King Edward's School, Birmingham

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

King Edward's School, Birmingham
The School uses the Arms of its founder, King Edward VI. The Motto of the school is "Dieu et Mon Droit."
King Edward VI School Birmingham.jpg
Edgbaston Park Road

, ,
B15 2UA

Coordinates52°27′03″N 1°55′25″W / 52.4507°N 1.9237°W / 52.4507; -1.9237Coordinates: 52°27′03″N 1°55′25″W / 52.4507°N 1.9237°W / 52.4507; -1.9237
TypePublic School
Independent day school
MottoDieu et Mon Droit
(God and My Right)
Established1552; 470 years ago (1552)
FounderKing Edward VI
Department for Education URN103584 Tables
Chief MasterKaty Ricks[1]
Staff70 (approx.)
Age11 to 18
Enrolment825 pupils
Former pupilsOld Edwardians

King Edward's School (KES) is an independent day school for boys in the British public school tradition, located in Edgbaston, Birmingham. Founded by King Edward VI in 1552, it is part of the Foundation of the Schools of King Edward VI in Birmingham. It is a member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference. As of 2021, King Edward's School was ranked as one of the top 10 International Baccalaureate schools in the United Kingdom[2] and amongst the top 25 in the world.[3]

It shares its site and is twinned with King Edward VI High School for Girls (KEHS). Whilst the two schools are managed separately, dramatic arts, societies, music and other events are often shared; the schools also share a couple of hockey pitches and several clubs. The shared area is called Winterbourne after the nearby Winterbourne Botanic Garden.

Alumni of the school include two Nobel laureates, as well as J. R. R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings, and Field Marshal William Slim, 1st Viscount Slim, British military commander in Burma during the Second World War.


The original school on New Street, 1731-1834

The Foundation was created on 2 January 1552 by Royal Charter of King Edward VI together with £20 per annum returned by the Crown for educational purposes. Five years earlier in 1547 the Act of Suppression, part of the wider Dissolution of the Monasteries, provided for the confiscation of all assets of religious guilds except an amount of land with an annual income of £21 (two thirds of the original lands) if the guild supported a school. The Guild of the Holy Cross in Birmingham had no school, but persuaded the Earl of Northumberland (also the lord of the manor of Birmingham) to release the land for the creation of a school. The charter of the free Grammer Schole of King Edward VI was issued on 2 January 1552, and the school came into being in the former guild building on New Street. By the 1680s there were neer 200 boys in the school and a Petty School (a feeder school) had been established by the foundation.[4]

The School was founded by King Edward VI in 1552.
A postcard from 1911 shows the Arms of the 24 leading schools of England; the Arms of King Edward's School are shown in the third row. Unlike other independent schools in the British Public School tradition, King Edward's is not a boarding school.

The affairs of the school in the early part of the 18th century were dominated by a quarrel between a governor and the headmaster, but this notwithstanding, a new Georgian-inspired building was built on the New Street site between 1731 and 1734. In the latter part of the 18th Century four separate elementary schools and a girls' school were set up by the Foundation of the Schools of King Edward VI. The school remained relatively stagnant after this until Francis Jeune was appointed Headmaster in 1835. He erected a new building on the same site, in the Gothic Revival style of architecture. This was designed by Charles Barry, who employed Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin for aspects of the interior design, generally held to be Big School and, less certainly, the decorative battlements.[5] (Barry, again employing Pugin, subsequently designed the present Palace of Westminster). From within this new landmark building came several changes in the curriculum and ethos of the school. Sports became an important feature, through games afternoons, and the dominance of Classics was lessened by the introduction of mathematics and science.[6]

Charles Barry's New Street school, 1835-1936

By 1936 the old building on New Street had become a fire risk, and soot from the nearby train station was also an issue. The school also did not have any nearby space for sports, and had to travel to the playing fields near the present-day school. As a result, plans were made by the Governors and the then Headmaster, Edwin Thirlwall England, to move to a new site at Edgbaston Park Road/Bristol Road, in Edgbaston, along with the girls' school. At the time this new site was in the countryside, along with the nearby university. Ironically, the temporary buildings erected on the new site in 1936 burnt down. The school was forced to move, if only for a short time, to the University of Birmingham's Great Hall and surrounding buildings until new temporary buildings could be erected. The move was complicated by the outbreak of the Second World War, and the subsequent evacuation of the pupils to Repton School for a short period. By 1940 enough of the new buildings designed by Holland W. Hobbiss had been built for the school to begin lessons. In 1945 the schools became direct grant grammar schools, which meant that the Governors had to relinquish some control over the running of the school.[7] The schools were finally completed around 1948, although the 1950s saw a period of expansion under the Chief Master Ronald G. Lunt, appointed 1952, including the construction of a swimming pool and the building of a chapel from a specially salvaged portion of the upper corridor of the New Street building.[8] In 1976 the two schools became, once again, independent schools, due to the termination of the Direct Grant scheme by the then Prime Minister Harold Wilson.[9][10] The school remains independent and is still on the Edgbaston site.[11]

In 2010 the school replaced A levels with the International Baccalaureate diploma.[12]

In 2012, the Independent review of A-level and IB results, based on government-issued statistics, ranked King Edward's School 9th in the UK, ahead of Westminster (17th), St Paul's (22nd), Harrow (34th), Winchester (73rd) and Eton (80th).[13]

When schools were closed on 20 March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the school relocated its education to online learning via Zoom.[14]

School buildings[edit]

The chapel[edit]

The chapel

The chapel, a Grade II* listed building, was originally part of the upper corridor of the 1838 New Street school (built by Charles Barry). It was moved brick by brick to Edgbaston (1938–1940) by Holland W. Hobbiss, and renovated and rebuilt in the 1950s.

The Cinema Museum in London holds extensive film of the old school being demolished in February 1936.[15]

On Wednesday 4 May 2016, King Edward's School officially opened the second phase of its First World War exhibition in the chapel, originally opened in 2014, to commemorate the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.

"Big School" the main assembly hall, used in the film Clockwise


Another glory of the school, the great desk of the Chief Master, with "Sapientia" (wisdom) inscribed over it, survives from Barry's New Street school, and is still in daily use in Big School. This too is generally thought to be the work of Pugin.[5]

School structure[edit]

Unlike state secondary schools and in common with many independent schools, King Edward's does not use modern year group names habitually, e.g. Year 11, Year 12, etc.

The table below attempts to clarify the names of forms used for the different years:

Name of Form Year
Shells 7
Removes (Rems) 8
Upper Middles (UMs) 9
Fourths (IVs) 10 First year of GCSE study
Fifths (Vths) 11 Second year of GCSE study
Divisions (Divs) 12 First year of IB study
Sixths (VIs) 13 Final year of IB study

The House System[edit]

House Abbreviation Colour Master
Cary Gilson CG Light Blue Robert Cary Gilson
Evans E Green Charles Evans
Gifford G Purple Edwin Hamilton Gifford
Heath H Yellow C.H. Heath
Jeune J Red Francis Jeune
Levett L White Rawdon Levett
Prince Lee PL Pink James Prince Lee
Vardy V Dark Blue Albert Vardy

King Edward's has a house system, instigated in 1902 by the then Headmaster, Robert Cary Gilson. Originally, there were four houses, using the colours Blue, Green, Red and Yellow, but the houses were known simply by the name of the Housemaster at any one time ("Mr Soandso's House"), involving a change of name whenever the Housemaster changed. In 1951 the number of Houses was enlarged to eight, and it was decided that they should have permanent names. Six were called after former Headmasters, and two after assistant masters (Rawdon Levett[16] and C. H. Heath).[17] The colours of each house are shown on this table, though that for Levett was formerly brown.[17]

Extracurricular activities[edit]


There are three main sports at KES; rugby and hockey in the winter and cricket in the summer. Hockey is available as an option from first year (Shells) onwards. In the first and second years (Shells and Removes), there are up to six fully coached rugby teams, but from the third year there are only three. Other boys practise hockey, basketball, fencing, swimming and other sports. On rare occasions, where boys are especially talented in several fields, they play those sports they excel in, as well as their chosen sport.

The rugby match against KES's main rival, Bromsgrove School, is the highlight of the rugby season, has been played annually since 1875,[18] and is the oldest annual schools fixture in England.[citation needed] KES is also a keen rival of Solihull School and Warwick School, both fixtures dating back a hundred or more years.[citation needed] The school runs a rugby tour to a major rugby-playing country every two years, the tour being open only to the 1st and 2nd teams of that year.

The water polo team has won the English Schools Under-19 Water Polo competition in 2002 and 2008, the latter win being accompanied by the Warwickshire Cup. Numerous players have been called to the City of Birmingham Youth Squad and English Schools Water Polo teams. The school runs a water polo tour every so often, with the most recent tour in Cyprus taking place from 23 to 29 October 2019.[19]

The house system encourages participation in sport outside the weekly sports sessions. With autumn and winter competitions in rugby, hockey, tennis etc., pupils have the opportunity to participate in team competitions. In the summer, house activities such as the school's athletics competition, cross country races and house swimming allow further sporting pursuits. The school makes use of its extensive sporting facilities, which include a swimming pool, AstroTurf pitches (shared with KEHS), tennis courts, numerous rugby and cricket pitches (including additional training areas), an athletics track, a sports hall, squash courts and Eton Fives courts.

The school also competes in national competitions of a more intellectual nature including chess, Schools' Challenge (general knowledge) and debating.

Music and drama[edit]

KES/KEHS Christmas Concert

There is a separate building on site housing the Music Department, with facilities including a recital/rehearsal auditorium and a computer laboratory equipped with keyboard input. In addition, the school supports two full orchestras (in association with King Edward's High School for Girls) the more advanced of which has performed such works as Dvořák's Symphony No. 9, "From the New World". There are also two wind/brass ensembles in association with KEHS, and the senior members of both schools can join the Choral Society, a choir of 80-100 people which has sung such works as Carl Orff's Carmina Burana and Karl Jenkins's The Armed Man. KES also has its own choir, which sings at the Christmas carol service held in St Philip's Cathedral in the centre of Birmingham, and at the Christmas and summer concerts. The school holds four concerts every year: three at the school site and one in the summer at the Symphony Hall, Birmingham. The Drama Society at KES/KEHS performs a junior play, senior play or musical, and syndicate play (organised solely by pupils) and participates in the Shakespeare Schools Festival (for pupils in the Fourths and Fifths).

In 2012 the school built a new Performing Arts Centre, of which the main space is the Ruddock Hall which accommodates an orchestra of 90, audience of over 400 and a drama studio of flexible design that accommodates an audience of 120. The centre also houses a studio designed specifically for dance which benefits from panoramic open views across Winterbourne Gardens. Commissioned by Sir Paul Ruddock, a former pupil of the school, the facility was officially opened by the Rt Hon Michael Gove on 13 April 2012. The concert hall of the Ruddock Performing Arts Centre hosts the school's Senior and Junior Productions, Dance Production and three concerts throughout the year. The smaller drama studio hosts the more minor productions, such as the Middle School Drama Club.

Visits and expeditions[edit]

Cycle touring in Normandy

In the Shells boys take part in a three-day camping trip in Staffordshire, cooking their own evening meals. In the Removes each form has a five-day youth hostel visit in the Lake District or Snowdonia. This is alongside individual department field trips, such as annual Geography, History and Biology field trips along with exchanges with foreign pupils.

There are also a few hill-walking, caving and climbing trips for boys in the lower years.

The annual expeditions programme includes cycle tours, visits to Jordan, Ardèche adventure weeks in France, ski and snow-shoeing trips, and visits to Normandy and the Bay of Naples. The school has operated annual cycle tours since 1995. Past tours have included Sustrans routes such as the Coast to Coast and Hull to Felixstowe. The school has toured on three occasions from Land's End to John O'Groats. Cycle tours abroad include the Kingfisher Trail in Ireland, a tour in Normandy, the Golden Circle in the Netherlands, and most recently from Dunkerque in France to IJmuiden in the Netherlands.

CCF and Duke of Edinburgh's Award[edit]

King Edward's School has had a Combined Cadet Force (CCF) since 1906 (originally Officers Training Corps, then Junior Training Corps, 1940–48); it is a voluntary organisation. The CCF comprises: the Royal Navy section, the Army section, and the Royal Air Force section which was terminated in 2014 but was started again in 2016. The CCF conduct their training on Friday afternoons, and expeditions take place throughout the year. The RN section is currently affiliated to HMS Daring, along with several other organisations in the Midlands.[20] The RAF Section is affiliated with No. 8 Air Experience Flight which is based at RAF Cosford.

The contingent is part of 143 West Midlands Brigade, and the contingent are represented at the Brigade competitions by members of all three sections. In 2006 the contingent won all the matches at the CCF Skill at Arms competition, the Military Skills competition and various first aid titles. The CCF is closely linked with the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme within the school. In 2006 KES CCF celebrated its centenary Review; the Inspecting Officer was the then Second Sea Lord, Vice Admiral Adrian Johns.

The CCF train on Friday afternoons, on the school site for the majority of the year, although each section may go elsewhere occasionally for specific activities, and weekend activities and expeditions take place at various military bases around the country. The school has a 25m indoor Firing Range on which cadets from all sections fire the .22 No.8 rifle. To shoot the larger, semi-automatic L98 rifle, cadets must fire on ranges on real military bases. Royal Navy cadets frequently spend Friday afternoons sailing or kayaking at the local Edgbaston Reservoir.

In 2014, the RAF section was disbanded due to a lack of staff as well as for various other reasons. The final Annual General Inspection of the CCF with the RAF section present was held on 4 July 2014, and was attended by Air Marshal Barry North as the Inspecting Officer, as well as a number of other officers from each section. However, the RAF section was restarted in September 2015 and has recently competed in the Royal Air Squadron Trophy (RAST). On a weekly basis, it involves itself in leadership tasks; first aid tasks and general military skills such as drill and uniform presentation.

Previously, the school operated the Duke of Edinburgh's Award at Bronze, Silver and Gold Level; since September 2012, only the Gold award is offered and only for senior students. Instead the school holds their own awards scheme - the KES Expeditions Award.

Clubs and societies[edit]

There is a range of around 40 groups, clubs and societies at the school, including: Agora Society (philosophy), The Edwardian Herald, the school newspaper and magazine written by students, The Medical Society, Engineering Society (STEM), Movie Club (movies, franchises, ‘TV shows’, reviews and theories), Visual Media Society (films, television and the industry), Junior and Senior Debating Societies, Literary Society, Dramatic Society, Amnesty International Society, Classic Film Society, Model United Nations, Programming Club, Scientific Society, Book Club and Archery. The school also had a Living History (historical re-enactment) society, which stopped in 2018. There are drama clubs for every year, with years 7 and 8 having their own; with years 9 & 10 participating in 'Middle School Drama Club'. The mentoring society, with the aim of helping pupils in their studies, runs weekly under the supervision of the Learning Support co-ordinator.

Boys can also compete in the Schools Challenge competition, with King Edward's having won the National Competition in 2011. The Schools' Challenge team has secured regular victories in regional competitions such as the Lord Mayor's Quiz, coming 1st in three consecutive years from 2019-21.

King Edward's has flourishing debating teams which participate in competitive tournaments at venues like the Oxford, Cambridge and Durham Unions. It was the first (and so far only) school to retain the Cambridge Union Schools' Debating title (2000 and 2001).

School songs[edit]

There are two school songs:

  • King Edward's School Song
    • Written by Alfred Hayes, O.E. (1857–1936); composed by A. Somervell and first sung by Jerome O'Neill in 1937.[21]
    • A rousing song, sung mainly at the end of term. The boys usually place particular emphasis on the final words of the first line of the chorus by often shouting "SOME TO FAME!"

Much is made of the fact that the School Song is sung in English, as opposed to the Latin of Eton and Rugby.[citation needed]

    • The song is composed of four verses, with the chorus sung after each one.[22]
  • The Quatercentenary Song
    • Written in Latin by Roger Dunt (1900–63), Senior Classics Master; composed by Dr. Willis Grant (1907–81), Music Master[citation needed]
    • Sung at Founder's Day, the annual commemoration in October of King Edward's birthday, and at the school's Speech Day. It is also sung at various other award ceremonies. An extra verse was written for the visit of HM Queen Elizabeth II on 3 November 1955 (replacing a visit planned for the Quatercentenary Year 1952 by his late majesty, King George VI).

King Edward's in modern literature[edit]

In the mid-20th century the school produced two authors who used their time at school as the basis for autobiographical work.

David Rudkin's TV film Penda's Fen alludes frequently to aspects of school life in the early 1950s. This includes dwelling on the Chief Master's rostrum "Sapientia" (see above) and the direct use of some personal surnames of staff and pupils from that period. Scenes involving the Combined Cadet Force, a central theme in the film, recreate the atmosphere of the school at that time. Rudkin (OE c1947-1954) has published ambivalent views of his time at the school.[23]

Jonathan Coe's novel The Rotters' Club was begun while he was at KES, and he said that the background detail of the school (renamed King William's) and the Birmingham suburbs came from his own life.[24]

Notable former pupils[edit]

Former pupils of King Edward's School, Birmingham are known as Old Edwardians (OEs). A number of pupils have achieved prominence across various academic and sporting fields as well as in public service. Alumni of the school include two Nobel laureates, J. R. R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.[25] Sir Maurice Wilkins was awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. Most famous for discovering the structure of DNA, along with Watson and Crick, his research contributed to the scientific understanding of phosphorescence, isotope separation, optical microscopy and X-ray diffraction, and to the development of radar. Harry Boot, physicist, co-developer of the cavity magnetron was a pupil of the school.[26]

There have been a number of public service and military figures who were pupils at the school. Lieutenant Colonel John Augustus Conolly, won the Victoria Cross at the Siege of Sevastopol in the Crimean War. He is the only winner of the VC from the school. Sir Colin Figures, Head of MI6 was a pupil at the school. Field Marshal William Slim, 1st Viscount Slim, Commander of the successful Burma Campaign against the Japanese during the Second World War and later Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS). Enoch Powell, who remains an influential albeit controversial figure in British politics, served in various Ministerial positions between 1957 and 1968, when he was sacked by Conservative Party leader Edward Heath for his Rivers of Blood speech. In 2008, on the 50th anniversary of the speech,The Economist claimed in an editorial that his speech had a "lasting and malign effect ... on the way in which race and migration are discussed, or not discussed".[27] The first Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street CBE attended the school.[28][29] The current chairman and CEO of the Coca-Cola Company, James Quincey, is also a former pupil of the school.

Within the Arts, Sir Edward Burne-Jones, 1st Baronet was one of the most pre-eminent artists of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. James Dover Grant CBE (known by his pen name Lee Child), is a British author who writes thriller novels, and is best known for his Jack Reacher novel series. Jonathan Coe, novelist: his novel The Rotters' Club (2001) was based on his time at the school.[30]

A number of sporting figures were pupils of the school including Alan Smith, England Test cricketer (England, Warwickshire and Oxford University), first CEO of the Test and County Cricket Board (TCCB)

Chief masters[edit]

The head teacher was referred to as "Head Master" until 1952, when the newly appointed R. G. Lunt adopted the title "Chief Master", the title that has been used ever since.[17][31][32]

The following have served as Head or Chief Masters:[17][33]

Head Masters

  • 1561–1583 Thomas Buther
  • 1583–1599 William Woodall
  • 1599–1637 Richard Billingsley
  • 1640–1645 John Barton [Wikidata]
  • 1645–1649 John Thompson
  • 1654–1685 Nathaniel Brokesby
  • 1685–1692 John Hickes
  • 1693–1722 James Parkinson
  • 1722–1726 John Hausted
  • 1726–1746 Edward Mainwaring
  • 1746–1759 John Wilkinson
  • 1759–1766 Thomas Green
  • 1766–1775 John Brailsford
  • 1776–1797 Thomas Price
  • 1797–1834 John Cooke
  • 1834–1838 Francis Jeune
  • 1838–1848 James Prince Lee
  • 1848–1862 Edwin Hamilton Gifford
  • 1862–1872 Charles Evans
  • 1872–1900 Albert Richard Vardy
  • 1900–1929 Robert Cary Gilson
  • 1929–1941 Edwin Thirlwall England
  • 1942–1948 Charles Richard Morris
  • 1948–1952 Thomas Edward Brodie Howarth

Chief Masters

  • 1952–1974 Ronald Geoffrey Lunt
  • 1974–1982 Francis George Robson Fisher
  • 1982–1991 Martin John Wyndham Rogers
  • 1991–1998 Hugh Wright
  • 1998–2005 Roger Dancey
  • 2006–2016 John Claughton
  • 2016–2018 Mark Fenton
  • 2018–2019 Keith Phillips (Acting Chief Master)
  • 2019– Dr Catherine Ricks


  1. ^ "Announcement of new Chief Master". 19 November 2018.
  2. ^ "Top IB Schools 2021". IB Schools.Com. Retrieved 25 October 2021.
  3. ^ "Top Global IB Schools 2021". IB Schools.Com. Retrieved 25 October 2021.
  4. ^ Trott 2001, chapter 1, "A brief history"
  5. ^ a b Hutton 1952.
  6. ^ Trott 1992, pp. 79–91.
  7. ^ Trott 1992, chapter 8, pp. 92–103.
  8. ^ Trott 1992, pp. 109–114.
  9. ^ Trott 1992, p. 121.
  10. ^ "Direct Grant Schools". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Hansard. 22 March 1978. col. 582W–586W. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
  11. ^ "KES website". King Edwards School. Archived from the original on 4 July 2007. Retrieved 10 July 2007.
  12. ^ International Baccalaureate
  13. ^ "The Top 100 Independent Schools at A-level". The Independent. London. 26 January 2012. Retrieved 30 March 2017.
  14. ^ Twitter Retrieved 16 June 2020. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  15. ^ HM00491. "Cinema Museum Home Movie Database.xlsx". Google Docs. Retrieved 24 April 2022.
  16. ^ "Levett, Rawdon (LVT861R)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  17. ^ a b c d King Edward's School Birmingham (1964) Basil Blackwell, Oxford
  18. ^ Hutton 1952, p. 148: "The first Bromsgrove game was in 1875, and 121 games have been played—two in a season at one period."
  19. ^ "Dates for trips".
  20. ^ "HMS DARING — Affiliations". Royal Navy. Archived from the original on 3 January 2008. Retrieved 20 November 2007.
  21. ^ "School song".
  22. ^ "School song". Retrieved 21 February 2020.
  23. ^ "from lecture A Politics of Body and Speech". Archived from the original on 22 February 2014. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  24. ^ "Jonathan Coe: The Rotters' Club". Retrieved 14 August 2014.
  25. ^ Staff. "Notable OEs". Old Edwardians Website.
  26. ^ "Archives Biographies: Henry Boot". The Institution of Engineering and Technology. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  27. ^ Staff (21 April 2018). "'Rivers of blood': the lasting legacy of a poisonous speech". The Economist.
  28. ^ Elkes, Neil (18 September 2016). "Who is Andy Street?". The Birmingham Mail. Archived from the original on 3 January 2021. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
  29. ^ "Keynote Speaker: Andy Street CBE". Great British Expos. Retrieved 3 January 2021.
  30. ^ "Jonathan Coe: The Rotters' Club". The Modern Novel. Retrieved 3 January 2021.
  31. ^ "The Rev. R. G. Lunt". King Edward's School Chronicle. new ser. 67 (319): 5. July 1952.
  32. ^ "[Report of garden party]". King Edward's School Chronicle. 68 (320): 3. January 1953..
  33. ^ The Old Edwardians Gazette, December 2005


  • Hutton, T. W. (1952). King Edward's School, Birmingham, 1552–1952. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Trott, Anthony (1992). No Place for Fop or Idler: the story of King Edward's School, Birmingham. London: James and James. ISBN 0-907383-31-9.
  • Trott, Tony (2001). King Edward's School, Birmingham. Archive Photographs Series. Stroud: Tempus Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7524-2448-4.
  • Waterhouse, Rachel (1983). Six King Edward Schools, 1883–1983.

External links[edit]