King Edward's School aspires to be a lot of things, but it definitely is one of the leading academic schools in the country. For many years it has been amongst the very best independent boys' schools for GCSE and A-level results, and it is now amongst the best for the International Baccalaureate Diploma.
So, in 2013, 67% of GCSEs were passed at A* and 89% at A* or A. The School introduced the International Baccalaureate in 2010 to replace A Levels and in 2013 over one-third of the Sixth Form gained 40 points or over (higher than the equivalent of 4 A*s at A Level). These numbers are not only numbers: the consequence for the pupils is that the vast majority of them go on to the best universities. In 2013 21 boys took places at Oxford and Cambridge (including seven to study medicine) and an average of 20 pupils each year are accepted to read Medicine at university. However, the academic challenge doesn't end here. The school encourages involvement in more demanding challenges, such as Science and Mathematics Olympiads. Also this year six pupils have won Arkwright Scholarships, the highest national prize in Design and Technology.
The school's basic academic programme is not unusual, except, perhaps, in the range of possibilities. Pupils study a very wide curriculum in the first three years: in the third year they have the chance to take up Classical Greek or German or Spanish. In almost all cases boys choose 10 GCSEs: we firmly believe that there is no need to do more than this. Of those 10 subjects, three or four are optional and boys can choose from a range of Art, Classical Greek, Design and Technology, Drama and Theatre Arts, Geography, German, History, Latin, Music, Religious Studies, Spanish.
In the Sixth Form all pupils study the International Baccalaureate Diploma. They choose six subjects from set subject groups, providing a more holistic approach in which each student studies Mathematics, English, a science, a humanity and a language at a level right for them. All students also complete and explore a 4,000 word essay on a subject of their choice.
However, this academic curriculum does not tell the whole story of academic life. The school's most wondrous invention is that there are no lessons on Friday afternoon. Instead, there is the opportunity for all the pupils in the school, to develop other skills, through Leadership, a programme devised within the school and run by the senior pupils, the Combined Cadet Force, Personal Service Group, the Engineering Education Scheme, links with local schools, sport for the younger ones and sports coaching (of the young ones) for the older ones.
This use of Friday afternoons is a sign of our wider purpose, but there are others. In the Sixth Form considerable time is set aside for general studies involving visiting speakers and the study of non-examined subjects. Chinese is a subject available outside lesson time and over 70 pupils are studying it. And then there is the great range of trips and expeditions. Some of these have a more specific academic purpose than others, but we believe that they all contribute to the kind of education in which we believe.
All of this tells a story of high success and high activity. However, the school also provides excellent support for pupils who may not find things quite so easy. The Learning Support department supports a very large number of pupils in a wide variety of ways and feeds into the curriculum guidance on the skills of organisation, study and revision. Academic departments provide help sessions throughout the year and revision sessions at the key moments and the Mentoring Society links up older boys in pairs with younger boys to help them with their work. This is a very supportive environment where we strive to meet the different needs and potential of every pupil.