“Our aim is to anchor a 21st century education within the illustrious history of the oldest school in the country”
The King’s School Canterbury website
As one of the country’s leading co-ed boarding schools, located in the beautiful surroundings of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Canterbury Cathedral, we look at what makes The King’s School Canterbury so special.
With origins dating back to 597AD, King’s has a strong claim to being the oldest school in the world. It is hard to miss the rich history as you walk around this magnificent setting. From the ancient cloisters, perfect gardens and impressive shadow of the Cathedral itself, it is easy to see why this is such an inspiring atmosphere for learning.
The School was refounded during the reign of Henry VIII and was one of the first to become fully co-ed in 1990. It is situated in the heart of the city of Canterbury so life buzzes just beyond the school gates.
Living so closely adjacent to the ‘real world’ helps to avoid the ‘boarding school bubble’ that can leave pupils feeling isolated from the outside world. This is definitely not the case at King’s, where their engagement with the City, the Cathedral and the way the buildings are located across the city ensures that despite the very traditional uniform, the pupils are very much a part of the 21st century.
At the heart of education at King’s is the dual pursuit of academic and extra-curricular excellence. Pupils are encouraged to develop self-discipline, intellect and a wide range of interests. The current Headmaster, Mr Peter Roberts, joined the school in 2011 and says:
“The quality of teaching and the breadth of activities outside the classroom mean that the lessons learnt and the skills acquired stay with the pupil for life”
Whilst not heavily religious, the School is grounded in a strong Christian tradition and moral values. Respect, integrity and honesty are instilled in the young people and there is a real sense of community and belonging at King’s.
Pupils are expected to be smart at all times and this is reflected in the very identifiable full Canterbury dress uniform complete with wing collars and the purple gowns worn by prefects or ‘Purples’.
Around 80% of the pupils board at King’s in one of the 13 boarding houses, some of which are located in the Cathedral precinct and others on the St Augustine’s site. The extended school day and weekends allows the boarders to take full advantage of the wide array of activities on offer. The school is known for its friendly, welcoming atmosphere and is regularly praised for its pastoral care system and promoting the happiness of pupils. The Benedictine tradition of community still resonates today.
Whilst pupils are very much encouraged to pursue other interests, academics are of course at the heart of the school. There is a strong work ethic and this yields results. Last year, results were 60% A*/A at A Level and 70% A*/A at GCSE (IGCSEs for most subjects).
As they grow older much of the pupil’s academic life revolves around the William Butterfield designed library (1848) which holds over 30,000 books, including personal libraries from Somerset Maugham and Sir Hugh Walpole. The pupils seem suitably awed by the environment and it would appear to be conducive to quiet and serious study.
This paves the way for the majority of sixth formers go to the top universities with 12 heading to Oxbridge last year and other Russell Groups are popular. In addition, the number attending American universities is increasing.
King’s is proud of creating a ‘rich day’ for each of its pupils with opportunities to be involved in sport, music and drama.
For the sporty, there are acres of playing fields and a fabulous modern sports centre and everything from the regulars, rugby, hockey and cricket to the less obvious rowing, fencing and shooting. Recently the School has had particular success with girls hockey with 15 girls in the GB training squad, boys cricket and rugby and rowing for both sexes. All pupils are expected to have a go and get involved in a sport of some kind, participation is key.
There is also a long tradition of exceptional drama and music at King’s. There is a huge choice of bands, ensembles, choirs, orchestras to choose from. This culminates in the famous King’s Week festival at the end of the summer where pupils showcase their talents and includes Commem Day for leavers. A new performing arts centre is also on the way.
A student’s perspective:
“For me, they key way in which King’s is unique is that all/any talent is celebrated, rather than just sporting prowess in perhaps other schools. This is driven I think by ‘King’s Week’ at the end of the year which is a week full of plays, concerts (jazz, choir, orchestra), a fashion show, student song-writing, and also a student-led restaurant. Rather than leave school after the end of exams, everyone comes back and either takes part in or attends a number of the events, with parents often coming to multiple things. There are also lots of picnics, open air music and theatre which makes it all very jolly and the highlight of the year for sure.
Even throughout the year there is a culture that celebrates people doing what they love and are good at – it’s cool to be in the men’s close harmony group for example. Lots of students perform their own songs in the song-writers competition, people throw themselves into the ‘young enterprise’ competition plus of course sport and art etc. Ultimately it is OK to be a ‘keen bean’, no one is going to be mean to you about it. I didn’t realise how rare that was until after I had left!!”
Pollyanna Benton, Former Student
What makes the school special?
- Highly academic school with a broader selection policy than some.
- Rooted in strong traditions and morals but educating for the 21st century.
- Jam packed programme of academics and extra-curricular activities.
- Located at the centre of Canterbury in Kent, just one hour from central London.
Entrance at 13+ is by Common Entrance or the school’s own exam and interview for those not prepared for CE. About a third join from Junior King’s but still have to sit the same exams. The pass mark is relatively low at 60% and there is no pre-test.
Entrance for sixth form is by competitive exam and interview in November. About 30 pupils join in the sixth form each year.
Open days take place in March, June and October for 13+ and October and April for 6th Form. Registration advised 3 years before entry with a £200 fee.
The school has about 20% foreign nationals.