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Top marks! Meet our Best Schools Awards Finalists 2022

After 400 entries, 11 categories and 8 exhausted judges, the results are in! Find out which schools made the grade for a place our inaugural Muddy Stilettos Best School Awards Finals, plus the worthy Highly Commendeds.

Ever since we published our first school review back in 2013, we’ve been drawn to schools that champion holistic education, prioritise pastoral care and have a creative, modern ethos. At Muddy we write as national journalists but with a parents’ perspective, and always look to give on-the-ground honest insight – free from PR guff and often with a side order of humour – to help you find the school that’s best matched to your child’s personality and passions.

Nine years on from that first review in Buckinghamshire, Muddy Stilettos now covers 28 counties and we now have our own unique Best Schools Guide where our hundreds of annually updated nursery, prep and senior school reviews can be found together.

This is all completely marvellous, of course, but last year it did occur to us that, other than reading all our reviews (which we recommend, but with over 300 of them, you’d better, you know, take the week off or something), there was no quick way to signpost which schools are outstanding versus their peers. So it was a no brainer – for 2022 we started our own Best Schools Awards and assembled an A-list of super-high-achieving educationalists to judge it.

To our panel of experts who have taken such care over their decisions – Patrick Derham OBE, Lucy Elphinstone, Tove Okunniwa MBE, Emma Goldsmith, Professor Dr Ger Grause OBE, Stefan Anderson and Mark Semmence and Dr Guy Schady-Beckett – THANK YOU for time and patience!

The judges have worked through literally hundreds of entries, and I’m delighted to say that there is now consensus on the Finalists in the Muddy Stilettos Best Schools Awards 2022 across 11 highly-contested categories. It’s time for gold stars, house points and – yes why not – free tuck shop treats to the schools below. But also a heartfelt thank you to all schools that entered the Awards this year, making it such an exciting competition and showing how committed you are to an outward-looking education.

We’ll announce the overall winners from each category on 14 June 2022. Until then, here’s the roll call for the 2022 Best School Awards Finalists, along with those Highly Commended. Many congratulations to you all.

MOST CREATIVE LEARNING THROUGH PLAY (EARLY YEARS):

FINALISTS 

  • Aberdour School, Tadworth
  • Bilton Grange Preparatory School, Rugby
  • Great Walstead School, Lindfield
  • Wells Cathedral School, Wells
  • Monkton Combe School, Bath

HIGHLY COMMENDED

Downsend School, Leatherhead; Elstree School, Reading; Beechwood Park School, St Albans; Brighton College, Brighton; Ipswich School, Ipswich; The Manor Preparatory School, Abingdon; Claremont Fan Court School, Esher; Malborough House School, Cranbrook; St Neot’s Preparatory School, Hook; Stroud School, Romsey

MOST INNOVATIVE TECHNOLOGY-LED TEACHING:

FINALISTS 

  • Minerva’s Virtual Academy 
  • Harrow School Online 
  • Bedford Girls’ School, Bedford 
  • Brockhurst and Marlston House Schools, Newbury
  • Reed’s School, Cobham

HIGHLY COMMENDED 

Aberdour School, Tadworth; Lycée International de Londres Winston Churchill, Wembley; Myddelton College, Denbigh; South Lee, Bury St Edmunds; ACS Cobham International School, Cobham; Moulsford School, Moulsford; Royal Hospital School, Ipswich; St George’s School, Ascot; RGS Springfield, Worcester; Edgbaston High School for Girls, Edgbaston

BEST SENSE OF HUMOUR:

FINALISTS

  • d’Overbroeck’s, Oxford
  • Shiplake College, Henley-on-Thames
  • Town Close Prep School, Norwich
  • Monkton Combe School, Bath
  • St Ronan’s School, Hawkhurst

HIGHLY COMMENDED

Elstree School, Reading; Solefield School, Sevenoaks; ACS Cobham International School, Cobham; Bedford Modern School, Bedford; Blundell’s Preparatory School, Tiverton; Broomfield House School, Richmond; Channing School, Highgate; Greenfield, Woking; The Kingsley School, Leamington Spa; Wellington School, Wellington

MOST INVENTIVE SPORTS PROGRAMME: 

FINALISTS

  • Forres Sandle Manor, Sandleheath
  • Beech Hall School, Macclesfield
  • St David’s College, Llandudno
  • Myddelton College, Denbeigh 
  • Holme Grange, Wokingham

HIGHLY COMMENDED

Brighton College, Brighton; Brooke House College, Market Harborough; Bryanston School, Blandford; Edgbaston High School for Girls, Edgbaston; Sedbergh School, Sedbergh; Colchester High School, Colchester; St Joseph’s in the Park, Hertingfordbury; Repton School, Derby; Rugby School, Rugby; St James Senior Boys’ School, Ashford

OUTSTANDING PASTORAL CARE:

FINALISTS 

  • Longacre School, Shamley Green
  • Cheltenham College, Cheltenham
  • Queen Ethelburga’s Collegiate, York
  • Farleigh School, Andover
  • Brighton College, Brighton

HIGHLY COMMENDED 

Caldicott, Farnham Royal; Downe House, Thatcham; Berkhamsted Schools Group, Berkhamsted; Taunton School, Taunton; Cumnor House Sussex, Danehill; Cottesmore School, Pease Pottage; Greenfield School, Woking; The Kingsley School, Leamington Spa; Gosfield School, Gosfield; Holme Grange School, Wokingham

HAPPIEST BOARDING SCHOOL:

FINALISTS 

  • Repton School, Derby
  • Brambletye, East Grinstead
  • Bedford School, Bedford
  • The Junior King’s School, Canterbury
  • Lord Wandsworth College, Hook

HIGHLY COMMENDED

Dragon School, Oxford; Cheltenham College, Cheltenham; Cottesmore School, Pease Pottage; Benenden, Cranbrook; Hatherop Castle School, Hatherop; The Royal School, Haslemere; Millfield Preparatory School, Glastonbury; Queen Ethelburga’s Collegiate, York; Mount Kelly, Tavistock; Cheam School, Headley

ORIGINALITY IN TEACHING MUSIC AND THE ARTS:

FINALISTS

  • Taunton School, Taunton
  • Prince’s Gardens Preparatory School, Kensington
  • The Manor Preparatory School, Abingdon
  • Bede’s School, East Sussex
  • Perrott Hill School, Crewkerne

HIGHLY COMMENDED 

Queen Ethelburga’s Collegiate, York; Mount Kelly, Tavistock; Kings Monkton School, Cardiff; Box Hill School, Dorking; ACS Cobham International School, Cobham; Colston’s Lower School, Bristol; Ipswich School, Ipswich; St Andrew’s Prep, Eastbourne; Beaudesert Park School, Stroud; Cranleigh Preparatory School, Cranleigh

GIVING SOMETHING BACK:

FINALISTS

  • Benenden School, Cranbrook
  • Sidcot School, Winscombe
  • The Portsmouth Grammar School, Portsmouth
  • Beaudesert Park School, Stroud
  • Felsted School, Dunmow

HIGHLY COMMENDED 

Blundell’s School, Tiverton; Magdalen College School, Oxford; Queen Ethelburga’s Collegiate, York; Eastbourne College, Eastbourne; Bedford School, Bedford; Holmewood House School, Tunbridge Wells; St Michael’s Preparatory School, Sevenoaks; West Buckland School, Barnstaple; The King’s School, Gloucester; Thornton College, Milton Keynes

SPECIAL SIXTH FORM:

FINALISTS

  • Ipswich School, Ipswich
  • The Royal School, Haslemere
  • Monkton Combe School, Bath
  • The Marist School, Ascot
  • West Buckland School, Barnstaple 

HIGHLY COMMENDED

Ipswich High School, Ipswich; Queen Margaret’s School for Girls, York; Royal High School Bath, Bath; Truro School, Truro; Mayfield School, Mayfield; The National Mathematics and Science College, Westwood Way; Akeley Wood School, Buckingham; Ewell Castle School, Ewell; Queen Ethelburga’s Collegiate, York; Framlingham College, Framlingham

EMPOWERING YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS:

FINALISTS

  • Embley, Romsey
  • Francis Holland School, Sloane Square
  • Bedford School, Bedford
  • St Joseph’s College, Ipswich
  • Gresham’s School, Holt

HIGHLY COMMENDED

Dorset House School, Bury; Truro High School for Girls, Truro; Sherborne School, Sherborne; Exeter School, Exeter; The Village Prep School, London; Queen Ethelburga’s Collegiate, York; Bloxham School, Banbury; Reddam House, Wokingham; Aberdour School, Tadworth

BEST EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING:

FINALISTS 

  • Headington School, Oxford
  • Churcher’s College Junior School & Nursery, Liphook
  • Norwich High School for Girls, Norwich
  • Wychwood School, Oxford 
  • The Queen’s Lower School, Chester 

HIGHLY COMMENDED 

Aberdour School, Tadworth; Dragon School, Oxford; Millfield Preparatory School, Glastonbury; Halstead Preparatory School for Girls, Woking; Quinton House School, Upton; Chandlings Prep School, Oxford; The Marist School, Ascot; Prince’s Gardens Preparatory School, Kensington; Brighton College, Brighton; Saint Ronan’s School, Hawkhurst

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