The best public and private schools in Cheshire
Autumn is fast approaching and the start of the new school year is already upon us. Whilst you are busy bundling your little angels into over-sized school uniforms and sending them off for the start of a new school year, you may already be thinking about the next step in your child’s education – looking at the transition from nursery to primary school, or the often sizeable step from primary to secondary school. Which school will be right for your child and enable them to flourish?
The Times recently reported that buyers are prepared to pay a premium of up to 20% on a property which is located within 20 minutes of a good school. We all know that if you have school age children, proximity to a school of your choice is likely to be an important consideration when choosing a new home. With this is mind we thought it would be helpful to put together a guide to some of the best private schools in and around Chester. We’ve done our homework (pardon the pun) and consulted the school’s websites, researched the Good Schools Guides and talked to some local mums and dads to give you the best and most comprehensive low-down. (The following schools are not ranked from first to last, we find them equally excellent but with differing strengths)
(1) The Queen’s School, Chester
An independent non-denominational girls school with an elegant campus within the city walls, Queen’s has a reputation for academic excellence. The head Sarah Clark says “girls can really be who they want to be here” without the need to be “cool” around boys. Mrs Clark will be moving on in January 2018 to be replaced by Lyndsay Hilton, who as well as being an educator has taken part in a research expedition to Antarctica. She is perhaps a good example of the sort of high achiever the school is likely to turn out and the Good Schools Guide does point out that “those who might struggle with the high expectations may be better elsewhere”. Pastoral care is very good though according to a local parent who says the school communicates well in relation to progress and attainment to ensure any problems are ironed out wherever possible. There are a small number of honorary scholarships for exceptional performance in the school’s entrance exam. Girls already in the lower school are usually guaranteed a place in the upper school. Most Queen’s girls go on to university, usually their first choice, with around 10 per cent choosing to study medicine.
(2) The King’s School, Chester
Founded by Henry VIII in 1541, King’s is an ambitious, co-educational independent school whose pupils give “fulfilling my potential” as a top reason for attending. Confident children work and play hard at King’s – obviously there is a strong emphasis on academic excellence, but the school is also felt to be friendly and emphasises integrity and honesty – notably advising its pupils to “be kind, be kind, be kind”. It has excellent facilities and provides many extra-curricular activities including rowing on the Dee – Olympic rowers are among former pupils. Entrance to the senior school is by 11+ exam in January. There are some means-tested bursary places available in the senior school with ambitious plans to increase provision in the future. Most King’s pupils go on to University – it is assumed that they will – over half to universities in the Times Top 30 list. Despite this high achieving, the pupils describe their school as “very friendly” and King’s is felt to produce extremely capable young adults who remain friendly and unassuming.
(3) Abbey Gate College, Chester
An independent co-educational school for pupils ages 4 to 18, Abbey Gate emphasises the importance of building self-esteem in a caring environment and encourages all pupils to strive to “be someone”. Nurturing individuals and encouraging them to aim for academic excellence (in recent A levels, 64% attained A* – B) is of utmost importance and parents describe the school as inspirational. There are some means tested bursaries available at Year 7 and 6th Sixth Form entry, plus scholarships at Year 7. Abbey Gate is committed to Fundamental British Values – placing great importance on teaching pupils about democracy and tolerance in our ever-changing society.
(4) The Grange, Northwich
An independent “all through” school (pupils can arrive at 3 and leave at 18, although of course joining at any age is possible). Excellent facilities, including a £3.6 million purpose built theatre and its own boathouse on the River Weaver, and plenty of green open space. Very good results – 76% A*/A at GCSE, at A level 8% A* and 60% A*/A, despite these excellent achievements, the school denies hothousing though some pupils say the homework load is heavy. A great choice of extra-curricular activities for all and an enrichment programme for 6th formers including cookery, photography and community work should help to balance out academic pressure. Fees are in line with other Cheshire independents, there is a small provision for bursaries and scholarships. Real choice is key at The Grange, it does not turn up its nose at offering subjects such as IT and graphic design at A level – the head says “We need to prepare children for where the world is going”.
(5) Ellesmere College , Shropshire
Set in 144 acres midway between Chester and Shrewsbury, co-educational Ellesmere champions a holistic approach with an ethos focused on bringing out the best in each pupil by recognising their personal strengths. Described as “incredibly friendly”, Ellesmere encourages all pupils to try new things and do their best. Academic or sporting “stars” are treated the same as everyone else. The International Baccalaureate (IB) is offered alongside A levels in the Sixth Form and latest results show half of all students attained A grades with a third gaining As at GCSE.
(6) Moreton Hall, Oswestry
Headmaster Jonathan Forster has stayed true to the founders’ vision of a liberal education, but has added many modern enhancements to give girls an edge when they enter the world of work. Inspirational visiting speakers, a feminist society, wine tasting and a 9 hole golf course are just some of the extra-curricular opportunities provided. The resurgent sport of Lacrosse is played very competitively. The girls also have a chance to develop business skills with Moreton Enterprises – a shopping mall run by the Lower Sixth that has an annual turnover of £50,000. Results are excellent – 40% A/A* at A level, 70% A*/A at GCSE. 10 girls were accepted by Oxbridge in 2016 – impressive from a roll of around 300.
Moreton Hall girls describe their teachers as passionate and enthusiastic and note that they are always on hand to help. 90% of girls board – with one pupil describing the experience as “like a long sleep over”. The Good Schools Guide observes “we feel that every girl in England should have at least a term in this environment”. Moreton Hall was never meant to be like other schools and plainly it isn’t.
Source: The Good Schools Guide and local parents