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What the Good Schools Guide Says

Snapshot

Parents tell us that teaching is both nurturing and challenging. ‘Teachers show them that they can do more than just well enough’. The children are enthusiastic and serious. Everyone loves sport and the aim to have everyone involved clearly works. Music features prominently for everyone whether a chorister or not. All year 1’s have violin experience, lots play instruments and there are a number of different music groups. The head is keen to present aspirational experiences to the children…

The Head

Since January 2016, Richard Chapman. He was educated in the Midlands (Solihull School, where he was head boy) and read economics at Bristol. He worked briefly as a trainee manager at Marks and Spencer, then balanced his early teaching posts with a stint as a semi-professional rugby player. He was head of sixth form and coach of the 1st XV at Warwick School before joining the King’s Foundation in Worcester as second deputy in 2007. He went on to become senior deputy at King’s before being appointed head of King’s St Alban’s. He knows the school and the area very well and has brought considerable experience to this role.
Mr Chapman still enjoys sport and continues to play cricket. His favourite time of the week is celebratory assembly on Fridays when a huge range of the children’s achievements at all sorts of different levels are applauded. He revels in the youthful exuberance all around him. ‘What I love to see is the children outside having fun playing tag one minute, then the next coming into the classroom and settling down calmly and purposefully to a challenging academic lesson’.

Father of two children, both in the Kings’ Foundation, Richard is clearly relishing the opportunities to grow the reputation of the foundation at the bottom end. He has plans to move IT forward, away from being a discrete subject to an integrated teaching and learning resource, while boosting the status of the library to encourage a love of reading. He is having considerable success with the growth mindset work that he has introduced to build confidence and resilience. Parents who already knew Richard from his senior school days were delighted when he took on King’s St Alban’s. They see him as being outward facing, very determined and with a competitive edge to him that can only be good for the school. They like the fact that he drops in on clubs and activities as well as lessons.

 

Remarks

The Good Schools Guide reports that, King’s St Albans was originally a traditional prep school starting at 7 years old. In 2008, it expanded to take children from age 4 by buying an adjacent house and converting it into bright, light, children-friendly spaces. Partly because of this, the buildings have an attractive, non-institutional feel about them and the resources in the pre-prep reflect the best modern educational practice; it is a purpose-built pre-prep department. Every bit of space is imaginatively used to provide outdoor play and activity spaces.

Teaching in the pre-prep is topic based and becomes more subject focused as the children get older. The teachers describe it as traditional but creative and rigorous. Parents tell us that teaching is both nurturing and challenging. Teachers show them that they can do more than just well enough. The small class sizes, enhanced with the use of teaching assistants, ensure that informal assessment is a daily feature and any learning concerns are picked up very quickly. Generally these will be supported in the class room but the SEN specialists do assess and support if necessary. Also in the main fee package is wrap-around 7.45am –  6pm care if parents need it, and quite a number do. Lots of families have both parents working. The after-school structured prep and activities are run by teachers.

The children are enthusiastic and serious. Everyone loves sport and the aim to have everyone involved clearly works. The older children we saw were very much enjoying their PSHE discussions on a range of social issues. The head has introduced debating and philosophy to stimulate new intellectual channels for the children. The choristers, who are from year 3 upwards in particular, have a highly structured timetable with long days. Music features prominently for everyone whether a chorister or not. All year 1s have a violin experience, lots play instruments and there are a number of different music groups. The head is keen to present aspirational experiences to the children, and choirs from the cathedral and senior school regularly come to perform. The creative arts are a very strong feature generally. Children spoke enthusiastically about Creative ConneXions, an annual occasion that is the culmination of various arts events that go on through the year. There s dance, poetry and singing. The nearness of the senior school is a resource the head is keen to exploit even more. He is encouraging sixth formers to support clubs in order to get a real buzz to the already extensive extracurricular side of the school.

The facilities, as you would expect, are excellent. There is a fully equipped science lab, brilliant for the year 6 annual science week, art and music room, forest school, a swimming pool and sports hall. The school has its own chapel and a lovely light library. King’s has an outdoor education space in Wales which the pupils utilise at various stages – a much-anticipated adventure. There are plenty of trips out of school, a particular favourite being year 6’s visit to Normandy.

The school is very positive about relations with parents. In the lower years, reading records go home daily. There are assemblies to which parents are invited two or three times a year, and at the start of every academic year there is a curriculum evening for each year group where teachers share the school’s methods of teaching as well as the actual material. Parents appreciate the school’s conscious work on developing character. The key words that provided the focus for everyone on the week we visited were concentration, enthusiasm and curiosity. These themes are shared with parents, who like the way the school uses moral scenarios to help the children with their own daily decision making. Discipline is described by parents as very understated. ‘When a bell rings in the playground, everyone stops and goes in – no teacher has to raise their voice’. Parents told us any concerns are picked up quickly and dealt with discreetly as far as the children are concerned.

A number of teachers told us that children at the school do not have to fit a particular mould and that all can thrive. Parents say it is a ‘really happy school’ and the children we met bore this out. ‘They care about celebrating children’s individuality’, one parent told us. The head is very ambitious for the school and has made some timely innovations to this already very nurturing and successful school.

Download The Good Schools Guide Report or read the full report on The Good Schools Guide Website.