Welcome to Wells Cathedral Senior School, a school with a rich and long history, whilst very much looking to the future.
This page describes some of the many opportunities that our school offers, although it can never fully capture the unique atmosphere that makes Wells what it is. We hope you will visit us to discover for yourself why Wells is such a special place.
At Wells we aim to provide all pupils with a family environment within a kind and caring community where they can be happy, healthy and, most importantly, who they are. With the houses situated in the heart of the school, this warm atmosphere extends into the day to day life of every student making Wells not just a school but a home.
Our purpose is to ensure all members of our community have a sense of belonging and are contented, balanced and confident individuals who have the necessary tools to live safe, joyful and fulfilling lives. We understand growing up is a learning process – young adults will make mistakes and need to be allowed to learn from them in a safe, supportive environment. We seek to make sure that all members of the community have a high level of spiritual awareness, emotional intelligence and self control and are also active and responsible citizens who make a positive contribution to the school and the wider world.
We achieve our aims through having a strong set of values and beliefs and a culture of learning around pastoral care. Our pastoral professional development programme continually raises the standard of our staff expertise, and our staff working parties look into the latest research and best practice. We have an extensive PSHE programme that invites input from high calibre speakers, and we involve pupils in developing their own well-being initiatives.
Available to each pupil is a team of dedicated staff, which includes tutors, houseparents, heads of year, professional counsellors, qualified nurses and doctors and a deputy head responsible for pastoral care whose primary role is to support pupils through the challenges that growing up presents. Having such a range of staff available to help with anything and everything ensures each pupil has someone they can trust to turn to if they need it. We believe that we must work in close partnership with parents to ensure each child can develop into their best self. We seek to initiate and always welcome frequent, open and honest communication.
The school chefs provide three cooked meals a day, including a vegetarian option and salad bar in a modern, airy dining hall. Older pupils may also use the separate snack bar which provides healthy snack options when schedules become hectic. The dining hall is a place for pupils to meet and enjoy healthy fresh food and catch up with friends. Pupils have access to their houses throughout the day, and they can make toast and sandwiches in the house kitchens.
Our broad curriculum allows all students to develop skills and interests. This enables them to make appropriate choices as they progress to the Upper School and their GCSE options. Students study Art, Classics, English, French, Geography, History, Maths, Music, Religious Studies, Science and PSHE together with a course exploring a range of technology subjects. Students also can study a choice of German, Spanish and Italian.
We recognise that all pupils need a proper balance of recreation and physical exercise so we also include sport, integrated arts (consisting of art, music, drama and dance), as well as less conventional outdoor education pursuits.
Choristers and specialist musicians work together in dedicated forms following individually tailored learning programmes.
Please click here to read our Lower School Handbook.
We personalise your learning to follow a curriculum at a pace and in a direction that suits your needs and plays to your strengths but pushes you to reach your potential. We give you more freedom than lower school students and encourage you to take responsibility for developing your own interests and skills within clear structures.
In the upper school, pupils prepare for their GCSE examinations. You can choose three GCSE options in addition to the core subjects of Mathematics, English language and literature, a modern foreign language (usually from French, German or Spanish), Science (Biology, Chemistry and Physics) and Religious Studies. This provides a comprehensive platform so your options are open when you come to choosing your A Levels.
All pupils follow a PSHE course, and take part in the varied sport, PE and outdoor education programme.
If you would like to find out more information about studying GCSE’s at Wells, please read our online handbook.
Children at Wells are enthusiastic, creative, and open minded. They achieve amazing results.
John Dyer (Internationally renowned painter and Wells parent)
We aim to inspire a lifelong passion for the creative arts by giving pupils of all abilities – even those who might not consider themselves as ‘naturally creative’ – the confidence and opportunities to perform and try a variety of styles.
In Years 7-9, pupils are exposed to a diverse range of artistic knowledge, skills, techniques, materials and disciplines. They can then make informed choices as to what areas, if any, they would like to pursue in their GCSE and A-level studies or as a hobby.
Our curriculum is complemented by workshops by visiting artists, trips and co-curricular activities. Because of our approach to creative arts, our pupils achieve success across the arts, whether seen in their quality of art or performance, or in the excellent results achieved in their Trinity, GCSE or A-level qualifications.
Integrated arts (Years 7-9)
Our integrated approach to teaching art, photography, drama, dance, music and food technology allows for creativity, imagination and flexibility and builds our pupils’ confidence and curiosity by giving them the opportunity for self-expression through risk-taking, teamwork, resourcefulness and reflection. It also enables our pupils to investigate themes from multiple viewpoints so they can see the connections between the arts; previous themes include surrealism, cultural creativity, entertainment, style, media, identity and structures.
Our curriculum is supported by our integrated arts workshop days (where pupils go off timetable for a fun day to explore a specific topic area), visiting professional practitioners from all the arts areas who come to work with our pupils, and trips to places like Stratford-upon-Avon (RSC), The Globe London, the National Theatre South Bank, Tate, Tate Modern and the National Portrait Gallery for both workshops and performances.
In addition to our curriculum lessons, we offer 1:1, paired and group tuition in many dance styles. We can provide examination classes in Modern Theatre with ISTD. Modern Theatre dance is often seen on the stages of musical productions and is known for its theatrical qualities. We also offer a range of styles without examination – contemporary, street, jazz, musical theatre dance and beginners ballet – that build upon dance skills, technique and confidence from lessons and support any further dance tuition.
Our Dance Companies have competed in national dance competitions such as The Big Dance Off. Dance Troupes are formed to choreograph impressive routines for various dramatic and musical productions. We support pupil-led initiatives, such as the recent Street Dance outfit ‘Blanc’ and the multi-disciplinary project ‘Reborn’: a Dance, Lighting, Drama, Music Tech and Percussion Project, providing the pupils with performance opportunities in Cedars Hall and at showcase events.
Our varied programme of opportunities ranges from the classics to the eclectic. In addition to their drama lessons and drama activity, Lower School pupils can participate in the Lower School Production, Drama Club or the Shakespeare School’s Festival. Senior School students can audition for the Senior School Production. Our recent musicals have ranged from works written and composed by our own teachers to our recent production of Les Miserables, attended by Sir Cameron Mackintosh.
Our House Drama competition ‘The Bigny Cup’, and smaller ‘Fringe’ productions that run throughout the year ensure that all have the opportunity to perform.
For all pupils, we offer individual, pair or group tuition in both Speech and Drama and Musical Theatre as well as an extensive programme of theatre visits and professional theatre workshops.
Senior School production of Private Peaceful
Lower School production of Peter Pan
Wells Little Theatre
Senior School production of Beauty and the Beast
Lower School production of Arabian Nights
Wells Little Theatre
Senior School production of Les Miserables
In Years 7-9, pupils cover a wide range of art techniques, processes and media as part of our integrated arts programme. To study GCSE art, pupils need a reasonable drawing ability, but more importantly they need to enjoy it and be enthusiastic about art and art history. Pupils develop an understanding of art, craft and design processes and the work of artists, photographers, sculptors and printmakers. A-level pupils each have their own studio space and may work in drawing, painting, sculpture, 3D construction, installation, printmaking, photography, film, video and mixed media.
We have regular trips to art galleries, and pupils have the opportunity to attend workshops with a diverse range of local and world-renowned artists. Our pupils’ work is regularly exhibited in our gallery space in the John Baxter Foyer of Cedars Hall. Scholarships are available based on current ability and potential.
Most of our pupils in Years 7-9 have food studies as part of their curriculum, depending on their other academic commitments. They also study it in Year 12 as part of their life skills curriculum. In addition to our food studies curriculum, we offer a wide range of other opportunities to experience cooking, such as: Christmas cake club, make your own lunch club, after school cookery club, expedition cooking (for Year 9 as part of their preparation for the Duke of Edinburgh award), senior cookery activities and holiday cookery courses. We also support pupils who wish to enter the Rotary Young Chef annual competition.
We are unique in being one of the four Specialist Music Schools in England but within a setting of an independent school. This allows us to cater for musicians of exceptional talent on specifically designed programmes that puts music at the centre of the pupil’s daily school routine, but it also enables us to be able to provide a very broad range of musical opportunities for those who pursue music as a hobby.
One-to-one instrumental lessons are available with world-renowned teachers, and pupils can make the most of our many and varied ensemble opportunities, including choirs, orchestras, instrumental groups in all genres and music theatre. Music scholarships are based on current ability and potential.
Photography is taught as an option in Years 8 and 9 – pupils explore digital photography through a range of creative projects, learning camera skills and different digital and hands-on processes. Pupils can progress with our GCSE and A-level courses, which aim to provide them with the creative skills and understanding of a variety of photographic genres, media and processes.
We mainly use digital cameras and software, however pupils have opportunities to explore alternative media, such as film and sunography. We have visited Tate Modern, the National Portrait Gallery and the Photographer’s Gallery, and had workshops from Clive Barda and Ziggy Jacobs.
We emphasise developing independence and pursuing personal lines of enquiry. Our moderators have remarked: “Creative making was a strength amongst all candidates at Wells. They experimented purposefully with a range of photographic techniques. This led to a range of quality outcomes.”
When you come to Wells, the first thing that strikes you is our amazing grounds – we’re so lucky to have one of the most stunning cricket pitches in the country. But even more important than that is the quality of the staff. I’m so proud to have an amazing team here who are incredibly talented and deeply dedicated to supporting our pupils.
Our philosophy is to enable and empower our pupils – whatever their ability level – to understand their own bodies and what they need to do progress and improve. Happily, we have some great success stories of Wells pupils representing their county and even their country.
I’m passionate about what we do, and I’d love to show you around our beautiful part of the world. Please get in touch – I look forward to hearing from you.
Tom Webley, Director of Sport
Our outstanding facilities include:
Our Director of Sport Tom Webley is a former professional cricketer for Somerset CCC and has completed his ECB Level 4 Coaching Award. He is supported by a team of passionate qualified coaches and teachers. Our heads for each sport include Jeremy Boot (cricket), Glenn Channing (rugby), Lisa Jarvis (netball), James Mayes (hockey) and Gemma Pritchard (tennis).
The in-house team is complemented by regular visits from professional sport consultants, who inspire our pupils through masterclasses and lectures. Recent visitors have included:
It’s fantastic working with the Wells Cathedral Staff and pupils. They are pioneering an empowering approach to developing innovative, problem solving, self sufficient learners.
Brian Ashton, former England Rugby Head Coach and our current Sports Mentor
We offer a number of sport options across the year, including:
Our competitive 1st teams play regularly on a strong circuit across the region in all major sports. We provide training pre-season and during the week and support our pupils who represent the County or above in their chosen sports, some of whom have gone on to represent Great Britain and help win County and Regional Championships. We extend our offering through our links to local clubs – such as Bath Rugby Club, Clifton Robinsons HC and Tor Netball Club – and by providing workshops from visiting professional athletes. Some of our athletes have extended their development with overseas tours to experience sport abroad.
Pupils of all abilities have opportunities to take part in sport at an appropriate level to enable them to develop their skills and be part of a team. Every term, day and boarding pupils are encouraged to take part in competitions for house trophies, and everyone has a healthy competitive spirit for the house championships. Our fitness suite stays open after school.
We offer an outstanding Sports Leadership Programme. In Year 12, our sports leaders undertake a practical-based course to learn how to deliver sport safely as well as earn their Young First Aider qualification. The programme culminates in a sports leader-led tournament.
We also offer a Young Sports Leadership Programme for athletes in Years 7 and 8 who have additional skills sessions and learn the following topics at greater depth: nutrition, injury prevention, sports psychology, strength and conditioning, goal setting and pathway to elite sport.
We award scholarships for current ability and potential. In addition to a financial award, scholars flourish with extra sport sessions, mentoring, regular personal fitness meetings and specialist support. Our sport enrichment programme aims to support each pupil to balance academic lessons with extra training and competitions so that all of our sports scholars will be able to achieve the best of his or her ability. We review our scholarship programme regularly. Please see this page for more information and how to apply.
Learning in the outdoors, being exposed to risk, appreciating the natural world and working in teams are some of the most effective ways to develop character traits such as resilience, courage, resourcefulness, creativity and self-confidence.
Our pupils enjoy an extensive outdoor education programme which is experiential and reflective.
Stuart Elks Director of Outdoor Learning
We have a thriving optional Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) Award scheme. Pupils can enrol on the DofE Award at any of the three levels: Bronze, Silver or Gold. They achieve a DofE Award by completing a personal programme of activities in four sections. They’ll find themselves doing activities such as helping people in the community, getting fitter, developing skills and going on an expedition. We offer Bronze in Year 9, Silver in Year 10 and Gold in Lower Sixth. Over 100 pupils sign up for the scheme each year with an incredible rate of success.
Our co-curricular activity options include: camp craft, natural navigation, teamwork, orienteering, expedition first aid, marksmanship, problem solving and decision making. We organise camping trips, rock climbing, hill walking, archery, bushcraft, adventurous activity residentials and expeditions to far flung parts of the globe, such as skiing in the Alps and trekking to Everest Base Camp and Machu Picchu.
A former Royal Marine, our Director of Outdoor Learning, Stuart Elks has a degree in Outdoor Education and is a qualified teacher. When not running Shrewsbury Boarding House, he can be found running in the Mendip Hills with his spaniel and searching for a good surf break on the North Devon Coast with his wife Hannah.
Glyn Lancey is the CCF School Staff Instructor and Training Officer. He holds numerous qualifications in both Cadets and the DofE Award.
Stuart and Glyn are supported by a passionate team of teachers who are qualified to instruct rock climbing, mountaineering, canoeing, caving, sailing and skiing.
Our pupils are able to walk north from the school into the beautiful limestone Mendip Hills or to the sprawling Somerset levels. We benefit greatly from having two richly diverse environments on our doorstep. Our extensive programme includes abseiling at Split Rock Quarry and rock climbing at Fairy Cave Quarry. Our climbing wall is reset biannually and used every day for Games options. Bushcraft skills are taught in the woods surrounding the school, and archery is taught on site. Every pupil has the opportunity to try caving and make the most of this rich tradition here in Somerset.
Our Royal Air Force cadets take to the skies at Boscombe Down in Dorset most Wednesdays. Our Royal Navy cadets learn to sail at Cheddar Reservoir as well as scuba dive in our swimming pool. Our Army cadets use the brand new Army Cadet Force shooting range in Wells and Yoxter Combined Cadet Force training area to develop their marksmanship skills each week.
We are one of only 257 schools in the UK with a Combined Cadet Force (CCF) contingent, which is a unique educational partnership. Through enjoyable military-themed and adventurous activities, our cadets have the opportunity to take responsibility and develop skills, such as leadership, self-reliance, resourcefulness, endurance and perseverance.
Our CCF is an optional activity, and alternative opportunities are available for those who would prefer not to take part. The CCF is not part of the UK Armed Forces. While adult volunteers and cadets do wear uniform, they do not incur any liability for service or compulsory training in the Armed Forces as a result of being a CCF member.
The Combined Cadet Force at Wells currently has 130 pupils, and they can join either the Royal Air Force, Royal Navy, Army or Royal Marines Band sections which all offer fantastic opportunities whether it be gliding, sailing, scuba diving or fieldcraft to name but a few.
The Duke of Edinburgh Award (DofE Award) is optional and entirely voluntary. Pupils can enter the DofE Award at three levels: Bronze, Silver or Gold. They achieve a DofE Award by completing a personal programme of activities in four sections. They’ll find themselves doing activities such as helping people in the community, getting fitter, developing skills and going on an expedition.
We offer Bronze in Year 9, Silver in Year 10 and Gold in Lower Sixth. The majority of participants enter at Bronze in Year 9, but a smaller number do enter at Silver or Gold (for details on the Gold award, please see our Sixth Form page).
Bronze Award applicants must complete one expedition to achieve their award. We offer two opportunities to complete a Bronze Expedition each year; these are the two weekends (Sat/Sun) before the Glastonbury Festival in June (Trinity term).
Silver Award applicants must complete a Practice Expedition and a Qualifying Expedition. The Practice Expedition happens on the first exeat of the year in September (Fri/Sat/Sun). The Qualifying Expedition happens on the first weekend of the Easter holidays (Fri/Sat/Sun).
Our Monday morning assembly in the Cathedral takes the form of a short service with music, readings and an address that is designed to encourage and challenge pupils to think about moral and philosophical ideas, as well as promote values which are core to our community such as kindness, respect and acceptance. This may sometimes be set within a Christian context, but our aim is to ensure that the message is relevant to all pupils, whatever their beliefs.
The Senior School also meets in Cedars Hall each Thursday morning before lessons start. This assembly usually includes a musical performance and a celebration of the achievements of pupils and staff. Speakers may also address the School on a variety of topics including current affairs, ethical issues, our sense of shared history and, as part of our wider UK educational responsibility, ‘fundamental British values’.
Below you can find some addresses which have been given in recent assemblies.