Taunton School Review

A caring, unpretentious all-through school with a close-knit community of international and UK learners, a high-quality sports offering, and a broad curriculum that plays to both vocational and academic strengths.
At a glance
School type
Private
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
No rating
Curricula taught
Availability 2020/21
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Availability 2021/22
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Annual fee average
GBP 13,500
Annual fees
GBP 7,575 - 20,070
Price band help
Value
Status
Open
Opening year
1847
School year
Sep to Jul
Main teacher nationality
United Kingdom
Main student nationality
A mix of nationalities
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Taunton School
School type
Private
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
No rating
Curricula taught
Availability 2020/21
close
Availability 2021/22
close
Annual fee average
GBP 13,500
Annual fees
GBP 7,575 - 20,070
Price band help
Value
Status
Open
Opening year
1847
School year
Sep to Jul
Main teacher nationality
United Kingdom
Main student nationality
A mix of nationalities
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A caring, unpretentious all-through school with a close-knit community of international and UK learners, a high-quality sports offering, and a broad curriculum that plays to both vocational and academic strengths.

Taunton School is an all-rounder school offering plenty of opportunities to excel in academic studies as well celebrate sporting and artistic achievements. Enrolling students from a broad range of academic and cultural backgrounds, Taunton has a global outlook, an embedded culture of student wellbeing, and a broad sixth-form curriculum.

The school is made up of the Pre-Prep, Prep, Senior & Sixth Form all spread across one campus in beautiful north Somerset. There is also Taunton International School (TIS) for overseas students aged 8 to 18 years on a separate campus. Students can board on campus from seven years old, and it’s a popular option with around 350 of the school’s 1,000 students choosing to do so.

Taunton School celebrated its 150-year anniversary in 2020, a year unlike any other. This all-through day and boarding school has a history of being open-minded and open to change. Established in 1847 as boys-only school, Taunton School went co-ed in 1973 and then branched out into international education with the opening of Taunton International School (TIS) in 1996; today, 30% of the senior school are overseas students and there are more than 45 nationalities represented across the campus. Even though TIS is located on a campus three miles away, students are quicky integrated into the Taunton School community by sharing facilities, extra-curricular activities and trips.

It’s a non-selective school that doesn’t appear to have the academic snobbery of some public schools. Instead, it offers a broad curriculum that acknowledges the need for alternative routes to university; students have the choice of taking A Levels, following the IB Diploma Programme route, or pursuing a more vocational BTEC pathway.

It is academically rigorous, but without putting pressure on students to take Common Entrance exams; “Assessments should not drive a curriculum,” it says. Its results are strong with a high percentage of students achieving A and B grades.

Taunton School has a reputation for more than academia. It has been ranked seventh in the UK for sport by School Sport Magazine (the cricket programme here is outstanding). Its environmental achievements have been recognised with a Green Award in the Independent Schools of the Year Awards; students in the very active ‘Eco Club’ have planted an orchard, harvest apples to sell as juice, and maintain beehives. And it was shortlisted in the 2019 Tes Independent School Awards for its wellbeing initiatives. As well as appointing a Mental Health Nurse and opening a 24-7 health centre, all teachers have completed a Youth Mental Health First Aid course; also, senior students are trained as counsellors to support and assist their peers. The school’s student wellbeing lead Ed Burnett said:

“We are proud to call ourselves a ‘Talking School’ and the numbers of boys and girls now accessing counselling are 50/50.”

Headmaster Lee Glaser has headed the school since 2015 after spending five years as deputy head.

The curriculum

Teaching follows enhanced versions of the Early Years Foundation Stage from Pre-Prep, and the National Curriculum for England throughout the Prep and Senior Schools. From Year 1, the timetable covers specialist lessons in subjects including history, geography, ICT, art and music (as well as some homework).

In the Prep School (Years 3 - 8), the curriculum covers the core subjects, which are English, maths, the sciences and modern foreign languages (French, German and Spanish). Additional subjects taught by specialist teachers include history, geography, RE, creative and performing arts, as well as PE, teamwork, leadership and Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE). Students learn in traditional classrooms with some impressive dedicated Prep school facilities including science labs, a design and technology hub filled with jigsaws and laser cutters, professional kitchen, and an ICT class with computers and video cameras.

The majority of Year 8 students move into the Senior School and, as mentioned before they are not required to sit Common Entrance exams. During the transition from Prep to Senior School, the Year 9 - 11 curriculum covers the core subjects, which are art, biology, chemistry, English, geography, history, physics, religious studies, computing and ICT, maths, PSHEE and PE, as well as either German, French or Spanish.

Students are given a very solid foundation for Years 10 - 11, when they study core subjects for GSCE and IGSCE include English language, English literature, maths, religious studies, biology, chemistry, physics and modern foreign languages. Taunton offers a diverse range of options that include geography or history; art, drama, music or design technology; and a choice of business, classical civilisation, French, German, computing and ICT, economics, Latin, PE, religious studies and Spanish. This list gives students the opportunity to choose subjects which they enjoy, are good at, haven’t studied before or may support a future career path such as medicine.

Taunton offers IGCSEs (the international equivalent) in certain subjects; these are considered by some to better prepare students for A Levels (or the IB Diploma Programme) as they have more challenging content and less assessed coursework.

In the Sixth Form, the curriculum continues to offer a wide and varied choice of subjects and courses including A Levels, the IB Diploma and BTECs. A Level subjects include; English literature, mathematics, further mathematics, French, German, Spanish, Latin, biology, chemistry, physics, business, economics, computer science, ICT, geography, history, design technology, fine art or photography, music, psychology, classical civilisation, philosophy religion and ethics and theatre studies. The school says:

“Many take an additional component (we call this a “plus”), for example the Extended Project Qualification, an IB subject such as an MFL, Critical Thinking (non-examined), the IB Extended Essay or IB Theory of Knowledge.”

Taunton has been offering the IB Diploma since 2007, and offers an International Baccalaureate Scholarship of up to 100%. The IBDP continues the school’s broad and balanced learning approach to subjects; students need to successfully complete six subjects (three at higher level and three at standard level), which must include a language and a science. IB subjects include English literature and language, mathematics, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Latin, biology, chemistry, physics, economics, geography, history, design technology, visual arts, music, philosophy, and psychology. The school has had an average IB score of 33 to 36 over the past three years.

The most recent addition to the Taunton Sixth Form is the BTEC; students can choose one of two diplomas – Busines or Sport and Exercise Sciences. There is also an option to study a Pre-Med Programme in the lower sixth, which will appeal to students who are keen to pursue a career in medicine.

Sport and the arts

As part of its strong sports programme, Taunton offers PE at GCSE and A Level, and a BTEC in Sport and Exercise Science. There are sports scholarships available, and an elite performance programme for the school’s sportiest. The school has the professional expertise to excel in sport – coaches include former England cricketer Marcus Trescothick, former rugby player for France Nic Sestaret, and ex-England netball development squad manager Lisa Manley on the school. It also has some enviable sporting facilities – these include three sports halls, two swimming pools, eight netball courts, fitness suite, sports pitches, dance studio and climbing wall.

The timetable includes all the seasonal and traditional sports you’d expect at a co-ed school – rugby, hockey, netball, cricket, tennis, swimming, football, squash, rounders, cross country and athletics. One of the school’s strengths is cricket, which is taught year-round, and it is “offering more and more girls cricket as its popularity continues to rise”. Thanks to having not one but two indoor swimming pools on campus, the school also offers weekly swimming lessons from Pre Prep. Other sports offered beyond the curriculum include lacrosse, horse riding, clay pigeon shooting and rowing.

Taunton School also offers an impressive arts programme. As well as weekly drama and music lessons, students can opt for additional music tuition, ballet classes, and speech and drama lessons from Prep School. As they move up the school, students can study music, fine art, dance, drama and photography at I/GCSE, A Level and IB. Both boys and girls from as young as four years old perform in school productions including the Christmas musical, plays, and informal concerts, and there are opportunities to play outside the school in the Taunton Children’s Orchestra and other groups.

The arts facilities are outstanding. In the Prep School, there are two large halls, one featuring a built-in stage complete with lighting and sound equipment and the other equipped with a large portable stage; there is also a Senior School theatre that is well-equipped to stage full-scale productions.

Beyond the classroom

There’s plenty of talk by Taunton about offering “new challenges and experiences”, and this certainly doesn’t stop when the bell rings at 3.45pm. After-schools clubs in Pre-Prep and Prep, many of which are included in the tuition fees, include, Aikido, tennis, athletics, Mandarin, country dancing, ukulele Club, origami, and street dance. The school also runs an enrichment programme every Saturday morning covering performing arts, design & technology, art, sports and cookery. The programme is open to children from all schools in the area (Years 3 to 6), and is hugely popular, and it is free for Taunton students.

In the Senior School, the co-curricular Horizons Programme encourages all students to “broaden their own horizon”. Many clubs are set up by the students themselves, and include a debating society, investment club and Young Enterprise, cookery, horse riding, climbing, and chess club,

It’s compulsory for all Year 10 - 11 students to join the Combined Cadet Force, with many then choosing to volunteer to stay on as Senior Cadets during their sixth form year; many more students also sign up for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme. And, from skiing in the Ardeche to singing on a choir tour in Switzerland, students are offered a variety of experiences around the world, as well as regular trips during term time within the UK.

Academic results

For a non-selective school, Taunton’s academic record is all the more impressive.

In the 2020 GCSE results, 97% of students gained Grades 9 - 4, and 49% gained Grades 9 - 7 (it was 43% in 2019). In A Levels, 87% of all grades were A*, A or B (it was 61% in 2019), and 88% of students achieved Grades A* - C.

The IB average score was 36, significantly higher than last year’s average score of 32.

100% of the BTEC Sport and Exercise Science cohort achieved a triple distinction*, which is equivalent to 3 A* grades at A Level; 67% of BTEC Business students achieved Distinction/Merits equivalent to 2*A/B at A Level.

Boarding

The school offers a choice of full, weekly and flexi boarding options. In the Prep School there are around 40 full time boarders aged 7 to 13; in the Senior School there are five houses for 13 to 18 year olds each with dormitories, recreational areas, lounges and ICT suites. 

Campus and facilities

Taunton School is synonymous with its gothic main building and iconic clock tower, which overlook sweeping green playing fields. The Pre-Prep, Prep and Senior schools have individual facilities that offer students age-appropriate classrooms, recreational areas, and specialist labs to learn in – whether that’s the forest school on the doorstep of the Pre-Prep classrooms or The Guvvy social hub for Sixth Formers.

All students share some incredible facilities including two swimming pools, two theatres, a performing arts centre, sports hall, sports pitches, IT Suite and state of the art design & technology equipment. There’s a very well stocked and recently refurbished Carrington Library for senior students, where the most academically ambitious can expand their knowledge in a special collection called “The Wow Factor”. The most recent addition to the school is its £4 million dining hall, where it’s said to serve some pretty tasty breakfast, lunch and dinner with full kitchens on-site serving up three meals a day cooked from plenty of local produce.

Admissions and fees

Annual tuition fees for day students range from £7,575 for Pre-Prep (Reception and Years 1-2) through to £20,070 for Sixth Form.

Scholarships are awarded for entry into year 7, Year 9 and Sixth Form (Year 12) and there are Headmaster merit-based scholarships which are awarded to students joining the school outside of the regular scholarship periods. Bursary awards are also available. In 2020, the school launched means tested IB Scholarships covering up to 100% of the total fees.

Military families have been part of Taunton School for many years and families are eligible for financial support.

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