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King's School, Worcester

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Established  1541 (refoundation)
Religion  Church of England
Chairman  Hugh B. Carslake
Number of students  1,467
Type  Independent day school
Head of School  James Smalley
Phone  +44 1905 721700
Founded  1541
King's School, Worcester
Deputy Heads of School  Henry Pillman & Maha Munir
Address  Hostel House, 5 College Green, Worcester WR1 2LL, UK
Motto  τα μεν διδακτά μανθάνω, τα δ' ευρετά ζητώ, τα δ' ευκτά παρά θεών ητησάμην. I learn what may be taught; I seek what may be sought; My other wants I dare; To ask from Heaven in prayer. — Sophocles apud Plutarch (Moralia)

On site at the king s school worcester

The King's School, Worcester (also known as King's Worcester or KSW; locally as simply King's; archaically Worcester Cathedral Grammar School or Worcester Cathedral King's School) is an English independent school refounded by Henry VIII in 1541. It occupies a site adjacent to Worcester Cathedral on the banks of the River Severn in the centre of the city of Worcester. It offers mixed-sex mainstream education that follows the UK National Curriculum to around 1,465 pupils aged 2 to 18. At age 11, approximately two thirds of pupils join the senior school from its two junior schools, King's Hawford and King's St Albans, while others come from maintained schools in the city of Worcester and the surrounding areas that include Malvern, Redditch, Kidderminster and Pershore.



The King's, Worcester group consists of three different schools. These are:

  • King's Hawford: (ages 2–11, c.320 pupils), formerly an autonomous fee-paying prep school named Hawford Lodge, purchased by King's in 1992, situated north of central Worcester. Hawford's Kindergarten department was deemed sufficiently impressive by Ofsted to receive no recommendations in the 2008 inspection.
  • King's St Alban's: (ages 4–11, c.215 pupils), formerly the Cathedral Choir School, amalgamated with King's in 1943, situated adjacent to the senior school. St Alban's includes a pre-prep department for ages 4–7, opened September 2009.
  • King's Worcester: (ages 11–18, c.930 pupils), the senior school.
  • The senior school is situated on Worcester's College Green, a space between Worcester Cathedral and the east bank of the River Severn. Many of the school's buildings on the Green are leased from the cathedral, including College Hall (formerly the monastic refectory, for many years the school's only teaching hall, and currently an assembly hall) and Edgar Tower, the medieval gatehouse to College Green, which for many years housed the school library. The school and the cathedral maintain a close relationship, with the school providing cathedral choristers and enjoying the use of the cathedral for major services. The most senior members of school staff, the cathedral choristers, and the school's King's and Queen's Scholars are ex officio members of the cathedral foundation, while the school is required by statute to have the cathedral Dean and Chapter represented on its governing body.

    The school owns extensive land next to New Road cricket ground across the river, used as sports pitches and fields. The school also owns an outward bound centre, the Old Chapel near Crickhowell in Mid Wales.


    King's has its roots in the varied forms of tuition offered by the monks at Worcester monastery. Saint Oswald bound the monastery under the Benedictine Rule in the 10th century, with novices being kept according to the Rule; a century later Saint Wulstan, the Bishop responsible for the building of the Norman cathedral, was recorded as Magister et Custos Infantium (Master and Keeper of the Children) according to Florence of Worcester, and Puerorum Custos (Keeper of the Boys) according to William of Malmesbury. Although the novices studied religion at the monastery, grammar and Latin would have been learnt at the city school, now regarded as a precursor to the Royal Grammar School. Hugh Cratford, for example, was the monastic Magister Scholarum, before he was transferred to the city school in 1504 by order of Bishop Silvestro de' Gigli.

    The monastery was dissolved in 1540 at the behest of Henry VIII, but most of its institutions were reincorporated into the new cathedral foundation, with most former monks becoming canons of the cathedral. The last monastic Prior, Henry Holbeach, became the first Dean of Worcester. Similarly, the cathedral foundation included provision for a choir school for ten cathedral choristers and tuition for forty King's Scholars. The school was one of seven "King's Schools" established or re-endowed by Henry VIII following the dissolution. On 7 December 1541, Henry VIII personally appointed the school's first headmaster, John Pether, by means of a letter to Richard Rich. One early headmaster, Henry Bright is mentioned in Thomas Fuller’s Worthies of England, and is commemorated in Worcester Cathedral.

    The school was managed by the cathedral Dean and Chapter until 1884, when Headmaster W.E. Bolland's New Scheme introduced governance by a separate Governing Body, on which the Chapter nonetheless retained a majority. From its inception until the construction of School House in 1888, all teaching was conducted in College Hall, the former monastic refectory.

    From 1945 to 1976, the school participated in the direct grant scheme, accepting pupils funded by central government on a competitive basis. The school first admitted girls in small numbers to the sixth form in 1971, prior to the establishment of College House by John and Caroline Roslington in 1977, which housed 21 girls. In 1989 the decision was made to make the school fully co-educational, with girls entering the Lower Fourth (Year 7) by 1992. Having accommodated boarders since its inception, the final boarders left in July 1999.


    King's follows the GCSE and A-level curricula. In 2012, 82.9% of A-levels taken were graded A* to B; 66.4% of all GCSEs were graded A* or A. In the junior schools and up to pre-GCSE level, the school follows the national curriculum, but SATs are not taken. The 11+ entrance exam for the senior school is internally set.

    A modern foreign language is compulsory up to GCSE. In the junior schools, French is taught. Upon entrance to the senior school, a language carousel operates during the Lower Fourth: pupils try each of French, German and Spanish for one term, before choosing one language to continue immediately (first language) and one language to continue restart in the Upper Fourth and continue until the end of the Lower Remove (second language). The first language MUST be continued to GCSE, and the second language comes as an additional option. Latin (or Classical Civilisation for the bottom third of the pupils in the Lower Remove) is also compulsory during the first three years of senior school (the school follows the Cambridge Latin Course). The school maintains exchange links with Le Vésinet and Lille in France, Zaragoza in Spain and Magdeburg in Germany.

    Pupils start the GCSE course proper in the Upper Remove, and (usually) sit GCSE exams at the end of the Fifth Form. It is customary for pupils to take ten GCSEs, though a few take eleven or twelve. Seven core subjects are compulsory: Mathematics, English Language, English Literature, a modern foreign language (see details above), and the three sciences, which may be studied as 'separate sciences' awarding three GCSEs or as a 'dual award' awarding two GCSEs. The remaining three (or four) GCSEs may be chosen from a range of optional subjects, including a second modern foreign language, Latin (Two GCSEs; one in Latin and one in Latin Literature), Classical Civilisations, Geography, History, Art, Design & Technology, Religious Studies, Music or Drama. Further Mathematics was added for GCSEs in 2013 for examining in 2015, the same time as Latin Literature was added. The top two sets of Mathematics (up to forty-eight students) get to take it. It was very impressive in its first examining year with ten students getting A^s (A**s), thirteen students achieving an A* and one student an A. Other subjects students have taken to GCSE include: Ancient Greek, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Russian, Polish, Modern Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, Mandarin, Japanese, Statistics, Sociology, Philosophy, Psychology and Photography; with some of these being run as after school clubs and some being taken outside of school.

    In 2015, a record fifty students received 10 A*/A with twenty-five students achieving 10 A*s or better. (Some as many as thirteen A*s). Ivan Campbell-Ferguson holds the record for King's at GCSE with a staggering 14 A*s. In 2016, Over 42% of GCSEs were graded at A*.

    In the Lower Sixth Form, pupils usually choose four AS-level subjects; at the end of the year they may drop one subject or continue all four subjects to A2-level. All GCSE subjects are available at A-level, as well as exclusive sixth-form subjects including Economics, Business Studies and Sports Science. English may be taken as English Language, English Literature or English Lang & Lit; in Chemistry, pupils may follow either the London or the Salters syllabus; in accordance with the OCR syllabus, Mathematics pupils choose between statistics and mechanics courses, though fast-streamed Mathematics sets and Double Mathematicians take modules in both. Critical Thinking, taught in extra-curricular time, is offered at A-level, and at sixth form level a non-examined course in 'Key Skills' is compulsory. Critical thinking or the Extended Project Qualification are also offered during Key Skills time to interested pupils. High numbers of A Levels are awarded at A*/A each year. Impressively, twenty five students have achieved 4 A*s at A Level since 2000 and one hundred and ten have achieved 3 A*s.


    The school has an established commitment to the arts; it maintains a regular artist-in-residence and actor-in-residence. Art, drama and dance are offered as curricular as well extra-curricular activities, and the school provides one-to-one LAMDA tuition. The school has several performance venues, including the Keyes Building, College Hall and the John Moore Theatre. Art exhibitions, plays, musicals, dance showcases and other performances are staged across the age range. Partly due to its links with the cathedral the school has a musical tradition. It has regularly produced Oxbridge organ and choral scholars. Many pupils learn to play instruments and in addition to numerous orchestras and music groups, the pupil-organised Keys Society, with its own choir, stages regular concerts. The school undertakes biennial music tours abroad.

    Rugby, cricket, hockey, netball, rowing and football are among the main sports played at the school, and a wide range of sports are offered to pupils of all ages as curricular and extra-curricular activities. The school has achieved success at rowing, and maintains a boathouse on the River Severn. The school also has an indoor swimming pool on the senior school campus and an outdoor pool at Hawford. Several sports undertake regular tours abroad. Many pupils participate in the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme; the school has an active Combined Cadet Force with army and RAF sections.

    The school produces three pupil-authored publications: Stepping Fourth (for the Fourth Forms, years 7–8), The Removes' Gazette (for the Removes, years 9–10) and Term Time a Sixth Form magazine, first published in summer 2010, as a replacement for the defunct King's Herald newspaper. The King's Herald was an annual newspaper written, compiled and formatted in a single day and submitted to a national competition which it won three times. The school also runs a creative writing club and annual competition, and regular Sixth-Form Soundbites evenings devoted to literature, music and wine. The debating club meets weekly, and pupils regularly participate in regional and national debating and public speaking contests.

    Other school societies include the School Archive, Astronomy, Chess, Christian Union, Robotics and Science Club.

    Year classification system

    The school uses its own class nomenclature. In the main section of the school (ages 11–18), the classification runs as follows:

    This used to be accompanied by the following year classifications at King's St Alban's, although these have since been dropped in favour of the standard system.

  • Lower First (year 3)
  • Upper First (year 4)
  • Second Year (year 5)
  • Third Year (year 6)
  • King's Hawford, however, has always used the standard system due to the fact that its inclusion into the King's School 'chain' has been more recent.


    During the two years of the 'Fourth Form', pupils are assigned to forms. Their form tutor is responsible for their pastoral care, and they are taught in form groups (apart from for Mathematics in both years, which is taught in streamed sets, and Languages - depending on language 1 choice in L4, then streamed sets for Language 1 in U4; and Language 2 depending on choice in U4, followed by streamed sets the following year). In the Fourth Forms, the colours are navy blue and silver. Upon reaching the 'Lower Remove', pupils are assigned to one of the following houses (listed with their respective colours):

    House ties consist of a navy blue background with diagonal house colour stripes. House ties are worn by pupils from the beginning of the Lower Remove to the end of the Fifth Form. As school uniform is not worn by sixth-form pupils, who follow an office attire dress code, they do not wear these ties; they may however wear ties that signify colours, monitorship or headship of house.

    Castle, Choir, Hostel and School Houses, all former boarding houses, are named for the buildings which originally housed them. As boarding diminished during the 1990s, these houses either converted to day houses (School and Choir), or were discontinued (Castle and Hostel). Confusingly, due to post-boarding reshuffles houses generally no longer inhabit the building for which they are named: Choir House is in the Annett Building; Hostel House has been discontinued, as had Castle House until its resurrection in 2015; School House shares the School House building with Chappel, Oswald and Wulstan Houses. Bright, Crieghton and Kittermaster Houses are in Choir House building. The remaining houses, which originated as day-boys' houses, are named for former school headmasters (Saint Oswald and Saint Wulstan, both Bishops of Worcester, being regarded as "headmasters" of the former monastic school).

    Pupils register in houses and house staff are responsible for their pastoral care, but they are not taught in houses. The houses compete in events on sports day and in other sports and disciplines, and in the annual 'House Song Competition'.

    The two King's junior schools each operate their own house systems. These are neither pastoral nor academic: pupils are merely assigned to houses for the purposes of inter-house competitions. The St Alban's houses are Armstrong, Bailey, Thomas and Wilson. Since restructuring in 2007 the Hawford houses are Bredon, Clent, Kinver and Malvern.

    Old Vigornians

    All former pupils are considered to be an Old Vigornian, and can use the post-nominal letters OV. There is some dispute as to whether the monastic school attached to the monastery at Worcester until its dissolution in 1540 was a precursor to King's or to the Royal Grammar School. For this reason, both schools claim alumni of the monastic school such as lawyer Thomas de Littleton and statesman Reginald Bray as their own alumni. To avoid resultant controversy, only those who attended King's from its refoundation in 1541 onwards are listed below:

    Historic Old Vigornians include:

  • Dr John Wall – Physician and founder of the Royal Worcester porcelain company
  • Dr Treadway Russell Nash – Worcestershire antiquarian and historian
  • Edward Kelley – Alchemist and spirit medium.
  • Edward Winslow – Pilgrim father and governor of Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts
  • John Somers – Lord High Chancellor
  • Samuel Butler – Poet and satirist
  • Samuel Foote – Actor
  • Sir John Vaughan – Judge and statesman
  • Thomas Good – Master of Balliol College, Oxford
  • Thomas Hall – Presbyterian minister, religious radical during the Civil Wars and Commonwealth
  • Notable OVs from the 20th and 21st centuries include:

  • Alistair Magowan – Bishop of Ludlow
  • Ashley Fox – Conservative Party politician, MEP for the South West of England
  • Chris Tarrant – TV and Radio Broadcaster, most well known for hosting Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
  • Clifford Rose – British classical actor
  • Clive Everton – BBC snooker commentator, journalist and author
  • Derek Bell – Racing driver
  • Godfrey Hewitt – Professor of Evolutionary Biology, University of East Anglia, very influential and highly published researcher
  • Jeremy Thompson – Newscaster and presenter on Sky News, regularly presenting Live at Five weeknights at 5.00pm
  • Jonathan Darlington – British conductor and the Music Director of the Duisburg Philharmonic Orchestra and Vancouver Opera
  • Jonathan Dow – British actor. Played the roles of Under Secretary Tim in No Job for a Lady, P.C. Stringer in The Bill and Dr. James Mortimer in Cardiac Arrest
  • Jonathan Nott – Musician and conductor
  • Jonathan Raban – Writer
  • Lord Garden – RAF Air Marshal and defence advisor
  • Lord Wolfson – Businessman and philanthropist
  • Luke Narraway – Rugby union footballer who plays for Gloucester Rugby
  • Mark Webster – Former ITN news correspondent
  • Nicholas Cleobury – Musician, conductor of the Britten Sinfonia
  • Richard Bacon MP – Conservative Party politician, MP for South Norfolk
  • Rik Mayall – English actor, writer and comedian, known for his comedy partnership with Adrian Edmondson
  • Sir Geoffrey Mulcahy – Businessman, Chief Executive of Kingfisher plc
  • Sir Jack Longland – Everest pioneer and educator
  • Sir Philip Strong – Archbishop of Brisbane
  • Stephen Cleobury – Musician, director of music at King's College, Cambridge
  • Stephen Darlington – Musician, director of music at Christ Church, Oxford
  • Tim Dinsdale – Loch Ness Monster hunter
  • Zac Purchase – Rower, Olympic gold medallist
  • References

    King's School, Worcester Wikipedia

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