A small, outdoorsy school in the Cotswolds with a strong feeling of community that offers an all-round quality education for boys and girls, and a very flexible boarding programme.
Rendcomb is a small co-ed day and boarding school for children aged from three to 18; there are around 400 boys and girls within the school and 30% of students are international (coming from Thailand, Canada, China, Dubai, America, Germany, Japan, Hong Kong, Spain, Italy, Russia, Nigeria, Israel, New Zealand, South Africa, Austria, India and Columbia). There's also a large number of day students making the commute from nearby Swindon, Stroud and Gloucester, and as far away as Oxford.
The school recently celebrated its centenary year, and it remains true to its founding values of providing an inclusive and broad-ranging education for students. With the motto to, "develop thoughtful, adventurous and academically ambitious" students, Rendcomb offers the best of both worlds – it is academically strong prepares and prepares students well for entry to prestigious universities in the UK, and also puts an equal emphasis on arts and sport so that students leave with more than top grades.
Headteacher Rob Jones (who was previously Deputy Head at Shiplake College) talks about giving students freedom, both to be themselves and to take on big challenges. As he says, “FAIL' is only the 'First Attempt In Learning.' While there’s no typical Rendcomb student, it is a school most suited to the student who is thoughtful, adventurous and academically ambitious.
With acres of space, Rendcomb has a large outdoor education programme; there’s Forest School for Juniors, Bushcraft lessons from Year 7 and the Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award for all Year 9 students. The school makes full use of its surroundings, with students orienteering around the campus for a geography lesson, or using the fire pit rather than the science lab to study chemical reactions.
Life in the Junior school aims to hold onto the family ethos of a village primary school; it also benefits from having access to all the specialist teachers and facilities of the Senior school. There's a strong pastoral programme running throughout the school.
As an all-through school, Rendcomb has designed a curriculum that provides a seamless transition from Nursery and Junior School through to Senior School and GCSEs and A Level. Small class sizes mean that students receive a strong level of individual support, while enrichment programmes stretch and challenge students where they need it most.
The arts, outdoor education, activities, mentoring, leadership and enrichment are all important parts of the curriculum, many of which are taught by specialist teachers within some very well-equipped specialist classrooms. There are three languages on offer (French, German and Spanish). And there's a strong focus on independent learning; students in Years 7-9 undertake an Independent Learning Project in addition to their timetabled subject lessons, which helps to develop public speaking, independent research and confidence at a young age. It's all excellent preparation for GCSEs and A Levels.
Rendcomb is popular with international students (around a third of students here come from overseas), and the school caters to their needs with a choice of bespoke courses, including a one-year and two-year GCSE programmes and a pre-A Level one year programme.
There are no lessons on Saturdays, this stopped in 2018. Instead, Saturday mornings are a time for students to play sports fixtures or learn new skills, including cookery, skiing, yoga, archery, canoeing and music.
In the Sixth Form, students have the choice of studying three or four A levels or a BTEC in PE, Travel & Tourism, or Business. All students complete the school’s own C3 course focused on developing communication, collaboration and creative skills; other options include the Extended Project Qualification, the Gold Arts Award, and the Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award.
Sixth Formers also have use of their own The Crypt and Bar, a social space with a cinema area, games consoles, comfortable sofas, a pool table and a kitchenette.
The arts are outstanding, and it all centres around the school's very impressive Griffin Theatre. This £3.3m Performing Arts Centre, which opened in 2017, and is a hub for weekly drama lessons for all year groups, as well as shows ranging from the Nativity through to The Wizard of Oz, The Crucible, and We Will Rock You. There's also a very active programme for dance and music, and a huge choice of choirs, bands and ensembles.
Rendcomb is not known for being the sportiest of schools, but students still get every opportunity to train, compete and play. Facilities include sports pitches, a clay pigeon shooting ground, hard tennis courts, sports hall, performance gym, Pin Drop Gym, golf course, outdoor swimming pool, volleyball court and miles of cross country running routes. The main sports are very traditional – hockey, rugby, lacrosse, tennis and cricket. Beyond the curriculum, students can sign up for clay pigeon shooting, cross country, boys’ tennis, girls’ cricket, football, athletics, and touch rugby.
2021 A Level results: 56% achieved A*-A, 81% A*-B and 98% A*-C.
2021 GCSE results: 46% of students achieved grades 9-7 and 65% grades 9-6; 98% achieved 9-4.
BTEC: Over three quarters of students achieved D*, the equivalent of an A* at A-Level.
There's no typical Rendcomb student, which is seen in the wide variety of leavers' destinations and university course that range from Motor Racing Engineering to Medicine and Fine Art to Virology. Students are offered places at the top universities in the UK and US including Oxford, Warwick, Imperial and Exeter.
There’s boarding from Year 7 through to Sixth Form, and the school has a very flexible boarding policy that offers occasional, flexi, weekly and full boarding. Just under half of the school are boarders, the majority in the older years (50% in Years 10-11 and 70% of Sixth Formers) and many from overseas.
Boarders live in five houses, all on campus and there's a horizontal house system that keep students within their year groups. There's also a cottage in the village where Sixth Formers spend two separate weeks learning important life skills, which is a great introduction to university life.
The school has invested in some fantastic boarding facilities that help to create a wonderful homely environment for students; each house has a common room with a kitchen, piano, table football, X-Box and TV. There's also a packed programme of weekend activates, organised by a boarders' committe.
Located in over 240 acres of beautiful countryside between Cheltenham and Cirencester, the school has become part of the small village of Rendcomb - and it is beautiful both inside and out. From the deer park on the school grounds to the stained-glass windows illustrating Aesop's fables in the Main House, Rendcomb is simply a stunning place to grow up and learn.
While holding onto its traditional school feel, Rendcomb has also invested in modern facilities including science labs, continually updated computing suites, and a purpose-built art and design technology studio.
The Senior School has three main entry points; 11+, 13+ and 16+. Students sit an entrance exam including an English and CEM Test; for Sixth Form an offer is dependent on GCSE grades achieved at the end of Year 11. Between 80-90% of Junior School students continue onto the Senior School.
Rendcomb offers Academic, Sport, Music, Drama and Art scholarships.
Annual fees are £7,020 to £18,150 for day students and £30,525 to £39,600 for boarders.
Good for: Rendcomb is a caring, inclusive school that offers a very nurturing environment for children – and a truly stunning campus that will be most appreciated by families looking for an alternative to city schools. It's very much a school for outdoorsy types (be prepared to get out and about, and a little bit muddy), and its excellent arts facilities can really help to bring out the creative potential in your child. The flexible boarding programme offers parents plenty of choice, and the combination of family-style boarding houses and choice of academic programmes will appeal to international students making their first move into a UK school. Also, Sixth Formers are offered not just a very wide choice of A Levels, but some outstanding facilities too – making it a great stepping stone towards university.
Not for: With just 400 boys and girls, Rendcomb may just feel too small for some families, while others will appreciate the opportunity for their child to get involved in all aspects of school life. Its rural location may feel just too far from London for some, and parents looking for a very sporty school may want to consider some other schools within the South West instead.
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