Hello from summery London,
As lock-down in the UK continues, we are still not able to visit our beloved boarding schools. We do, however, have good memories of great visits from earlier in the year.
One of these was to the fabulous King’s College Taunton.
King’s really is an educational consultant’s dream school. No matter what personality, interests or academic prowess a pupil has, King’s will have him/her covered. It is one of the friendliest, most well-rounded boarding schools we know.
Find out why by reading on!
King's College is part of friendly Somerset-town Taunton
King’s College Taunton is located in the friendly market town Taunton (approx 70,000 inhabitants) in the beautiful West Country county of Somerset. Taunton is two hours from Central London by train.
With its Victorian gothic main building, King’s College has definitive ‘Harry Potter’-appeal. Otherwise the school has a colourful mix of brand new buildings (most notably the amazing Silvermead Art School!) and some less attractive, practical boarding school architecture.
An essential feature of King’s is its central location in a town. Everyone needs a break from school every once in a while and especially boarding life can become intense. Taunton is a safe place with nice cafes, restaurants and shops for pupils to get a change of scenery. This is true for week-ends especially, when boarders head into town for pizza.
King's College's glorious new library
What (we think) King’s College Taunton is about.
King’s College Taunton is an exceptionally happy school with a proper boarding school ethos and great breadth and depth in its extracurricular offer.
Let’s unpack this a little.
King’s College is renowned as one of the friendliest and happiest boarding schools in the UK. Our pupils regularly verify this: Katharina, one of our ‘King’s girls’ we spoke to last week, told us how the British pupils made her feel welcome from the beginning and how incredibly friendly the teachers are. We can only nod in agreement: when we visited King’s in February we loved the welcoming atmosphere and were impressed by how much of an effort everyone made to make us feel looked after. Very impressive!
Also, King’s is a proper boarding school with over 60% of pupils as full boarders. No flexi boarding here! Day pupils are integrated into the boarding houses which adds to the tight-knit community feel. Many of the teachers live on-site, guaranteeing academic and pastoral support all day, even on week-ends!
And then, there’s King’s amazing extracurricular offer with strong sports, amazing art- and award-winning design & technology departments, lively drama and music, as well as an exciting array of activities from debating to a cookery and wine school. Yes you read right!
Max, one of 'our' pupils, happily at work
King’s is doing well academically whilst being non-selective and inclusive. You will find straight-A* students here, as well as the distinctly less academically inclined. Thanks to the school’s small size and good pupil to teacher ratio (10 pupils per class on average), both ends of the academic spectrum get the support they need.
The results are decent: In 2019 45% of grades were A*/A for A-Levels and 50% of grades 9-7 at GCSE. Given the school’s non-selective stance, that’s commendable.
The SEN department has a very good reputation with families. One of our pupils, Matt, told us how the King’s SEN staff went above and beyond the call of duty to help him with his dyslexia, including two weeks of daily one-hour one-on-one coachings just before his GCSE history exam. Mighty impressive.
Equestrian is huge at King's!
As already mentioned, a stand-out feature here are the sheer range and quality of King’s extracurricular activities.
Let’s begin with the sports. For a school of only 450 pupils, King’s punches way above its weight in hockey, rugby, football and, most of all, cricket. Just ask neighbourly sporting giants Millfield School, who regularly take a beating, especially in cricket! We love that the girls teams in hockey and football are receiving as much attention and support here as the boys. This is not always the case. King’s horseback-riding is another real highlight with a brand new Equestrian Center delighting the school’s riders. Other sports include swimming, golfing, tennis and squash.
The excellent brass band
On to the music. King’s is very encouraging of all budding musicians. Over 50% of pupils play an instrument here. A great initiative is the school’s ‘try-out’-scheme, where pupils get to try new instruments by getting one free lesson with a teacher. Genius! King’s jazz band is widely reputed to be one of the best in West England; rock bands abound and singers get their chances in the choir, the barbershop quartet or the regular musicals.
Then there’s the design and technology offer. King’s Taunton has one of the finest DT departments in the country. Pupils learn how to design and make real products - anything from an innovative new office desk to an electric car. King’s has very passionate teachers who take pupils on design journeys, from drawing a first sketch with a pencil to creating a physical prototype with laser cutters, 3D printers and electric saws. At our visit in January, we saw amazing new desk-lamp designs, a vintage car half-way through a restoration and an amazing weights press-bench that any modern gym would be glad to offer.
The brand new Silvermead Arts Center is where, well, the arts happen. This stunning space brings about some truly wonderful fine art, pottery and woodwork. This space has become one of the busiest places on week-ends with pupils finishing projects and talking art in a stunning creative environment.
Art lesson at the amazing Silvermead Art School
Beyond the sports, arts and music, there’s a multitude of other great extracurriculars on offer. Take the Leith’s School of Food and Wine, for example. Pupils get a 12-week basic skills course where they learn about wine and how to prepare and cook great food. From basic knife skills via how to bake sourdough bread to making a Thai curry, pupils really learn how to make delicious food.
King's own swimming pool
If cooking isn’t your thing, how about getting involved in debating, archery or clay-shooting? In any case, King’s has something for everyone. Amazingly the offer is so strong here that the day pupils often spend their week-ends at school working on a creative project, playing in a band or rehearsing for that Les Miserables performance.
Amphitheatre and boarding houses in the background
King’s College is a proper boarding school. Over 60% of pupils are full boarders here. The school does not allow for weekly or flexi boarding.
But it does not stop here. To assure optimal integration, day pupils get assigned to boarding houses and spend the lionshare of their social time there. Day pupils even get one night a week boarding for free. Like this close friendships between the both groups form. A lot of our German pupils tell us about making local British friends, spending week-ends and holidays locally. So, really the perfect combination of boarding and local cultural immersion.
Tennis indoors = all year!
King’s College’s boarding accommodation is solid. Not fancy, but clean, spacious and mostly cozy. We visited a girls house which was about to be renovated. The impressively proactive housemistress discussed possible improvements to the house with the girls, asking for their ideas and active involvement. Very democratic!
On week-ends, King’s College offers boarders an array of exciting activities through its Sunday’s Activities programme. This could be anything from going to the cinema, bowling and go-carting, via watching a local cricket match to going for a theatre outing to Bristol. No one will be bored on week-ends at King’s!
Fortunately, King’s College does not have exeat week-ends.
Strong on music, too: the jazz band at King's
Applying to King’s College Taunton
King’s College Taunton will accept application into any year group except Y13.
Shorter stays of one or two terms are generally not possible.
The school expects each applicant to visit the school at least six months prior to starting. With corona, King’s Taunton will not expect this and will be happy to communicate with pupils via video calls.
King’s College is non-selective, yet requires a math and English test for setting purposes only.
Definitive hogwartsian qualities - the main building
King’s College Taunton is amazing. A school that is perfectly balanced between academic strength and great extracurricular offer; between extraordinary friendliness and demand for discipline; between boarding school and local city life. If we could choose a school to visit for one year, THIS is where we would go!