Leighton Park School
Leighton Park School is a co-educational independent school for both day and boarding pupils in Reading in South East England. The school's ethos is closely tied to the Quaker values, having been founded as a Quaker School in 1890. The school's ethos is described as achievement with values, character and community.
|Leighton Park School/Reading|
Day and boarding school
|Age||11 to 18|
|Houses||5 (4 Senior, 1 Junior)|
|Colour(s)||Blue, Gold, Brown|
|Campus||64-acre (260,000 m2) parkland campus|
|Former Pupils||Old Leightonians|
The school is based in a 65-acre parkland estate just south of Reading town centre, next to the University of Reading's Whiteknights Park campus. The school is a member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference. It offers both the International Baccalaureate and A Levels at Sixth Form and sends a high proportion of its pupils to Russell Group universities and Oxford or Cambridge and specialist arts institutions.
Matthew Judd has been the headmaster since September 2018. Leighton Park School is the top school in Berkshire for academic progress in the Sixth Form as recognised by the UK Government's league tables. The GCSE results achieved by students in 2018 were the best in a decade.
The school is particularly well known for Sciences, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) as well as the Creative Arts, with music a long established strength of the school.
Accolades on the STEM side include the school winning the national Community STEM Awards for secondary schools in 2017 for its iSTEM+ programme. This programme takes a creative problem-solving approach to learning and incorporates projects supported by the school's industry partners, notably Cisco, Intel, Pfizer and BION. The school is also a Lead School for the Network of Teaching Excellence in Computer Science, the only school in Berkshire to carry this status. The school offers a wide range of GCSE, A Level and IB courses to reflect these strengths, including offering both Engineering and Design and Technology at GCSE.
"Young people must be engaged and inspired to ensure we grow the next generation of scientific talent. We can only do this through close collaboration between industry and schools such as Leighton Park, that focus on excellence in STEAM.” - Rohini Beavon, Clinical Scientist Lead (Director), Pfizer Ltd
For Creative Arts, the school is a Yamaha Flagship Music Education Partner, the only school in Europe to hold this prestigious status. Over 50% of student study an instrument in the school, with 27 music teachers covering a very wide range of instruments. The school also offers dance with a new studio and a GCSE qualification available. The school has a new music and media centre, with impressive facilities to support student learning in this area.
The school also has a long association with film, with the Oscar-winning film director David Lean studying at the school. Today the school teaches a BTec in Digital Media Production and works closely with nearby Pinewood Studios.
Old School and attached laboratories at Leighton Park are Grade II listed buildings. Grove House was designed by notable Victorian architect Alfred Waterhouse, who also designed the Natural History Museum in London.
As a boarding school, Leighton Park offers a flexible school day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are included in the school fees. Students have six 55 minute lessons each day and can choose to come in from 7.30am and stay later to enjoy one of the 90 co-curricular options, have dinner with their friends and benefit from supervised prep time with a teacher. In Years 7-8 students can stay until 7.30pm, while in more senior years students are welcome to stay until 9.30pm.
The school runs its own admissions assessment, placing emphasis on an interview and a piece of creative writing as well as maths and English assessments. Admission to the Sixth Form is assessed by an interview, a student's GCSE results and their school report from the current institution. Students applying to the Sixth Form should hold five GCSE grades at 6-9, while students wishing to study maths at A Level or IB will need a grade 7 or above. Entry to the school is usually at Year 7, 9 or 12 - but may also be permitted in other years, subject to availability. The school has a Pre-Sixth one year GCSE programme, where international students study five GCSEs in one year.
Leighton Park was opened in 1890 by members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), as a public school for boys. It was founded after Grove House School, also a Quaker school, closed in 1877. Grove School had educated notable personalities such as Lord Lister, Alfred Waterhouse and Thomas Hodgkin.
Leighton Park grew from four boys in 1890 to 103 in the 1920s. The junior school became the independent Crosfields School, making Leighton Park solely a senior school. By 1970 the school had 300 pupils, and in 1975 girls were admitted to the sixth form. In 1993 the school became fully coeducational. Today the school is home to around 475 pupils drawn from over 32 different countries.
In March 2016, the school was granted planning permission to develop the main hall and music department into the Music and Media Centre (MMC) which will enhance the facilities for teaching Music and Media at the school. The building is scheduled to be finished in January 2019.
Traditions and routines
Leighton Park, due to its Quaker heritage, has customs and traditions which differ from those in Anglican schools. These include:
- "Collect": A daily meeting similar other schools' assemblies, in which pupils gather for presentations and talks. Every collect ends with a silence lasting several minutes to reflect on the topic addressed. Unlike many school assemblies, hymns are not sung. These generally occur on Mondays, Fridays and alternating Wednesdays.
- "Meeting for Worship": A weekly event similar to Quaker meetings across the country. The meeting lasts about 20–25 minutes and is held in silence to reflect on thoughts and feelings, with a free forum for anyone to stand up and speak about issues on their mind. This occurs on Thursday mornings before lessons begin.
- "Monthly Meeting": A meeting in which pupils can air grievances on any matter. It is usually chaired by the head boy and head girl. The school senior management are usually present to respond. These occur monthly on Tuesday mornings.
- In the spirit of Quaker teachings, pupils and staff refer to each other on a first name basis in order to create a sense of equality.
There are five houses at Leighton Park: four senior (School, Field, Grove and Reckitt) and one junior (Fryer). Each senior house has around 100 pupils, and the junior house has approximately 120 pupils. The houses are integral to school with many inter-house competitions occurring throughout the year, including the annual house music competition, the Richard Coleman sports shield and the merit cup.
The first house established was the original "School House" which is now called "Old School" due to the construction of a more modern house which retains the same name, followed by 'Grove House', after Grove School, which Leighton Park has historical links with. The junior house, 'Fryer', houses pupils aged 11–13. All the houses are mixed sex. School, Field and Reckitt all have facilities for day and boarding pupils. Fryer pupils can board in the senior houses.
The school has a floodlit astroturf sports pitch and 22 tennis courts along with four main sports fields. The school's provision includes athletics, cricket, rugby, hockey and netball, football, tennis and swimming. The school awards sports scholarships to talented students.
The school hosts an annual cross-country competition with a course more than 2.5 km long. There is also a house 'Road Relay' race and regular inter-house sport competitions in rugby, football, athletics, hockey, tennis and swimming.
The school recently hosted a Super Six Rugby Sevens Tournament, a spin-off of the 'Super Six' rugby XV cup competition that the school founded and takes part in with five other schools. It has won the cup on several occasions. The school also participates in the Daily Mail Cup rugby competition.
The school has had lots of success in sport in the past decade. In 2018 both Rugby and Hockey First XV's reached the final of their respective competitions, with the Hockey team winning the tournament for the second year in a row. The Rugby team was also the first school boys Rugby team in the country to allow non-binary members into the team.
Music and drama
All students at the school have the chance to learn an instrument with over 50% currently taking lessons with one of the schools 27 music teachers. The school awards music scholarships and organises multiple concerts, an annual house music competition and has multiple musical groups such as the orchestra, vocal, jazz and brass groups. Students can study music at GCSE and in the sixth form as well as music technology.
The school has recently completed a new Music and Media Centre (MMC). The MMC has been built to support Leighton Park's status as a Yamaha Flagship Music Education Partner, the only school in Europe to have this level of partnership. The building includes a new frontage and extension on the side which enhances the facilities for teaching Music and Media and also provide a new pedestrianised landscape area around the hall. The building contains seven new practice rooms and three new specialist music classrooms; a 'live lounge' inspired by BBC Radio 1, which can be used for band rehearsals, recordings and broadcasts; a custom-built media room including a green screen, lighting, editing equipment and a surround sound cinema system. An Extended foyer will provide a new frontage to the existing main hall and create an area of light and space, which can be used for small receptions. Externally, the paved and pedestrian areas around the hall provides seating and areas of relaxation for the whole school community and visitors to enjoy.
Leighton Park's Main Hall theatre is the home of school productions. It is also often hired by local choral and drama companies. There is usually one main School production per academic year, alternating between a musical and a play.
Younger students at Leighton Park have the opportunity to perform in the "Fryer Festival" in the summer.
The school offers GCSE drama as well as A-level theatre studies.
In April 2005, Quaker-based Sunday Worship was broadcast live from Leighton Park on BBC Radio 4. Heard by an estimated 1.75 million listeners, the sequence of readings, music, ministry and silence "reflected the essence of Quaker values to the wider world."
In November 2011 thieves stole Maverick the Harris hawk from a teachers aviary. Maverick was used "to build a more adventurous curriculum for pupils" and helped students learn physics. Pupils were left distraught after the theft as a core team of pupils had been trained to handle him.
In popular culture
The school is mentioned in the play and film The History Boys by Alan Bennett. The headmaster mentions schools he would like to emulate regarding high pupil entry to Oxford; among them is Leighton Park — 'or is that an open prison?', he adds.
Notable old pupils include:
- Sir John Adye, former director of the GCHQ
- Crispin Aubrey, Civil Rights campaigner
- Sir Tony Baldry, former MP
- Julian Bell, poet and Bloomsbury member
- Quentin Bell, Bloomsbury member, artist and writer
- Eliza Bennett, actress
- Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, composer and jazz pianist
- Michael Binyon, journalist
- Sir John Birch, former ambassador
- Owen Bowcott, journalist
- Derek Brewer, Secretary and Chief Executive of Marylebone Cricket Club
- Jim Broadbent, Oscar winning actor
- Sir John Braithwaite, chairman of London Stock Exchange
- Basil Bunting, poet
- Helen Cadbury, chair of Barrow Cadbury Trust, poet, author, educator
- Kristian Callaghan, British pistol shooter, winner of Bronze Medal 2014 Commonwealth Games
- Lance Clark (retail; founder of Soul of Africa), ex-CEO of Clark's Shoes
- Nathan Crowley, Oscar-nominated art director in the film industry
- Baron Davies of Stamford, former MP, minister and life peer
- Leonard Doncaster, geneticist
- Christopher Dorling, co-founder of Dorling Kindersley
- Phil Dunster, actor, Olivier Award nominee 2016
- Jordan Gage, actor, "Bat out of Hell"
- Jason Durr, actor
- Owen Edwards, pioneer of Welsh TV broadcasting
- Prof. James Fairhead, anthropology, University of Sussex
- Hugh Foot, Baron Caradon, former ambassador
- Michael Foot, former Labour Party leader
- Robert Gillmor, artist and ornithologist
- Hugh Haughton, Professor at York University
- Tim Ingold, anthropologist and Professor at Aberdeen University
- Sir David Lean, Oscar award-winning film director
- Po Shun Leong, artist
- Peter Litten, film director
- Tom Lowenstein, poet
- David McFarland, former Professor of Animal Behaviour, Oxford University
- Laura Marling, award-winning singer songwriter
- Tom Maschler, publisher and writer; former Chairman of Cape, co-founder of The Booker Prize; founder of The Book Bus
- Jagat Singh Mehta, Foreign Secretary India, 1970s
- John Mitchell, musician and music producer
- Nicholas Moore, poet and son of GE Moore, Cambridge Philosopher
- Sir Oscar Morland, diplomat and ambassador
- Prof. Peter Nienow, Edinburgh University, awarded Polar Medal 2017, recognition for his pioneering glaciological work in the Arctic.
- Lawrence Owens, archaeologist
- Nathaniel Parker, award-winning actor
- Patrick Parrinder, Professor of English, Reading University
- Lionel Penrose, psychiatrist, medical geneticist, paediatrician, mathematician and chess theorist, Galton professor of eugenics at University College London
- Sir Roland Penrose, artist, historian and poet
- Henry Priestman, singer/songwriter (The Christians)
- John Prizeman, Architect and leading Author on Modern design
- Prof. Mark Rainforth, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Sheffield University
- Prof. Dan Reinstein, eye surgeon
- Karel Reisz, award-winning film director
- Prof. Julian Stallabrass, art historian, photographer and lecturer, Courtauld
- Ian Stillman, missionary
- Steven Tsui, consultant surgeon, clinical director of transplant services at Papworth Hospital
- Richard Vernon, actor
- Richard G. Wilkinson, social epidemiologist, author and advocate
- Timothy Williamson, Wykeham Professor of Logic, Oxford University
- Dr Robert Wilson, pioneer surgeon in New Guinea and took the Surgeon's Photograph of the Loch Ness Monster
- Stuart Zender, musician
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- "Scientist wins royal award for work in Arctic", BBC News, 23 January 2017.
- The Leightonian [school magazine] (pub. 1895).
- The Park [school magazine] (pub. termly).
- Old Leightonians Club. A list of names and addresses of the old boys of Leighton Park School (pub. 1945, 1957, 1973, 1990).
- Brown, S. W. Leighton Park: A history of the school (pub. 1952).
- Leighton Park School, Leighton Park: The first 100 years (pub. 1990).
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