Primarily an all-girls school, The Kingsley School offers an enriched education that can bring out the potential in the academic, the sporty, the arty and many more – and where students really are a name not a number.
Far less pushy and hot-housey than other schools in the area, Kingsley focuses on offering the flexibility, individual attention and encouragement that students need to try new things and achieve their potential. It’s a happy, relaxed and friendly school, where being a Kingsley Girl and wearing the Kingsley Blue carries a huge sense of pride and achievement. Kingsley works hard to offer an enriched education that can bring out the potential in the academic, the sporty, the arty and many more. Its efforts are rewarded, not just with strong GCSE and A Level results, but with many sporting and arts achievements.
Located in the heart of the charming and leafy West Midlands town of Leamington, Kingsley has around 320 students; there are 80 students in the Prep, 200 in the Senior School, and just 40 in the Sixth Form. Each school occupies its own Cotswold stone house, all located in the same quiet residential area.
Kingsley is co-ed from Nursery until Year 6 only; this is very much an all-girls school though, and there is a just a small number of boys here, mainly siblings of female students. From Year 7 onwards, boys could look to go to co-ed or all-boys’ independent schools in the area, including Warwick, Princethorpe and Arnold Lodge. Students enjoy the benefits of smaller, dedicated campuses as part of a larger school, and there is plenty of mixing across all three sites with peer mentoring, sharing of facilities, and house events going on too.
The average class size is 20 in the senior school, and much smaller in the Prep and Sixth Form (around 8-12).
Founded in 1884 by Rose Kingsley (daughter of Charles Kingsley, the Victorian author known best for The Water Babies), Kingsley was the first girls’ school in Leamington. It continues to follow in the footsteps of its founding role model with a focus on promoting strong independent women.
It’s a school that embraces its heritage and long-held traditions while keeping a close eye on the future and modern trends in education. While remembering the past, the school is actively preparing girls for the future; there are modern IT Suites, a STEAM room, and plans to introduce a Bring Your Own Device programme, for example.
There’s also a very caring side to the school where being Kingsley Kind creates an inclusive community; it’s in every part of the school, from the warm greetings by teaching staff to the school’s therapy dog, known to be “the most popular member of Kingsley staff!” The houses, named after the first four headmistresses of the school bring together students across year groups for weekly activities and help to reinforce the family-feel that the school has always had. A new addition to the school, opened as students returned after lockdown, is a pastoral room where girls can visit their heads of year; it’s an inviting space filled with comfy seats, mindfulness activities and always a listening ear.
It’s all about bringing students together and building a community – and this starts before the very first day of term. There are lunches at the entrance exam, family picnics and treasure hunts before the start of term, and a Pioneer residential trip in Year 7 students which many girls later say is when they made best friends for the rest of their time at the school. Open mornings ad taster days are full-scale events, which have included an Easter egg hunt underwater themed Blue Planet complete with inflatable shark, and a journey into the past with Kingsley’s own time machine.
James Mercer-Kelly joined the school in 2021 as the school’s first male head. With his friendly and approachable personality he has been warmly welcomed by parents. Mr Mercer-Kelly sums up the school, saying:
“At the heart of it, Kingsley is a family school with strong sense of family and community ethos and a nurturing community. Everyone is known for who they are and what they can do. It’s about names not numbers. It’s about individuals. It’s all about people doing their best.”
Mr Mercer-Kelly joined just as it entered into a new partnership with the Warwick Independent Schools Foundation, alongside Warwick Preparatory School, Warwick Junior School, King’s High School, and Warwick School. While Kingsley’s identity, uniform, and leadership remain the same, it enters a new era where it can share skills, facilities (and no doubt some highly competitive sports matches) with a very reputable group of schools.
The whole school, from Prep to Sixth Form, follows the same timetable; five one-hour lessons a day and a timetabled enrichment hour for everyone. Teaching follows an enriched version of the National Curriculum for England, which is broad, challenging and creative. As Mr Mercer-Kelly tells us, teachers are expected to have commitment, passion, and know the students by name.
“They are here to make a difference, and they have to take their responsibility as a pastoral, as well as an academic, role model very seriously.”
In Prep (for girls and boys aged three to 11 years), the core curriculum is balanced with specialist lessons in swimming, languages (French and Spanish), PE, drama and music.
From Year 7, subjects taken include English, maths, science, French, Spanish, classics, geography, history, religious studies, PSHEE, computing, product design, food, textiles, art, drama, music and PE. As girls move up through the Senior School, they have the opportunity to study a wide range of GCSE subjects; they also learn Latin from Year 8.
As you’d expect from a selective school, the curriculum is academically rigorous; it is also broad and flexible enough to include subjects such as Latin and classical civilisation, and design subjects such as food technology and textiles. Some GCSE classes can be as small as five to 10 students depending on the subject, so there is plenty of personalised learning here.
In the Sixth Form, Kingsley offers 30-plus A Level subjects, which is a huge choice considering the small number of students. Once again, it comes back to the school’s focus on the individual; the timetable is designed around the girls’ and their individual interests. Politics and digital media are among some of the newest subjects to be added after students requested them.
During our tour of the school, Jon Farrington-Smith, PR and Marketing Manager, told us:
“If one student wants a subject, we will add it. The entire Sixth Form timetable is built from the top down and everything fits in around their choices., It’s very flexible, very special.”
While Kingsley offers personalised teaching, some students may prefer the space, more competitive nature, and bigger class sizes of a larger school – something that Kingsley’s sister school in Warwick (King’s High School) could offer.
As well as A Levels, the school offers Cambridge Technicals, which are more coursework-based. Students can also complete the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ), which is equivalent to half an A Level and provides students with the opportunity to plan, research and develop their own project idea. Students can sit AS Levels here (the school really sees the value in a midpoint assessment) allowing them to study four subjects in their first year, they can switch A Level choices up until the end of the first term.
The Sixth Form curriculum is enriched with Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) in a variety of subjects from mindfulness to marine biology – all incredibly valuable opportunities to help students prepare for university.
While Kingsley students sit an entrance exam as part of the admission process, this is an inclusive school that does not just focus on academic talent. There’s a learning support team with dyslexia specialists, and all students are encouraged to stretch and challenge themselves through the REACH Higher programme, which includes masterclasses and other activities.
From Prep through to Sixth Form, Kingsley has created a well-disciplined, caring and happy environment for its students – and as the girls move up through the school they have increasing independence. Both Year 11 students and Sixth Formers are given their own common rooms, the freedom to use facilities across the school, and the trust to visit the town centre during breaks.
For such a small school, Kingsley is really strong in both sport and the arts, and it has recently joined the Independent Schools Council to open up more opportunities for sports fixtures, arts competitions etc.
Mr Mercer-Kelly says:
“We may be small and we may not have enough students to have a full symphony orchestra, but we have some extraordinarily talented students here. A large number of students go through LAMDA, and we have students trying out for England’s kayaking team, and another going for bobsleigh team.”
A Wall of Sporting Stars showcases the talent here in netball, hockey, synchronised swimming, and even bobsleighing; the school is particularly proud of its successful equestrian and ski team. Swimming is taught from pre-school upwards. There’s an inclusive ‘sport for all’ ethos here, and a focus on having fun; you don’t have to be elite to get a chance to shine and all students have the opportunity to represent the school in competitive matches. “Through that nurturing way, people become the top performers because they’ve had the confidence to do it,” says Mr Farrington-Smith.
While it’s true that a larger school will have more sporting fixtures, Kingsley girls still compete in a wide range of local regional and national competitions; in fact, there are 190 students aged three to 18 years taking part in at least one after-school sporting activity – well over half the student body.
The Head of PE, who has been at the school for 20 years (“It’s the Kingsley effect”, she says) adds:
“Having a smaller number is an asset for us. We can have the whole the cohort training together and can early on identify who needs extra help and who has potential to excel. A much bigger school may not see that.”
With its town centre location, Kingsley has limited outdoor space; however, it does have 17 acres of green space and sports facilities just a five-minute drive away. Girls are ferried to and from the site by a fleet of 11 minibuses to use the sports pavilion, floodlit netball and tennis courts and forest school.
The arts are important here, and Kingsley is ranked amongst the top schools in England for music.
Creativity is celebrated, as the corridors lined with student artwork clearly show; there are regular performances in weekly assemblies and termly concerts, and annual productions as diverse as The Lion King, Twelfth Night and The Mikado. The school has chamber choirs, string concerts, rock bands, orchestras and musical groups, as well as a good uptake of peripatetic music lessons and LAMDA classes. And, as the school says, “If someone comes in with a specific instrument and we don’t have the teacher, we will find one.”
Life extends far beyond the academic at Kingsley, and there’s a broad extra-curricular programme with clubs and societies covering the arts, subject enrichment, outdoor education, STEM, sport and special interests. There are high numbers completing the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme, with “lots of girls going right the way up to Gold” and a community service programme that seed students volunteering locally on a termly basis.
All students have a timetabled Enrichment Hour at the end of each school day, which is all about giving students choice and encouraging them to discover new interests. With such a varied list of 30 different options for each year group, ranging from boxercise to crafting, Mandarin to debating, film club to paddleboarding, this does not seem a big ask.
Kingsley has a global outlook that’s developing world-ready students. As a Round Square school, one of the few in the UK, its students belong to a network of more than 200 like-minded schools in 50 countries. While Covid-19 has limited overseas travel, Kingsley students have in the past taken part in student exchanges, international conferences, and global competitions and service projects. A group of textile students travelled overseas for a conference on sustainable fashion, for example, while some Year 9 students developed a plan to host a global talent show with other schools to raise money for victims of the Australian bushfires.
Mr Farrington-Smith says: “They had an idea and they used the Round Square platform we have to do this. They feel empowered. They are listened to. They feel very philanthropic.”
By having small class sizes, giving every student plenty of individual attention, and offering regular study support, Kingsley performs well above UK averages in both GCSE and A Levels. For a school to feel informal and friendly but still deliver academically, is no easy feat.
In 2021, 68% of A Level grades were awarded A*-A and 97% were A*-C; 35% of all GCSE grades were awarded 9-8 and 52% were 9-7. University destinations and courses are hugely varied, reflective of the diverse community of students here – and include Russell Group unis and degrees in modern languages and culture, history, philosophy, music and psychology.
Situated in a quiet residential area within Leamington town centre, Kingsley is housed within three attractive Costwold stone houses. History permeates throughout the school with its old wooden staircase and servant bells, but it has been renovated to include modern science labs, common rooms, and IT suites too.
Students move between the three schools for various activities, and Kingsley has put in a Zebra crossing which all students must use to move safely between the school’s buildings.
The Prep has its own playground, teaching kitchen, innovation room, music room, library, and hall/dining area. Facilities in the Senior School includes science and IT labs, art and textiles rooms, library, cafeteria, multi-purpose hall (used for school productions), drama studio, courtyard garden, and STEAM room. The Sixth Form has a large café-style common room and study area, art studio, ICT suites, careers library, gym, library and walled garden.
Most Prep students (around 10), continue into the Senior School, which offers children a seamless and well-managed transition into secondary education. New students (and girls joining Kingsley Prep before the end of Year 4) must take an entrance exam for Years 7 upwards, with girls coming from across the area including Solihull, Banbury and Stratford on Avon.
Kingsley offers means-tested bursaries and scholarships for excellence in academia, art, drama, music, and sport, and Sixth Form scholarships in art, drama, textiles, music, sport and photography.
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