Welcome to our latest feature on the UK’s top schools, the TES Independent School Awards 2021.
UK’s Top School Awards 2021 – TES Independent Schools
Best use of technology – Rugby School
- Rugby School, in Warwickshire, captured the judges’ attention through its use of technology to help students adjust to lockdown restrictions.
- Investment in technology enabled Rugby to continue with a largely normal timetable within three days of school closures.
- Lectures continued online, while virtual music lessons started the day after pupils went home.
2021 Creativity TES award – Wycombe Abbey
Wycombe Abbey impressed the judges with its pioneering Carrington Award scheme, which was the result of a two-year research project undertaken by staff.
- This Buckinghamshire school, for girls aged 11-18, created the leadership programme for its sixth form around four key principles: leadership, responsibility and global thinking; confidence and self-reliance; creativity and vision; and critical thinking and intellectual curiosity. The school wanted the programme to be authoritative and to reflect the global outlook of its students (who come from 29 different countries). It also needed to be ambitious – to develop the potential of the school’s able cohort – and worthwhile, supporting students’ resilience and creativity.
Lead judge Simon Larter-Evans said: “Wycombe Abbey’s Carrington Award is a carefully researched programme that aims to meet the future needs of young women, particularly in the realm of leadership. It assumes an outward-looking perspective in terms of global citizenship and is particularly impressive in acting on the need to bridge the social divide by sharing its programme with local state schools.”
Taught through a mixture of university-style seminars and lectures by experts over four periods per week, teaching methods emphasise discussion and debate as preparation for higher education. Judges were particularly impressed by the school’s use of transmedia storytelling, using a variety of media to immerse students in a narrative. Leadership skills are further developed through a two-day Leadership Summit with a local boys’ school, Reigate Grammar School.
The Carrington Award also forms a major part of Wycombe Abbey’s outreach programme, where pupils from three local state schools are invited to participate in events developing communication, commercial and leadership skills.
TES Independent School Awards 2021 for Independent-state school partnership – Bedales School
This year’s independent-state school partnership award recognises the brilliant collaboration between Bedales School and The Key Education Centre.
Staff at Bedales, a co-educational Hampshire boarding school known for its focus on educational innovation, have noted in recent years that there are similarities between the school’s approach and the “alternative curriculum” undertaken by young people for whom conventional schooling has not worked. Bedales welcomed the suggestion that its students work alongside pupils at The Key, which would help broaden Bedales pupils’ understanding of different social and economic circumstances, while students at The Key would access new opportunities and activities.
From 2019, the Bedales Outdoor Work department arranged weekly visits for Key students to participate in animal husbandry, blacksmithing, pizza baking and woodwork, alongside Bedales staff and students. Pupils at The Key have responded in a profoundly positive way. They have said how much they look forward to the visits and the teacher responsible for outreach has noted their growing confidence. Students’ attendance at The Key has improved as a result of their participation and their parents have said how enthusiastic they are in sharing their experiences. Working together, students from both schools have also made and sold pizzas at Bedales, with money raised going towards a pizza oven for The Key.
Student initiative – Streatham & Clapham High School
Judges were dazzled by a student initiative at Streatham & Clapham High School, London, to nurture girls’ passion for maths and inspire them to pursue careers in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths). In April 2020, motivated by a lack of female candidates applying to study the subject at degree level and of organisations supporting younger maths students, Year 12 student Joely To set up the maths support website Pioneer, which filled a gap during the first lockdown.
She began by publishing articles and interviews with maths undergraduates and professionals, and partnered with Girls in Data to organise three data challenge series and a summer school for more than 600 girls across the UK. She then developed a virtual events and seminar programme, approaching global corporations – such as Experian, Zurich Insurance, Tableau and Chartmetric – to include them in the next phase of real-world maths challenges. With Experian, students applied their skills to the challenge of social distancing while the Zurich challenge aimed to improve customer experience and the Chartmetric summer school taught students how to analyse music streaming data.
Joely organised and delivered a maths careers Q&A webinar for students in the UK and Nigeria, as well as presenting to more than 200 maths teachers at a Mathematics Education Innovation conference.
2021 Marketing campaign award – Felsted School
- Working in a small team of three, and mainly from home in isolation, the marketing team delivered an impressive array of online initiatives.
- The events resulted in a strong uptick in attendance.
- The marketing team also organised an online end-of-year speech day as well as an online parents’ meeting, using pre-recorded videos.
TES Independent School Awards 2021 for Sports – Orchard House School
- The school day begins with activities such as games, swimming, fitness or running.
- Orchard House was one of the first to field a mixed rugby side at a local tournament.
- The school also fielded mixed teams in cricket and rounders matches, so pupils could compete as equals.
See our useful guide called Where’s my local London Grammar Schools?
Strategic education initiative – Harrow School Online
- Its online sixth form inspires through success coaches, mentors, tutors and teachers…an excellent example of the innovative delivery of the British curriculum.”
- The school has enrolled pupils from more than 16 countries in its first year.
- Alongside the academic programme, students can take part in extracurricular clubs and societies. An elective programme offers them the chance to study subjects from quantum physics to investment.
- Students can access a skills and mindset course to develop their resilience and self-knowledge, and they have fortnightly individual meetings.
2021 TES Award for Top Wellbeing initiative – Norwich High School for Girls (GDST)
- Norwich High School for Girls’ wellbeing programme has prioritised students’ mental health during a challenging year.
- The school runs an ongoing programme of self-care and education for staff and students through PSHE sessions, assemblies and staff CPD.
- Plus, a regular counsellor’s blog, online wellbeing talks and Q&A sessions.
See our useful guide called Where is my local grammar school?
2021 TES Award for Top Prep school – Saint Ronan’s School
- Saint Ronan’s School, in Kent, has transformed a tumultuous 12 months into a “year of wonder”.
- They opened a new art, DT and computing centre to inspire pupils’ creativity.
- The school organised daily photography competitions, riddles and stories, and a virtual paper aeroplane tournament to keep pupils’ spirits up. From online concerts to “cringeworthy” staff videos, the school made sure its cohort felt engaged, safe and nurtured.
Boarding school – Moreton Hall
Moreton Hall wowed judges with its commitment to its students and the wider community, exemplifying the best of the boarding sector and managing the difficulties of the pandemic with aplomb.
The year began with the establishment of a school farm, which allows hands-on learning and provides a sanctuary for less-confident pupils. It also supplies eggs for pupils and a locally brewed beer to the wider community.
The school reinvented Moreton Enterprises, through which the students run a parents’ coffee shop and an online tuck shop.
2021 TES Award for Top Senior school – NHEHS (part of Girls Day School Trust)
- Notting Hill and Ealing High School (NHEHS) impressed judges with its commitment to giving students a voice. When a group of sixth-formers approached the head to raise concerns about female under-representation in film, #SetTheExample was born.
- The campaign to champion women in film resulted in a three-day festival across the entire senior school.
- The school’s emphasis on leadership starts early.
- With more than 100 clubs and activities, students discover their passions and build their daring beyond classroom learning.
Award for Top Pre-prep school 2021 – St Peter’s School, York
- The judges praised the sense of belonging and nurturing atmosphere of St Peter’s School in York.
- The Treehouse, a quiet safe space at the heart of the school, embodies the school’s approach to mental health.
- Through Learning Superheroes, children build resilience and self-wareness.
2021 TES Award for Top Independent school – St Peter’s School, York
- The school uses a range of approaches to support pupils’ wellbeing and personal growth.
- It encourages pupils to use ICT independently or helping pupils champion a campaign to stop single-use plastic bottles in school.
- Catering for children aged 2-8, the school has an early focus on the idea of citizenship.
- Many pupils are involved in intergenerational music workshops in care homes or producing a reverse advent calendar for the homeless.
- The Learning Superheroes programme helps pupils to face learning challenges with confidence and adapt to setbacks with resilience. Kindness is at the forefront of the curriculum, enabling pupils to prioritise their own wellbeing and that of others.
See our useful guide called Where is my local grammar school?
Where’s my local London Grammar Schools?
Independent Schools Introduction
Many private schools offer assistance other than just education to their pupils.
Special assistance comes in the form of extracurricular activities, encouraging children to take up sports, special counselling, extra classes, etc.
- Independent and private school differences
- Both are independent bodies without any Governemnt regulation.However, there are certainly major differences. Hence, more and more parents in both the UK and the US switch.
- Primarily, the legal structures of both educational institutions are different. This means they teach students differently.
- An independent school has an independent board of trustees who do not have to depend on any other body for decision-making. This board of trustees oversees the operational structure of the schools.
- All the profit-sharing is also done with the third party, who might be investors or trustees. There is a trustee meeting in private schools and in that meeting, all operational decisions regarding running the schools are taken.
Financial independence of private schools
- A private school makes take donations of financial assistance from third parties such as religious groups, NGOs, etc.
- Independent schools have a unique mission statement that restricts them from making such donations.
- Even so, independent schools can still be a more expensive option than private schools.
- The tuition fees of independent schools are often paid by charitable institutions connected to the school’s parent body.
- Whereas, private schools are controlled by an agency or institution controling most of the school’s operational decisions.
Our Private School Guides
- Independent school differences
- Private school interviews
- London’s Top Independent Schools’ A-Level results 2020
- London Prep Schools Guide
- WHICH SCHOOL Guides?
- Which are the Top London Prep schools?
- Most Prestigious Private Schools
- Private School league tables 2020
- Top Private Girls schools in London
- Private Sixth Forms Admissions
- Sixth Forms Guide
- STEM Career Guides ‘I want to be a…’
- Top Private Sixth Form Colleges
- 12+ Exams to 14+ Exams
- 14+ Independent School Exams
TES Independent School Awards 2021