King Edward’s Witley, near Godalming
Looking for a boarding school with bags of history, a beautiful campus, solid all-rounder offering and a super strong sense of community? King Edward's Witley is the full package. Diversity and inclusion are high on the agenda here too.
Looking for a day boarding school with bags of history, a beautiful campus, solid all-rounder offering and a super strong sense of community? King Edward’s Witley is the full package. Diversity and inclusion are high on the agenda here too.
King Edward’s Witley is an independent day and boarding school for boys and girls from age 11-18. The school has a long history, dating back to 1553 when it was founded by Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London, who convinced the boy king, King Edward VI to set up a school for the under-privileged in what was then Bridewell Palace.
That caring Christian ethos is still at the heart of the school today – and the school prides itself for offering a rich education in a broad social, cultural and academic environment.
The school is actually in Wormley, a small village near Witley – between Haslemere and Godalming, set on a 100 acre site with the main Grade II-listed building sitting with pride and elegance facing the Petworth Road. It’s a five minute walk from Witley Station – on the Portsmouth line from London Waterloo via Woking and Guildford – which is handy for day pupils and weekly boarders. School busses also come in from Cobham, Farnham, Haslemere, Chiddingfold, Merrow and Ripley.
It’s a relatively small school considering the size of the campus, with about 400 pupils in total including a large number of international students from over 40 different countries. There’s a real sense of closeness at the school, among pupils, teachers and staff, and – a cliché, I know – a feeling that it’s like a genuine home from home. The school prides itself on its diversity and inclusivity, harking back to its founding principles, and it’s strikingly evident.
The school operates a house system – which I’m certain is central to the sense of community. Lower School pupils (Years 7 and 8) are at Queen Mary House and the senior school pupils (Years 9 – 13) are in one of the five senior boarding houses. The houses are for all students – from day students to full-time boarders – and they all make use of the common rooms, kitchen and dining spaces, and each pupil has their own study area (either in their bedroom or a day room).
There’s everything you’d expect from a school if this size and stature: sports fields galore (grass and astro), a sports complex which includes a newly refurbished swimming pool, gym, squash, tennis and netball courts.
There’s also an impressive music centre (called the Countess of Muster Music School), a design technology block, science centre, health and lifestyle centre (where you’ll find fully kitted out kitchens for food tech), a business and finance centre, art school and a separate dining hall.
Charter Hall is the main auditorium and it’s where all school assemblies are held, as well as school productions. There’s also a pretty chapel, and all the boarders are expected to attend the Sunday service.
ART, MUSIC AND DRAMA
The arts are important at King Edward’s and the resources are there to offer the best for pupils.
There’s a vibrant art department which includes a ceramics studio, printmaking studio and a photography darkroom – and students are encouraged to develop a love of art.
The Music School is impressive, with a recital room, a staged courtyard, recording facilities, teaching and practice rooms, a band room and a Mac Suite. Class music is compulsory up to Year 9, after that pupils can choose it at GCSE, A-Level and IB. In past years, leavers have gone on to the Royal Academy of Music, Oxbridge and other universities to study music. The school also offers generous music scholarships.
Drama is a curriculum subject for all pupils in years 7 to 9, with an emphasis on creativity and collaboration, and building confidence and communication skills. LAMDA classes are also offered.
Like most independent schools, sport is an important part of school life. Hockey, cricket and tennis are the core sports boys and girls with boy’s football and girl’s netball, cricket and rounders added to the mix.
The PE programme takes a sampling approach, which means that pupils get to try out a vast range of sports from badminton to athletics and swimming.
King Edward’s was one of the first UK schools to introduce the International Baccalaureate in 2010, initially in place of A-Levels. However both academic programmes are now offered – although the IB still remains the most popular with more than three-quarters of students going that way.
Results though, for both programmes are strong. Of the 2020 cohort, 50.7% of IB pupils achieved grades 7-6 (A*-A) and 80.2% achieved 7-5 (A*-B). And for those who did A-Levels, 35.3% achieved A*-A and 58.8% achieved A*-B.
Most leavers go on to university, many of those to Russell Group universities and a handful to overseas colleges.
Joanna Wright has been the woman in charge here since September 2019 taking over from John Attwater, who was Headmaster for 10 years. She comes to the role via St Peter’s School in York where she was deputy head, and before that Queenswood School in Herts and St Edward’s, Oxford.
Passionate about progressive and holistic education, Mrs Wright is an advocate of a co-ed setting believing it to be the best way for children to be educated. Mrs Wright believes the key to offering an excellent education is knowing your pupils well, therefore pastoral care is central to both her own and the schools’ ethos.
The unique house structure is at the heart of the school – whether you board or not – which means there’s no obvious distinction between the day pupils, flexi/weekly boarders and full boarders.
There are a range of options here from day students to full boarding – with about 35% of pupils boarding. Some boarders are full time including weekends, and others are Monday to Friday. There’s also a flexi-boarding option for those who want to board part-time, and occasional boarding is also available for day students.
There are six senior boarding houses – four for boys (Edward, Wakefield, Grafton and Ridley) and two for girls (Tudor and Elizabeth) – and there’s a mix of single rooms, double rooms, dorm accommodation (where bed is partitioned into an individual pod) and day rooms.
WRAP AROUND CARE
Day students have the option of starting at 7.20am and having breakfast and staying for dinner until 8pm. There’s also a wide range of co-curricular clubs and societies on offer with an emphasis on sport, music, drama, DT and art. In normal circumstances there would be more than 50 to choose from, but Covid has limited that to 35. Children in the lower school are expected to take part in at least one activity each week.
Day school fees are £5,325 per term in the lower school (1st and 2nd form); and £6,655 per term for pupils in 3rd to 5th form; with a flexi boarding option of £49.50 for 1-3 nights a week; weekly boarding is £10,375 per term and full boarding is £10,925 per term. In the pre-sixth and sixth form it’s £7,095 for day pupils; £10,775 for weekly boarding; and £11,350 for full boarding per term. The fees include the provision of the main school uniform (but not the sports kit) for all pupils in 1st to 5th form. (Sixth form pupils wear their own business suit.) A number of bursaries and scholarships are available.
WORD ON THE GROUND
Parents are attracted to King Edwards for a number of reasons. The beautiful setting is certainly a selling point, as is the all-rounder offering of sports, music, arts and academic, and the mix of students from all over the world. But it’s the pastoral care that is most highly valued.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Families who are looking for a solid all-rounder offering in a beautiful setting where their children’s happiness is valued and they’ll have the opportunity to explore and try news things. Also those looking for a non-hothousey boarding school, or one with the flexibility of occasional boarding.
Not for: Those who are after a single sex school and day school only, probably won’t go for King Edward’s
Dare to disagree? The school is running a series of virtual open mornings – the next one is Sat 14 Nov at 10am, and then on Thurs 11 Feb at 10am. Book here.