A co-ed boarding and day school for 11-18 year olds in the countryside, Royal Hospital School offers a traditional British boarding school experience enriched with naval traditions and some outstanding sports and outdoor education opportunities.
This is a mid-sized school of around 730 students, and there’s an even split of day and boarders here.
RHS is a selective school that is focused on challenging its students at every stage of their education. Not just a school for the highest achievers, though, RHS supports students of all abilities and has a strong track record of adding value at both GCSE and Sixth Form. It also has a recently appointed dedicated Head of Academic Challenge, who leads Oxbridge preparation and various academic societies for the school’s most gifted and talented – so it’s a promising time for future students.
RHS is a well-established school that was founded in 1712 by Greenwich Hospital in London (which explains the name) to educate Navy families. While RHS would not describe itself as a military school, it remains proud of is seafaring history and continues with several naval traditions; as well as sailing being encouraged, there’s a daily raising and lowering of the school flag, students march in naval uniform on various dates during the year, and the houses are are named after prominent naval figures. It all feels like a wonderful celebration of the school’s history, and helps to create the close-knit community that is felt here.
It’s also a more traditional British boarding school that continues to keep a six-day week on the timetable; all students have structured lessons on Saturday mornings followed by optional games lessons or a sports match in the afternoon. It means that life at RHS is busy, and it may feel like a long week for some, but families at the school support the six day week, saying that “it gives more time to take advantage of everything on offer”.
As Headmaster Simon Lockyer, Headmaster, says:
“Our parents appreciate that pupils have time to complete their homework and attend all their clubs at school, meaning that home time can then be downtime and family time. The recurring message from pupils is that they are busy but that they value the broad range of opportunities and activities on offer.”
The six-day timetable also gives the school more time to offer an enriched curriculum Monday to Friday – it’s time that is filled with co-curricular clubs, supervised homework sessions, tutor time, and a compulsory CCF and DofE programme.
Mr Lockyer has been a popular Head at the school since 2016, and he was previously Second Master at the high-performing Portsmouth Grammar School.
RHS was Excellent in every area in its most recent Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) in November 2021.
RHS has developed a structured curriculum that is designed to stretch and challenge students of all academic abilities. Far from being an academic hothouse that relies on rote learning, RHS talks a great deal about independent study and study skills; there's a focus here on teaching students how to research an answer and present findings through a talk, blog, project or report.
It starts from Year 7; students are assessed to identify their strengths and weaknesses and set a Challenge Grade or personal goal in each subject. All students in Years 7-8 attend timetabled prep lessons at the end of every day.
Students follow an enriched version of the National Curriculum for England, which is supported by excellent facilities, small class sizes and specialist teachers. In Years 7-8, the core subjects are studied alongside a modern foreign language (French or Spanish), classical civilisation, Latin, geography, history and religious studies, and four creative arts (art, design technology, drama and music). This broad and balanced curriculum prepares students well for choosing their GCSEs in Year 10.
There’s a wide choice of GCSE options that will suit students with varied interests and abilities, including PE, Art & Design (Fine Art, Photography, or Textiles), Business, Classical Civilisation, Computing, Design & Technology (Food Preparation & Nutrition or Product Design), Drama, French, Geography, History, Latin, Media Studies, Music, Religious Studies, Separate Science and Spanish.
Strengths of this curriculum include the Compass Programme, which focuses on independent learning, digital literacy and critical thinking; in Year 9, students get the opportunity to showcase these skills in a Junior Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) project.
In the Sixth Form, there is a broad range of A Level subjects and BTECs in Sport, Enterprise and Entrepreneurship, and Creative Digital Media Production.
Students are also well-prepared for university and work life through a programme of courses that focus on higher education and career applications; managing personal finances; healthy eating on a budget; study techniques for the 21st century; and communication skills. With the addition of volunteering and leadership opportunities, and regular seminars, the school offers an excellent all-round sixth form education.
There’s a huge sporting culture at Royal Hospital – it’s certainly a school with plenty to offer the sportiest of students. It has the facilities – 96 acres of sports fields, all-weather pitches, indoor swimming pool, golf course, indoor climbing wall, gym and fitness suit, martial arts and dance studios, squash, netball and tennis courts and horse riding with livery option. And it has a very broad sports programme that encourages participation in both team and individual sports but, most importantly, “a life-long interest in sport”.
From Years 7-13, students can take part in team sports including rugby, hockey, netball, cricket, and individual sports such as swimming (including lifeguarding qualification), tennis, kickboxing, golf, kayaking, table-tennis, trampolining, cross country, athletics, sailing, use of the new indoor climbing wall and horse riding.
The school is most well-known for its outstanding cricket academy, run by former Essex county cricketer Graham Napier. With facilities including seven cricket pitches, two pavilions, six grass nets, four indoor nets in the sports hall and Trueman BOLA bowling machine, this school is serious about cricket – for both boys and girls. As well as training students for competitive cricket, the school hosts a major cricket festival, runs international cricket tours and is fast becoming pone of the top schools for girls’ cricket.
The school also has a sailing academy at neighbouring Alton Water, and all Year 7 students go on a week-long sailing course in their first term, with many going on to complete RYA qualifications and compete in fleet racing.
Arts also take centre stage, and subjects including drama, art and music stay on the curriculum through to GCSE and A Level. The school’s naval traditions are very much in evidence, with students being given opportunities to join a Marching Band and Corps of Drums – and there are many more clubs (as well as plays, musicals and festivals) giving students the chance to perform. Students are fortunate to have some outstanding arts facilities including a recital hall, a chapel of cathedral proportions (it seats well over 1,300 and is home to a grand organ), recording studio and technical suite.
There are many opportunities to explore interests outside the classroom at RHS and it’s a big believer in expanding students’ horizons beyond the academic. There’s a long list of clubs and societies to choose from, offered daily to students from 4pm-6pm. While some clubs are voluntary, all Year 7 students learn to sail and all Year 9 and 10 pupils take part in the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme and Combined Cadet Force; this is a great school for students with broad interests, and with a ‘have a go’ attitude.
RHS achieves strong academic results year on year.
GCSE results 2022: 97% Grade 9-4 (A* - C); 45% Grade 9-7 (A* - A)
A Level and BTEC results 2022: 41.3% were A*-A /Distinction* - Distinction; 73.4% were A*-B; and 89% were A*-C/Distinction* - Merit . There was a 100% A*-B pass rate in Latin, History, English Literature, and 100% A*-C pass rate in Art, Business Studies, D&T, Economics, Geography, Politics
Around 90% of students go to the university of their choice, and approximately 50% to Russell Group and other top-tier universities.
The school has a large boarding community, and students can choose between full, weekly and flexi boarding options. Parents looking for a flexible boarding programme that can fit in with busy work schedules will like the choice of three night boarding or the boarding bundle of 15 overnight stays a term.
You won’t find compulsory exeats on the calendar, instead students have the choice to go home on ‘Leave Out' or 'Quiet' weekends. And for Year 13 students, Nelson House offers university-style, mixed accommodation, providing a great stepping stone towards more independent living.
The location is stunning – a 200-acre countryside campus in Suffolk that’s close to the River Stour. RHS is a country school, yet still within easy reach of towns and cities; it’s five miles from Ipswich and just under an hour from London.
RHS is a selective school, and all students sit the Common Entrance or the school's own exam as part of the admissions process. Entry into the Sixth Form is subject to a minimum average GCSE point score and specific grades in chosen A Level subjects.
RHS offers several scholarships and means-tested bursaries for students entering Years 7, 11 and Sixth Form, ranging from academic to sports and music.
Annual fees range from £18,207 to £20,253 for day students, and £29,211 to £37,614 for full boarding.
Good for: Yes, RHS is a school that can deliver top grades at GCSE and Sixth Form, but it’s not just for the academic. In fact, this school is well-suited to the all-rounder – the student who wants to get involved with sport and the arts – and will seize the many opportunities in outdoor education. If you want your child to leave school with more than grades, and achievements such as sailing qualifications, then you will love RHS. Also, the school managed online learning throughout the recent school closures exceptionally well, so it can be relied upon for strong digital learning.
Not for: Some families may not like the ceremony and traditions linked to the school’s naval history, and it’s not for anyone looking for a single sex education. There's also the six-day timetable, which will not suit those with weekend commitments or a preference for a five-day week.
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