Wellingborough School, Northants
For kids who want to feel secure. As one of the parents said, "there’s a sense of continuity at the School - a solid thing in a moving world".
Wellingborough School is seven minutes from my house which I actually bought from the headmaster 13 years ago! Hmmmm, not enough info for a review, oh go on then I’ll tell you a bit more! Wellingborough School is a co-educational independent school for children aged 3-18, a Pre-Prep School for ages 3-8, a Prep School for ages 8-13 and a Senior School for ages 13-18. Mini Mudlet (the not so mini 6ft, 16 year old), played footie on the pitches for a few years and loved visiting (they’re situated rather handily just next to the pub, so I didn’t mind the pick ups, either).
The school was originally established in 1595, making it one of the oldest schools in the country, and has adapted from a boys’ boarding school to a co-educational day school over its long history. Wellingborough has a good rep for its high academic standards but there’s also a lot of emphasis on sporting and the extra-curricular programmes and the general vibe is that it’s a very well-rounded school (Dominic Granger from London Grammar went there doncha know).
Facilities at Wellingborough School include a rifle range, a floodlit rugby pitch, two grass athletics tracks, a nine-hole golf course, five cricket squares, an indoor sports hall, five netball courts, two squash courts and two full-size floodlit Astroturf pitches. Sport Billy’s will definitely be able to make the most of all of these.
The School has an on-site Chapel, which is regularly used for assemblies and services (and Gospel Choir when I used to go). There’s an Art building dedicated to the creation and display of student artwork, as well as a Music building where pupils can sing and strum to their heart’s content.
The School also maintains a strong relationship with the Castle Theatre, just minutes away from the School site, where yearly productions are held (it’s great and the productions are full of talented teens, I’ve been to a few).
Average class size?
Class sizes vary across the School, but never exceed 20 in any part of the three Schools. The average Sixth Form class size is 9 pupils.
The academic results?
The School is known for its high academic standards, with 83% of pupils gaining a place at their first choice university at the end of their A-Level studies. In their most recent set of results, 60% of GCSE pupils received at least one A*, and a third of A-Level entries were graded with an A/A*.
Other boasty bits?
The School maintains a reputation as more than a 9-5 school, with a vast array of opportunities available outside of the classrooms, Pupils can take part in a number of afterschool clubs and lunchtime enrichment classes, as well as involving themselves in programmes such as Young Enterprise, in which the school has won numerous awards, Duke of Edinburgh, Public Speaking, School Council and School Charity Committee. Each Friday also sees pupils taking part in Combined Cadet Training, with the School being one of only a handful of schools to have Navy, Army, RAF and Royal Marines sections. The School also runs an informative External Speakers Programme for pupils in the Upper Sixth, which sees weekly visits from guest lectures and has previously included visits from politician Peter Tatchell, adventurer Leon McCarron, performance poet Mr Gee and the Holocaust Educational Trust (wonder if they fancy a Motivational Muddy speaker, ahem).
A wide range of scholarships are available to pupils in Years 7, 9, and Sixth Form. Scholarships can be based on particular subjects, such as Music, Sports, Art and Drama, as well as academic and all-rounder scholarships. Bursaries are also available to aid with funding.
Wellingborough School caters for children from the age of three, with the Pre-Prep beginning at Nursery and going up to Year 3. The Pre-Prep building contains a dedicated art and music classroom, a library and a school hall, while pupils also have access to facilities located around the rest of the school.
What do students do when they leave?
Previous students have gone out to achieve success in a number of areas. Most pupils leaving after A-Level go onto university, with past pupils having secured places at Cambridge and Oxford universities. Alumni from Wellingborough School include Alison Mitchell, a freelance sports broadcaster and cricket commentator; Dan Roan, Sports Editor for BBC news; Reverend Richard Coles, a musician, presenter and priest, and Alex and Ethan Waller, players for the Northampton Saints.
There are three heads in each part of the school. Firstly Garry Bowe who is the Senior and overall head. Garry has been the headmaster for nearing on 14 years and is leaving at Christmas. I know Garry, as not only did I buy my house from him and his lovely wife Ruth, I’ve also sang with them both in the Gospel Choir. He is very passionate about the children and they are always at the forefront of his mind when looking at the school. He is very keen on community spirit and for the kids to be kind and caring, and I could see that in evidence, after encountering a student as soon as I arrived. It was pouring down and despite having no brolly, a student immediately offered to show me where I needed to be (ahhh bless). The parents are also a big focus for the school, and they have drop-in coffee mornings to get feedback on how they can improve (use Twitter, better website etc.) A new website has been launched with parent feedback in mind, and Gary is aware that communication to parents needs to be timely, as some parents are finding out things a while after they’ve happened. I get the feeling that they’re really trying to respond to parent feedback, but always with the children at the heart of what they do. The new Head, Andrew Holman is starting in January and is currently the Deputy Head of Hymers College in Hull. He studied Mathematics at Magdalene College, Cambridge, and began his teaching career at The King’s School, Chester. I didn’t chat to Holman, but I hear he is a keen cyclist and loves to travel, hopefully I’ll get to meet him after he’s settled in, and get the low-down for 2018 at Wellingborough School!
Sue Knox is the Prep Head and has been at the school a couple of years after returning from a spell in Australia.
Sue reiterated Garry’s sentiments explaining that kindness, not cockiness is what they’re looking to instill. Preparing the Year 4s to Year 8s on how to be self confident, but humble with it. She said there was an intake of 72 new kids in September and there was a marked difference in their confidence and attitude to the existing Wellingborough School students. Again she’s keen to communicate to parents and has a 24 hour reply rule, and all parents have her e mail address.
Jocelyn Everett has the job of the littlies in Pre-Prep and has been at the school for over a decade.
As Wellingborough has a Nursery, some pupils can spend 15 years at the school, and Jocelyn said there’s definitely a benefit in seeing them join at Nursery and Reception level. They’ve started studying Spanish at reception level and the kids love it and are picking it up really quickly. There’s a very high retention rate of teachers at Wellingborough School, and you can see the kids are getting consistency in their teaching. Judging by Jocelyn’s passion, they’re also having a fun time too.
The fun stuff? Trips and visits?
From Nursery to Sixth Form, trips and visits are a key part of the curriculum and a highlight of the school year. Trips in the Pre-Prep include visits to local landmarks and sights, with pupils having the opportunity to go on their first overnight school trip in Year 3. In the Prep School, annual trips include the annual Ski Trip in December, open to all pupils, the Year 7 Ardeche trip, the Year 6 French trip and the Year 4 Hilltop Residential to name just a few. Once pupils reach the Senior School, there are a variety of visits available. Year 9 pupils visit the First World War battlefields of Ypres and the Somme, and each year there are a number of trips abroad organized by other academic Departments. Fieldwork visits are a regular feature of the work of some Departments. And the Music Department organizes a series of visits for the Chapel Choir to sing at prestigious venues. Sports teams also regularly play fixtures at outside locations, and pupils enter competitions in public speaking and other areas out and about.
Wrap around care & extra curricular?
The School day runs from 8.30am to 4.10pm – but there are loads of options for pupils to be on site after this time with after school clubs and extra study. Most of these clubs extend until 5.30pm, though there is late stay available until 6pm in the Prep School. In the Pre-Prep, pupils can go to Breakfast Club from 7.45am.
There are also a huge variety of clubs available across the school, such as in dance, music, cookery, art and sports.
School bus service/travel etc?
The School runs daily buses to and from Towcester, Thrapston, Mawsley and Wellingborough Station, as well as services from Northampton, Brixworth and Olney courtesy of Souls Coaches. The School is also a short walk from Wellingborough Station, which offers direct services from Kettering, Bedford and Market Harborough (ahhhh my old commuting ground, I used to bump into a lot of Wellingborough pupils at 8am).
The Senior School (Year 9 to the Upper Sixth) is £14,910 for the year. In the Prep School, Years 7 and 8 are priced at £14,200 per year and Years 4, 5 and 6 at £13,585. In the Pre-Prep School, Years 2 and 3 are £9,165 per year and Nursery, Reception and Year 1 are priced at £8,775 per year. The School also participates in the Local Education Authority Early Years Funding for 3-4 year olds (and the Headteacher said in our chat he is big on bursaries and scholarships).
Word on the ground? What do the parent’s say…
I know a couple of parents of Wellingborough as it’s local to me, and I have to say, word up is mostly positive apart from the car park (can get congested at pick-up and drop off) and a requirement for a slight improvement in teacher/parent communication (the school are aware of this and are dealing with it as we speak). There’s a big sense of community at Wellingborough School and the parents think it’s a place where their kids can grow up happy, with the School being a part of their lives for many years. One parent said her three sons, all with different personalities and talents, have been through the whole School from Nursery to Sixth Form and she feels they have all have been nurtured and catered for despite their differing capabilities and qualities – a very happy parent. Another parent told me the School creates a happy, supportive atmosphere, because people know each other well, with there being a general lack of anonymity and one parent said ‘Wellingborough School prepares people to prepare themselves.’ Pretty conclusive!
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for? Kids who want to feel secure. As one of the parents said, “there’s a sense of continuity at the School – a solid thing in a moving world”. After visiting, it definitely seemed like a great place for building confidence and well- rounded characters. There are loads of extra curricular things going on, and a fantastic Cadet Force for Army, Airforce, Navy and Marines. As the Headteacher told me, this is the perfect school for kids who like to move!
Not for? Parents who want their kids to board, or don’t want them near a town (Wellingborough School is seconds walk into town). It feels like a relaxed warm atmosphere, so parents who might want a more formal/old school education, may be better off elsewhere.
The next open day for Wellingborough School will take place on Saturday 7th October, 9.30am to 12.30pm across all three parts of the school.
For more information, please contact them on 01933 222427 or email email@example.com.