Merchant Taylors’ School (MTS) in Hertfordshire balances academic excellence with an holistic education – and it’s all delivered on a huge countryside campus with modern facilities for specialist subjects and sport, as well as its very own lakeside watersports centre.
MTS is a selective school for around 930 “exceptionally able young men”. While MTS stands for excellence (and its grades are consistently excellent) it is not just looking for excellence in the classroom, though. It is very much a school for boys who excel in all areas including sports and the arts too. As Headmaster Simon Everson says:
“…we focus on helping each individual boy discover and hone his special talents, rather than demand he conform to a pre-determined mould.”
Unsurprisingly this is a very popular all-boys’ school, with a reputation for high-quality teaching, an extensive range of extra-curricular activities, its very own watersports centre, and strong leadership. Located just outside London (just 30 minutes from central London on the Metropolitan line), MTS is a country school on an incredible 280 acres. Part of its appeal is almost certainly being able to study on a campus of lakes and countryside while being a short commute from the capital city.
The school was founded in London in 1561 by the Worshipful Company of Merchants and relocated in 1933 to its current location in Middlesex. In September 2015, Northwood Prep merged with Merchant Taylors’ School to make it an all-through school for boys aged three-18 years; the prep school is located on a separate campus nearby. Both schools are part of the Merchant Taylors’ family of nine schools across the UK.
MTS follows a traditional and very complete curriculum that includes French and Latin from Year 7; there’s the addition of German, Spanish or Greek in Year 9, which are all taught through to A Level.
There is a broad mix of GCSE and A Level subjects, weighted more heavily towards the traditional subjects, the classics and languages which are most popular; there are options including music, PE, psychology and theatre studies taken by much smaller numbers of students. New subjects added to the Sixth Form curriculum include economics, politics and philosophy.
In the Sixth Form, all students start with four A Levels and drop to three after the first term; there’s also the option of completing the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ).
There are several reasons why MTS performs so well academically. Firstly, it is selective so only the brightest boys are accepted. As ISI inspectors noted in their 2014 inspection of the school, the teachers have “very high levels of subject knowledge and a real passion for the subject” (a large number are Oxbridge graduates). And there are small class sizes, so teachers can get to know each student as an individual and work with them to enhance their strengths.
The teaching is frequently described by families as being outstanding. This is partly because the Head has created a culture of innovation, where teachers are rewarded for undertaking research into pedagogy and offered the freedom to redesign their classrooms.
Students are well-prepared for applying to the best universities to study a degree or course that best suits them; there’s a strong careers programme that starts in Year 7. Also, parents are kept well-informed in their child’s progress throughout the year, and the Head writes at least one full individual report on student every year.
Students at MTS are kept active and creative with a busy calendar of competitive sporting events, musical performances, and art exhibitions. The major sports are rugby, hockey and cricket, and boys play competitive matches every Saturday. Facilities include all-weather hockey pitches, indoor swimming pool, athletics track, lakes for sailing and kayaking, squash courts, an assault course and a fencing salle. It has excellent grass cricket pitches, also used by the Middlesex County Cricket Club.
Music is popular (more so as an extra-curricular activity rather than a GCSE or A Level subject) and there’s around a third of boys learning an instrument or having singing lessons. There are no less than 20 different ensembles, including three jazz bands, several chamber music groups, and various bands, choirs and orchestras. Drama is also taken seriously here with students staging regular productions (some in collaboration with nearby all-girls’ schools including St Helen’s).
The school offers scholarships from 11+ for drama, art, music, sport and DT, which is yet another reminder that MTS is not solely focused on the academic.
While the library is certainly a jewel in this school’s crown – it spans two floors and shelves are filled with over 20,000 books and publications – MTS expect its students to balance study with plenty of extra-curricular activities. Boys choose from a list of over 100 different activities in sport, the arts, academic enrichment, leadership: it’s an incredible list from A-Z!
In terms of outdoor pursuits, the boys head to the lakes for kayaking, paddle boarding and sailing. Many students also join the Combined Cadet Force (the school has its own assault course on campus) or the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.
There have also been some fantastic overseas trips to enrich learning, from a classics trip in Italy to a geography trip to Iceland.
MTS is at the top of the league tables for GCSE and A Level results, year on year. Its results are without question, excellent. However, it’s important not to judge MTS by exam results alone; there is much more to this school, and boys leave not only with outstanding grades that earn them places at the UK’s top universities but also life skills and achievements that best prepare them for the challenges ahead.
2021 A Level results: 59% of grades were A*, 87% were A*-A and 97% were A*-B.
2021 I/GCSE results: 81% of grades were A*/9-8, 94% were A*-A/9-7, and 98% were A*-B/9-6.
In 2019 (when students last sat exams), 76% of grades at A Level were A*-A and 91% were A*-B; 88% of grades at GCSE were 9-7.
Leavers’ destinations include Russell Group universities, many to read medicine, economics and engineering although there are several studying degrees in English and less traditional subjects too. In 2021, eleven received offers from Oxford or Cambridge.
There are two key points of entry, 11+ and 13+. In a typical year there’s about 350-500 boys applying for just 70-75 places in both Years 7 and 9. Boys come from across north London, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Middlesex.
Applicants sit papers in maths and English and attend a one-to-one interview, many coming from state primaries and feeder Preps including Manor Lodge, Buckingham College, Reddiford and Gayhurst.
Annual fees are £23,600 for all year groups.
Good for: MTS is a school that can bring out your child’s academic potential without stifling them in an 'exam factory' environment. This is a great senior school for ambitious students who want to leave with more than high grades (which most students do here); the opportunities in music, sport and creative arts – more as extra-curricular activities than exam subjects – offer boys the chance to explore new interests and pursue their hobbies.
Not for: It's an all-boys school, so will not suit families looking for a co-ed education, and there are no boarding options. Some students may find the curriculum too rigorous, and boys should expect to apply themselves and work hard while getting involved with several activities beyond the classroom (including many outdoor pursuits).
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