Good Schools Guide

Read a comprehensive review of our school from September 2023

"Lots of schools throw around the word 'family' but here it feels appropriate."

We were delighted to welcome Mr Paul Buckland from the Good Schools Guide to school in September 2023.

The Good Schools Guide helps parents find the best school for their child in their area. It features over 1,000 reviews of both state and private schools, and is described by The Daily Telegraph as:  “…highly opinionated: the only guide that offers parents a genuine flavour of what a school is like.” The Guide last visited THS over ten years’ ago, so it was a welcome opportunity to provide an update to our school review.

Mr Buckland had a rigorous schedule in school that day; he met with Mrs Mackenzie, toured the Prep and Senior Schools and Sixth Form building with student guides, visited a number of lessons (ranging from Reception class, Year 11 Drama, Year 9 History, Year 12 Politics and Year 6 English), met with pupils in a Pupil Voice session and again over lunch, and led a detailed Q&A with staff representatives. He finished the day with a tour of our co-curricular provision, seeing Formula One in schools, boys’ football, Chess Club, Craft Club, circuit training and Tycoons in Schools.

Mr Buckland is tasked with providing a comprehensive, balanced and assertive view of the school, and, following the review’s publication yesterday, we are thrilled to share some of his opinions with you:

“Lots of schools throw around the word ‘family’ but here it feels appropriate. Parents kept telling us that it was an ‘extension of family’, ‘like a family community’, and ‘when she leaves, I’m going to miss it more than she will’.”

In Early Years: “Younger ones have an emphasis on play. We saw a small reception class reading and talking about mothers, then breaking out into a large, bright space to write, model with playdough, paint or use the outdoor play area. Children looked enthused and well supported by the two teachers.”

On IPC in the Prep School: “Students enjoy the approach and spoke about how they are ‘learning about our own learning’, referring to concepts like ‘deep memory and active recall’. They have one lesson a week on developing the skills and techniques to become independent learners. There’s a focus too on their place in the global picture and their responsibilities, eg towards the environment. Parents approve: ‘The social skills they develop through the IPC are very important.’”

In Year 7 Mathematics: “We observed year 7 top set maths studying the Fibonacci sequence – they seemed comfortable working in groups and finding answers for themselves, that IPC ethos still having impact. Top sets around 15, lower sets can be as small as five. In a history class, women’s suffrage was being debated – again with the thinking curriculum approach. The discussions were interesting, interjected by the teacher posing further questions. Students talk about the growth mindset and how they benefit from group discussions.”

On Drama: “Drama has a high profile, with posters and displays highlighting previous productions of the Teesside High Youth Theatre, including Matilda, Into the Woods and Oliver, with casts and crew drawn from all year groups. House drama provides further opportunities. Students speak enthusiastically about their performances and how inclusive the drama is, with tech and behind the scenes input for the less thespian. Recently refurbished, padded seats in the main hall make it a comfortable experience for parents, while drama lessons take place in the specialist studio space, which also make use of lighting and sound boards. Numbers taking LAMDA are capped at 30 – all do well.”

On Music: “Music facilities include numerous rehearsal spaces and practice rooms for peri teachers to cover the full range of instruments. Pupils say there are ‘loads of opportunities to perform or sing’, including house competitions and parents say ‘there’s plenty to choose from.’ Choirs and ensembles perform regularly, including in local care homes. Prep runs its own musical shows and there are whole school teatime concerts, where prep violins playing Three Blind Mice is followed by A level virtuoso pieces. The school has links with the Tees Valley Youth Orchestra who rehearse at the school once a week. Musicians recently went on tour to Paris.”

On Sport: “Extensive grounds, including the river, provide opportunities for a wide range of sports, of which the main ones are hockey, netball and athletics. Particular success in county hockey, but no one sport favoured over another, say parents. The school’s size means all can play if they want. Ethos is inclusive – if you train, you get to represent the school, agree pupils, with up to three teams fielded in any one sport.”

On co-curricular provision: “‘Something for everyone’ on the clubs front, say both pupils and parents, with over 40 including British Sign Language, Japanese, astronomy and fencing. Extra charge for some, eg golf. There is paddle boarding on the River Tees, which passes through the grounds. School council can request specific clubs and usually they will be provided, often student-run. For three days a week from year 3, the last hour of the day is given over to co-curricular activities and students are encouraged to engage with one activity from each of three sections – skills, sport and community. DoE popular -70 percent of year 9 completed bronze last year.”

Pastoral care and inclusivity: “Parents and pupils say the emphasis is on nurture over results, and the sense of support and care is endemic. One student told us he moved to Teesside in prep as a teacher at his previous school didn’t know his name: ‘That would never happen here.’”

On our pupils: “Pupils are articulate and confident. They know the school well and feel comfortable here.”

The last word: “With transformational approaches to learning and strong pastoral support. A nurturing community environment where academic outcomes are not the priority, though still creditable. Ideal for those whose focus is on the bigger picture of how their child grows.”

We are incredibly grateful to the pupils and parents who made Mr Buckland’s trip seamless and successful. It is without doubt that he saw for himself the values and attributes of our school which we value so highly and hold so dear.

If you are a subscriber to The Good Schools Guide, you can read the full review here.