account with us. You will also be able to add admissions availability per year group, and advertise current job vacancies. This is a free service. Please help us keep prospective parents up to date with your latest information.
Are you looking for a place for your child, and want help from our school consultants? If so, click on the link below, and we will forward your request for information to the school or schools of the same type that we are confident have availability. This is a free service for our readers. Request Information