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The King's School, Canterbury

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The King's School, Canterbury

The King's School
Established 597
Type Independent day and boarding school
Religion Church of England
Headmaster Peter Roberts
Chaplain Fredrick Arvidsson
Chairman of Governors R. A. Willis, Dean of Canterbury
Founder St. Augustine of Canterbury
Location Canterbury
United Kingdom
DfE URN 118996 Tables
Students 817
Gender Coeducational
Ages 13–18
Houses 15

Blue and white

Former Pupils Old King's Scholars

The King's School is a British co-educational independent school for both day and boarding pupils in the historic English cathedral city of Canterbury in Kent. It is a member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference and the Eton Group. It claims to be the oldest continuously operating school in the world, having been founded in 597 AD.[1]


The school originated as a medieval cathedral school said to have been founded in AD 597 by Augustine of Canterbury, therefore making it the world's oldest extant school.[2] This is based on the fact that St Augustine founded an abbey (within the current school's grounds) where it is known that teaching took place. When the dissolution of the monasteries occurred in the reign of King Henry VIII, the school was refounded as The King's School, Canterbury.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, the school remained a grammar school. During the Victorian era the school began to establish itself as a "public school". The school evacuated to Cornwall following the outbreak of World War II and received a new Royal Charter at the end of the war. Girls were admitted for the first time when the sixth form became coeducational during the 1970s. In 1990, the school became fully coeducational.[1]


In 2011, the school was subject to its latest regular, independent inspection.[2] In summary, the inspection team praised the pastoral care system, the high academic achievements of all its pupils — irrespective of their age, aptitude or ability - and the happiness of the pupils. According to the Good Schools Guide the school is "Highly successful, producing excellent results." The Guide also stated that "You need to be creative, academically able and hard-working, as everything moves fast here."[3]


There are 15 houses at King's, 12 boarding and 3 day.[4] Most are named after past headmasters or people of interest in the school's history, with the exception of School House, The Grange and the newest house, Carlyon.


  • Birleys Playing Fields The School's sport grounds, located near the main site. A new pavilion was opened by David Gower on 17 September 2005
  • Blackfriars The Cleary Foundation donated the refectory of the 13th-century friary by the Marlowe Theatre as an art school and gallery.
  • CDT Centre CDT
  • Edred Wright Music School Music
  • Field Classrooms English and Mathematics
  • Grange Classrooms Mathematics
  • Harvey Science Block Biology, Chemistry
  • J Block Geography
  • Lardergate History and OKS Foundation
  • Lattergate Religious Studies and Headmaster's office
  • Maurice Milner Memorial Hall Fencing, Drama and Examination Hall
  • Mint Yard Classrooms Mathematics, ICT
  • The Old Synagogue at Canterbury Music, Jewish Prayers. Built as a synagogue in 1847–8 by architect Hezekiah Marshall, the "Old Synagogue" is used as a recital hall by the music department. It is considered one of the finest buildings of the 19th century Egyptian Revival style.[5]
  • Palace Block a medieval building containing the Modern Languages Department
  • Physics Block Physics
  • Pottery Room Pottery
  • Priory Block Classics, English, Politics, Economics
  • The Pupils' Social Centre Tuckshop, Stationers, Junior Common Room and billiards tables
  • The Recreation Centre Gym, Hockey Pitches, Swimming Pool, etc. It is open to the general public on a membership basis.
  • The School Library (contains approximately 25,000 volumes and offers access to the School Intranet)
  • Shirley Hall School Assemblies and Examination Hall; formerly known as the Great Hall, renamed after the former headmaster, Fred Shirley
  • St. Mary's Hall Drama, Theatre Studies
  • The Westbere Lakes Sailing and Rowing


King's has many traditions including:

  • Full Canterbury Dress: The name given to the school uniform, which consists of white shirt with wing collar, pinstripe trousers, black jacket, black socks, black tie and black shoes for the boys. Girls wear a white blouse, brooch, pinstripe skirt, black jacket, black tights and black shoes. When he came to the School, Fred Shirley, Headmaster (1935–1962), updated the school uniform to sports jackets. But within a year, the boys had asked to revert to their traditional garb. He tried again after the War when the School returned to Canterbury, this time taking a vote on the matter. But despite the difficulty in finding outmoded clothing in a time of clothes rationing, the boys once again decided to revert to tradition. The girls' version was introduced by Anthony Phillips, Headmaster.
  • Colours Jumpers: Students who have been awarded full school colours in any sport are entitled to wear a white and blue cricket jumper instead of a regulation school black jumper. Those who receive 1st team colours are entitled to wear a special tie.
  • Purples: Until recently called 'monitors', these are the school prefects, who are marked out by their distinctive purple gowns. Only those in the highest year at the school may be a purple. Each house generally has one purple (the Head of House). The purples are headed by the Captain of School and a Vice-Captain. A head scholar, and two Vice-head scholars are also invited to become purples.
  • The Goat on the Green Court: Something of a legend among pupils, the Captain of School is allegedly allowed to keep a goat on the large lawn in the centre of the school. This particular tradition is no longer practised. The Captain of School is also allowed to grow a beard and take his wife to lessons.
  • King's Scholars: An academically-select group, marked by black jumpers with white trimmings that have recently replaced their distinctive black gowns, they process wearing surplices during school services in the Cathedral. To become a scholar, a pupil must take the Scholarship examinations prior to entry (Exhibitioners may also be elected) or, in the case of honorary scholars, achieve exceptional GCSE results (9 A*s is usually the minimum) or AS Level results. King's Scholars are part of the Canterbury Cathedral Foundation and have a role in the Enthronement of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
  • Gatings: Uniform Gating: A form of punishment that requires pupils to wear Canterbury Dress all day every day, while getting a form signed by someone in a position of authority (usually a teacher or a purple) at 15 minute intervals during their free time. This can prevent them leaving the school at all for up to a week.
  • Breakfast Gating: A form of punishment by which the pupil must report to breakfast and get a special slip signed at 7:30.
  • Supper Leave/Pub Leave: A recent privilege extended to Sixth Formers, whereby pre-approved groups of people may go into town for supper or visit a pub for one night.
  • The House Shout: Two shouting competitions. One takes place between The Grange and School House which, until the building of Mitchinson's House, were opposite each other. Held on the last day of each term. Members of the Grange would assemble outside Lattergate House (later renamed Algy's) from where School House is visible and call out the House Shout from that vantage point. School House would then come out and the Purple of Galpin's would adjudicate the victor on wittiness, clarity, volume and house spirit.[5] This tradition has not been held in recent years, although every year after the inter house song competition, Galpin's House and School House have a similar, non adjudicated shouting match, with more emphasis on volume than anything else, often including the chant "you're not singing any more". The second House Shout takes place between Linacre and Meister Omers, and is an annual tradition that is not adjudicated.
  • Monitors' Canes: A privilege given to School Monitors (Purples) and House Monitors. Purples are allowed black canes and House monitors are allowed wood coloured canes. The Head of the CCF is also allowed to carry a Pace stick.
  • Younger Purples: A tradition in which a certain member of each house (traditionally the shortest person is chosen) are given the purple gown on days when it is a charity non uniform day. This allows the designated person to exercise the rights of the Purples.
  • Green Court Privilege: Only those in 6a (the final year) are allowed to walk across Green Court; everyone else must walk around it.

King's Week festival

A festival of arts, held during the last week of the summer term,[6] introduced by Fred Shirley. The week culminates in Commemoration day (known as "commem day") on the last day of the school year when the school leavers in 6a wear court dress and the whole school attends a service to commemorate the school benefactors.

Office of Fair Trading investigation

In 2005, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) provisionally found that the school exchanged detailed information about prospective fee increases with approximately 50 other prominent UK independent schools, including Eton and Sevenoaks.[7] The OFT stated that "regular and systematic exchange of confidential information as to intended fee increases was anti-competitive and resulted in parents being charged higher fees than would otherwise have been the case."

Alumni (Old King's Scholars (OKS))

The Junior King's School, Canterbury

The King's School also has a feeder preparatory school, the Junior King's School (JKS), previously Milner Court Preparatory School. The school, is a coeducational boarding and day establishment, and currently has around 425 pupils, ages 3 to 13. Whilst there are boarding facilities available, the number of day pupils greatly outweighs the number of boarding pupils. JKS is now located at Milner Court in Sturry, however it was originally based in the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral, the current site was donated by Lady Milner following the death of Lord (Alfred) Milner in 1925. The buildings on site were opened by Rudyard Kipling in 1929, a great friend of Lord (Alfred) Milner.[8] Further extensions include a Sports Hall (1999) and a CDT block (1991).

See also



  1. ^ Shishi Middle School in China claims a foundation c.142 BC but this is disputed owing to a gap in its functioning.
  2. ^ but note Shishi's claim above


  1. ^ 597 AND ALL THAT: A Brief History of the King’s School, Canterbury
  2. ^ 2011 Inspection.
  3. ^ Good Schools Guide.
  4. ^ Houses
  5. ^ Kadish, Sharman (2002). "Constructing Identity: Anglo-Jewry and Synagogue Architecture".  
  6. ^ King's Week.
  7. ^ Press release, Office of Fair Trading, UK, 9 November 2005.
  8. ^

External links

  • The Official King's School website
  • Profile at the Good Schools Guide
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