October 2021. Profile testing to support choices. Why reading is good for you. Winchester, Radley and Charterhouse.

Monday October 25th, 2021

Welcome to your October edition. Keats’ “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness in the UK”, characterised by longer nights, shorter days and the changing colours of the countryside. The overarching theme of this issue is how the UK’s independent schools prepare pupils to work hard and achieve their potential in a modern world. We’ll dip into some interesting research around learning that broadens and even protects the mind, and take a deeper dive into three of the UK’s top independent schools.

We hope you and your family are keeping well and that you can enjoy your half-term break. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if we can help you with any aspect of your child’s education.

What sets a UK independent education apart?

No two schools are the same, but generally what independent schools excel in is providing an individualised approach to education. That means pupils are not only well supported and actively encouraged to fulfil their academic potential, but also to identify and foster their own individual interests and skills in non-academic disciplines. Another key aspect of an independent education that may historically have been overlooked, but which is increasingly evident in many schools’ values, is acknowledging others’ skills, strengths and preferences and learning to communicate and interact effectively so as to thrive in our modern, interconnected world.

Choosing the right school for your child

The challenge for you and your child is identifying the school that offers the best balance and perfect mix for your family’s needs. That’s where we can help. With an in-depth knowledge of the UK’s independent education sector and all its schools, as well as the country’s top universities, we can help you navigate the system, identify the best school and subjects to suit your child, and support you to secure a place there. Get in touch today for a no-obligation chat.

Here’s a quick top-level compare and contrast on three of the best-known, high-achieving independent schools for 13 to 18 year olds. For more in-depth and personalised analysis, or a broader overview of the sector, drop us a line.  

Winchester College

Renowned for the outstanding academic achievements of its students, Hampshire-based Winchester College rejects the common entrance exam in favour of its own entry criteria and procedure. Three quarters of its pupils achieved the equivalent of eight or nine A* GCSEs last year and 20 boys received Oxbridge acceptances for 2021, ranking amongst the top in the independent feeder schools to Oxbridge.

For the first time in its almost 640-year history, Winchester will welcome girls as day students next September, and as boarders from 2024 in a move that will “bring benefits in terms of intellectual challenge and diversity of thought, as well as wider advantages in terms of preparing all our pupils for the world outside Winchester,” says Headmaster, Dr Tim Hands.

Other benefits to this planned expansion to its intake include an increased bursary provision, greater opportunities for collaboration with state schools and enhanced online learning provision. In this way, Winchester not only aspires to better prepare its scholars for life beyond its centuries-old walls, but also remains true to its 14th-Century philanthropist founder’s ethos. William of Wykeham set up the school in 1382 to educate boys of families who couldn’t afford to pay. Today’s Winchester aims to make its top-class education more widely accessible too.

Entry is competitive and challenging, and studying here is hard work but rewarding for the academically gifted child. Academic studies are complemented by a diverse sports offering from cricket, to fencing, to fives (similar to squash but played with gloved hands instead of racquets), football, rowing, golf, martial arts (aikido, judo, karate) and the school’s very own ‘Winkies’ (spring term only) which shares some of the rules of rugby but involves less running with the ball and consequently fewer tackles. Teams compete in fixtures against other schools such as Abingdon, Eton, Harrow, Radley, Charterhouse, Marlborough and Westminster, as well as regional and national competitions, regattas and championships. Sports scholarships are available in cricket and football and talented golfers can apply for a golf bursary.

Radley College

Set on an 800-acre campus in the Oxfordshire countryside, Radley is a good fit for active, outdoorsy boys who favour a single sex, boarding-only environment. Celebrating 175 years in 2022, Radley has no plans to admit girls or day pupils, setting it apart from schools like Winchester and Charterhouse. In this respect, it retains the traditional feel of other all-boys’ schools such as Eton and Harrow, but is widely regarded as more ‘down to earth’ than either of these establishments.

Students are allocated to sets for English, maths, modern languages and science, according to their performance in the common entrance exam. Academic success is mixed, but still impressive, and extra-curricular provision allows them to excel in sport, music and theatre.

Radley offers a huge range of sports, including rugby, hockey, cricket, football, golf, racquet sports (tennis, squash and badminton), athletics and cross country, fencing, fives, basketball and water sports such as rowing, swimming, diving, water polo and sailing. (Radley has a 3.5-metre diving pit next to its 25-metre pool and a state-of-the-art rowing tank too). With up to half a dozen different sports featuring in a typical day’s fixtures against schools including Eton, Harrow and Uppingham, Radley ensures pupils’ competitive hunger is well nourished on a regular basis.

A Countryside Centre was constructed in 2006 where boys can gain practical, hands-on experience of animal husbandry with the school’s beagle pack, cattle, sheep, pigs, ducks, pheasants and chickens and experience country pursuits such as hunting, ferreting, pest control and clay pigeon shooting. Radley also offers one-off and ongoing ‘adventurous activities’ for adrenalin junkies, including climbing trips, cycling and running relays, go-karting and wakeboarding.

The school has several specialist art teachers and five purpose-built and fully equipped studios with facilities for painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, ceramics, computer graphics and digital photography. The majority of pupils take musical instrument lessons, many participate in daily chapel services and the school boasts several choirs, orchestras, bands and specialist ensembles, complemented by a music technology facility and recording studio. The impressive theatre stages several performances each year, both student-led and inter-social shows.


Founded in 1611, Charterhouse has had a mixed gender sixth form since the early 1970s. The first Y9 girls joined the school this September and the school will be fully co-educational in two years’ time. Alongside a merger with prep school Edgeborough this September, this planned expansion will see Charterhouse more than double its student numbers within three years.

Charterhouse takes a more holistic view of education than some of its public school counterparts, focusing on whole child development rather than academic success alone. Steeped in 400-year history, it eschews some traditions and continues to embrace others. The decision to accept girls is seen as a fundamental component of its less traditional approach that considers all aspects of a child’s development. Another example is that, unlike Radley, which doesn’t offer the international baccalaureate (IB) as an alternative to A Level, Charterhouse pioneered the move away from A Level towards Cambridge Pre U and IB. With a pupil-to-teacher ratio of 9 to 1 (compared with Winchester’s 6-to-1 ratio) Charterhouse has excellent SEN and EAL provision. Around 10% of its pupils come from overseas, and for one in every nine, English is not their first language.

The new, combined school will give prep school pupils chance to benefit from Charterhouse’s specialist teachers and coaches.  And Charterhouse students will have the opportunity to coach and mentor Edgeborough students.

Students all play a core sport each term (for boys, it’s football in the autumn term, hockey in spring and cricket in the summer – girls play hockey, lacrosse, football and netball in winter and tennis and athletics in the summer. Non-core sports are on offer too, and include: badminton, basketball, climbing, cross country, fencing, fives, golf, racquets, rugby union, shooting, squash, swimming, tennis and waterpolo. In the sixth form, students can access the school gym and attend classes such as spinning and yoga.

Charterhouse has excellent sports facilities across its 250 acres and its teams play around 45 fixtures a month home and away against schools such as Portsmouth Grammar, Abingdon, Hampton, Eton, Westminster, Sunningdale, Cranleigh, Radley, Wellington and Harrow.

All these schools have excellent success rates and high-achieving alumni. The key thing is to identify the school with the ethos that’s the best fit for your child. Contact us to find out more. 

Learning that prepares you for life

On the subject of nurturing the whole child and not just chasing academic success, it’s interesting that a survey published in the Times suggests the majority of GCSE students would have preferred to be assessed in practical skills such as teamwork and communication rather than academic subjects alone. It’s this approach that Douglas Kidd, director of Curriculum X at International College Hong Kong, champions in the college’s Flexible Learning modules too. Launched during lockdown alongside remote teaching of academic subjects, these modules were designed to support students to keep growing as individuals and learning about themselves. From listening to a podcast, viewing a piece of art or “delving into complex areas of human thought” to committing to a new habit, Flexible Learning is all about “guiding students into forming habits and developing their powers of attention, creativity and engagement. Perhaps most importantly, it ensures that pupils have the chance to see school as not just a place to focus on academic subjects and exam grades but to learn about the world – and themselves.” You can find out more in the Times Education Supplement.

Profile testing to support choices

On a similar theme, many UK independent schools offer profile testing (such as the Morrisby Profile, to help Y11 pupils make important decisions about choice of A Level subjects, university, degree course and career. A series of psychometric vocational assessments provide individualised career suggestions based on abilities and personality style and also on interests and likely qualifications. If your child’s school doesn’t offer a service like this, and you’d like to find out more, get in touch and we can help.

Why reading is good for you

Whatever your child’s area of expertise or interest, it seems a love of reading will benefit them in the long term. An interesting study reported on in the Telegraph suggests children exposed to the written word from a young age have greater resilience against degenerative processes that can lead to dementia. The report says that “intellectually stimulating activities like reading create extra connections in the brain” in children under 10, which can act as a buffer, protecting our brain against cognitive decline that can occur in later life.

I love this idea of reading – not only to amass knowledge and achieve academically or even just to boost emotional intelligence and our capacity to empathise – but as a long-term defence of our cognitive capacity. So, happy reading this half-term holiday and we’ll be back in touch in November! But please don’t hesitate to get in touch in the meantime.