Stamford Endowed Schools, Stamford (Lincs)
Muddy says: Wellbeing and creative thinking are at the heart of this progressive, mixed co-ed and single-sex boarding school, where children are taught to stretch their horizons while nurturing community spirit.
Sitting flush in the dreamily picturesque town of Stamford in Lincolnshire – all Georgian buildings, cobbled streets and indie spirit – you’ll find the Stamford Endowed Schools, a relatively rare ‘diamond model’ day and boarding school with its mix of co-ed and single sex teaching. The 500 year old school is woven into the tapestry of the town and sits bang centre, with a whopping 54 buildings, old, new and somewhere in between, dotted across various sites with an additional 60 acres of sports fields, gardens and grounds.
The Nursery, Junior School and Sixth-Form are mixed sex, while Senior boys and girls are taught separately in two distinct but closely allied schools in similar numbers (690 boys, 619 girls) with separate staff and head teachers. Total pupils including the 330 at the Junior school are over 1500 which makes it one of the bigger private schools I’ve visited though the way the different cohorts are separated means that there’s also a feeling of cohesion and community.
Extensive is the word. Schools with boarding provision often lead the charge in great facilities and it’s case closed here. Stamford School (Senior boys) has a newish sports centre (2012), which includes a slick fitness suite, 25m swimming pool, sports hall, squash courts and a lengthy list of further indoor courts and outdoor pitches and astros. The High School (Senior girls) has its own fitness suite, sports hall, Olympic-sized water-based astro (apparently the water makes it quicker and smoother to play on) with a pavilion and five outdoor netball courts, plus a brand new improved sports facility is in development with spin bikes, two studios, changing rooms for 100 people, a new pavilion and an additional hockey pitch.
Meanwhile, across at the Junior School the kids get their own 25m swimming pool, three sports fields incorporating rugby, hockey, netball and cricket pitches, as well as a sports hall and cricket nets. The sporting leads work across the schools, so pupils will be coached by top professionals throughout their time at Stamford. Frankly, your child is not going to miss out on international sporting glory for lack of early opportunity!
With sports including the usuals of rugby, football, hockey, netball and cricket through to more unusual offerings of fencing, golf, sailing, fives, horse riding and shooting all offered as co-curricular activities, something is going to tempt your child. For the talented, you’ll want to know that the school is currently fielding an U19 England cricketer, a Team GB eventing development squad member, and England U18 rugby player and a GB para swimming champ. The U13 fencing team were crowned British School fencing champs too.
MUSIC AND PERFORMING ARTS
Stamford School and Stamford High School each have their own stand alone music buildings with specialist equipment and state of the art tech, including 10+ Apple Macs for editing, production etc., recital rooms for individual and group practice and main halls equipped with professional lighting and sound. The Junior School also has its own music classrooms, as well as practice and recital rooms. The chapel that forms part of Stamford School (mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086) also has a traditional chapel organ to accompany the choir.
Music is taken seriously here, reflected in the large number of extra-curricular music groups and clubs – over 40 to choose from, including seven choirs, five orchestras, four bands, a variety of chamber groups and the obligatory rock bands though the take up for musical tuition here is slightly below average.
The High School has its own fully equipped drama studio, whilst Stamford School offers a Performing Arts Centre and there’s a full-time theatre technician who works across the schools (I’ve never come across that before at a school, so high five Stamford for a Muddy first!). From September 2021, drama will become broadly SES with the Head of Performance also working with Junior School students. Famous alumni, like Ben Willbond of BBC Horrible Histories, and George Robinson of Netflix’s Sex Education, continue to be engaged with the schools. Generally there are 2 major dramatic productions and a dance showcase across every year (taken online during COVID), and LAMDA exams can be taken from Y2 onwards. For those who love the dramatic arts but don’t want to be the centre of attention, there’s the opportunity to get involved in video editing and production.
Stamford has a strong reputation locally as a progressive and welcoming school, with an all-rounder ethos. Academically it’s solid, with grades in A level for 2020 at 42.7% for A*/A and 74.7% achieving A*-B. At GCSE, Stamford High School’s results were 59.9% at grades 7-9, with 98.4% of exams sat resulting in grades 4-9. Stamford School’s results were 51.4% at grades 7-9 and 99.5% at grades 4-9. In 2020 two girls achieved Oxbridge places, so the able can definitely thrive here, but there’s also an eye on the real world, BTECS on offer in sports science and business.
No school worth its fees will be anything other than red hot on pastoral care. Add children boarding and Covid anxiety into that mix and it’s the number one priority. At Stamford, the support comes through Pastoral Leads, boarding staff, the Chaplain (Reverend Goodman, fondly known as Revvy G), School Doctor and school counselling team. There’s a Health and Wellbeing Centre that offers calm and safe space for pupils where they can access a variety of support from first aid and physio to counselling.
There are currently 170 boarders of the 1300 senior pupils (so roughly 13% take up including 20% international students) so relatively small numbers. Boarding starts at age 8 – there’s a co-ed Junior boarding house, and a further six houses that are single sex. The big sell for boarding here is that it’s flexible, starting at a per-night basis a few nights a week, going up to 7 nights a week depending on need. There’s also a Fri/Sat package for when there are weekend events happening in school, making Stamford a real draw card for parents who travel extensively, such those in the Forces. I haven’t been able to check out the boarding houses interiors in person yet due to lockdown, but will feed back on that asap.
Will Phelan is the overall Principal of the Stamford Endowed Schools, with Vicky Buckman (Stamford High) and Nick Gallop (Stamford School) being the individual school heads. Emma Smith is the current Junior School head, but leaves at the end of academic year 20/21 to be replaced by Matthew O’Reilly, details can be found here). This divergence allows each of the schools to have autonomy, character and individual flair, whilst they remain collaborative in terms of strategy, subjects offered and broader outlook.
Having been overall Principal of the Stamford Schools for 5 years, Mr. Phelan was previously the Head Teacher at Stamford School for five years prior, so has been with the school for a decade. Before that he has also done stints as Deputy Head at Warwick and Head of Sixth Form at Abingdon and he has a strong background in sports coaching. He’s warm and energetic and, interestingly, he’s particularly driven when it comes to empowering children for the creative industries (most heads are tunnel-visioned on the STEAM wagon so it’s great to see some energy going into the arts), which reflects the strong music, drama and visual arts departments here.
You can read the latest school reports from the Independent Schools Inspectorate here.
Quite a few, as you’d probably anticipate from a school with half a millennium of history. The Head Boy has historically been allowed to grow a beard (wow, the pressure!), smoke a pipe and graze his sheep on the Chapel lawn, a privilege that has actually been exercised in the past couple of years.
Unusual subjects taught include Russian, Nutrition and Creative i-Media, an eminently sensible subject that teaches the kids how to use software including Photoshop and Powerpoint.
There’s one of the UK’s biggest Combined Cadet Forces at Stamford School – a whopping 350 kids. Service is a big thing here, with a number of local initiatives and community outreach projects, including The Stamford Card which costs £10 a month and offers discounts and perks from local businesses, funding transformational bursaries for local children to attend the school.
The fees vary considerably here depending on whether your child is at nursery, junior or senior, day student or boarding etc, but ranges from £10,000 per year for day Reception pupils up to £30,900 per year for a full time Senior boarder. Read the full price breakdown here.
WORD ON THE GROUND
There’s a sense that you’re a Stamfordian for life, with a community network that supports Stamford alumni as they move up through the school and into their chosen careers. My moles tell me the local community is pretty impressed with the children’s manners and behaviour in the town. The parents and kids alike seem to appreciate the diamond model that allows children lower down the school to concentrate in single sex classes, while the Sixth Formers are able to work and mingle together. It makes total sense.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Parents who want a top notch education for their kids with zero snobbery. There’s a healthy mix of backgrounds here so the school fosters a spirit of inclusivity. Great for parents who want the proven benefits of a single-sex education, whilst enabling their kids to mix with boys and girls outside the classroom. Kids who like to be busy will thrive – there are an astonishing 430 clubs and activities running every week.
Not for: Those seeking traditional conservative values, or a rigid social hierarchy will find that challenged here. If gender sensitivity brings you out in hives walk on – the Schools are wholehearted in their support of each child as an individual, as they navigate the challenges of growing up in 2021. There’s focus on a well-rounded education at Stamford so, whilst academically minded children will certainly thrive, this is not a hot-house.
Dare to disagree?! Don’t take my word for it, take a virtual tour of the school and book a one to one chat with one of the Head Teachers to get the lowdown.
Stamford Endowed Schools, Brazenose House, St. Paul’s Street, Stamford, Lincolnshire, PE9 2BE, Email: email@example.com. Tel: 01780 668000