Warwick Senior School is the oldest all-boy independent school in the world with a history stretching back to 914. Despite this it is neither a traditional English independent, nor indeed a boarding school proper.
Located in the historic town of Warwick, the senior school enrols boys aged 11-18 years. It shares its campus with Warwick Prep (for boys aged 3-7 and girls aged 3-11), Warwick Junior School (day school for boys aged 7-11) and King’s High School (day school for girls aged 11-18).
Warwick has a very good reputation academically, but its pupils also excel across the range of sporting, musical and dramatic disciplines as well as a significant, 80 plus, range of non-curricular club activities ranging from robotics to medicine. Whilst exam performance is strong, Warwick has always had a particular reputation for its pupil’s performance and interest in the sciences. It is currently the only school in the UK to have the Objet30 printer, indicative of its investment in the latest cutting edge technology for its students.
Warwick was rated Excellent in its most recently available ISI Educational Quality report (2018).
The school is selective and demanding, but successful entrance is specifically stated not only secured by examination performance; even those that miss the bar are invited for interview. Students who attend the school from 7 years naturally progress through to IGCSE and A Level. Between 6% and 10% of pupils go on to study at Oxbridge with 8 pupils winning places in 2013.
Warwick does not pretend to be a Winchester-type traditional English boarding school. In fact, boarding is almost an anomaly; this is a school for day children who have lives outside school. With this in mind, the school’s already excellent academic performance looks quite outstanding.
Day pupils are drawn predominantly from the Warwick catchment, excepting the small but significant number who commute from Oxfordshire and the West Midlands (such is its reputation). The ISI rate Warwick’s provision for the whole spectrum of ability, from the most gifted to those requiring special provision, as “outstanding” although support for dyspraxia and dyslexia is limited to mild to moderate cases. This remains a highly selective school where the best able will flourish.
Criticism of the school has been limited. The ISI reference some instances where children were too focused by teachers to the academic curriculum, limiting the pupil’s ability to explore their intellectual curiosity beyond the curriculum. There is no doubt that pressures for academic success, combined with a middle of the road teacher-pupil ratio and the integral limitations of a day school inevitably risk creating an examination hot-house.
The school is yet to adopt the Pre U or International Baccalaureate alternatives to the A level, both of which allow for a greater degree of academic flexibility, particularly for gifted children. This said, children do achieve the grades – and Warwick’s class leading plethora of extra-curricular activities and disciplines, probably provide the balance to these identified limitations in teaching.
The teacher to student ratio is good, rather than excellent; the school has around 200 teaching and non-teaching staff. However, in recruiting teachers, the School insists on “warmth and sensitivity” as a pre-requisite; being a bright teacher alone is NOT enough. Warwick is genuinely concerned to create a happy school as much as one that delivers the grades.
Sports provision is diverse and central to school life. Main sports are rugby, hockey, cross-country and swimming, whilst cricket, athletics and tennis are the focus of the Summer term. Representative of the extremely high standard of facilities, Warwick has a 6-lane 25 metre pool with anti-wave lanes, an electronic timing scoreboard and video analysis system; the school competes nationally at water polo.
Entrance to the school at 11 requires bespoke tests in mathematics, English and non-verbal reasoning. The school is rare in encouraging use of sample papers; this may be seen as suggestive of the exam focus of the school, and its limitations, highlighted above. The exam is followed by an interview and/or further scholarship exam for the 24 brightest entrants.
Entry at 13 is by bespoke testing (preferred) or common entrance. Warwick again encourages use of sample papers and tests in mathematics, English, verbal reasoning, a modern language, Science and optional Latin, music or art. Tests are followed by an interview and scholarships are automatically awarded to the brightest. Entrance to the Sixth Form is by interview and securing an A/A* in subjects to be studied at A Level – as well as a minimum 5 B grades in other subjects.
Scholarships provide for up to 100% fee remission; an award up to 20% are most widely available for the most gifted. Warwick School was only able to help 10 children with bursaries in 2013 with 47 eligible bursary applicants refused a place at the school for lack of means.
The school’s religious focus is Christian (Church of England) and worship and religious development are treated as intrinsic to the development of its pupils. All the boys have a chapel service once per week and on most Sundays in term time there is a family service. The school does welcome and respect members of other faiths and those of no faith at all but within the context of Christian values.
A’ Level grades secured at A*/A/B 84%
A’ Level Grades A*/A 57%
A’ Level Grades A* 20%
IGCSE A* 41%
IGCSE A*/A 75.2%
IGCSE A*/A/B 92.2%
Warwick School, despite being the oldest boys’ school in the world, and a part boarding school, is neither a traditional English independent, nor indeed a boarding school proper.
At its best it is a complete educational solution from age 7, a community of children that grow up with each other from early childhood within an academic framework that will almost certainly guarantee their entrance to University. It is selective, but, particularly if entrance is sought at 11 or earlier, there is a focus on potential and the whole child.
Fees are on the better side of relative affordability – and the facilities are extraordinary. Inevitably something has to give, and without the fall-back of a boarding school to provide the hours of extra education and nurturing, pressure in the classroom to follow the curriculum can be intense. That same lack of boarding proper means that international pupils outside China will certainly find better alternatives and even those from China might do better to seek out a more inclusive larger boarding school with a greater variety of pupils, backgrounds and culture.
This is not to say Warwick is not an exceptional school, particular for the gifted young boys in its catchment. For facilities and exam success it shines a beacon in its catchment if this is an area you live in or are moving to. For those intellectually curious children who need something from the classroom outside the discipline and regimen of text books, and for those children who will not naturally find their curiosity answered in an albeit immense range of extra curricular societies, Warwick however may be a compromise too far.
Facilities the best of any in the independent sector
Fabulous breadth of education
The best school in its catchment
Limited boarding and targeted to Chinese pupils
Some potential to produce an exam “hot house”
Limited bursary provision
Academically gifted Warwickshire children
Those who value a single-sex education to 18
Who can afford the fees from age 7
Parents seeking at least a mixed-gender sixth form
Dynamic, multi-cultural boarding
The intellectually curious child demanding more than the curriculum
• Boarding number: 58 pupils (11-18)
• Day number: 1156 pupils (7-18)
• Sixth Form: 269 pupils
• Number of full time staff: 200
• Number of dedicated teaching staff: approx. 150
• ISI Rating Education: Excellent
• ISI Rating Personal Development: Excellent
• ISI Rating Governance: Excellent
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