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Westminster School, Westminster, England

Westminster School, Westminster, England

Westminster School offers a distinctive model of boarding school education; in many ways it is better described as a hybrid day-boarding school.

It has a distinct aim to combine the benefits of boarding and day schools together and to this end boarders are expected to return home at weekends until the Sixth Form. Its majority day students, however, are treated to a boarding style culture.

The school also admits girls into the Sixth Form, believing that this, combined with its hybrid approach to boarding, takes the best of a British Boarding School education but with a better integration of family life and wider society.

Westminster is, however, also selective, with highly competitive academically restrictive entrance examinations, this resulting in an intellectually gifted mix of pupils at entry and a consistent top-2 place, with the much more traditional Winchester School, in British academic league tables of results at GCSE, A Level and Pre-U. Westminster School also offers the most successful slipstream to Oxbridge in the UK.

Geographically, Westminster School is the only boarding school in central London, enjoying a location within walking distance of Westminster Abbey. Those educated at Westminster include the philosopher John Locke, the UK’s current Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and seven former British Prime Ministers.

Westminster School’s restrictive weekly boarding up to the age of 16 results in fewer international students than its blue chip peers.

Around 20 pupils come to the School from overseas in the Sixth Form. The selective academic entrance requirements further restrict entry. The result of both is very limited provision of learning support and none for EFL; the school does not admit international students who are not proficient in English.

In 2014 only a single student was identified with a Special Educational Needs certificate and only 30 required any form of educational support.

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Whilst the School is not able to provide a diverse international mix of pupils, students are expected to receive this through the School’s location in Central London, the cosmopolitan ethnic background of its pupils’ catchment area, and the emphasis on a weekend home life.

The Independent School’s Inspectorate rates Westminster School with an outstanding verdict in the personal development category of its 2010 report. This recognizes Westminster’s intrinsic Liberal approach to education, a philosophy that weights equally each pupil’s socially, ethically and political development with more traditional academic exam based performance.

Academic performance is built on this Liberal focus on the whole student rather than from an exclusively academic focus on examinations. Questions and problems are seen as more important than answers and individual thought and expression are highly valued. Learning to take risks and sometimes fail is seen as intrinsic to the development of its pupils. Westminster is arguably the feeder school to Oxbridge with 45% of pupils on average winning a place each year.

Sports provision is diverse extremely diverse with 25 sports offered. The concentration on individual expression and talent is reinforced by a unique philosophy that makes no single sport compulsory; pupils choose where to nurture their talents and interests.

Entrance to the school is complex. Ideally parents are advised to ensure that prospective pupils are educated from the age of 7 at Westminster Under School. This provides 50 of the total 120 places available at Westminster at age 13.  The alternative is to ensure that children are registered by the age of 11 for entry at 13 and have moved from state schools to private prep schools from which they will sit the pre-entrance exam and attend interview. This is followed by Common Entrance or Westminster’s scholarship exams at 13. The Common Entrance pass mark is high at 70% (Harrow, for example, sets the bar at 60%).

70 places are available at Sixth Form. The sixth form assessment process includes four, one hour exams in each subject to be studied at A Level or Pre-U.

Westminster has a scholarship program until the age of 16 and a bursary program between 13 and 18. Scholarships are competitive and based entirely on performance. Awards provide a percentage of the day or boarding fees and are not means tested.  Bursaries will provide up to 100% fee remission but are only available to students whose parents are British, EU or Swiss nationals, live in London and can commute within 1 hour door-to-door.

The school bursaries will provide for uniform and essential expenditure but not ‘extras.’ Westminster does, however, commit to ensure that information on who receives bursaries will be limited to those directly managing their award.

Westminster is widely regarded as one of the best schools in the world but with a warning that this is only true for the right pupils. Extremely intellectual, free thinking applicants, living within Westminster’s catchment area and ideally born with moneyed parents who have aspired to a Westminster education for their children since birth will almost certainly fit the brief.

A’ Level grades A*/A/B (includes Pre-U equivalent): 98.5%
A’ Level Grades A*/A (includes Pre-U equivalent): 89.5%
A’ Level Grades A* (includes Pre-U equivalent): 54.5%
GCSE Grades A* / A: 98%
GCSE Grades A*: 86%

 

Our view
Westminster School will provide one of, if not the, finest education(s) in the world for those who have secured a place.

Pupils achieve extraordinary success academically, but as importantly Westminster pupils develop personally in ways unmatched by even the best blue-chips, possibly excepting Eton.

The school itself takes risks in encouraging its pupils to explore the world and question authority and it is one of few schools to encourage critical thinking as a means to examination success.

Many parents will admire the balance of boarding to home life too, particularly up the age of 16 where other schools demand a total commitment to boarding, and the mixed Sixth Form for many parents will provide a welcome balance to the benefits, but limits, of an exclusively single sex education to 16.

Like Winchester, however, the restrictive and selective intake requirements are there for a reason; a level of academic achievement and potential is a pre-requisite for a successful and happy education and many parents, even if entry to the school were less exclusive, would do better to choose schools more adapted to meet the value added requirements of their children.

 

Links
Prospectus – http://www.westminster.org.uk/assets/Prospectus-Nov13.pdf
ISS Boarding – http://isiservice.devprocess.com/DownloadReport.aspx?t=c&r=INB7236_20140211.pdf&s=7236
ISS General – http://isiservice.devprocess.com/DownloadReport.aspx?t=c&r=7236_012010_i.pdf&s=7236

 

Fast Facts
•    Number of children: 747 pupils (617 boys 130 girls)
•    Boarding number: 182 pupils (141 boys 41 girls)
•    Day number: 565
•    Sixth Form: 385 pupils
•    Ratio of staff to Pupils: 1:10 (Sixth Form)
•    Number of total staff: not published
•    Number of full time teaching staff: not published
•    Address: Westminster School, 17 Dean’s Yard, Westminster, London SW1P 3PB England
•    ISI Rating Education: Excellent
•    ISI Rating Personal Development: Outstanding
•    ISI Rating Governance: Excellent

 Review by: Jonathan Westley, International Editor, WhichSchoolAdvisor.com

 

Update on June 26, 2015 | Reviewed by WhichSchoolAdvisor.com on February 8, 2015

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