The Kings of Wessex Academy

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The Kings Of Wessex Academy
Kings Academy logo.jpg
Motto Believe and succeed
Established 1976
Type Academy
Religion Church of England
Headteacher Gavin Ball
Location Station Road
BS27 3AQ
51°16′30″N 2°46′43″W / 51.2750°N 2.7786°W / 51.2750; -2.7786Coordinates: 51°16′30″N 2°46′43″W / 51.2750°N 2.7786°W / 51.2750; -2.7786
DfE URN 136783 Tables
Ofsted Reports Pre-academy reports
Students 1,176 as of 2015[1]
Ages 13–18
Houses Avalon, Tintagel, Camelot, Lyoness

The Kings of Wessex Academy, formerly known as The Kings of Wessex School,[2] is a coeducational secondary school located in Cheddar, Somerset, England. As of 2015, it has 1,176 students aged 13 to 18, of both genders and all ability levels including 333 in the sixth form.[1] In November 2016, the academy became part of the Wessex Learning Trust which incorporates eight academies from the surrounding area.[3] Kings is a Church of England school.

In 2001, the academy was awarded the specialist status of Technology College, enabling it to develop its IT facilities and improve courses in Science, Mathematics and Design Technology. In June 2011, the school became an academy following its outstanding rating by Ofsted in 2010.[4]

The school has achieved accreditation from Investors in People.[5] It has also received a Sportsmark award, as well as two Artsmark awards in the 2001–2002 and 2004–2005 academic years.[6]

The school runs a leisure centre, Kings Fitness & Leisure, which has a swimming pool and sports facilities that are used by its students and the pupils of other schools in the surrounding area, as well as being open to members of the public. The school grounds contain the ruins of an ancient Saxon palace and chapel.

Academic performance[edit]

The school produces strong academic results. Its Key Stage 3 scores for 2005 were an aggregate percentage score of 250, compared with 225 for schools in Somerset and 217 for schools in England.[7] At GCSE level 73% of pupils achieved 5 or more A* to C grade passes, compared with 56% in Somerset and the rest of England.[7] In 2006 the measure of GCSE performance was changed to 5 or more A* to C grade passes including Mathematics and English. Using this new stricter measure the school scored 64% compared with 44.4% in Somerset and 45.8% in England.[8]

In 2009, the school achieved its best ever GCSE results, with 81% of pupils gaining five or more A* to C passes, and 70% gaining five A* to C passes including maths and English, making it the top performing school in Somerset.[9] In 2010, the record 2009 results were slightly improved on with 82% of pupils gaining five or more A* to C passes, and 70% gaining five A* to C passes including maths and English.[10][11] In 2011, the number of pupils gaining five or more A* to C passes increased 9% to 91%, and also increased 4% to 74% for those gaining five A* to C passes including maths and English.[12]

Since 2001, the school's GCSE results have been consistently higher than both the local authority and English schools averages. In 2014 they were sixth best of 83 schools in Somerset.[13]

Percentage of pupils gaining 5 or more GCSE passes at grades A* to C
2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
School 67% 69% 66% 71% 73% 76% 70% 68% 81% 82% 91% 91% 93% 88% 87%
Local authority 55% 55% 55% 56% 56% 56% 56% 60%
National* 50% 52% 53% 54% 56.8% 59.0% 61.4% 65.3% 70.0% 75.3% 79.6% 81.9% 81.8% 75.8%
Reference [14] [14] [14] [14] [15] [15] [15] [15] [16] [12] [17] [18] [19] [20]
Percentage of pupils gaining 5 or more GCSE passes at grades A* to C
(including English and Mathematics)
2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
School 53% 61% 65% 63% 60% 52% 70% 70% 74% 65% 69% 72% 69% 76% 75%
Local authority 42% 44% 46% 44% 47% 47% 49% 54% 57% 56.5% 58.0% 53.9% 57.7%
National* 42% 43% 44.7% 45.6% 46.3% 47.6% 49.8% 53.4% 59.0% 59.4% 59.2% 56.8%
Reference [21] [21] [21] [21] [22] [22] [22] [22] [12] [17] [18] [19] [20] [23] [24]
  • National results from 2005 are for Pupils at the end of key stage 4, in England, including at non-state funded schools.[25]


In March 2015, Ofsted rated the school as good. The report stated "The most-able students perform well and achieve the highest grades in a range of subjects", and that "Teachers have good subject knowledge and are enthusiastic about passing on their expertise." However, the inspection also concluded that "Teachers do not always check on students' learning in lessons closely enough. Consequently, some students, particularly the less able, are either not challenged enough or do not receive the help they need to succeed."[1]

In February 2010, Ofsted rated the school as outstanding.[4] The report called the school "amazing" and praised the head, staff and governors for producing students of "world class" quality. Its chief recommendation for improvement was the raising of teaching standards, by increasing the proportion of lessons rated outstanding from their current good rating.

In March 2010, the school was subjected to a Statutory Inspection of Anglican Schools (SIAS) on behalf of the Diocese of Bath and Wells, a regular inspection done for all church schools according to a framework set by the National Society for Promoting Religious Education. The SIAS inspector summarised that "The distinctiveness and effectiveness of The Kings of Wessex School as a church school are outstanding."[26]

The school's April 2007 Ofsted report concluded that the school "provides a good standard of education and has some outstanding features. As one parent rightly commented, 'It is a school of which to be proud'". Furthermore it stated "There is a shared commitment on the part of leaders, staff and governors to raising achievement. This is an inclusive school with a number of key strengths. The school’s work in partnership with others to promote learners’ well-being is excellent. The students’ enjoyment of school is outstanding. The specialist provision for students with learning difficulties and disabilities is excellent". It did highlight some areas where the school could improve, most notably the lower achievements of boys compared with girls, and the need to promote independent learning within the classroom and outside of school. The report acknowledged that the school had made well targeted improvements since its 2002 inspection, but pointed out that "Development plans are not clear enough about how actions will be evaluated, particularly their effect on pupils' achievement".[27]

A previous Ofsted report from 2002 stated that The Kings of Wessex was a "good school with a very good sixth form" and that it enabled its students to do well in examinations and tests. It described the school as a "friendly, harmonious community" and praised the way students took responsibility for their own learning. Its criticisms included the complaints that religious education was not adequate for older students, and that not all students could take part in daily collective worship.[28]


Concrete plinths in front of the school mark out the location of the Saxon palace
The ruined chapel is a Grade II listed building

Historic links[edit]

The school is located within a conservation area and all building work is supervised in case excavations reveal any significant archaeological finds. The grounds contain the remains of the Saxon Cheddar Palace.[29] In 1963, the discovery of the Saxon Palace delayed the school building programme for one year whilst the Archaeologists began their work.

A wooden "great hall" was constructed around the reign of King Alfred the Great (died 899AD). It was rebuilt around 930 AD and a chapel and other buildings were added. The palace hosted the Witenagemot, an assembly of powerful figures, in AD 941, 956 and 968. The remains were excavated during the construction of the school, but have since been re-buried. The layout is marked with concrete plinths. A ruined 14th century chapel in the grounds is dedicated to St. Columbanus.[30]

In January 2006, during the building of a new languages block at the school a grave, believed to be Roman, was uncovered.[31] The grave contained the skeleton of a man, believed to be around 50 years old and pagan rather than Christian due to the north-south orientation of the grave.

At least one member of staff has been found to have genetic links to stone age inhabitants of the area.[32] Scientists compared DNA taken from a 9,000-year-old skeleton known as "Cheddar Man" with that of fifteen school pupils and five adults from Cheddar village. A match was found, appropriately enough with the school's history teacher, Adrian Targett. This is claimed to be the longest human lineage ever to be traced, and supports the theory that the Britons were descended from ancient hunter-gatherers who later turned to agriculture, rather than a from more recent wave of immigrant farmers.

Technology College status[edit]

Being in a rural area with few large local manufacturers, the school had some difficulty in raising the £54,000 of sponsorship necessary to gain Technology College status,[33] but many small donations from local employers and charities enabled it to reach the target. The headmaster claimed that the process of soliciting funds helped the school to refine its focus and gave local businesses more of a stake in the school. He also stressed that the new status of Technology College would not lead to any reduction of its strength in the arts.

Foundation status[edit]

In 2006, the school governors voted for foundation status.[27] This was well supported despite some vocal opposition from a minority of parents in the local press. Foundation status has not changed the school's Christian ethos.[34] It still maintains close ties with St Andrews Church in Cheddar and the vicar remains as one of the school governors.

Academy status[edit]

In May 2010, as a school judged as outstanding under the updated Ofsted inspection regime, the new Secretary of State for Education invited the school to become a new style Academy – a state-funded school that is independent of the local authority.[35] The school's governing body voted unanimously in favour of a move to Academy status in June 2010, believing it will bring major benefits to the school.[36]

In a letter to parents, informing them of the change to an Academy, it was commented: "The school will be run by an Academy Trust, which will be made up of the existing Governing Body. Parents and the community will, of course, continue to be represented as now. Unlike previous Academies, our new style Academy will not be run by business sponsors. All our staff will continue to be employed by the Governing Body in the form of the new Academy Trust." and also "We remain committed to your child’s education. We believe that Academy Status is an excellent opportunity to build on the outstanding education that is provided at Kings and develop further the opportunities for all our students."

The academy conversion was delayed due to the actions of the Church of England and the Diocesan Board of Education,[5] which also prevented any church schools in England from becoming academies.[37] The school became an academy on 1 June 2011.[38]


The academy has had four headteachers (known as 'executive headteachers' since the academy became part of the multi-academy trust). The previous headteacher, Chris Richardson, retired in July 2017 after nearly 23 years in the position. The role was taken over by Gavin Ball, former principal of Frome College.[39]

Name Years in office[40] Motto
Harry Broome 1964–1975
Keith Herring 1975–1994
Chris Richardson 1995–2017 Getting the best out of everyone
Gavin Ball 2017– Believe and succeed


The King's Theatre opened in 2008

For a number of years, the academy published a half-termly newsletter, in magazine format, known as The Kings Messenger. However, in 2017, it was decided – after 130 issues – that the publication of the Messenger would be halted, and the academy would instead move to an online-only format of reporting school events, through the use of news articles being published onto the academy's front page. Jude Owens, PA to the Executive Headteacher and academy spokesperson, stated in regard to the matter "[…] the internet plays an increasingly dynamic role in reporting news 24 hours a day […] from next January 2017, we will be publishing our news about students and the academy in tune with the modern media."[41]


In 2006, the school opened a new languages block. In January 2008, it opened a new drama building, the Kings Theatre.[42] Unfortunately there is no prospect of government money being made available under the Building Schools for the Future initiative to rebuild the main fabric of the school within the next 10 years. The school obtained planning permission in 2017 for a new AstroTurf surface to enhance the sporting facilities at the academy.[43][44]

Kings Fitness and Leisure[edit]

The sports centre opened in 1994, becoming available for the First and Middle Schools, as well as the Upper School, in the Cheddar Valley. In April 2009, the whole site was taken over by Kings of Wessex. It was previously run by Somerset County Council, but is now owned and operated by the school and has been rebranded as Kings Fitness and Leisure. The takeover follows an attempt by Sedgemoor District Council, who subsidise the swimming pool, to reduce its funding contribution to the centre by diverting money set aside for maintenance to fund operation.[45] The council's attempt was abandoned following a local protest campaign.[5]

In the media[edit]

The school has a reputation for maintaining strict discipline. In 2003, 22 children who were said to be wearing unsuitable uniforms were isolated in the school's supervised learning unit and forbidden to talk to each other.[46] Some had been wearing plain blazers purchased at supermarkets, instead of the more expensive blazers with badges available only from the school outfitters. Although parents soon complied with the regulations, they compared the measures to Dickensian strictness and formed an action committee which protested to the local education authority and to Education Secretary Charles Clarke. The headteacher justified the action, saying it had the desired effect. The school pointed out that financial help is available for parents with modest means.

In January 2007, the school featured in TV and national newspaper reports following the punishment of a year 11 pupil for eating an apple in an area of the school where the consumption of food is forbidden. The pupil chose to ignore the 30-minute detention that he was given as punishment. As a result, he was given an after school detention which he again ignored. The school then placed the pupil in the supervised learning unit for a day. The pupil's parents took the story to local TV station ITV West News, but then the story was picked up by the BBC,[47] as well as local and national newspapers.[48][49] The school defended its action and issued a press statement which said "For health and safety reasons students are only allowed to eat in designated areas (the school hall and gym). All students are aware of this rule and the consequences of not adhering to it." It also stated "The Kings of Wessex is a high performing school and has high expectations of all students both in terms of academic work and behaviour. Kings is currently oversubscribed in all year groups. It is unfortunate this student and parents chose to escalate a relatively minor disciplinary incident by repeatedly refusing to accept the punishment." Subsequent press coverage praised the school for taking a firm stance on discipline.[50]

In June 2009, the school once again made national headlines when the headteacher announced a ban on pupils kissing.[51] The Sun, a tabloid newspaper, used the headline "It's Snogwarts" in its article about the kissing ban.[52] It also made reference to the previous apple and blazer related controversies.

The academy also faced criticism from students and parents when it removed Drama from its list of GSCE and A-Level options[53] for the 2015/16 academic year. A petition was started and gained over 2000 signatures including that of former student and now comedian, Richard Herring. The move however went despite criticism, with all current drama students continuing until the end of their course.

Moreover, in September 2016, a 14-year-old Year 10 student, Sofia Legg, committed suicide days after admitting to her mental health worker that she had hidden an item that could be used to take her own life under her bed and had frequent thoughts of suicide.

"An inquest held at Taunton on Tuesday (July 11) heard Sofia had been a vivacious, happy child who was born in Menorca. Mrs Legg said that by the time Sofia was in Year 8, there were significant changes in her behaviour when she made a new group of friends, and started getting into trouble for misbehaving. She began to self-harm and was referred to mental health teams by her GP in 2015 but was initially turned down for treatment because she did not meet criteria."

—Laura Linham reporting on the incident for local news outlet Somerset Live.[54]

The academy has also dealt with sporadic acts of violence, by, and on, students over a number of years. This includes an incident where a student was stabbed on a school bus in October 2015. Police were called to the incident in Winscombe and investigated the matter. One student sustained minor injuries and was released from hospital the same day. In response to the matter, the school spokesperson, Jude Owens, said, "The academy enforces a strict behaviour policy and has high expectations for all students. In response to this incident the academy has taken prompt and appropriate action in accordance with academy policies and procedures."[55]

Notable students[edit]

Notable people educated at the school include:

  • Comedian Richard Herring attended the school.[56] His 2008 Edinburgh Festival Fringe show, The Headmaster's Son is based on his time at the school, where his father Keith was the headmaster.[57] In November 2009, he returned to the school to perform the show in the school's Kings Theatre. He also visited the school in March 2010 to perform his show Hitler Moustache, in April 2011 to perform Christ on a bike,[58] in April 2012 to perform What is Love, Anyway?, and in February 2014 to perform We're all going to die.[59]
  • Musician George Shelley, formerly of the boyband Union J, attended the school between 2006 and 2009.[60]


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  41. ^ Archived 10 August 2017 at the Wayback Machine.
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  50. ^ "Head wins top praise". The Weston Mercury. 1 February 2007. Archived from the original on 29 September 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2010. 
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  52. ^ Coles, John (23 June 2009). "It's Snogwarts". The Sun. Archived from the original on 24 June 2009. 
  53. ^ "Drama axed? It's a real shame". Somerset Live. 2016-09-06. Retrieved 2016-10-22. 
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  58. ^ Edwards, Alice (5 April 2011). "Richard Herring – Christ on a Bike: The Second Coming". Archived from the original on 29 September 2011. Retrieved 9 August 2011. 
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  60. ^

External links[edit]