As a mixed independent school with pupils aged 3–18, Brighton College covers the full spectrum of students. With such a wide remit, you might expect areas where it falls down, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. In 2016, every GCSE exam sat (all 2,082 of them), was passed, with A* the most common grade.
The school says it is living proof that ‘co-education works’. Brighton girls do better in their exams than those at local single-sex schools. Sports are a big draw, too: Brighton is one of Britain’s top six schools for rugby with a rugby scholarship and, more surprisingly, a girls’ cricket scholarship.
The unofficial motto of Brighton’s prep school is ‘Be Good. Be Kind. Be Honest. Be the Best You’, and the school is very proud of its community spirit. Pastoral care is a priority, and the house system and teams of tutors are set up to ensure that all the children are as happy as they possibly can be.
The girls of Kensington Prep are, as Miss Jean Brodie might say, ‘the crème de la crème’ — though of London, not Edinburgh. This independent junior school for girls in Parsons Green has a high reputation as a ‘feeder’ for schools such as St Paul’s, Wycombe Abbey, Godolphin and Latymer and many London day schools.
In 1873 it was the first school opened by the Girls’ Day School Trust, which now runs another 25. The intention was to create an academic centre for girls, but academic success is not the sole aim.
It has a new £2.7 million centre called ‘Creating Spaces for Growing Minds’, with a multimedia recording studio and an eco-greenhouse among the facilities. Pupils have now launched their own radio station — one more interest on top of 30-plus extracurricular activities already offered. One thing Ken Prep girls will never be is bored!
Weston All Saints Primary
The jewel in the crown of this Bath primary is headmistress Dr Anne Bull. At the helm for more than 20 years, she has won plaudit after plaudit, including an OBE for services to education and the 2012 Headteacher of the Year prize at the Pearson Teaching Awards.
Weston is a Church of England primary school, so Christian values are important. Each class is given its own value to consider, such as perseverance or compassion.
After-school activities are encouraged and there are lots of them. For example, Year 6 pupils go on an residential trip to France every year (French is taught from Year 3 upwards). Pupils visit war cemeteries and Mont St Michel, go sailing and open-air swimming, and of course, all conversations with locals must be in French.
The school’s recently established academy trust now has approval for a new primary school academy, due to open this year.
Keswick School, Cumbria
This mixed-sex comprehensive in the centre of the beautiful Lake District is one of only 37 state boarding schools in the country. It was founded in the 14th century by local clergyman Sir Thomas de Eskhead, and boarding pupils still attend Crosthwaite church, where he was vicar.
In 2015, Keswick was rated the fourth best comprehensive in the country based on the proportion of A* grades at A-level — so those towering hills must be a valuable inspiration for young minds.
It’s not all work and exams, though. Extracurricular activities include fun on the school’s own dry ski-slope, a horse-riding club, a Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, a young farmers’ club, as well as music, drama and many other societies.
Keswick also has strong links with the local rowing club. Who knows, perhaps it even has some Olympic champions in the making.