2018 winners

The winners of the 2018 Tes Independent School Awards, held in association with SIMS Independent were announced on Thursday 8 February 2018 at the Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane, London.

Below are the winners in each category. Click the name of the category to view more information.

The winners e-book is available here 

Special services to independent education award

Peter Bellenger, Brighton College


“The world needs more people like him” – seven words that perfectly encapsulate the reason why Peter Bellenger is this winner of this award for special services.

A long-standing chemistry teacher, he is a stalwart of the Brighton College community, and the affection and respect in which he is held was shown by the way the school rallied around him after he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease.

In this category, the judges were looking for “a stand-out member of the independent school community, at any level, who has shown a sustained contribution to the sector”.

His colleagues cited Mr Bellenger not just for his passion for his subject, exciting practicals and clear explanations in the classroom, but also for his commitment outside his lessons. He coached a group of Year 10 pupils to two successive RSC Chemistry Challenge finals, gave up his time to work with students in one-to-one tutorials and mentored less-experienced colleagues.

And although not well enough to continue classroom teaching, he writes mock exams and core practical resources, and gives tuition.

The judges said: “Peter Bellenger is deemed to be an inspirational teacher, supported by his results, and his stoic defiance in the face of a debilitating illness is to be admired. Peter’s mentoring of pupils and coaching of colleagues is further evidence of his dedicated engagement to the Brighton College community.

“It is clear from the application that he has a flair for building and sustaining relationships across the entire school over many years, demonstrating a commitment to the pursuit of excellence within teaching that is highly commendable.”

Senior leadership team of the year

Sponsored by 

Wolverhampton Grammar School


Few things play a bigger part in a school’s success than its staff, and Wolverhampton Grammar School’s wide range of initiatives to improve staff development and opportunities were truly impressive.

The projects included a fund to support postgraduate training, research grants for teachers and a review of staff engagement in all strategic planning, as well as new CPD opportunities to help early career development, and media and external relations training.

Comments in the staff survey showed how this has paid off: “When you have a young family and spend most of your time at work, it’s important to enjoy coming into work, find your role rewarding and see you can make a difference”; “this is the best school I have ever worked in”; and “the environment we work in is first rate and I believe the senior team will take the school to even greater heights”.

This was just one area where Wolverhampton showed judges it could meet the criteria of “demonstrating excellence in strategy and direction”. Low student fees, an excellent ISI inspection report, the depth of community outreach and the achievement of pupils all confirmed this senior leadership team as a worthy winner.

The judges said: “This was a category with a number of really creative strategic initiatives from a wide variety of schools in different contexts. The judges chose Wolverhampton Grammar School because it was clear that a closely knit team was addressing with real care many aspects of school life which directly impacted on the experience of teachers.

“The personal, and apparently voluntary, testimonials from staff about their love of working in the school were also significant in the judges’ choice.” 

Whole-school community initiative of the year

Bolton School


Local council cutbacks have been an unavoidable fact of life in this age of austerity, with many non-statutory services among the first to suffer.

But one school with a sterling record of community work teamed up with key partners to ensure that local primary schools would still have sporting opportunities that can mean so much for their pupils.

Bolton School helped to form the Bolton Sports Alliance in 2015, and since then the school has played a vital role in its continuing success.

The school’s football coach, Keith Branagan, has the job of finding a solution for local schools’ PE or sporting needs, whether it be coordinating their entire PE programme or finding short-term expertise for a specific sport.The school hosts an annual football festival, enjoyed by more than 10,000 7-11-year-olds. And its pupils help to run an annual sports festival, as well as town cross-country and swimming championships.

A testimonial from Gaskell Primary, an inner-city school in an area of high deprivation, spoke of how support from Bolton School had been “very positive” in its efforts to use sport as part of its inclusion programme for newly arrived international pupils.

The judges said: “There is an extraordinary amount of work being done for an awful lot of people, with a very wide range of opportunities being provided by Bolton School.

“They have been absolute leaders in the sector in community work. It is a really strong project that has had a very significant impact on its area. A shining city on the hill.”

Independent-state school partnership award

Latymer Upper School


In a year when ministers again put pressure on independent schools to work more closely with their state counterparts, Latymer Upper School was a showcase of how it can be done.

The school’s aim of putting as much emphasis on developing students’ sense of civic responsibility as on nurturing academic excellence is borne out by its actions, which make its outreach programme an integral part of school life.

Its Saturday school for 150 Year 6 pupils from 30 local primaries helps to demystify the transition to secondary school, while sixth-formers run debating for primary pupils.

The school is also generous with its facilities, which it provides to its partner schools free of charge.

This attitude was exemplified following the Grenfell Tower fire, when the school became a base for lower-sixth pupils whose own school next to the tower had to close.

The testimonials from local primary schools speak for themselves. One headteacher said the Saturday school “has sparked a buzz in some of the lower-ability children which was not there before”, while another said Latymer’s support “is absolutely invaluable in the progress and development of all of our children”.

The judges said: “One of the many positive aspects of the Latymer partnership is the way in which a significant number of pupils and staff are clearly engaged in an astounding array of partnerships, which reflect their sense of civic duty.

“The partnership is also deeply embedded into the life of the school and, therefore, highly sustainable.”

Special needs initiative of the year

Wilds Lodge School


It is a project that is both long-term and everyday, and includes much that may seem normal but actually has been life-changing for those who are taking part.

When a local fishing shop owner sought to restore a canal to its former glory from the days when it was a busy waterway in and out of Oakham, Rutland, in the 1700s, he turned to Wilds Lodge School.

The scheme began with boys from across year groups dredging the canal to remove a vast amount of weeds. As the scheme progressed, it included obtaining gravel to re-lay the tow path, helping to restock the canal, making wooden steps in the embankment and creating a conservation area.

It is an ongoing project, with pupils taking bread and apples to feed the birds, and planting native spring bulbs.

The effect on the pupils is clear, and, in its submission, the school said: “Each of them has developed better awareness of conservation, has understood the need to help the local community and developed personal skill such as hard work, teamwork, self-motivation and determination to succeed.”

But the effect on the wider community particularly impressed the judges, with the Oakham Angling Society highlighting the increasing number of people using the canal for walking and wildlife-spotting.

The judges said: “Often, it can be tempting for schools, especially special schools, to be inward-looking, and this project is anything but. Not only does it connect with the community, but it also builds awareness of the environment and how young people can contribute to conservation.”

Marketing campaign of the year

Sponsored by 

Loughborough Grammar School


Marketing is a world that, by its nature, plays safe and is risk-averse. As even the biggest global brands have found, just one wrong move can cause irreparable damage in the age of social media.

So when Loughborough Grammar School decided to embark on a seven-year project that would follow the journey of one individual pupil as he made his way through his school career, there was no guarantee of success.

Indeed, one judge described the project with a word sure to make any marketing executive shudder: “brave”. But when the campaign emerged, Tom’s Journey was nothing short of a triumph.

Tom was filmed and interviewed on camera at regular intervals from his entry to the school aged 11 to his departure at 18, having achieved his goal of joining the Combined Cadet Force that he had set out all those years before.

The four-minute video not only moved and inspired parents at the school’s open day, but it also drove a big increase in the number of visits to the school’s website and Facebook page and “contributed to significant increases in numbers of prospective parent visits, and applications (and acceptances) for Year 7 and Year 12 entry”. A second version of the film, featuring three pupils, was launched in December 2016.

This award recognises “a powerful strategy to promote some aspect of the school to a wider community”. Tom’s Journey achieved this with style and eloquence.

The judges said this was “an inspirational, forward-looking and brave campaign which will resonate with parents of children at every stage in their school career.”

Wellbeing initiative of the year

The Holmewood School


When The Holmewood School identified a need to actively improve the mental health of its students, it launched a three-year plan, made up of three initiatives that were closely aligned to the needs of its community.

The North London school is for young people with autism, and a survey it carried out showed that 87 per cent of its pupils felt they would do more schoolwork outside in the fresh air. The forest school was born.

Focusing on social and emotional development, all of the students attend a local farm, taking part in activities such as den-building, whittling, growing food and animal care. The school’s therapy dog, William, trained by Autism Life Dogs, helps individual students with their stress and anxiety.

Meanwhile, the whole-school wellbeing programme gives all members of the school community a positive and healthy start to the day, with choices such as yoga and a running club. And Holmewood’s Footprints Life Camp operates during the school holidays, aiming to reduce social exclusion and increase the independence of young autistic people through farming, outdoor education and life skills.

The judges said: “Holmewood really embodies the notion of a ‘whole-school approach’ using a range of really innovative initiatives to support both their staff and pupils.

“It struck us they had acknowledged that all learners have a unique set of needs and had incorporated into school life forms of support which would be valuable for pupils at a range of places within the mental health and fitness spectrum. We particularly loved the acknowledgment of the therapeutic benefits of physical activity and of spending time with animals.”

Creativity award

Surbiton High School


How important is creativity in schools today?

Some of the critics of league tables and inspections paint a picture of a strictly utilitarian education system, where that which cannot be measured is squeezed out.

But as any headteacher will tell you, this is not the whole picture, and this category celebrates those schools that make children think differently, beyond the strictures of the conventional curriculum.

And with an entrepreneur in residence and a writer in residence, Surbiton High, in south-west London, is a school that has placed creativity at the centre of learning.

In its submission, the school said that the entrepreneur “puts creative thinking at the heart of all its enterprise activities” – and this is not just a case of woolly words. All these activities are ranked against seven enterprise learning outcomes, so the school can analyse the impact of the programme. And the writer brings together the creative instinct for original ideas and the art of fine writing – one born of the imagination and one a technical skill.

But this is far from the limit of creativity at Surbiton: it also seeks to demonstrate how creativity can be used across all subjects.

The judges said: “Surbiton High School enjoys very specific and explicit emphasis on creativity. Significant resources support the effort and ideas, and projects and competitions within the school (and more broadly through the school’s parent Trust, ULT) stimulate healthy competition and also showcase what has been achieved.

“Results are thus highly visible, and it’s clear that for the school this entry is no one-off project but an ongoing and central theme.”

Strategic education initiative of the year

St Faith's


These days, it is rare for a minister at the Department for Education to make a speech that does not refer to the importance of science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem).

Whether it be the skills the UK needs to thrive after Brexit, the need to improve social mobility or preparing today’s children for tomorrow’s workplace, engineering is never far from ministerial lips. St Faith’s in Cambridge is a school that has recognised the importance of engineering by introducing it as a core curriculum subject, taught to pupils from the age of 7.

In the words of one judge, it is “a Stem dream”, and it is producing “our engineers of the future”. The school is working with bodies including the University of Cambridge and the Institution of Civil Engineers, and its curriculum has three key tenets: problem-solving, applying science and maths to produce solutions, and teamwork.

In practice, this ranges from Year 3 pupils creating an electric circuit by making electric dough, to Year 5 designing and building efficient turbine blades, and Year 8 creating objects that move on land and water and in the air.

The school’s long-term commitment to this approach is shown by the start of a £2 million “Steam hub” building project to link its engineering, science, computing and art and design departments.

In a recent survey of Year 8 pupils, engineering emerged as the most popular area they wanted careers advice on.

The judges said: “An admirable, innovative and challenging project, using local expertise and encouragement, with superb results. To introduce engineering as a curriculum subject from age 7 is a bold and inspirational step. We were deeply impressed.”

International school of the year
Sponsored by

Prince of Wales Island International School - Penang, Malaysia


A bold and successful response to an entrenched problem lies at the heart of the decision to name Prince of Wales Island International School as international school of the year.

A relatively new school, it found itself facing a real challenge in its South-East Asian context: how to persuade pupils and their families to continue with the school beyond IGCSEs.

Its response was to create an “English-style sixth-form culture”. A new sixth-form centre boasts a coffee lounge and relaxation space; a new uniform encourages flexibility within the guidelines; and students have timetable flexibility to pursue elite programmes outside school.

The results speak for themselves: a 21 per cent increase in pupil numbers in the sixth form in 2016-17. And the school is “confident that the direction is establishing locally the longer-term advantages of demonstrating continuity and commitment, against a prevailing culture of pragmatic and short-term decision-making”.

The judges said: “Prince of Wales Island International School impressed the judges with its English-style sixth-form study culture, with flexibility that has demonstrably encouraged students to stay on so that the sixth form grew by 21 per cent in the year 2016-17.

“The school offered a competitive option for continuity against the backdrop of a short-termist culture, providing holistic secondary education through an English boarding school-style sixth form.

“With intense support and mentoring, alongside timetable flexibility, the school has demonstrated the long-term advantages of continuity, and its success is demonstrated by excellent academic results and the growth of the sixth form.”

Financial/fundraising initiative of the year

King Edward VI High School for Girls


What better asset does any school have than its pupils?

King Edward VI High School for Girls has harnessed the full range of talents and interests within its student body to help raise money for its assisted places scheme, which makes the school more accessible to bright girls, regardless of their household income.

In the past, KEHS, in Birmingham, had used staff and alumni volunteers to approach potential donors, but this year the school recruited a group of sixth-formers to what became its “Trust Club”.

In its submission, the school said they were “advocates for the next generation; poised, articulate young women providing the perfect advertisement for the world-class education KEHS offers”.

The students truly worked as a team, using the individual skills of each young woman to make the initiative a success; whether it was debating club members phoning alumnae, A-level artists designing the new logo, technology enthusiasts creating social media content or dramatists helping to film the new campaign video.

Although the judges were not looking at the highest sums raised by entrants in this category, the success of the scheme is shown by the £35,000 raised over the phone in just six days last October.

The judges said: “From a strong field of entries, KEHS emerged as worthy winners through their innovative ‘Trust Club’ of sixthformers. With great enthusiasm and dedication, the girls rapidly raised substantial funds for bursaries and have evidently sown the seeds of a highly sustainable philanthropic culture focused on widening access to the excellent education provided by the school.”

Best use of technology award

Sponsored by 

Caterham School


This award recognises “measurable excellence in the use of education technology by a school”.

With a new innovation centre that has exceeded the expectations of its founders, Caterham School in Surrey more than fits the bill.

The facility includes a robotics centre, a virtual-reality room, a green screen/editing room, animation pods, a video conferencing room and the base for a drone that films in high definition. The school’s use of technology has been transformational.

Described as a “common room for tech”, the innovation centre is open and staffed throughout the day, including break times, lunchtimes and after school.

But more than simply giving pupils access to different forms of technology, it has had a huge impact on individuals since it opened in September 2016. Thanks to the rapidly growing film school based there, one lower-school pupil who had a fear of public speaking has gone on to lead an assembly on film for upper-school students.

And one sixth-form pupil currently has 10 self-conceived and developed apps on sale via the App Store, with the beginnings of a commercially viable business once he leaves school.

The judges said: “Every year, schools are bombarded with more and more types of technology that promise to transform their classrooms. But we wanted to look beyond the gadgets for concrete examples of tech being harnessed to make a real difference to young people’s lives.

“Caterham’s innovation centre has done that, bringing together technology and opportunity, and allowing pupils to thrive as a result.”

Boarding school of the year

Sponsored by 

Wellington College`


League tables have become such a fundamental part of the education landscape that is a brave school that decides to withdraw from them. Wellington College in Berkshire is just such an institution.

In this category, the judges were looking for “innovation, imagination and efforts to develop children in ways that go beyond the league tables”.

After Sir Anthony Seldon departed as master in 2015, many were watching to see how Julian Thomas would follow his high-profile predecessor. The answer came, in part, the following year, when he took his school out of the world of league tables as “a sign of a genuine commitment to an all-round and inspirational education”.

What followed was an evaluation of the college’s lower-school curriculum, with the introduction of “lab time” to foster independent learning and thinking. Russian, computer science, astronomy and psychology were added as options. Sixth-form “service learning” was extended to link placements directly to academic studies.

Unique aspects of boarding life continue, including “Maniacs”, the early morning open-water swim regularly attended by 250 pupils.

The judges said: “This outstanding submission both reflected and far exceeded the criteria for the Tes boarding school of the year award. The school’s almost 900 boarders benefit from excellent pastoral care and an exceptional range of service-related, leadership and other activities, several unique to Wellington.

“These challenge individuals, develop their character and resilience, and prepare them thoroughly for life in the modern world. The school justifiably prides itself on its boarders’ induction programme and its positive engagement with boarders’ views.”

Pre-prep/prep school of the year

Clifton School and Nursery


How can schools prepare their pupils for a world that is changing so rapidly that many of them could end up doing jobs that haven’t even been invented yet?

That is the challenge one small school in York aimed to address when it decided to transform its whole approach to education.

For Clifton School and Nursery, traditional educational models focus on a content-driven curriculum that “fails to meet the needs of the evolving workplace”. In their place, it structured its curriculum around what it identified as four key relevant skills: resilience, resourcefulness, reflectiveness and collaboration.

In a category where judges were looking for evidence of “innovation, imagination and efforts to develop children in ways that go beyond the league tables”, Clifton stood out.

The judges were particularly impressed with the way the school embeds its values, rather than having rules. With a focus on compassion, trust, humility, hope, wisdom, endurance and friendship, pupils take responsibility for good behaviour and discipline.

The school’s approach is a synthesis of learning theories from around the world. Clifton is becoming a “beacon”, in the words of one judge, with many state and independent schools visiting to learn more.

The judges said: “Pupils are more questioning and inquisitive, and there is also a values-led approach. The effectiveness of the approach has been recognised nationally, with 50 schools coming to visit. The supporting paperwork gave examples of the remarkable thematic learning, an extraordinary approach to assessment and the most positive environment for learning without the need for school rules.”

Senior school of the year

Latymer Upper School


It is one of the biggest existential challenges facing the education sector. In an era when disruptive technology makes it impossible to know what sort of world our young people will live in, how can schools prepare them if the old certainties no longer hold true?

This is a challenge that Latymer Upper School has met head-on, developing a new learning strategy that is designed to help its students flourish in tomorrow’s world.

The strategy encompasses a global curriculum through which all Year 7 and 8 pupils study coding, computer science, Mandarin and Spanish, and a “global goals” course for Year 9 that examines the 17 United Nations sustainability goals.

The judges were especially impressed by the school’s efforts to support its staff as well as its students, as encapsulated in an award submission that one judge found “exciting to read”.

The school wrote: “Rather like university dons, our teachers now have protected time for professional development and study for further degrees, as well as the opportunity to engage in action research overseen by the Harvard Graduate School of Education.”

The judges said: “Latymer Upper School’s new innovative learning strategy makes the school a worthy winner of this category this year.

“With a focus on learning and scholarship, promoting the habits of heart, head and hand, and with dedicated time for teacher learning, coaching and action research, the school has developed a wellthought- through and comprehensive strategy, which has been carefully evaluated to ensure even greater impact on student learning. Well done!”

Independent school of the year

Sponsored by

Latymer Upper School


“Putting the best possible case for being a public school in this day and age.”

That is how one judge summed up the argument for Latymer Upper School being named the Tes independent school of the year. Another praised the “strong moral and civic purpose they are enacting in their own context”.

In an election year in which the sector came under scrutiny, Latymer showed the massive contribution that independent schools make. A map showing the state schools that Latymer works with stretches out to every part of its corner of West London, from Chiswick and Barnes to Shepherd’s Bush and White City.

Testimonials from schools where the contributions of Latymer students range from teaching Latin to helping to run after-school clubs talk of how their pupils “absolutely beam”, “say it’s really fun” and “feel more mature”, and outline the increased motivation and attainment of lower-ability children in particular.

And when the community faced the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire, Latymer proved its commitment to being a good neighbour. Headteacher David Goodhew, who grew up in a nearby block of flats, offered his school as a base for lower-sixth pupils and teachers whose own school, Kensington Aldridge Academy, had to close.

The school simply said that “offering some continuity to these pupils’ education was one small way in which our school community could help”.