Taunton School Main Building at Dusk

Awards & Reviews

We are incredibly proud of our school, the students and the staff, so when this is recognised by external judges and organisations, it becomes an indication of our excellence. Taunton School has been shortlisted and won a number of awards over the recent years. Read about some of them here:

  • Muddy Stilettos award for outstanding pastoral care – Commended
  • Muddy Stilettos award for originality in teaching of music and the arts – Finalist
  • TES award for boarding school of the year – Finalist
  • TES award for best Business Leader – Finalist
  • Boarding Schools’ Association award for well-being & mental health initiative – Finalist
  • Independent Schools of the Year award for best international school – Shortlisted, Finalist
  • Independent Schools of the Year award for best sports school – Shortlisted, Finalist
  • Independent Schools of the Year award for best careers initiative – Shortlisted, Finalist
  • Independent Schools of the Year award for best boarding school – Shortlisted
  • StudyTravel Award for best European secondary school – Finalist
  • Placed seventh in the latest Top 200 Sports Schools list by School Sport Magazine
  • ST Secondary School Awards – Winner


Good Schools Guide 2022

“In 20 years of visiting schools this writer had never heard so many plaudits about the quality of care”

Alongside winning and being shortlisted for awards, Taunton School has also been recognised by independent directories for its down-to-earth attitude and excellent pastoral care, amongst other things. The 2022 review of Taunton School by the Good Schools Guide portrays the high standards of education received in all areas of the campus. Read the full reviews of both the Prep and Senior schools below.

Good Schools Guide Senior School Review

What The Good Schools Guide says


Since September 2022, James Johnson, previously head of senior school at Ardingly College in West Sussex. Educated at Radley College, UCL, where he read English, and Trinity College Dublin, where he did an MPhil in Anglo-English literature. After a PGCE at the University of Cambridge, he spent three years at Cheltenham College, then taught English at Tonbridge, coaching the first XV rugby team, directing plays and becoming a housemaster along the way. He spent six years at Ardingly, first as senior deputy head and then as head of senior school.

He’s ‘a bit allergic’ to being asked to distil Taunton’s USP into a snappy catchphrase but tells parents that the school ‘will look after your child, fulfil their academic potential and give them a host of co-curricular opportunities’. He’s proud of the fact that the school is genuinely pioneering and forward-thinking. In 1974 it was one of the first single-sex independent schools to go co-ed (it’s currently 55 per cent boys, 45 per cent girls) and in 1996 became the first to open an international school on its site.

He doesn’t teach at the moment – he was only a few weeks into his role at the time of our visit – but hopes to in the future. He’s already made a positive impression on the pupils. ‘They rate him really highly,’ a parent told us. ’My children are in the sixth form and they say he’s approachable, really easy to talk to and really kind. He’s the right head with the right skillset.’ Another described him as ‘engaged and dynamic’. A third mentioned a recent assembly where he spoke about the importance of ‘kindness, humility and engagement’. ‘The pupils have got these great opportunities and he wants them to grasp them with both hands,’ she added. The sixth formers we spoke to concurred. ‘We meet him once a week,’ said the head of student voice. ‘He’s very open to listening.’

Married to Rachel, a paediatric neuropsychologist at Great Ormond Street Hospital, with two children, both at the prep school. In his spare time he enjoys going to National Trust properties, exercise (‘it’s my non-thinking time’) and reads as much as he can. When we visited he’d just finished Sally Rooney’s Beautiful World, Where Are You and wasn’t convinced that her work would stand the test of time. Asked about his favourite books, he immediately recommended Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane and The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber. As an English teacher he can’t bear business jargon – particularly phrases like ‘blue sky thinking’, ‘granular’ and ‘deep dives’. ‘It brings me out in hives,’ he laughs. ‘I’m frustrated by arcane or oblique language that excludes others.’ His antipathy to business-speak was so well-known at Ardingly that colleagues jokingly presented him with a picture featuring his most loathed phrases when he left.


No entrance exam – entrance is based on an interview (in person, where possible), report and reference. ‘You have to be academically competent and a student we can work with,’ says the deputy head academic. Years 9, 10 and 12 are the usual entrance points but it’s possible to join at other times if they’ve got room. Around 70 pupils join year 9 from the prep each year, plus 20 to 25 from state schools, preps and abroad. Waiting lists for several year groups at the moment. Fifty to 60 arrive in year 12, from local state schools, other independent schools and Taunton School International. Sixth form applicants need at least five grade 5s at GCSE (assessment tests for those not taking recognised exams).


A fifth leave after GCSE, some for the local sixth form college. At 18, pretty much all progress to university, half to the Russell Group. Popular destinations include Imperial, Cardiff, Exeter, Edinburgh, Queen Mary London, Lancaster, Reading and Durham. Most favoured courses currently are STEM, business and management and sports science. The school is a national SAT centre and some students head to the US, choosing places like Harvard and UCLA. A handful to study medicine, dentistry and veterinary science (two in 2022); sometimes a few to Oxbridge (none in 2022). Plenty of guidance for pupils opting for vocational training or apprenticeships too.

Latest results

In 2022, 43 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 38 per cent A*/A at A level (66 per cent A*-B); 96 per cent distinction* or distinction in BTEC. Average IB point score of 34.3. In 2019 (the last pre-pandemic results), 43 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 37 per cent A*/A at A level (67 per cent A*-B).

Teaching and learning

Taunton is one of the only schools in the country to offer four different pathways for sixth formers. Pupils at the senior school can choose from A levels, the IB and BTECs while on the north side of the campus Taunton School International (for 16 to 18-year-olds) runs a pre-foundation year. This gives international students who are interested in business and economics the chance to gain the skills and qualifications to move on to the NCUK international foundation year, which prepares them for business-related undergraduate degrees. As well as Taunton School International there’s also Taunton School International Middle School for 13 to 16-year-olds, which offers a pre-GCSE programme and one or two-year GCSE/pre-IB programmes.

Two-thirds of sixth formers do A levels (24 subjects to choose from), up to a quarter opt for the IB and others take BTECs in sport and exercise science and/or business. Some do the EPQ as well. Most A level combinations are possible – within reason and subject to timetable constraints. Maths is the most popular A level subject, followed by psychology, business and biology. Maximum class sizes of 24 in years 9 to 11, but likely to be fewer than that, especially in optional subjects like Latin and music. Most take nine GCSEs. French, German, Spanish and Italian offered, plus Russian and Chinese for native speakers. A third take triple science at GCSE, the rest do combined science. Setting in maths from year 9, although the school ‘avoids sink sets’ and doesn’t number them.

The school still has Saturday school – ‘it opens up the rest of the week,’ says the head, a firm believer in giving pupils time to pursue their co-curricular interests. Pupils meet their year group tutors three times a week and say they feel well supported academically. Parents are kept in the loop too – the school sends pupils’ attainment and effort grades out every three weeks. The scholars’ programme is very active, with regular lectures and workshops. Wonderful new library, a modern space cleverly crafted within a 19th century building, complete with chic wavy shelves, comfortable sofas, newspapers and individual study pods, each with their own light and thesaurus. The careers department is just along the corridor – pupils of all ages can make appointments with careers staff, who also open their events to local state schools.

Learning support and SEN

Known as educational progress here, the eight-strong team offers support for pupils with dyslexia, dyspraxia, ASD and ADHD. ‘We don’t see ourselves as a SEND specialism school but we’re really proud of the support we provide,’ says the deputy head academic. The parent of a dyslexic child told us her son had ‘blossomed’ since joining the school. ‘He is achieving because he knows everyone at Taunton believes in him,’ she said. ‘They see the positives and strengths in all the children. It has been life-changing – we feel as if we have come home.’ EAL is housed in a brand-new department – international students have timetabled EAL lessons.

The arts and extracurricular

Breadth is the name of the game at Taunton, whether it’s playing chess, joining the Investment Club, taking part in a drama festival or doing DofE, the Ten Tors Challenge and CCF (CCF is compulsory in year 10 but voluntary after that). The regular school day runs from 8.20am to 5.30pm – lessons end at 3pm but everyone does games or co-curricular activities till 5.30pm.

The music offer is extensive, with pupils performing in everything from chamber music ensembles to big musicals. The busy drama department offers GCSE drama and A level theatre studies and anyone can audition for theatrical productions. Rehearsals for A Christmas Carol were in full swing when we visited. The brand-new theatre, with retractable seating for up to 200, stages a variety of productions, lectures and debates, many of them student-led. ‘The debates get quite fiery,’ laughed a sixth former. The art department is vibrant and exciting – we spotted vast, multi-coloured oils and a mannequin wearing an outfit made entirely from plastic bags. Around 24 take GCSE art every year, 15 take A level and a few do visual arts as part of the IB. ‘They can go in whatever direction they want,’ said the head of art, who reckons that learning to do a quick sketch is an invaluable life skill. DT is equally popular, with masses of sophisticated kit – you name it, they’ve got it – and ambitions to inspire the next generation of designers and problem solvers.


Make no bones about it, this is a very sporty school, with a host of awards, prizes and sporting achievements to its name over the years. Superbly equipped, with everything on site, including three indoor sports venues, eight netball courts, two AstroTurfs, dance studio, fitness suite, squash courts, a climbing wall and lots of games pitches. Coaching from top-class names like former England batsman Marcus Trescothick, former Somerset assistant coach Pete Sanderson, who is director of cricket, and Lisa Manley, former England netball development squad manager, who is head of netball. No wonder pupils regularly progress to regional and national level in numerous sports.

Everyone plays sport at least twice a week – and some do way more than that – but our sixth form guides insisted that there are loads of options for the less sporty. ‘There is an expectation that everyone tries,’ said one boy. ‘I knew rugby wasn’t for me so now I do table tennis and go the gym. The most important thing is that we are physically active.’ Another sixth former told us: ‘If you don’t like a particular sport you can talk to the head of sport and choose something else.’ Swimming is a strength of the school, with a dedicated head of swimming development and programmes for all ability levels.


The school has eleven houses (six day and five boarding) and half of pupils board (full and a handful of weekly boarders). We visited Weirfield, a boarding house for 64 girls, at break-time and found exuberant pupils happily chatting and making toast, supervised by one of the coolest matrons we’ve met, wearing cream dungarees. ‘Comfort is key,’ she laughed. Most Weirfield girls are full boarders and we got the impression that there’s never a dull moment, whether they’re doing Just Dance, where they dance in front of a vast screen, Fun Fridays, Sweetie Sushi or baking cakes for charity. Younger girls are in rooms or two or three (they change rooms every half term) while most sixth formers get their own space. ‘It’s been amazing,’ a sixth former told us. ‘I felt so welcome the minute I got here.’ There are countless house competitions but the most eagerly contested is the house song. ‘The pupils do it all themselves,’ said the housemistress. ‘They are responsible for getting 64 girls to learn the words and harmonies in 24 hours.’

Each house is staffed by a resident housemistress or housemaster (they’re all teachers too), assistant housemistress or housemaster, resident tutor, house tutors and a matron. At Fairwater, one of the boys’ houses, there was a lot less bunting (actually, none at all) and no fairy lights, but it was warm and welcoming, with the majority of younger boys in shipshape rooms of two or three, each with bunk beds and desks underneath. Busy weekend schedule, with trips to nearby Bath and Exeter, films, paintballing, surfing and sport. This isn’t a school where boarding houses empty out on Saturday afternoons.

Ethos and heritage

Founded in 1847 as the West of England Dissenters’ Proprietary School, the school was situated at nearby Wellington Road but later moved to the Fairwater Estate at the north end of Taunton – purchased in 1867 for the princely sum of £5,475. The campus stretches to 56 acres and includes the nursery and pre-prep, prep school, senior school and Taunton School International (Taunton School International Middle School has its own campus three miles away). The school’s central neo-gothic building, with a distinctive clock tower overlooking a swathe of playing fields, is very much the focal point.

There have been countless additions over the years – from The Guvvy, a new sixth form centre with study pods, social area and gender-neutral loos, to the Green Heart project, a landscaped space in the centre of the school with trees, plants, benches and sensory areas to promote pupils’ wellbeing.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

Of all the school’s attributes, pastoral care stands first and foremost. In 20 years of visiting schools this writer had never heard so many plaudits about the quality of care. We heard stories of teachers and non-teachers going the extra mile to support pupils – and other family members too. ‘The pastoral side is phenomenal,’ a parent told us. ‘I can’t speak highly enough of them.’ We were particularly struck by the students’ own appreciation for the school’s approach to wellbeing – they feel listened to, encouraged and understood. A sixth former who joined in year 10 said: ‘I didn’t have a very positive experience at my last school and this place has given me sanctuary.’ Another commented: ‘This school is somewhere that I really wanted to be.’ Meanwhile a parent told us: ‘The kids are really happy here. As a parent you want them to fulfil their potential, be happy and be part of a community – and it’s big ticks for all of that at Taunton. It’s high achieving but it’s got its feet firmly on the ground.’

The health centre is impressive, open 24/7 to support pupils’ physical, emotional and social needs and very clued-up about issues that today’s youngsters might face. ‘It’s a really integral part of what we offer,’ says the senior deputy head. ‘We are a talking school and monitoring all concerns is integral to our culture.’ Staffed by eight qualified nurses, three matrons, two mental health nurses, a physiotherapist and a counsellor, the centre is overseen by a paediatric nurse with extensive school experience. New pupils meet health centre staff on their very first day so they know exactly where to go if they need help or want to talk. Regular webinars keep parents up to date about everything from social media to issues related to the nationwide Everyone’s Invited revelations and there’s lots of emphasis on healthy eating, sleep, fresh air and exercise. Older pupils train as peer mentors.

Strict policies on mobile phones. Year 9 to 11 pupils must hand them in between 8.20am and 5pm and after 9.30pm but sixth formers have more leeway. ‘We have very clear boundaries,’ says the senior deputy head. A plethora of opportunities for pupils to air their views – as well as two heads of school and two deputy heads of school there’s a head of student voice. The school is very community minded, opening its sports facilities to primary schools, fundraising for charity and running STEM events for local children.

The school is a multi-faith community but everyone attends chapel at least twice a week – for the chaplain’s weekly service, head’s assembly and singing on Saturday mornings. Smart navy, gender-neutral uniform, with either school or house ties. Sixth formers are expected to look formal, so most wear suits, chinos and jackets or tailored dresses. Vast dining hall with stylish tables and chairs, divided into senior school and prep school sections. Food gets the thumbs-up – lots of choice and all cultural and dietary requirements accommodated. We were impressed to see jugs of lemon and rosemary-infused water on offer at lunchtime. Pupils can also buy items like panini and sushi at the school shop.

Pupils and parents

Day pupils come from up to an hour away, with the school running coaches and minibuses from as far afield as Exeter, Minehead, Sidmouth and Weston-super-Mare. Some UK boarders are from military families while others come from the south west, south east and London.

The school is well known for its global outlook and around 30 per cent of pupils are international – 53 different nationalities across the schools (38 nationalities in the senior school), from countries like Hong Kong, Italy, China, Thailand, Germany and Ukraine, plus a few French students whose parents work for EDF at Hinkley Point. ‘The international element is part of the school’s DNA, bringing an understanding of different nationalities and cultures,’ says the head.

Money matters

Scholarships available for students entering year 9 and year 12 (academic, art, DT, drama, computer science, music, sports and all-rounder). The school spends just under £3 million a year on means-tested remissions. ‘We are pretty generous in our bursaries,’ says the head, who is passionate about social diversity. ‘There is a genuine economic breadth here – from families who can comfortably afford the fees to those who pay no fees at all. We are very confident that we are doing more to justify charitable status than most and the school has a genuine mix of students from quite a wide range of backgrounds – one of the reasons I applied. It makes the school a wonderful place to work in.’

The last word

Down-to-earth, diverse and caring, this is a top-notch all-rounder school where youngsters can get stuck into their studies, sport, the performing arts and all manner of co-curricular pursuits. Pupils and parents wax lyrical about the place – and it’s easy to see why.

Good Schools Guide Prep School Review

What The Good Schools Guide says


Since 2017, Andrew Edwards BA PGCE, previously head of Park School in Bournemouth. He studied French and German at the University of Manchester before becoming a lawyer in the City. After two years as a solicitor he realised that law wasn’t for him so he bundled his sports kit, French text books and cello into the boot of his ancient Nissan Cherry and became a peripatetic teacher until he was snapped up by Cottesmore School in West Sussex. He was head of modern languages at Port Regis for six years and then director of studies and head of modern languages at Castle Court in Dorset. A keen sportsman and musician, he has also taught the cello and tennis.

Energetic and committed, he teaches French to a year 6 set, leads the whole school chess club, visits a form during registration every morning to make sure he knows every pupil and leaves his study door ajar so children can come and talk to him if they wish. ‘The school had several heads in a short space of time so what it desperately needed when I arrived was a period of calm consistency,’ he says. ‘It was about ensuring we had the right ethos, values and structures in place and that respect and kindness are at the heart of everything we do.’ He’s hugely proud of the school and says: ‘The whole place is ambitious and aspirational but pupils here are free to be themselves. They aren’t struggling to fit a mould that has been externally imposed on them.’ The approach is clearly working. The parents of a new pupil told him recently: ‘We have got a different child on our hands. She gets up happy in the morning and is excited about coming to school.’ Parents say he is accessible and responsible and praise the team around him too.

An ISI inspector for 20 years, he’s outside every morning to greet the children and has seen the school grow by 20 per cent during his time as head. Married to Robyn, a specialist teacher in the prep’s educational progress department, with two sons.


Non-selective. Children are invited in for a taster day and to meet the head. The prep also seeks a report and reference from their current school. Some start in the nursery and go all the way through but others join in years 3 and 7 – and at other points along the way.


Virtually everyone heads to the senior school, often with scholarships and awards (a total of 45 in 2022). Year 7 and 8 pupils have some lessons at the senior school so by the time they get there in year 9 they are ‘definitely ready’.

Our view

Founded in 1994 following the merger of the girls’ and boys’ junior schools, the prep sits on its own self-contained campus next to the senior school on the northern outskirts of town. Its buildings are a mix of Victorian and more modern, all ultra spick and span. As we walked into the main playground we were greeted by the newly appointed wellbeing mentor, a former teacher who’s out and about at break and lunchtime, keeping an eye on everybody, chatting to children, recommending books and handing out wellbeing cards and messages. She has regular meetings with the heads of pastoral care to discuss what she’s picked up from pupils. ‘I’ve never seen her without a smile on her face,’ said one girl.

Pastoral care here is exemplary – posters everywhere detailing who children can go to for help ¬(their tutors, pastoral heads of year, independent person, wellbeing mentor and health centre staff, including mental health nurses, counsellors and a physiotherapist), walks and talks with the chaplain, weekly PSHE lessons and the TPS mission. The latter is a 12-spoke wheel of key values which involves pupils self-assessing with their tutors how strong they feel in areas of personal development, such as confidence, positivity, resilience and respect. ‘They use the word “nurturing” a lot,’ a parent told us. ‘I’m not a fluffy, cotton-wool type of mum but the school feels like coming home. It’s inclusive, welcoming and very unpretentious.’

Academically, the prep is a very safe pair of hands across the board – staff want children to be challenged but not feel pressurised. Average class sizes of 18 and setting in English, maths, science and languages for older pupils. French taught from year 3, plus Spanish or German from year 7. Everyone does Latin or classical civilisation from year 7 too. The lessons we saw were exciting and engaging, with children focused and happy. Year 5s were developing their coding skills on mini-computers, year 6s were learning about Gamelan, an Indonesian ensemble of percussion instruments, and year 7s were examining the structure of flowers under microscopes in science.

The focus throughout is on handwritten work but from spring 2023 the school is introducing a designated device scheme (laptops and tablets) to enhance teaching and learning. Sensible amounts of homework – from reading and times tables in year 3 to an hour’s prep a night for year 8s. The school does standardised tests to track the children’s progress and the average pupil is in the top 20 in the country for English and maths. ‘It speaks volumes for the value-added we bring,’ says the head.

Around 10 per cent of pupils have learning support (known as educational progress here), mostly for dyslexia, dyscalculia and working memory and processing speed issues. ‘For anything more serious we may not be the right school,’ says the head. A four-strong learning support team (a SENCO and three specialist teachers) offer one-to-one support. They include a reading success coordinator who supports children in years 3 to 6 with phonics and reading. EAL is provided one-to-one or in small groups.

The nursery (babies from six months) and pre-prep are housed in a separate building, with classrooms opening on to a vast playground. ‘We’re a self-contained pre-prep but we have all the benefits of the huge campus,’ said the head of the pre-prep. Lots of outdoor play – wellies are part of children’s kit, there are two forest school areas and more than 40 bikes to play on. The pre-prep buzzes with activity. When we visited the year 2 topic was London so children were busy comparing buildings in Taunton to London landmarks, learning about the Great Fire of London and making facsimiles of Pudding Lane houses out of cardboard. We loved the fact that a group of year 8 dance scholars visit the nursery and pre-prep once a week to lead a wake up and shake up session in the playground first thing in the morning. ‘It used to be run by a year 1 teacher and when she retired the dance scholars stepped in,’ a parent told us. ‘They have responsibility for it and come up with age-appropriate dance moves for the children. Parents can join in too.’

Like its senior counterpart, the prep is incredibly sporty, with a string of accolades to its name. In 2022 the under-13 boys won the IAPS national prep schools championships in hockey and cricket and scooped the English Schools Swimming Association title in the freestyle relay. Meanwhile the under-13 girls won the independent schools West of England hockey championship and two boys were declared official world champions in the biathle and triathle. The pupils are impressively modest about their achievements – we chatted with one of the winning boys a couple of days later and he didn’t even mention his success. As well as other triumphs in rugby, cross-country running, athletics, shooting, golf and riding, 12 prep pupils were part of a Taunton School team that swam the English Channel, braving freezing water and jellyfish to help save a local community pool from closure.

The prep has the advantages of being able to use the senior school’s facilities but it also has its own sports hall, 25-metre swimming pool, tennis and netball courts and sports pitches. Even though there’s so much sporting excellence the emphasis is very much on inclusion and every child gets the chance to represent the school. ‘It’s really important that everybody feels included,’ says the head. Cricket is the girls’ main summer sport and they can play football and rugby if they choose. Some top-notch coaches here – former England batsman Marcus Trescothick coaches cricket, as does former Somerset assistant coach Pete Sanderson, director of cricket for the whole school. Every pupil belongs to a house and there are lots of inter-house competitions. ‘It means they all have mates in different year groups,’ said a parent.

Like sport, music is for everyone. Years 3 and 4 get a music taster programme to try different instruments they’d like to play and the junior choir is open to all. Nearly half the pupils have instrumental lessons and keen musicians showcase their talents in year group concerts, house music week, performing arts evenings and much more. The performing arts are all about ‘having a go’, whatever your year group. The prep has its own performing arts theatre and stages a plethora of productions – everything from drama to dance and from Hansel and Gretel to the fun-sounding Pirates of the Curry Bean. Art is engaging and fun, led by an inspiring teacher who gets children to create lino cuts of bugs in rainbow colours, design optical illusions and paint their own self portraits.

The prep offers wrap-around care. Children can arrive at 7.45am (they are supervised by teachers) and registration is at 8.15am. The school day ends at 3.50pm but the vast majority do clubs (a choice of 50 activities, ranging from eco club and model making to climbing and long-distance swimming) or supervised homework till 5.15pm. Some stay on till 5.45pm and a few have supper with the boarders and go home at 6.45pm. Saturday school for years 7 and 8 on 22 Saturdays a year but years 3 to 6 have optional Saturday enrichment activities (more than half choose take up the offer). Day pupils come from a 360-degree radius, some using the extensive school bus network from places like Exeter, Minehead, Sidmouth and Weston-super-Mare.

Pupils, from a range of professional, business, military and farming families, are delightful. We lunched with a group of year 7 and 8 children and amidst the chatter they spotted that we didn’t have the right cutlery. Without being asked, they jumped up, dashed across the dining room and found some. They’re proactive in every sense – year 6s act as playground champions and year 8 playground ambassadors wear rainbow lanyards so if a younger pupil wants to chat about how they are feeling they know who to go to. ‘The prep is pretty awesome,’ one told us. Parents are equally happy. ‘We looked round a lot of schools and this was the only one where we were shown round by the children – two year 8 boys. We came away thinking that if our boys turned out like them then “yes please, job done.”’ Smart navy uniform – with pupils sporting lots of badges, denoting that they’re head of house, performing arts leaders, science leaders or members of the school council.


Boarders live in the newly-refurbished Thone House, one of the main buildings in the heart of the school, with 32 girls on the first floor and 24 boys on the second (56 full boarders in all). Six international boarders from all over the world, including Thailand, Ireland, Ghana, Switzerland, Spain and Mexico, as well as a number of children from forces families, some based at home, others abroad. Boarding from the age of 7 (when we visited there were two year 3 boarders). The 12-strong boarding team is led by an experienced husband-and-wife team who have two children at the senior school and one at the prep. ‘We want boarding to be an extension of their own families,’ says the head of boarding, who boarded from the age of 9 herself. One parent described the school’s boarding provision as its ‘X factor’. ‘My children are so unbelievably settled there,’ she said. ‘If they ever have a problem, nothing is ever left to fester. The boarding staff are on it straight away.’

We were shown round by three smiley boarders who proudly showed us wholesome, cosy dorms of between two and six, the hub where they play games and socialise, an IT suite and girls’ and boys’ lounges. A prize for the tidiest dorm is fiercely contested ¬– whoever wins gets pizza delivered to the house at the end of term. Sensible rules on mobile phones – older ones are allowed them for a maximum of 50 minutes a day, younger ones get up to 30 minutes.

Money matters

A variety of 11+ scholarships for children entering year 7, including academic, sports, art, music, dance, drama and design.

The last word

Down-to-earth, caring and quietly ambitious, this is a terrific all-rounder school that offers excellence in everything from academics to sport. Pupils are happy and cared-for and clearly love their time here.

Student Testimonials

Although reviews from inspectors, organisations and awarding boards are important, what our students think of us and how their education has impacted them is at the heart of what we do at Taunton School. Here are some recent student testimonials.

“On the first day when I was very nervous and didn’t know what to expect, all of the staff really helped me and they have taken good care of me ever since. I quickly made friends with other children as they were all so friendly and welcoming. Anyone coming to TSIMS will like it very much because the teachers are so brilliant. After just one month, my English was so much better and I am now confident at introducing myself.” – Thaloengkiat, Student at Taunton School International Middle School

“I really liked how the coursework element helped me to learn how to study independently. I’ve learned how to manage my time wisely and have learned about time management generally. Both of these are going to be vital when I go to the University of Reading. The teachers at Taunton School have been incredibly supportive.” – Jarry, International Foundation Year student at Taunton School International

“I am completely indebted to Taunton School” – Charlie, scholarship student at Taunton School

“What makes Taunton School special is the love we share for one another” – Jonny, student at Taunton Prep School

Talk Education 2023

“A school with fantastic assets and a grounded outlook, Taunton is unique in being able to cater for children from six months to 18 years old.”

Taunton School was recently reviewed by the independent school reviewer; Talk Education. They were impressed by the academic and co-curricular offering of both the Prep and Senior Schools and credited the four different curriculum pathways available in the Sixth Form.

Read the full reviews below.

Talk Education Senior School Review

Our view

A proudly inclusive school that excels in academics as well as co-curricular subjects, Taunton Senior School offers families a compelling all-through educational experience with children moving seamlessly from pre-prep to prep to senior school, meaning parents don’t have to worry about multiple school locations as their children move up the years. This is just one of its strengths in an area with plenty of independent schools vying for pupils. Others include its sporting reputation – it’s been voted seventh best school in the country for sport – its noteworthy Combined Cadet Force which is the largest in the south-west, and its four different curriculum pathways after GCSEs.


The school is located in a leafy residential area of Taunton not far from Somerset County Cricket Club’s grounds – at night, you can see the floodlights twinkling. The 56-acre campus incorporates a mix of old and new buildings that are tasteful and functional rather than imposing. Sports grounds are to the front and the rear, with a few extra pitches across the road.

London Paddington is just one hour 50 minutes away which makes weekend exeats convenient for London families. Day pupils are served by 11 bus routes that run as far as Exeter, Glastonbury, Sidmouth and Yeovil.


Although the pre-prep, prep and very successful international schools are located on two separate sites with their own Heads, James Johnson has oversight of all the Taunton schools and works with tireless purpose. Engaging and full of energy, he is passionate about what Taunton offers. It’s ‘unpretentious but aspirational’, he says, a place where inclusivity and diversity are more important than grandeur. Mr Johnson comes from a family of teachers and he was head of senior school at Ardingly College before joining Taunton in September 2022. He says he wants the school to ‘add more value than anyone else’ and is acutely aware of the area’s competitive market but sees that as a challenge: ‘We must be excellent. There is no room for complacency.’ He’s joined a school which has already completed the building of a new dining hall, with separate sections for the prep and for the senior school, an amazing new sixth-form centre and an impressive library. Other plans include moving the international school onto the main school site.


Children do not have to undergo any formal testing to get a place but a one hour, online cognitive ability screening assessment gives the school the necessary information before arrival. Pupils visit, have a face-to-face interview if possible, after which they can opt to come for a taster day and if they’re considering boarding can come for a sleepover to experience what it’s like.

Nearly all of the prep pupils join the senior school, with around 20 or so new children coming from other feeder schools. After GCSEs, around 35 pupils will leave, usually for sixth-form colleges, while 60 or 70 new students will start. To join the sixth form, pupils are expected to get five GCSE passes at grades 9-5.

Academics and destinations

The school gets outstanding results – in 2022, 92 per cent gained a grade 9-4 at GCSE and in A-level, IB and BTEC, 48 per cent of all grades were A* or A. The school is unusual in offering so many pathways at 16+ and it works hard to find the right route for each child. Generally, class sizes are around 20 for core GCSE subjects and the average size in the sixth form is between 10 and 12.

Pupils are expertly guided by the careers department, which helps them explore all the options for when they finish school – be that university, the armed forces, apprenticeships or internships. The vast majority (94 per cent) go to university or colleges, both in the UK and overseas. In the past 10 years, the school has sent more than 40 students to Oxbridge.


The school is well known for its sporting prowess, regularly taking on competitive teams and winning, but the focus is on inclusiveness, with everyone getting an opportunity to shine. The usual sports are all on offer as well as a broad range of the not-so-usual, including rowing, boxing, taekwondo and rock climbing.

D&T and art are strengths at this school. The D&T rooms are modern and fully equipped with laser cutters, 3D printers and spray booths. There’s a hi-tech music studio too, and pupils have individual music lessons and can take part in weekly teatime concerts, among other regular performances.

Drama is inclusive, with open auditions that don’t just favour the leavers. The school stages a drama and a musical every year. Pupils talked about how they like it that teachers share out the big roles so everyone gets a chance to be in the spotlight.


The five boarding houses are all on site and in close proximity which makes for a very sociable community of boarders – although house loyalty is strong, especially when it comes to house singing.

Pupils pop back at breaktimes for toast (or waffles as they were eating on our visit) and constantly bump into each other at weekends. Saturday school finishes at 12.35pm and optional trips are organised on Sundays. The houses also arrange their own Sunday activities – Big Brunch is particularly popular.

There are three houses for the boys and two for the girls. Each has a kitchen-diner, sitting room and ICT suite, all tastefully decorated. Bedrooms are happy spaces that pupils have personalised. The younger children share with one or two others and roommates change each term. By the time they reach upper sixth, students get their own room.

At the moment, around half the boarders come from overseas and the majority of the UK pupils board full-time; flexi isn’t an option and not many are weekly. They’re all well looked after with each house assigned a boarding parent, an assistant and two graduate assistants.

School community 

The school is the right size so that no one gets lost and, between form tutors, houseparents (there are six day houses as well as the five boarding houses), peer mentors, a mental health nurse and therapy dogs, pupils’ pastoral care is in very safe hands.

The parent body is diverse and the parents’ association puts on events throughout the year to raise funds and give families an opportunity to mix socially.

And finally….

A school with fantastic assets and a grounded outlook, Taunton is unique in being able to cater for children from six months to 18 years old and, with its international arm, from all over the world. It makes for a vibrant and diverse community, and the absence of repeated testing means pupils and parents can relax and enjoy the Taunton journey.

Talk Education Prep School Review

Our View

Taunton Prep offers families a compelling all-through school experience, with siblings moving easily between the pre-prep, prep and senior schools with no exam pressure. The prep’s campus sits in the middle and feels spacious with its own half of a brand new dining hall and dedicated performing arts centre. The school is proudly inclusive with top-notch co-curricular credentials. A real all-rounder, it stands its ground against other competitors in the area.


The school is located in a leafy residential area of Taunton not far from Somerset County Cricket Club’s grounds – at night, you can see the floodlights twinkling. The 56-acre campus incorporates a mix of old and new buildings that are tasteful and functional rather than imposing. Sports grounds are to the front and the rear, with a few extra pitches across the road.London Paddington is just one hour 50 minutes away which makes weekend exeats convenient for London families. Day pupils are served by 11 bus routes that run as far as Exeter, Glastonbury, Sidmouth and Yeovil.


James Johnson is the head of all the Taunton schools – including a very successful international school located on two separate sites – and works with tireless purpose. Engaging and full of energy, he is passionate about what Taunton offers. It’s ‘unpretentious but aspirational’, he says, a place where inclusivity and diversity are more important than grandeur. Mr Johnson comes from a family of teachers and was head of senior school at Ardingly College before joining Taunton. He says he wants the school to ‘add more value than anyone else’ and is acutely aware of the area’s competitive market but sees that as a challenge: ‘We must be excellent. There is no room for complacency.’ Mr Johnson is ably supported by the head of prep Andrew Edwards and Mr Edwards’ deputy Chris Coleman.


Pupils do not have to undergo any formal testing to join. Children come for a taster day and if they’re considering boarding can have a sleepover to experience what it’s like (bed space permitting).

Academics and senior school destinations

Pupils enjoy a creative, topic-based curriculum that really brings subjects alive. On our visit, they were studying the Romans, which spanned subjects including history, geography (volcanos), art (ancient architecture) and English. Reading is encouraged with millionaire challenges and book vouchers up for grabs. Children learn French from Reception to Year 6, at which point they choose two languages from Spanish, German, Latin or French. All years have one drama and one music lesson per week. From Year 5, science is taught in purpose-built labs and setting for maths and English starts. Pupils are set for science from Year 6, and Years 7 and 8 study the three separate sciences following the national curriculum with extra enhancement – they have a self-funded eco-club where they sell honey from their bees. Class sizes are 18 on average with a cap of 20. Nearly all of the prep pupils join the senior school.


The school is well known for its sporting prowess, regularly taking on competitive teams and winning, but the focus is on inclusiveness, with everyone getting an opportunity to shine. The usual sports are on offer along with many less traditional ones, including pistol shooting – there’s a shooting range on site that is shared with the senior school. Swimming is strong with two pools in the grounds and close ties with Taunton Deane swimming club. Surfing and skiing trips are hugely popular.

The performing arts centre houses specialist music rooms, a music tech suite and practice rooms, with pupils able to take part in orchestras, choirs, bands and ensembles, as well as two big music concerts and one dance show (the centre also has a dance studio) every year.

The drama department is busy too. In Year 4, children go off timetable for a week to put on a play, the Year 6s stage a pre-Christmas production and Year 8s do a show after summer exams. Pupils enjoy art in a bright studio which was decorated with some brilliant pop art creations by the Year 7s on our visit. D&T has a huge, dedicated room where the Year 8s were busy creating desk tidies.


The mixed boarding house, Thone House, feels more like a home with large windows, light and airy dorms the children can personalise and a communal kitchen that acts as the hub of the house. Pupils have device lockers with times on the doors for when they can use their phones – half an hour for the younger children, rising to just under an hour for Year 8s. There are currently 56 full-time boarders who are cared for by head of boarding Kath Wells and her husband with a team of assistants and graduate helpers. There is a big emphasis on family with siblings all housed under the same roof.

School community

Form tutors regularly have contact with parents as part of a school-pupil-parent triangle to ensure each child’s wellbeing is looked after. There is also a wellbeing mentor who is based in the playground. Senior pupils help out at the school, running activities and interacting with all the Year 8s who are assigned leadership roles.

The parent body is diverse and the parents’ association puts on events throughout the year to raise funds and give families an opportunity to mix socially.

And finally….

A school with fantastic assets and a grounded outlook, Taunton is unique in being able to cater for children from six months to 18 years old and, with its international arm, from all over the world. It makes for a vibrant and diverse community, and the absence of repeated testing means pupils and parents can relax and enjoy the Taunton journey.