King Edward's School, Birmingham

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King Edward's School, Birmingham
King Edward VI School Birmingham.jpg
Motto Dieu et Mon Droit
(God and my right)
Established 1552
Type Independent day school
Chief Master John Claughton
Founder King Edward VI
Location Edgbaston Park Road
West Midlands
B15 2UA
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DfE number 330/6076
DfE URN 103584 Tables
Staff 70 (approx.)
Students 825
Gender Boys
Ages 11–18
Houses 8
Former pupils Old Edwardians
Affiliation HMC

King Edward's School (KES) is an independent day school for boys in Edgbaston, an area of Birmingham, England. Founded by King Edward VI in 1552, it is part of the Foundation of the Schools of King Edward VI in Birmingham. It was ranked 7th in England in the Secondary school league tables in 2013.[1]

It is a boys' school, although it shares the site, and is twinned, with King Edward VI High School for Girls (KEHS). Whilst the two schools are run completely 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.


The 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.[2]

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 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.[3] (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.[4]

Charles Barry's New Street school

By 1936 the old building on New Street had become a fire risk, and 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. 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.[5] 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.[6] 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.[7][8] The school remains independent and is still on the Edgbaston site.[9]

In 2010 the school replaced A levels with the International Baccalaureate diploma.[10]

School buildings

The Chapel

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 Hobbis, and renovated and rebuilt in the 1950s.

The Chapel is used for services every Wednesday morning, when the Eucharist is celebrated by the school Chaplain.


Another glory of the School, the great desk of the Chief Master, with 'Sapientia' 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.[3]


The school buildings have been used in several film and television productions. They were used in the 1986 film Clockwise, starring John Cleese, supposedly as the University of East Anglia. The school featured briefly in the 2006 Ray Winstone Channel 4 TV film All in the Game. The school has also been used in several episodes of the BBC medical drama Doctors. The school grounds were used in 2000 to film a feature on the Mazda MX-5 sports car for Clarkson's Car Years, presented by Jeremy Clarkson, against a background of boys in the Shells playing rugby on a rainy day.

School structure

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

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[11] and C. H. Heath).[12] The colours of each house are shown on this table, though that for Levett was formerly brown.[12]

The Houses compete against one another every year to win the Cock House Trophy. There are many events that boys take part in and get points for. These points are totalled up at the end of the year, and the House with the most points is declared the Cock House Champion. Each house has a distinctive set of 'colours', which are awarded to students for merit and commitment in representing the house in house matches. Each house also has its own 'house tie', the tie's pattern comprising stripes of the house colour on a black background. Some houses award it for subjective merit, while others use a points system to award the tie. Only boys in the Fourths and above may wear a house tie. The most successful house on record[citation needed] is Gifford, with 11 Cock House Trophy wins in 32 years, their most recent win being in 2009. The longest ever run of victories is 6 years in a row, achieved by Heath House 1998–2004.[citation needed] As of 2014 the Cock House Trophy is held by Cary Gilson.[citation needed] In reporting sport events the house names are often shortened to one or two letters, as indicated above.

Extracurricular activities


There are two main sports at KES; rugby 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,[13] 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.

Water polo is the most successful sport at King Edward's. The team has won the English Schools Under-19 Water Polo competition in 2002 and 2008, the latter win being accompanied by the Warwickshire Cup, making the most successful season in recent times. Numerous players have been called to the City of Birmingham Youth Squad and English Schools Water Polo teams.

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, general challenges and debating.

Although Association football is not played as a sport in the school, the AstroTurf pitches, school parade ground and chapel wall are used by boys at lunchtime for "Parade Ground Football" .

Music and drama

File:King Edward VI HS Concert.jpg
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 Founder's Day prizegiving, 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.

Visits and expeditions

File:Cycle Touring Normandy 2007.jpg
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 students.

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

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 did until July 2014 include the Royal Air Force section. 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.[14] The RAF Section was 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 afternoon's, 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 Afternoon's sailing or kayaking at the local Edgbaston Reservoir.

In June 2014, it was announced that the RAF section would be 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.

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

There is a range of around 40 groups, clubs and societies at the school, including: The Agora Society (philosophy), The Parliamentary Society (politics), Greek Reading, The Graphic Universe (sci-fi appreciation), Living History Re-Enactment, Junior and Senior Debating Societies,Literary Society, Dramatic Society, Amnesty International Society, Classic Film Society, Bollywood Society, Programming Society, Classic Rock Society, Scientific Society, Book Club and Archery. There are also several school choirs and a string orchestra. The mentoring society, with the aim of helping students 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. 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).

Historical re-enactment

Some of the group at Europe's largest medieval centre, Middelaldercentret in Denmark.

One of the school's more unusual clubs is the Living History Group. It is made up of some forty to fifty boys and girls from the KES (King Edward's School Birmingham) and KEHS (King Edward's High School for Girls), led by several members of staff and run by Jonathan Davies. There are only two school-based re-enactment of its kind in the world, the other being in Canada. The group focuses on presenting life around the years 1392 and 1552, the former being the date of the foundation of the Gild of the Holy Cross and the latter being the date of the school's foundation. It presents aspects of civilian life as well as military skills. Archery is a core skill in the group but swordsmanship and drill are also practised. As a civilian group they represent an English wool or spice merchant's household. The Group has also designed a portable counterweight powered trebuchet called 'Elizabeth', one of only two in the country, and now has a smaller one called 'Aimee'. The group is well known throughout England's 'Re-enactor Network', and participates in many well established public events a year as well as numerous educational events in other schools, normally local to or in Birmingham. In addition, the group have travelled to Denmark to participate in the activities at the Danish Middle Ages Centre and plan to return again this year (2014).

School songs

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.
    • 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!".

King Edward's School Song

Where the iron heart of England throbs beneath its sombre robe,
Stands a school whose sons have made her great and famous round the globe,
These have plucked the bays of battle, those have won the scholar's crown;
Old Edwardians, young Edwardians, forward for the School's renown.

Forward where the knocks are hardest, some to failure, some to fame;
Never mind the cheers or hooting, keep your head and play the game.

Here's no place for fop or idler; they who made our city great
Feared no hardship, shirked no labour, smiled at death and conquered fate;
They who gave our School its laurels laid on us a sacred trust;
Forward therefore, live your hardest, die of service, not of rust.

Here no classic grove secludes us, here abides no cloistered calm;
Not the titled, nor the stranger, wrestles here to gain the palm;
Round our smoke-encrusted precincts labour's turbid river runs;
Builders of this burly city temper here their strenuous sons.

Forward where the scrimmage thickens; never stop to rub your shin;
Cowards count the kicks and ha'pence, only care to save their skin.
Oftentimes defeat is splendid, victory may still be shame;
Luck is good, the prize is pleasant but the glory's in the game.

  • The Quatercentenary Song
    • Written in Latin by Roger Dunt (1900–63), Senior Classics Master; composed by Dr. Willis Grant (1907–81), Music Master
    • 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

In the mid-20th century the school produced two authors who used their time at school as the basis for autobiographical work. Both had close associations with north Worcestershire and the south-western areas of Birmingham, and these associations are reflected in their work.[citation needed]

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.[15]

Jonathan Coe’s novel The Rotters' Club can be said to have an axis along the Bristol Road from the city out to Cofton Park via the Longbridge car factory of the 1970s. Again, specific references clearly identify King Edward’s, thinly disguised this time as "King William's".[citation needed] Coe (OE c1972-1979) has said[citation needed] that he has set out to geographically identify Birmingham as a specific place, something which he claims is never done in English literature for places other than London.

Notable Old Edwardians

See: People educated at King Edward's School, Birmingham



The Armed Forces and the Intelligence Services

The Arts




  • Vikram Banerjee, First Class Cricket, (Cambridge University, Gloucestershire)
  • Miles Benjamin, Professional rugby player for Leicester Tigers
  • John Claughton, First Class Cricket, (Oxford University (Captain)), Warwickshire CCC)
  • Bradley Garmston, West Bromwich Albion footballer
  • Anurag Singh, First Class Cricket, Cambridge University Captain (1997 and 1998), Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Nottinghamshire
  • Alan Smith, England Test cricketer (England, Warwickshire and Oxford University), first CEO of the Test and County Cricket Board (TCCB) now known as the ECB.
  • Mark Wagh, First Class Cricket — Oxford University Captain (1997), Warwickshire
  • Ossie Wheatley, First Class Cricket (Cambridge University, Warwickshire and Glamorgan), Former Test Selecter and Chairman of the TCCB.
  • Niels de Vos, Chief Executive, UK Athletics


Chief Masters

The Head teacher was referred to as "Head Master" up until 1952, when R. G. Lunt was appointed with this title.[16] From 1953, he and subsequent holders of the position were referred to as "Chief Master".[17]

Head or Chief Masters have been[12][18]

  • 1561–1583 Thomas Buther
  • 1583–1599 William Woodall
  • 1599–1637 Richard Billingsley
  • 1640–1645 John Barton
  • 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
  • 1836–1848 James Prince Lee
  • 1848–1862 Edward 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
  • 1952–1974 Ronald Geoffrey Lunt
  • 1974–1982 Francis George Robson Fisher
  • 1982–1991 Martin J. W. Rogers
  • 1991–1998 Hugh Wright
  • 1998–2005 Roger Dancey
  • 2006–2016 John Claughton
  • 2016– Dr Mark Fenton


  1. "Secondary league tables 2013: Best advanced academic results". BBC. Retrieved 23 January 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Trott, pictoral history of school, A brief history (chapter 1)
  3. 3.0 3.1 King Edward's School Birmingham 1552-1952, T W Hutton (1952); Blackwell, Oxford
  4. No Place for Fop or Idler p.79-91
  5. No Place... Chap 8, p.92-103
  6. No Place... p.109-114
  7. No Place... p.121
  8. "Direct Grant Schools". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Hansard. 22 March 1978. col. 582W–586W. Retrieved 12 December 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "KES website". King Edwards School. Retrieved 10 July 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. International Baccalaureate
  11. "Levett, Rawdon (LVT861R)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 King Edward's School Birmingham (1964) Basil Blackwell, Oxford
  13. Thomas Winter Hutton, King Edward's School, Birmingham, 1552-1952, Blackwell, 1952. p. 148 "The first Bromsgrove game was in 1875, and 121 games have been played—two in a season at one period."
  14. "HMS DARING — Affiliations". Royal Navy. Retrieved 20 November 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "from lecture A Politics of Body and Speech". Retrieved 10 February 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Chronicle( King Edward's School, Birmingham) July 1952 page 5
  17. Chronicle( King Edward's School, Birmingham) January 1953 page 3
  18. The Old Edwardians Gazette, December 2005


  • Waterhouse, Rachel (1983). King Edward High School Birmingham 1883-1983.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Trott, Anthony (1992). No Place for Fop or Idler; The story of King Edward's School, Birmingham. James and James (publishing) Ltd. ISBN 0-907383-31-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Trott, Tony (2007). Images of England: King Edward's School Birmingham. Tempus Publishing Ltd. ISBN 978-0-7524-2448-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links