School spotlight: King’s Bruton
Jo Golding visits King’s Bruton in Somerset to see how a group of just 350 students have become part of a school with a historic past
When you walk around King’s Bruton you get the distinct feeling you are walking around somewhere with a thousand stories to tell. This is largely due to its rich history (the school celebrated its 500th anniversary this year), but also the way it continues to develop itself in the present to ensure the school has a successful future. It has certainly gone all out to make 2019 a year no student or member of staff, or indeed anyone in Somerset, will forget.
One big part of the celebrations included the construction of a new music school, which was completed in December 2018. George Beverley, who started at the school as a chaplain six years ago, and is now also a history and philosophy teacher, tutor of the boarding house New House, as well as the school’s marketing manager, told me about the day the building opened – for it was no ordinary building opening.
“At 6.30am there were about 60 police here as well as police dogs carrying out a very thorough inspection of the school and any room Her Majesty The Queen would be entering,” he explained.
“She arrived and greeted pupils lined up by the music school and took a tour of the new building, where she unveiled the official plaque. A girl from Hazlegrove Preparatory School, part of the foundation which also incorporates King’s Bruton, gave her flowers and there were local business people here from Somerset and Bath.”
Founding year: 1519
Boarding houses: 7
Fees per term: £11,177 (boarding),
Staff: 60 teachers, 60 support staff
He also revealed that Her Majesty The Queen had her signature drink at the school, a gin and Dubonnet, and was whisked off in a jet helicopter back to London at the end of the day – making it a thrilling day for everyone there.
The new building, named The Queen Elizabeth Music School, is light and airy, with timber cladding around the outside. There is also outdoor space for alfresco performances.
George said: “We didn’t want it to be sterile and clinical. King’s Bruton’s got a certain charm that we wanted to capture.”
The classrooms inside are cleverly designed, with slightly ‘wonky’ walls that ensure sound doesn’t travel from one classroom to the next. And it’s not just the traditional instruments being taught; I walked into one room, following the sound of drum and bass, to see two girls getting to grips with DJing.
The music school is also open to the public, with a recording studio that will start taking bookings this summer. The recording studio manager, Luke, is an ex-pupil who has been in bands and studied music production since his time at the school.
He will be launching the school’s very own label Dolphin Productions (related to the school’s crest). “It’s a whole new venture for the school,” he said, “and one that will be really helpful.”
Another exciting element of the 500-year celebrations is a summer ball, taking place on 15 June. George said the tickets sold out in under 36 hours and will involve parents as well as Old Brutonians. As well as sports matches and art exhibitions during the day, as evening comes there will be an outdoor marquee, dodgems, a carousel and much more to make it a day to remember.
1. Their motto ‘Deo Juvante’ means ‘With the help of God’
2. In 1969 the school went co-educational
3. Her Majesty The Queen officially opened the school’s new music school this year as part of its 500th anniversary celebrations
4. The school has a BYOD (bring your own device) policy
5. The school has two astroturf pitches for hockey (one floodlit)
Small but mighty
What is the secret to the school’s success? 500 years on and it is still going strong, with plenty of developments being made to bring it up to date, whilst keeping its historic background.
George said: “The secret to our success is our size. There are 70 pupils in each year group and 350 pupils overall.
We know everyone by name. No one gets lost in the system; it’s a community.”
While research has found that flexible boarding is more popular now, at King’s Bruton boarders are full boarders, with no option for flexible boarding.
“Boarding here is proper boarding. It’s exciting, it’s fun. It’s not just all the international students, we’re all here together.”
Another key aspect of its popularity is its fantastic sports provision. An interview with the director of sport, Pip Atkinson-Kennedy, in our supplement magazine Independent School Sport, highlighted the amount of talented sportspeople at the school. This includes Lloyd Wallace, who has gone on to become a Great Britain aerial skier and represented the country at the Pyeongchang Olympics last year, as well as heptathlete Ellen Barber who won her first GB senior shirt recently.
The school’s sixth form is also popular, especially with girls from local single-sex schools because, George tells me, of the school’s strong sports provision and the fact that they’re co-educational. Another intriguing feature is the sixth form’s drive on international universities, as I spot a poster for Harvard in the social space during my visit. King’s Bruton strives to show young people all of the options out there.
With so much history (you can even see boys’ graffiti on the walls from hundreds of years ago – not much changes, does it?), King’s Bruton seems to have found its perfect formula for success. From staying small to celebrating milestones in style, I can’t wait to see what they’ll do next.
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