United Kingdom / South East England / Surrey / The Royal Alexandra and Albert School

The Royal Alexandra and Albert School Review

This state-run Surrey-based day and boarding school has first-class facilities, a great all-rounder education, and boarding for less than £18,000 a year.
At a glance
School type
Comprehensive
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Requires improvement
Curricula taught
Availability 2022/23
No data
Availability 2023/24
No data
Status
Open
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Mr Morgan Thomas
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The Royal Alexandra and Albert School
School type
Comprehensive
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Requires improvement
Curricula taught
Availability 2022/23
No data
Availability 2023/24
No data
Status
Open
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Mr Morgan Thomas
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This state-run Surrey-based day and boarding school has first-class facilities, a great all-rounder education, and boarding for less than £18,000 a year.

Royal Alexandra & Albert School is a state day and boarding school with a broad curriculum that works towards a choice of academic and vocational pathways. Located in Reigate, Surrey, it is also one of a small number of all-through state schools in the UK that offer an education from primary through to sixth from.

As a non-selective school RAA welcomes students from all backgrounds. Both highly aspirational and well-rounded the school has a demanding six-day-a-week timetable which is balanced by an extensive extra-curricular programme. It’s able to offer a broader curriculum than a typical state school, a very strong sports and arts programme, and a family-focused boarding experience.

It’s a school for the all-rounder, with facilities to match. Sporting facilities include five rugby pitches, flood-lit all-weather sports pitches, fitness centre, indoor swimming pool, and equestrian centre. It’s a truly beautiful place to learn and grow, set within private parkland landscaped by Capability Brown.

Founded in 1758, the school has a long history that dates back to its origins as an orphanage. Today, it has a strong Christian ethos that dates back more than 250 years and this feeds into the very caring community of students that come from all religions - and none. 

RAA has a diverse and international community of 1,100 students coming from primary schools across the country, as well as several students whose parents live overseas (25 different countries are represented within the school's student body) or work in the military and diplomatic services.

Students can board from Year 3 through to Year 13 (and many do), and there is a choice of full and flexi boarding programmes costing up to £18,000 a year. There’s a large community of boarders (nearly half of the school’s cohort are full boarders) and over 660 students are flexi boarders who have their meals and activities at the school, but return home in the evenings.

With such a large number of boarders, RAA is organised and run as a boarding school. Day students can enjoy the benefits of boarding life while still sleeping in their own bed every night and without paying boarding fees. They get access to the specialist teaching, sport and arts facilities found at an independent school, a broad extra-curricular programme, and the opportunity to stay at school for an extended day to complete prep/homework. Day students must also attend Saturday school until 12.30pm.

This is a popular school where students flourish, achieve academically and stretch their abilities, but it is also one with some weaknesses that are being addressed.

In its 2022 Ofsted inspection, the school was rated overall as 'Requires Improvement'. Inspectors raised several areas for concern stating that “too few pupils study a wide enough range of academic subjects at GCSE” and “there are weaknesses in the teaching of reading and in teachers’ use of assessment.” However, the school was rated Good for the behaviour and attitudes of pupils, personal development and in the Sixth Form; inspectors found that “the school’s co-curricular programme of activities to be particularly impressive" and "sixth formers are challenged and supported well in their chosen subjects".

There has been a recent change of leadership at the school and changes have already been implemented from Year 9 to support the Government’s focus on EBacc subjects (English, Maths, Science, History or Geography, Modern Language).

Headteacher Morgan Thomas was appointed in September 2022. He was previously Principal at The Littlehampton Academy in West Sussex, and led the Academy from an Ofsted rating of “Inadequate” in 2013 through "Requires Improvement" to a grading of “Good” following an inspection in February 2022. He clearly has the leadership experience, academic credentials and future outlook to lead RAA – which he describes has having “such enormous potential” – through this important next phase of its development. 

Curriculum

Like all state boarding schools, RAA follows the National Curriculum for England. It’s an holistic and inclusive curriculum that is focused on offering opportunities for children of all abilities and talents. There’s plenty of enrichment throughout the junior years including Forest School, outdoor learning, cross-curricular topics and a junior character award programme; the school also has a rewards system to promote positive behaviour and kindness.

It’s all great preparation for secondary school where students continue to study a broad curriculum. At GCSE, there’s a choice of 14 subjects ranging from the traditional academic subjects such as French, Spanish, history and geography to more vocational options such as a BTEC in Business Studies.

In the Sixth Form, students have the choice of 26 A Levels or BTEC courses, which broadens the appeal of this school to students who want to follow either an academic or a more vocational pathway. BTEC courses include business, media production, sport and health.

Sixth Formers can also broaden their horizons further with the Extended Project Qualification, and the school’s bespoke Global Leader Award which builds leadership skills and develops non-academic interests.

Sport and the arts

RAA has the space and facilities both indoors and outside to offer a vast programme in sport and the arts. 

Sports played include cross country, gymnastics, tennis, athletics, hockey, basketball and orienteering, as well as football, fitness, trampolining, badminton, rounders and softball. Swimming is part of the PE curriculum from Years 7-9. The list of sporting achievements at local level is impressive, particularly in netball and rugby.  

The school is very fortunate to have its own equestrian centre, offering affordable riding lessons to students (lessons are charged at £270 per term), and opportunities to compete in local and regional events. Located on campus, there is an American barn that houses 20 horses, tack rooms, outdoor and indoor sand schools – and a recently introduced Pony Stars Junior Challenge Award encourages junior students to enter into the equestrian world. 

There are many performances and musical shows throughout the academic year, and a highlight is the RAAS Drama Festival; Gatton Performers is a popular activity for students who want to develop confidence, team building and public speaking skills. There is also a plethora of choirs, instrumental ensembles and orchestras, and tuition in instruments ranging from rock and pop through to the organ. RAA also has a scholars’ programme for music 

Beyond the classroom

A daily activities programme gets students involved with a wide range of clubs and hobbies from 4pm, and the school sees these as “part of the everyday experience” rather than an extra-curricular activity. Students have a fantastic choice of over 150 activities including Warhammer, gardening, debating, boxercise, kayaking, lacrosse and lifeguard training.

Academic results

Several state boarding schools are high achieving and regularly outperform other state schools, with many topping academic league tables in the UK. RAA has a track record of strong results, particularly for a non-selective school.

2022 GCSE results: 28% of GCSEs were graded 9-7 and 80% were graded 9-4. 

Students did particularly well in the sciences, where the average grade for physics was an 8, with biology and chemistry having an average grade of 7. In business studies, French, music and geography nearly a third of all GCSEs were graded 9-7.

2022 A Level results: 39% of grades were A*-B, and 68% were A*-C.

Students did particularly well in economics, biology and the Extended Project Qualification; 100% of Information Technology and Health & Social Care BTECs were awarded Distinction*- Merit grades. There was also a high level of Distinctions in the school’s first cohort for the Creative Media Studies BTEC.

Leavers secure places at Russell Group universities, including Durham University, University of Edinburgh and University of Exeter.

Boarding

RAA is one of around 40 state boarding schools in the UK and is one of only a few to offer boarding from Year 3. Modelled on an independent boarding school, it can offer many benefits of a private education without the cost.

At a state boarding school, the education is free as the government funds day schooling as it would at any other state school in England. Parents only pay for boarding (and day students may be charged a small annual fee for an extended day), which means paying around £6,000 a term for a full boarding experience.

RAA offers a choice of full and flexi boarding for students in Years 3-13; there are 480 full boarders who live and study at the school during term time (but have the option to go home after Saturday morning school), and 650 local flexi boarders who board for 7-10 nights per year.

There are four boarding houses on campus. One house for Years 3-6, single-sex houses for Years 7-11 where students share dorms with two or three other children, and a purpose-built boarding house for Years 12-13 where Sixth Formers prepare for independent living at university.

The school’s boarding provision was rated Good by Ofsted inspectors in 2022, highlighting “the child-focused, high quality care provided by the boarding staff” who the report describes as “passionate and dedicated.”

Campus and facilities

The school is located in Gatton Park, which has 260 acres of beautiful parkland and was previously home to Sir Jeremiah Colman of Colman’s mustard. Gatton Hall, the stately home built within the grounds, is now used as a boarding house for Sixth Form students.

Admission and fees

Admission to state boarding schools in the UK is limited to children who are nationals of the UK and are eligible to hold a full UK passport, or those who have the right of residence in the UK. Since January 2021, they are no longer open to EU passport holders and nationals of other European countries.

Children can be living overseas when they apply, but they will need to provide a copy of their UK passport or right of residency in the UK. Families with British National (Overseas) status can apply for the new Hong Kong British National (Overseas) visa. If the visa application is successful, families who move to the UK can apply for their child to attend a UK state boarding school. All boarders from overseas must have a guardian in the UK when they arrive. In several state boarding schools, around 10-20% of boarders have an international background.

Applications are made to the Surrey Local Authority, not the school. Students applying for a boarding place will be invited for a boarding interview, when the school will assess their suitability to board; places are offered shortly after the interview. This will typically take place in September and/or January in the academic year preceding entry.

The oversubscription criterion for boarders includes: children who are looked after by a Local Authority, UK Armed Forces children, having a “boarding need” which could be that parents are living abroad, and having a sibling at the school (unless they are in Year 13).

Day student places at non-selective state boarding schools such as RAA are made through the Common Application Form (CAF) to the local authority, and students must apply in Year 6 for a Year 7 place. The deadline to submit the application is October 31 in the year preceding entry. There is often a high demand for day places at these schools, which are awarded according to the Local Authority criteria of looked-after children, siblings and distance from school. You’ll often need to be living less than two miles of the school to stand a chance of getting a place.

You will find out if you have been offered a place on National Offer Day, which is March 1 every year.

Annual fees for full boarders are £17,175 for Years 3-11 and £17,925 for Sixth Form; costs for flexi boarding are £4,740 per year (Years 3-6) and £6,495 per year (Years 7-11). Fees at RAA are higher than many UK state boarding schools, which can change as low as £10,000 in Year 7.

Our view

Good for: RAA is a non-selective school from Years 3-11 and achieving increasingly strong academic results, with over 20% of students choosing to attend a Russell Group university. So, there are opportunities here for students of all abilities to thrive within a very supportive, friendly school. It’s a great school for all-rounders, as well as those who love to perform, and play sport (especially equestrians) – and the option to study BTECs will appeal to those looking for more vocational, less exam-focused pathway at Sixth Form. 

Not for: RAA does not have the rigidly academic culture of the grammar schools and selective independent schools in the area, and students looking for a more hothouse learning environment or a pathway to Oxbridge will need to look elsewhere. Also, as a state school, there are restrictions on who can apply for a place at RAA, so that certainly needs to be checked before completing any paperwork.

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