King's School, Worcester

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The King's School, Worcester
Ksw logo.jpg
5 College Green


TypeIndependent day school
Mottoτα μεν διδακτά μανθάνω,
τα δ' ευρετά ζητώ,
τα δ' ευκτά παρά θεών ητησάμην.
I learn what may be taught;
I seek what may be sought;
My other wants I dare
To ask from Heaven in prayer.

— Sophocles apud Plutarch (Moralia)
Religious affiliation(s)Church of England
Established1541 (refoundation)
FounderHenry VIII (refoundation)
Department for Education URN117037 Tables
ChairmanHugh B. Carslake
HeadmasterMatthew Armstrong
Age2 to 18
Houses9 (+ 3 discontinued)
Colour(s)Navy Blue and White          
PublicationThe Vigornian
Former pupilsOld Vigornians

King's School, Worcester is an English independent school refounded by Henry VIII in 1541. It occupies a site adjacent to Worcester Cathedral on the banks of the River Severn in the centre of the city of Worcester. It offers mixed-sex mainstream education that follows the UK National Curriculum to around 1,465 pupils aged 2 to 18. At age 11, approximately two thirds of pupils join the senior school from its two junior schools, King's Hawford and King's St Albans, while others come from maintained schools in the city of Worcester and the surrounding areas that include Malvern, Redditch, Kidderminster, Evesham and Pershore.[1]


The King's, Worcester group consists of three different schools. These are:

  • King's Hawford: (ages 2–11, c.320 pupils), formerly an autonomous fee-paying prep school named Hawford Lodge, purchased by King's in 1992, situated north of central Worcester. No recommendations were made in the 2008 inspection.[2]
  • King's St Alban's: (ages 4–11, c.215 pupils), formerly the Cathedral Choir School, amalgamated with King's in 1943, situated adjacent to the senior school. St Alban's includes a pre-prep department for ages 4–7, opened September 2009.
  • King's Worcester: (ages 11–18, c.930 pupils), the senior school.

The senior school is situated on Worcester's College Green, a space between Worcester Cathedral and the east bank of the River Severn. Many of the school's buildings on the Green are leased from the cathedral, including College Hall (formerly the monastic refectory, for many years the school's only teaching hall, and currently an assembly hall) and Edgar Tower, the medieval gatehouse to College Green, which for many years housed the school library. The school and the cathedral maintain a close relationship, with the school providing cathedral choristers and enjoying the use of the cathedral for major services. The most senior members of school staff, the cathedral choristers, and the school's King's and Queen's Scholars are ex officio members of the cathedral foundation, while the school is required by statute to have the cathedral Dean and Chapter represented on its governing body.

The school owns extensive land next to New Road cricket ground across the river, used as sports pitches and fields. The school also owns an outward bound centre, the Old Chapel near Crickhowell in Mid Wales.[3]

View of the school from the cathedral tower
(photo Bob Embleton)


King's has its roots in the varied forms of tuition offered by the monks at Worcester monastery. Saint Oswald bound the monastery under the Benedictine Rule in the 10th century, with novices being kept according to the Rule;[4] a century later Saint Wulstan, the Bishop responsible for the building of the Norman cathedral, was recorded as Magister et Custos Infantium (Master and Keeper of the Children) according to Florence of Worcester, and Puerorum Custos (Keeper of the Boys) according to William of Malmesbury. Although the novices studied religion at the monastery, grammar and Latin would have been learnt at the city school, now regarded as a precursor to the Royal Grammar School. Hugh Cratford, for example, was the monastic Magister Scholarum, before he was transferred to the city school in 1504 by order of Bishop Silvestro de' Gigli.[citation needed]

The monastery was dissolved in 1540 at the behest of Henry VIII, but most of its institutions were reincorporated into the new cathedral foundation, with most former monks becoming canons of the cathedral. The last monastic Prior, Henry Holbeach, became the first Dean of Worcester. Similarly, the cathedral foundation included provision for a choir school for ten cathedral choristers and tuition for forty King's Scholars. The school was one of seven "King's Schools" established or re-endowed by Henry VIII following the dissolution. On 7 December 1541, Henry VIII personally appointed the school's first headmaster, John Pether, by means of a letter to Richard Rich. One early headmaster, Henry Bright is mentioned in Thomas Fuller’s Worthies of England,[5] and is commemorated in Worcester Cathedral.

The school was managed by the cathedral Dean and Chapter until 1884, when Headmaster W.E. Bolland's New Scheme introduced governance by a separate Governing Body, on which the Chapter nonetheless retained a majority. From its inception until the construction of School House in 1888, all teaching was conducted in College Hall, the former monastic refectory.[citation needed]

From 1945 to 1976, the school participated in the direct grant scheme, accepting pupils funded by central government on a competitive basis. The school first admitted girls in small numbers to the sixth form in 1971, prior to the establishment of College House by John and Caroline Roslington in 1977, which housed 21 girls. In 1989 the decision was made to make the school fully co-educational, with girls entering the Lower Fourth (Year 7) by 1992. Having accommodated boarders since its inception, the final boarders left in July 1999.[6]


King's follows the GCSE and A-level curricula. In 2012, 82.9% of A-levels taken were graded A* to B; 66.4% of all GCSEs were graded A* or A. In 2016, 72% were A* or A and in 2017, 70%.[7] In the junior schools and up to pre-GCSE level, the school follows the national curriculum, but SATs are not taken. The 11+ entrance exam for the senior school is internally set.

A modern foreign language is compulsory up to GCSE. In the junior schools, French is taught. Upon entrance to the senior school, a language carousel operates during the Lower Fourth: pupils try each of French, German and Spanish for one term, before choosing one language to continue immediately (first language) and one language to continue restart in the Upper Fourth and continue until the end of the Lower Remove (second language). The first language MUST be continued to GCSE, and the second language comes as an additional option. Latin (or Classical Civilisation for the bottom third of the pupils in the Lower Remove) is also compulsory during the first three years of senior school (the school follows the Cambridge Latin Course). The school maintains exchange links with Le Vésinet and Lille in France, Zaragoza in Spain and Memmingen and Cologne in Germany.

Pupils start the GCSE course proper in the Upper Remove, and (usually) sit GCSE exams at the end of the Fifth Form. It is customary for pupils to take ten GCSEs, though a few take eleven or twelve. Seven core subjects are compulsory: Mathematics, English Language, English Literature, a modern foreign language (see details above), and the three sciences, which may be studied as 'separate sciences' awarding three GCSEs or as a 'dual award' awarding two GCSEs. The remaining three (or four) GCSEs may be chosen from a range of optional subjects, including a second modern foreign language, Latin, Classical Civilisations, Geography, History, Art, Design & Technology, Religious Studies, Music or Drama. Further Mathematics was added for GCSEs in 2013 for examining in 2015, the same time as Latin Literature was added. The top two sets of Mathematics (up to forty-eight students) get to take it. In its first examining year ten students getting A^s (A**s), thirteen students achieving an A* and one student an A. Other subjects students have taken to GCSE include: Classical Greek, Italian, Russian, Polish, Arabic, Mandarin, Japanese and Psychology; with some of these being run as after school clubs and some being taken outside of school. In 2015, a record fifty students received 10 A*/A with twenty-five students achieving 10 A*s or better. (Some as many as thirteen A*s).[8]

In the Lower Sixth Form, pupils usually choose four AS-level subjects; at the end of the year they may drop one subject or continue all four subjects to A2-level. All GCSE subjects are available at A-level, as well as exclusive sixth-form subjects including Economics, Business Studies and Physical Education. Critical Thinking, taught in extra-curricular time, is offered at A-level, and at sixth form level a non-examined course in 'Key Skills' is compulsory. Critical Thinking or the Extended Project Qualification are also offered during Key Skills time to interested pupils.

In 2017, King's was top in the country for Cambridge Pre-U Qualification results, with over 88% of students receiving D1 or D2 and 100% receiving between D1, D2, D3 or M1, according to [The Times]. ^Needs reference. The Art Department also received 54 A*s and 1 A at GCSE, making the Art Department the leading in the country for secondary education.


The school has an established commitment to the arts; it maintains a regular artist-in-residence and actor-in-residence. Art, drama and dance are offered as curricular as well extra-curricular activities, and the school provides one-to-one LAMDA tuition. The school has several performance venues, including the Keyes Building, College Hall and the John Moore Theatre. Art exhibitions, plays, musicals, dance showcases and other performances are staged across the age range. Partly due to its links with the cathedral the school has a musical tradition. It has regularly produced Oxbridge organ and choral scholars. Many pupils learn to play instruments and in addition to numerous orchestras and music groups, the pupil-organised Keys Society, with its own choir, stages regular concerts. The school undertakes biennial music tours abroad.

Rugby, cricket, hockey, netball, rowing and football are among the main sports played at the school, and a wide range of sports are offered to pupils of all ages as curricular and extra-curricular activities.[9] The school has achieved success at rowing, and maintains a boathouse on the River Severn. The school also has an indoor swimming pool on the senior school campus and an outdoor pool at Hawford. Several sports undertake regular tours abroad. Many pupils participate in the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme;[10] the school has an active Combined Cadet Force with army and RAF sections.[11]

The school produces three pupil-authored publications: Stepping Fourth (for the Fourth Forms, years 7–8), The Removes' Gazette (for the Removes, years 9–10) and Term Time a Sixth Form magazine, first published in summer 2010, as a replacement for the defunct King's Herald newspaper. The King's Herald was an annual newspaper written, compiled and formatted in a single day and submitted to a national competition which it won three times.[12] The school also runs a creative writing club and annual competition, and regular Sixth-Form Soundbites evenings devoted to literature, music and wine. The debating club meets weekly, and pupils regularly participate in regional and national debating and public speaking contests.

Other school societies include the School Archive,[13] Astronomy, Chess, Christian Union, Robotics and Science Club.[12]

Year classification system[edit]

The school uses its own class nomenclature. In the main section of the school (ages 11–18), the classification runs as follows:

Year Year Name Notes
7 Lower Fourth (L4) The Start of the Senior School.
8 Upper Fourth (U4) The Year which determines who are awarded King's and Queen's Scholarships.
9 Lower Remove (LR) The start of the house system.
10 Upper Remove (UR) The start of the GCSE course.
11 Fifth Form (FF) GCSE exams taken.
12 Lower Sixth (L6) AS-level exams taken.
13 Upper Sixth (U6) A2-level exams taken.

This used to be accompanied by the following year classifications at King's St Alban's, although these have since been dropped in favour of the standard system.

  • Lower First (year 3)
  • Upper First (year 4)
  • Second Year (year 5)
  • Third Year (year 6)

King's Hawford, however, has always used the standard system due to the fact that its inclusion into the King's School 'chain' has been more recent.


During the two years of the 'Fourth Form', pupils are assigned to forms. Their form tutor is responsible for their pastoral care, and they are taught in form groups (apart from for Mathematics in both years, which is taught in streamed sets, and Languages - depending on language 1 choice in L4, then streamed sets for Language 1 in U4; and Language 2 depending on choice in U4, followed by streamed sets the following year). In the Fourth Forms, the colours are navy blue and silver. Upon reaching the 'Lower Remove', pupils are assigned to one of the following houses (listed with their respective colours):

House House Colours Eponym Current House Tutor Type & Timespan
Henry Bright,
Headmaster 1589–1627
Mr. C Haywood Day, 1961–
Castle House building
(named for Worcester Castle)
Mr. A Deichen Boarding, 1902–1995;
Day, 2015–
William Haighton Chappel,
Headmaster 1896–1919
Mrs. N Sears Day, 1936–
Dark Blue
(double white stripe for ties)
Choir House building
(formerly the Cathedral Choir School)
Mrs. A Fellows Boarding, 1948–1995;
Day, 1995–
Cuthbert Creighton,
Headmaster 1919–36 & 1940–42
Mr. W Joyce Day, 1936–
Light Blue & Yellow
F. Ronald Kittermaster,
Headmaster 1942–1959
Mr. R Davis Day, 1984–
Red & White
Saint Oswald,
Bishop of Worcester 961–992
Mrs. L Haddock Day, 1984–
Light Blue
School House building Mr. S Bain Boarding, 1888–1991;
Day, 1991–
Saint Wulstan,
Bishop of Worcester 1062–1095
Dr. M Poole Day, 1961–
Discontinued Houses
House House Colours Eponym Current House Tutor Type & Timespan
The Hostel building - Boarding, 1903–1999
College College House building Girls, Boarding, 1977–1999
Eliot Peter Eliot,
Archdeacon of Worcester 1961–1975
Girls, Day House, 1986–1991

House ties consist of a navy blue background with diagonal house colour stripes. House ties are worn by pupils from the beginning of the Lower Remove to the end of the Fifth Form. As school uniform is not worn by sixth-form pupils, who follow an office attire dress code, they do not wear these ties; they may however wear ties that signify colours, monitorship or headship of house.

Castle, Choir, Hostel and School Houses, all former boarding houses, are named for the buildings which originally housed them. As boarding diminished during the 1990s, these houses either converted to day houses (School and Choir), or were discontinued (Castle and Hostel). Confusingly, due to post-boarding reshuffles houses generally no longer inhabit the building for which they are named: Choir House is in the Annett Building; Hostel House has been discontinued, as had Castle House until its resurrection in 2015; School House shares the School House building with Chappel, Oswald and Wulstan Houses. Bright, Crieghton and Kittermaster Houses are in Choir House building. The remaining houses, which originated as day-boys' houses, are named for former school headmasters (Saint Oswald and Saint Wulstan, both Bishops of Worcester, being regarded as "headmasters" of the former monastic school).

Pupils register in houses and house staff are responsible for their pastoral care, but they are not taught in houses. The houses compete in events on sports day and in other sports and disciplines, and in the annual 'House Song Competition'.

The two King's junior schools each operate their own house systems. These are neither pastoral nor academic: pupils are merely assigned to houses for the purposes of inter-house competitions. The St Alban's houses are Armstrong, Bailey, Thomas and Wilson. Since restructuring in 2007 the Hawford houses are Bredon, Clent, Kinver and Malvern.

Old Vigornians[edit]

All former pupils are considered to be an Old Vigornian, and can use the post-nominal letters OV. There is some dispute as to whether the monastic school attached to the monastery at Worcester until its dissolution in 1540 was a precursor to King's or to the Royal Grammar School. For this reason, both schools claim alumni of the monastic school such as lawyer Thomas de Littleton and statesman Reginald Bray as their own alumni. To avoid resultant controversy, only those who attended King's from its refoundation in 1541 onwards are listed below:

Historic Old Vigornians include:

Notable OVs from the 20th and 21st centuries include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ ISI report October 2005[permanent dead link]. Retrieved 28 July 2009.
  2. ^ 2008 Hawford Kindergarten Ofsted Report Archived 2011-07-28 at the Wayback Machine..
  3. ^ The Old Chapel Archived 2012-08-03 at Retrieved on 2010-12-24.
  4. ^ Documents illustrating early education in Worcester, p.xv.
  5. ^ Fuller, Thomas (1811) The Worthies of England, reprinted by John Nichols (1811) and by P. A. Nuttall (1840) Vol.1 Vol.2 Vol.3 at
  6. ^ Payne, Danny, ed. (2015). The King's School, Worcester - From 1541 into the 21st Century. The King's School, Worcester. pp. 70–72, 59. ISBN 9780952350781.
  7. ^ Exam Results Archived 2012-08-03 at
  8. ^ King's School, Worcester Exam results Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ Main Sports[permanent dead link]. Retrieved on 2010-12-24.
  10. ^ Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme Archived 2012-09-06 at (2010-10-26). Retrieved on 2010-12-24.
  11. ^ CCF Archived 2012-09-03 at Retrieved on 2010-12-24.
  12. ^ a b Clubs and Societies. Retrieved on 2010-12-24.
  13. ^ Archives and history Archived 2012-08-04 at Retrieved on 2010-12-24.
Secondary sources

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°11′15″N 2°13′14″W / 52.187533°N 2.220671°W / 52.187533; -2.220671