Students coming to this senior school in the university city of Cambridge will find an education that is both challenging yet supportive, and as broad as it is academic.
Founded in 1875, the school is today led by headmaster Martin Priestley who describes it as a ”big, small school; big enough to offer a huge range of opportunities, but small enough that we are able to get to know individuals.” It’s all about creating a learning environment that makes students feel comfortable and confident; about understanding each individual student’s strengths; and enabling each child to “attempt the exceptional”.
The school sees the academic, pastoral care and the wider curriculum as equally important; so while students are expected to be motivated and work hard, they are also encouraged to get involved in a variety of different activities in what has been described by ISI inspectors as a “supportive, non-judgemental environment”. There’s a strong Christian ethos here, which is the foundation for a school that is kind and accepting, and there’s a headmaster who is very much ‘seen’ around the school and knows the students well.
The Leys is primarily a boarding school. Students are supported first and foremost by houseparents and matrons within their day and boarding houses, and tutors within the classroom; in the Sixth Form, each student has a dedicated tutor who stays with them throughout the two years
An education at The Leys is both rigorous and challenging (the admissions process includes an entrance exam) and one of its strengths is being small enough in size to offer students the individual support that may be needed to perform well. It’s a broad curriculum that you would expect from a UK independent senior school and students move towards specialising in subjects as they study for GCSEs and then A Levels.
Languages include French and Latin from Year 7, German from Year 8, and Spanish from Year 9. At A Level, the choice includes more traditional subjects including classics, languages, theology, politics, as well as PE and drama and theatre, and art and design.
The school stretches and challenges students through a diverse academic enrichment programme, which invites students to monthly academic forums, to complete various STEM projects, and to broaden their cultural and intellectual horizons in the Cambridge Experience.
The Leys has a six day week, with a Saturday timetable for all students that includes academic lessons in the morning followed by sport in the afternoons.
Class sizes are small; there are two classes of 15 students each in Years 7 and 8, five classes of 20 students in Year 9, and smaller class sizes of 10-12 students in the Sixth Form.
Whether on stage, on the field, or behind a microphone in front of an audience, students are presented with opportunities to explore and showcase their creative abilities.
There are sports facilities both on campus and at a nearby Latham Road sites and there is an elite performance programme for the school’s most talented athletes. The school prides itself on its musical excellence, and arts facilities include a purpose-built theatre and performing arts centre, dance studio, drama studio, and professionally equipped theatre.
While there are plenty of As and 9s being handed out to students here, The Leys is not to be seen as an exam grade factory. Students broaden their horizons with a choice of over 100 extra-curricular activities, including chess, ceramics, cooking, street dance, swimming, orchestra and digital photography. There’s plenty for the adventurous, from mountaineering to canoeing; the challenge of completing the Duke of Edinburgh; and all students from Year 10 develop leadership and practical skills in a weekly Combined Cadet Force (CCF) training session.
Results are excellent and well above UK averages. In 2021, 97.4% of grades at A Level were A*-C. In the same year, 100% of GCSE grades were 9-4.
Students go on to study a wide variety of subjects (reflective of the diversity within its students body) from biochemistry to film and television studies at top ranking universities including Oxford, UCL, Bath, Edinburgh, Exeter, Loughborough, and Imperial.
80% of sixth formers are boarders, who stay in one of seven single sex boarding houses for either 13-18 year olds or 16-18 year olds; there is also a co-ed house for the youngest boarders aged 11-13 years.
The Leys has a flexible boarding policy, which allows students to return home once they have finished the Saturday timetable; with a varied programme of activities held on Saturday evenings and Sundays, though, many students are happy to stay on campus. There’s also a home boarding option, where students can stay at school until 9pm and then return home to sleep.
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