Lord Wandsworth College, Long Sutton
This bucolic, co-ed day, boarding senior and Sixth Form in Northeast Hants combines solid sports and academics with a strong, diverse co-curricular offer
Look out for tractors, we’re off to the country – to the pretty hamlet of Long Sutton in Northeast Hampshire. On the Surrey border and the fringes of Berkshire, Lord Wandsworth College is a selective, co-ed day, boarding and flexi-boarding senior school which welcomes pupils of all faiths. Set in a vast green 1,200 acres, it has 650 pupils aged from 11 – 18 years, a 60/40 boys-to-girls split.
The original Manor House has been expanded out in all directions over the years over a large campus which comprises listed buildings and shiny new blocks, keeping pupils fit as they move from boarding houses to lessons and lunch.
Originally founded in 1912 as a boarding school, it was transformed in 1922 by the Baron of Wandsworth who gifted a fortune in his will to create a school for the orphaned boys of agricultural workers. ‘Foundationers’ combined lessons with working on Stern Farm, an arable, 850-acre on-site farm that’s still on the site today (don’t worry, today’s kids aren’t expected to muck in and harvest the crops – unless they desperately want to). The Foundationers were joined by fee-paying students in 1946.
In 2021, Lord Wandsworth College and St Neot’s prep school struck formal collaboration, geared to creating a joint educational ethos and to provide an all-through school. Other pupils join the school from the likes of Yateley Manor along with nearby Surrey and Berkshire schools like Daneshill, Edgeborough, Bishopsgate and Thornegrove.
Played here since 1943, Lord Wandsworth has had a fearsome reputation for competitive rugby, turning out the likes of Jonny Wilkinson, Ugo Moyne and Charlie Amesbury. Yet, while the current team still hold their own in interschool competitions and sport is still a real calling card, these days, pupils are more likely to claim silverware in hockey and cricket (two of the girls’ cricket team also play for the Southern Vipers squad, representing the South of England).
The most popular sport in the school, most pupils (80%) play hockey, both for fun and competitively. Lord Wandsworth College fields 18 boys’ teams and 14 girls’ teams, with links to local clubs, England Hockey Development Centres and the Hampshire Hockey Development Centre for training. Those who opt for GCSE PE tend to do pretty well, too: in 2021, over half (56%) received GCSE A – A* grades, and 93% passed at A – C. At A’Level, there was a 100% A – B pass rate, with 50% achieving A – A*.
Facilities-wise, there’s plenty of space to play – the vast campus is surrounded by multiple, county-standard pitches for rugby, football and cricket, including new fields laid specifically for girls’ cricket in 2020. Hockey is played on several large, floodlit Astro pitches and there are outdoor tennis courts, too. Making use of the woodland space, there’s a mountain bike track and an area earmarked for 5k and 10k ‘Beckwith’ Runs, scheduled to open in September 2022 in conjunction with the school’s Centenary. Indoors are netball courts, a 25m swimming pool, a climbing wall and a trampoline.
Lord Wandsworth College also offers riding classes, in conjunction with Wellington Riding School, and has an increasingly successful equestrian team. Great fun – and good preparation for Oxbridge potentials – the school’s Paddling Club trains pupils to take part in the epic 125 mile Devizes to Westminster Canoe race.
The well-equipped Art School has had a substantial refurb. Inside, a Sixth Form studio, ceramic studio, printmaking area and specialised Art Library are made good use of by the decent numbers here who go on to take Fine Art and 3D Art as GCSE subjects (91% of whom got an A or A* in 2021).
The Nadine Uppal Theatre, opened in October 2021 after a major refurb by the Room with A View actor and ex-pupil Julian Sands, is very well equipped. GCSE Drama numbers are low but growing fast and it’s a hugely popular cocurricular activity: LAMDA classes (offered between Years 3 and 8) are oversubscribed.
The cohort are pretty musical too – there’s a concert band, regular trips to the Albert Hall, Cadogan Hall, Glyndebourne, London’s West End and local venues, masterclasses, workshops and lectures delivered by professional musicians. Plenty of pupils (approx. 65%) play an instrument and take individual lessons.
Lord Wandsworth College has made some pretty major updates in the last five years, from updated Humanities and English classrooms to a new Health Centre, additional girls’ boarding accommodation and a shiny, light-filled dining hall extension, doubling the existing capacity.
Now in final phase of a ten-year campus extension project –on course to be finished in six – the school cut the ribbon on a huge new multi-million-pound science centre in January 2022. In it are 13 laboratories, top-spec facilities and a walled garden for outdoor experiments. Plans for future development include a new outdoor theatre, classrooms and a shepherd’s hut in the woods. It will be used to host lessons in Outdoor Education as part of the school’s ongoing ‘1200 Acre’ project. .
Like the rest of the school, whether day or boarding (weekly, flexi or full), the Sixth Formers, currently numbering 175 pupils, are part of the thriving boarding house and school community. The majority take part in drama, sport and other activities, like debating club, outside of lessons.
Classes average just 8 – 12 students, giving plenty of scope for individual tuition, and there’s time dedicated to one-to-one careers guidance with their Head of Futures.
Most Sixth Formers go on to University, around half to the Russell Group, with Bath, Cardiff, Exeter, Royal Holloway all popular choices. In 2021, two leavers went to Oxbridge and four to medical schools, with a further three Oxbridge offers so far in 2022. Others have successfully landed places on degree apprenticeships at the likes of Rolls Royce and Price Waterhouse Coopers and many budding entrepreneurs have gone on to start their own businesses.
Good. Results have improved significantly in recent years and there’s a recognition that University isn’t necessarily the right path for everyone. Places are offered on the results of the ISEB Common Pre-Test, taken in Year 6, a school report and an informal interview.
Sixth Formers looking for more practical paths can opt for BTECs in Sport, Creative Digital Media and Enterprise and Entrepreneurship. In 2021, 59% of pupils achieved A or A* at GCSE and 89% achieving A*- B. At A’Level, 56% achieved A* – A and 94% achieved A – C.
This is a real area of strength for Lord Wandsworth College. The school was recognised in 2019 by the Boarding Schools’ Association and again in 2020 at the Independent School of the Year Awards with national awards for mental health and wellbeing. It was also shortlisted for the BSA Working with Vulnerable Children Award in recognition of the work of the Foundation.
Counselling is available five days a week, 70 members of staff are qualified as Mental Health First Aiders and there are five nurses, one FEIPS- (Framework for Enhanced Individual Pastoral Support) Qualified staff member and an onsite chaplain.
The school also has Wellbeing prefects and is big on programmes that enhance self-esteem, inviting external guest speakers every fortnight to discuss wellbeing topics. A parent engagement programme offers support on wellbeing topics like support with revision, online safety and inclusion and diversity.
A dedicated Charity and Outreach programme also enables students to work with the wider community, including disabled youngsters and care home residents.
The boarding community is massive at Lord Wandsworth, outnumbering day pupils 60/40. Every student automatically becomes part of a boarding house which serves to integrate day and boarding communities. Flexi, weekly or full boarding options are all on offer with the majority (around 70%) choosing to flexi-board, despite the fact that 90% live within 40 minutes’ drive and just 6% come from overseas. Three quarters of the teaching staff live onsite.
Boarding houses are separate buildings spread around the campus with large kitchens and communal areas. The bedrooms I see are functional with sweeping views – but with a co-curricular programme of over 100 activities including canoeing, chess, Mandarin and music tech, you get the sense pupils don’t spend a lot of time here. Aside from Saturday enrichment, weekends are quieter but there’s the chance for full boarders to go off-campus for bowling, go karting, cinema and shopping trips.
Headmaster since 2015, Adam Williams has been a real force for change at Lord Wandsworth College. He grew up on the West Coast of Australia, and after moving to the UK, was educated at Bradfield College, later graduating with a degree in Geography from Durham University.
Previously Head of Geography at Bradfield School, House Master at Oakham School and senior deputy head at The Glasgow Academy, his quiet enthusiasm, refreshing Aussie openness and passion for the job have made him a real hit here.
Clearly a big believer in student autonomy – in word and deed – he’s consulted pupils on some hefty investment projects totalling £20m and new faculty appointments over the last six years, even allowing them to approve and veto at interview stage.
Still a cornerstone of the school, the charitable Lord Wandsworth Foundation continues to support bereaved children and those who’ve lost the support of one or both parents through other circumstances such as divorce, disability or mental ill-health.
Less common now in independent schools, Lord Wandsworth College’s non-uniform Saturday morning programme (9.30am until 11.30am) is still going strong. Part of the school’s focus on character education, weekend boarders are expected to participate, but it is optional for other students and around 80% do.
The mantra is “all about choices” and they take it to the max – here you can study for a GCSE in Astronomy and take part in everything extra-curricular activities from bike surgery, carriage driving, sailing, dissection and Greek clubs. Academic clinics, Oxbridge preparation and other academic extension programmes also take place on Saturday mornings, upskilling the pupils on everything from activism to networking and setting up a company.
Kicking off the school year on a messy high, the Lord Wandsworth College Colour Run sees pupils take a two-and-a-half kilometre route around the schools grounds to raise money for charity – while enthusiastic onlookers throw armfuls of coloured powder at them. Oh, and another unusual sporting quirk – Lord Wandsworth College have a long tradition of playing ‘Puddex’, a hybrid game of cricket and rounders.
In its 2020 ISI inspection, the quality of students’ academic and other achievements was rated Good and the quality of students’ personal development as Excellent.
MOBILE PHONE POLICY
Lord Wandsworth College believe in the mental health benefits of having time offline. Brought in as part of a digital detox three years ago, there’s a well adhered-to no mobile phone policy between 8am and 5pm on school days.
The school runs a morning bus service Monday to Friday and a reduced service on some routes on Saturday mornings. The school day is officially 8.30am to 4pm but activities can run up to 8pm in the evening and all students have access to boarding house facilities, allowing flexibility on pickup times for day pupils.
FEES + SCHOLARSHIPS
Slightly higher or comparative with other local independents. Fees for 2022 are £7,340 per term up to £10,790 per term for junior school (depending on day, flexi or full boarding) and £8,630 per term up to £12,280 per term for senior school, or £57 per night for occasional boarding.
Scholarships are offered at all the main entry points (11+, 13+ and 16+). The majority are honorary (no fee discount) but a small number carry a financial reward of up to a 10% reduction in the annual fees. Disciplines include Academic, Art, Performing Arts, Sports, Design and Technology and All-Rounder Awards.
WORD ON THE GROUND
Day and boarders are equally enthusiastic – one day pupil says she feels safe and included in the boarding community, loves the spirit, the food and the drama clubs, especially Thursday night Shakespeare.
Another full-time boarder and Foundationer praised the Pupil Voice programme, saying new ideas are taken up quickly. She enjoys the routine of breakfasting and walking to lessons with peers, although she admits it can be quiet on the weekends.
Parents say they love the fact that children are well cared for and treated as individuals, although a few prospective families are mindful of the potential pressure from kids to flexi-board and deterred by it.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Independent thinkers, sporty types and budding entrepreneurs will all do well here, with plenty of individual attention and a nurturing boarding community that benefits everyone.
Not for: Kids who aren’t so keen on co-curricular and leave bang on the bell will find themselves in a minority. Logistics-wise, the rural location doesn’t make an easy pickup for all routes, especially in darker winter months. There’s no pressure from the school but many day pupils do apply pester power to transition to flexi-boarding, which won’t be for everyone.
Dare to disagree? Be my guest! Individual tours of the school are available by appointment. Lord Wandsworth College has its next Open Evening on 22 June 2022, from 6-9pm.
Lord Wandsworth College, Long Sutton, Hook, Hampshire, RG29 1TA. Tel. 01256 862201