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St James Senior Boys' School
St James Senior Boys' School
St James Senior Boys' School
St James Senior Boys' School
St James Senior Boys' School Ashford, Surrey Visit
school
St James Senior Boys' School
Ashford
401 pupils, ages 11-18
Boys only
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St James Senior Boys' School

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Our View

This boys-only school in Ashford, Surrey takes a holistic approach to education, with a focus on philosophy, wellbeing and individualised learning. The end result is well-rounded young men who have been encouraged to work outside their comfort zone and grow as learners, as well as people. It’s also the only school in the country to offer Sanskrit to GCSE; head David Brazier believes that ‘the world certainly needs such Renaissance men’ – and St James certainly produces them.

Where?

A mile and a half from Heathrow Airport, this oasis sits in 33 peaceful acres. Its sweeping drive leads up to a handsome Victorian building presiding over smaller buildings tucked neatly behind it, sports pitches and a lake where the boys canoe and kayak.

Pupils come from Kensington, Barnes, Hampton, Richmond, Twickenham and Windsor, among other areas.

Head

David Brazier has an impressive 31 years in education under his belt – and still teaches English and philosophy, as well as coaching the boys in cricket. He has been at St James for 10 years, and this is his second headship. His calm demeanour is striking, and running through the school’s spiritual ethos is a stillness, a spirit of enquiry, delight and wonder in life, and harmony. Pupils are taught kindness and forgiveness, and Mr Brazier tells us he wants to ‘create individuals who will make the world a better place’. Staff are trained in mindfulness so they are able to, in his words, ‘meet each boy, each day, in the moment. Not just seeing empty vessels which then fill with knowledge; each has his own gifts and expresses and explores these for the benefit of all.’

Mr Brazier will leave the school at the end of the summer term, with Rick Clarke stepping into his shoes in September 2024. Most recently head of Frensham Heights School in Surrey, Mr Clarke has held teaching and leadership posts at Cheltenham College, Brighton College, Wellington College, Warminster School and Kingswood School – and we look forward to hearing what plans he has in store for St James.

Admissions

There are usually about 120 applicants competing for 60 places, and the selection process includes entrance exams in English, maths and verbal reasoning, plus an interview with candidates and their parents. Siblings and parents who are alumni are given priority, and boys from St James Prep (which is co-ed) get automatic entry, although as the prep is in Kensington, the senior school’s location doesn’t suit all families. Entry into sixth form is six GCSEs at grade 5 or above.

Academics and destinations

Classes are no more than 20, and the pupil-staff ratio is an impressive 10 to one. Mr Brazier is full of praise for his ‘cracking staff’, which includes eight former pupils. Maths helper lessons are often held at lunchtime, and sixth-formers act as academic mentors for younger pupils.

As mentioned, pupils are taught Sanskrit – and if they’ve come from St James Prep, they will have been learning it since nursery. Other languages include French, Spanish and Latin, with Sanskrit, Latin, Greek and classical civilisation all additional options at GCSE.

Pupils study for their GCSEs over three years (instead of the usual two), meaning they pick their subjects at the end of Year 8. All pupils take English and maths and then have six options from a choice of 20 subjects – which this year includes media studies for the first time. Most do two sciences (the six newly refurbished labs are huge and the curriculum has a very practical focus), a humanity and a modern language. Computer science is growing in popularity, and the department is a bright, light space with a new media-studies facility.

At sixth form, pupils start with four A-level subjects and drop one. STEM subjects are popular at this stage, as is economics, and business studies has replaced business BTEC this year.

SEN support is excellent, with a number of pupils receiving help for dyslexia and dyspraxia.

Careers support is great too, with the boys being really aware of the need to balance their work and personal life, says Mr Brazier. Conversations begin in Year 9 and, for those aiming for medicine, Oxbridge or US universities, there’s a competitive-course plan that includes pupils giving assemblies to gain confidence in public speaking and in interviews. Some go on to study medicine, veterinary science or engineering, with the majority going on to Russell Group universities and one or two gaining places at Oxbridge.

Co-curricular

The school punches well above its weight in the performing arts, says Mr Brazier: ‘We feed their souls with the best we can.’ There’s an annual Shakespeare speech competition and, this year, the Year 7s are staging a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Every year group puts on an annual play, and Years 7 and 8 have timetabled drama, with many choosing it for GCSE.

The new head of music is taking the department to a new level; he moonlights as an opera singer and plays eight instruments, making him a pretty cool role model. There are four choirs, three rock bands, a harmony group and an orchestra, and whatever instrument a boy wants to play, the school will find a teacher. The whole school sings together every Thursday morning, and last year’s summer concert in conjunction with the girls’ school was an extravaganza in three acts: first a garden party with jazz band, then a more formal orchestra and choir, finishing off with a rock gig complete with dry ice, glitter ball and glow sticks.

The art and D&T departments have had masses of investment recently and are packed with laser cutters and three 3D printers, while a huge warehouse-style space sees pupils using CAD software to build creations out of wood, metal and plastic. They are also taught printing, drawing, clay, screen-printing and model-making. They do very well in art GCSE, and at A-level can also study photography.

The attitude to sport here is that every boy is a sportsman, it’s just a question of finding their sport. There’s a huge amount on offer, and options are varied and diverse, including basketball, volleyball, table tennis, football, squash, rugby, cricket, tennis, judo, hockey and golf. There is also canoeing and kayaking on the school’s lake, as well as climbing, with a trip to the Alps every other year and sailing trips to the Solent in the summer.

A personal endeavour programme sees Year 9s engaged in passion projects, from helping out in a soup kitchen to creating a bug hotel. In Year 8, boys have taster cadet sessions and, if they continue, they go camping in the summer on Dartmoor.

Clubs include gym (there’s a well-equipped weights room), badminton and work on a new school newspaper for budding journalists.

School community

It’s not surprising that pastoral care is a very big deal here. Every lesson starts and ends with a mindfulness pause to ‘refresh and break connection with what has gone on before’, says Mr Brazier, and there is also a 10-minute silence each morning and afternoon (one Year 12 told us it really helped him get through his GCSE exams). All the boys take philosophy from Year 7, which weaves in reflective skills and helps them manage stress, while sixth-formers participate in advanced mindfulness sessions with an online teacher and advanced philosophy with a university professor.

A buddy system sees sixth-formers meeting up with Year 7 boys once a week, playing board games and, says the head boy, ‘imparting wisdom’. Mobile phones are strictly prohibited and swiftly confiscated if seen. Pupils are encouraged to work towards special bronze, silver and gold achievement badges, with the latter being the ultimate recognition for having done something really exceptional.

Pupils team up with the girls from St James Senior Girls' School for termly lectures, and there are plans for the two schools to do more together, from quiz nights to group projects (as well as ballroom dancing evenings, which one pupil brilliantly describes as ‘not as bad as they sound’).

It’s worth knowing that this is a strictly vegetarian school, which boys tell us they quickly get used to – and there’s an impressive amount of choice each day.

Parents are invested in the school’s singular ethos (many make real sacrifices to send their sons here) and there’s a real sense of community, with the parental body winning awards for events such as the annual ball.

And finally....

A pupil-centred ethos makes this school anything but an exam factory. An emphasis on philosophy and USPs such as Sanskrit classes and vegetarianism show it’s not afraid to forge its own path – and it’s one that pupils thrive on.

Gallery See All

Master helping a boy in class
boy in glasses and a blue apron working with wood in DT
three boys in suits walking on a gravel path
Boys in a blue helmet and cricket whites
Boys in blue blazers and ties sitting at a table outside working
Boy in a blue blazer playing the piano
Boy on an indoor climbing wall
Boys reading in an outside classroom
Boy in safety goggles and a white lab coat performing a science experiment
  • Academic results

    GCSE results
    A level results
    Download results as PDF
  • Fees and bursaries

    Day fees per term

    Year 7£7,635
    Year 8 £7,635
    Year 9 £7,635
    Year 10£7,635
    Year 11£7,635
    Year 12£7,635
    Year 13£7,635




    Bursary contact:
    Bursar
    bursary-applications@stjamesschools.co.uk
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  • Transport links

    School Transport
    School daily bus network

    Public Transport
    Nearest mainline train station: Ashford
    Journey time to London by train: 35 minutes


School Updates

  • Appointment of Headmaster of St James Senior Boys' School

    St. James Senior Boys’ School has appointed Mr. Rick Clarke as its new Head, succeeding Mr. David Brazier. His appointment is seen as aligning well with St. James' ethos of fostering compassionate, values-based education.
    Appointment of Headmaster of St James Senior Boys' School
  • See St James Senior Boys' in our All-through Schools Guide

    See St James Senior Boys' in our All-through Schools Guide
  • See St James Senior Boys' School in our London Senior Schools Guide.

    See St James Senior Boys' School in our London Senior Schools Guide.

Essentials

Address
Church Road, Ashford, Surrey TW15 3DZ

Contact
mailing@stjamesboys.co.uk
01784 266930

Website
stjamesschools.co.uk/seniorboys/

ISI Report

Fees

Term Dates


Open Days

Open days and how to visit View Open Days Register for open Day

Open Morning
09 May 2024
Open Morning
20 June 2024


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