United Kingdom / Greater London / Surrey / King Edward's Witley

King Edward's Witley Review

A strong all-rounder boarding and day school with a reputation for outstanding pastoral care and excellent achievements in sports, music and drama.
At a glance
School type
Private
School phase
Secondary
Inspection rating
Excellent
Availability 2021/22
No data
Availability 2022/23
No data
Annual fee average
GBP 20,000
Annual fees
GBP 16,785–21,585
Price band help
Mid-range
Status
Open
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Mrs Joanna Wright
Community
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King Edward's Witley
School type
Private
School phase
Secondary
Inspection rating
Excellent
Availability 2021/22
No data
Availability 2022/23
No data
Annual fee average
GBP 20,000
Annual fees
GBP 16,785–21,585
Price band help
Mid-range
Status
Open
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Mrs Joanna Wright
Community
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A strong all-rounder boarding and day school with a reputation for outstanding pastoral care and excellent achievements in sports, music and drama.

Describing itself as “a place of learning and laughter”, King Edward’s Witley offers an excellent all-round education in a countryside campus with beautiful grounds and some fabulous facilities. It is inclusive rather than a hot-house, truly believes happiness is key to achievement, and offers students some outstanding opportunities in sport and the arts.

KEW is a small independent boarding and day school for around 400 girls and boys aged 11 to 18 years; while the majority of students are British (many coming from villages and towns in the area and taking full advantages of the school’s location opposite Witley train station), there is a large number of international students from more than 28 countries. Most of the children here are day students (about 35% are boarders), and a house system brings together all day and boarding students across the year groups to create a sense of community that KEW is much-loved for.

KEW was founded in 1553 by Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London, who convinced the boy king, King Edward VI to set up a school for the under-privileged. The school’s caring Christian values are promoted in all aspects of school life, and it is known for and proud of its diversity. As the school says, “everyone is dedicated to bringing out the very best in those for whom they are responsible, whatever their background or ability” and this is reflected in the school’s generous bursary programme offering up to of 50% of boarding or day fees; around 10% of the school benefit from this.

Pastoral care is high on the agenda here, and the school says that it is “rightly fêted as a major strength” here. Students are supported by House staff, Chaplain, counsellors, nurses and visiting GPs; they are trained to be Peer Listeners; and there is a Pupil Wellbeing Committee. The school sees wellbeing support as key, believing that children reach their full potential when they’re happy. 

Headteacher Joanna Wright also talks about KEW being an “extraordinary, distinctive, forward-thinking and global minded community”. There are several examples of this, including offering the IBDP in Sixth Form and appointing a specialist head of girls’ sport to encourage girls’ cricket and football. Every Wednesday lunchtime, there’s a ‘try something different’ menu with dishes as varied as sushi, miso salad and elderflower cordial; mussels with buckwheat noodles; green tea and peach mess. 

The school is part of the charity Bridewell Royal Hospital Foundation together with its partner Prep school and nursery Barrow Hills School.

KEW was rated Excellent for pupils’ personal development and Good for the quality of the pupils’ academic and other achievements following its ISI Inspection in January 2022. Inspectors applauded the school’s welcoming, socially diverse and multi-cultural environment, saying that students “fully espouse the school’s maxim of ‘united by diversity’; it is their lived experience.” The inspection report notes the “abundant high-quality artwork displayed across the school” and the school’s “strong record of sports, music and drama achievement.”

Curriculum

An education at KEW is based on the National Curriculum for England, with students in Year 10 studying GCSEs and in Sixth Form choosing between A Levels and the IB Diploma Programme (IBDP). KEW was one of the first in the UK to introduce the IBDP, and it is now the most popular Sixth Form pathway at the school; 89% took the IBDP last year and 81% this year.

Students study two to three modern languages French, German and/or Spanish, and Latin; there’s an option to take Classical Civilisation instead of Latin. There’s a broad choice of GCSE options (art, classical civilisation, computing, drama, a second modern foreign language, geography, history, Latin, music, physical education, religious studies or design technology or food technology). 

The school embraces the constant change of the UK education system and has recently introduced economics at GCSE and popular subjects like psychology at A Level. It also designs its curriculum to be as broad as possible. A Level students can complete the IB’s Theory of Knowledge course and the Extended Essay, which can both arguably boost their university application (in the same way as the Extended Project Qualification can).

International students needing EAL support can join a one-year GCSE programme as a gateway to a sixth form education in the UK. The Pre-Sixth year for 15-16 year-olds not only helps to improve their level of spoken and written English, it also offers a taste of boarding life, invites students to mix with the main school in extra-curricular activities, and runs cultural trips around the UK. It’s a fantastic programme for preparing overseas students into British boarding (and ultimately university life); and, as ISI inspectors found, these Pre Sixth students “make good progress, supported by teaching that understands and meets their particular needs”.

Teaching throughout KEW remains broad and balanced; small class sizes in the Sixth Form offer a great level of personalised attention, and the mix of local and international students throughout the school keeps the community globally-focused.

The school has the resources to deliver the specialist teaching required by both the UK and IB programmes. Food science is taught in a newly refurbished Health and Lifestyle Centre; there is also a design technology block, science school, business and finance centre, art school and a health and lifestyle centre.

The school’s Pupil Progress Centre offers support to both students needing extra help or learning support, and to the most gifted and talented. There are homework clubs and an ‘open door’ policy from tutors through to performance pathways and Individual Challenge Plans to help students meet their own individual targets. ISI inspectors found that the school’s two weaknesses are a lack of effective feedback in some subjects and a lack of challenge in teaching, so it will be interesting to see how this part of the school grows over the coming years.

Sport and the arts

The core sports here focus on the traditional – football, hockey and cricket for the boys and hockey, netball and cricket/rounders for the girls – and alternative sports are also taught in its PE programme and after-school activities. Thanks to a sampling approach in PE lessons, students try out a vast range of sports from badminton to athletics and swimming, and the appointment of a specialist head of girls’ sport has seen the rise in girls’ cricket and football.
And with coaches including Surrey and England cricketer Rikki Clarke as Head of Cricket, and masterclasses being offered by the likes of Hockey Olympic Gold and Bronze medallist Giselle Ansley, these students are getting some first-rate coaching.

Sporting facilities are impressive, particularly for a school with less than 500 students – a sports complex with swimming pool, gym, squash, tennis and netball courts, six hard courts, sports pitches, and a cricket pavilion and pitches. The school’s trophy cabinet highlights its regional and national success in football, tennis, basketball, table tennis, fencing, climbing and athletics. We also really like the Elite Performance Pathway (EPP), a non-sports-specific programme offering individual training plans and expert coaching from the Surrey High Performance Institute.  

King Edward’s also has a very creative side, and music, art and drama are all part of daily life from Year 7 upwards, both within the curriculum and at an extra-curricular level.

There’s a super music centre (the Countess of Muster Music School), complete with recital room, a staged courtyard, classrooms, teaching and practice rooms, a band room and very well-equipped instrument store. A Mac Suite and recording facilities support the strong following for music technology here, and there’s a library full of music, recordings and books; head over to the chapel, and you’ll find three manual Willis organs too. Over 20 choirs, orchestras and specialist instrumental ensembles from chamber music to rock bands perform regularly in the school’s halls and auditoriums; the excellent chapel choir regularly sings in the City of London too. 

Music here is inclusive but also competitive. There are Annual House Music competitions, Battle of the Bands and Musician of the Year to showcase talent. As well as music scholarships offered at 11+, 13+ and 16+, which includes individual mentoring, there is also a bursary for students at 11+ and 13+ to learn an orchestral instrument for half a year.

Drama, which is taught as part of the curriculum from Year 7, is equally popular with both actors and tech crew members. The school’s main auditorium is used for at least six annual school productions; the school also has a refurbished studio theatre where students can really get the feel of working in a professional rehearsal studio. Once again it is inclusive: every student has a role to play in the biannual Lower School Drama Showcase, and all seven houses take to the stage and present an original play every year.

The school’s artist in residence really gives students a taste of what it means to be a working artist, students exhibit their work in the school’s very own Bunker Gallery, and the choice of art clubs and workshops opens students’ eyes to everything from tie dye to fashion illustration. Facilities include spacious art rooms (open on Saturdays and well-used), a ceramics room, printmaking studio, photography darkroom, library and ICT resource room. We love the approach taken by the school’s Head of Art, Caroline Shouksmith who sees the subject as a form of therapy, and uses art projects as an opportunity for students to “emotionally re-balance and heal”.

Beyond the classroom

King Edward’s students can find explore many outside interests thanks to a choice of over 50 co-curricular clubs and societies, including boxing fitness, fencing, table tennis, chess sessions with a visiting Grand Master, climbing, coding, bee keeping, yoga and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme.

Academic results

Results for all programmes are strong, and the school’s achievement in the IB is improving year on year.

2021 IBDP: In 2021, Kew had its best set of results since the school started to deliver the IBDP in 2010. The school’s average score was 35.9 points out of a possible 45, higher than the world average of 33.02; 25% of the cohort achieved 38 points or above.

2021 A Level results: In 2021 the school had a very small cohort of just two students taking A Levels, with grades of A*AB and ABB; in previous years it has ranged from 18-38 students and the number of students achieving A*-A has ranged from 16-35%.

2021 GCSE results: 61.5% were graded 9-7 (A*-A); 81% were9-6 (A*-B); and 96.7% were 9-4 (A*-C).

Boarding

The school offers full, weekly, flexi boarding options, and the flexi option is increasingly popular with families as we are seeing up and down the country. There are two exeat weekends in every term. There are seven boarding houses each led by their own pastoral team including a houseparent, assistant houseparent and matron. All Year 7 boarders live in the co-ed Queen Mary House, fondly known as QMH; all other students stay in one of six single-sex senior houses, each with dedicated study space and communal areas. 

Weekends are filled with sports fixtures, house activities, day trips to London, and the standard BBQs, pizza and film nights. 

Campus and facilities

Set in more than 100 acres in the Surrey Hills, KEW has a glorious countryside campus in Wormley, near Godalming, and offers students a healthy helping of fresh country air (one of the reasons for moving the school here in 1867). The school is rich in heritage; the carpentry work of students from the late 19th Century is on show in the beautiful chapel, for example.

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