Polam Hall School

Polam Hall School is a British mixed day and boarding school and sixth form located in Darlington, County Durham, England. The school is for pupils ages 4 to 19.

Polam Hall School
Grange Road

, ,

Coordinates54.5190°N 1.5599°W / 54.5190; -1.5599
TypeFree school;
Boarding school
MottoConcordia crescimus
("Grow in harmony")
Local authorityDarlington
Department for Education URN142174 Tables
Chair of GovernorsMrs Sally Pelham
PrincipalMrs Kate Reid
Age4 to 19
HousesSwale, Kent, Skerne and Tees

Polam Hall was founded as a Quaker "finishing school" for girls.[1] It is now mixed-gender and inter-denominational but still retains its Quaker traditions and ethos.


Mr Harrington Lee, a prominent Darlington merchant, built a house in the country in 1794 and lived there with his family for 27 years; upon his death in 1824 his remaining family sold the property in the area referred to as 'Polam Hill'.

In 1825, Jonathan Backhouse, a financial backer of the railways, bought 'Polam Hill' and was responsible for renovations including the landscaping of the grounds; it was not until 1828 that his wife Hannah (née Chapman Gurney) and family moved in. As members of the Darlington Society of Friends (Quakers) and ministers they undertook missionary work resulting in them having to travel extensively around England and America. As cousins of Edward Pease, Joseph John Gurney and Elizabeth Fry, they were able to work with each other to improve their world. In the 1841 census, the family are listed as living in 'Polam Hall', but it is understood that both Jonathan, who died in 1842, and Hannah, who died in 1850, continued to refer to their home as 'Polam Hill'.[2][3]

'Polam Hall' was sold to William and Robert Thompson, who leased it to the Procter sisters for use as a Quaker ladies’ finishing school. The Thompsons went into liquidation in 1878, and one of their largest creditors, Arthur Pease, became Polam’s new owner.[4][5][6]

In 2004, boys were introduced to the school for the first time when the sixth form became coeducational. Previously, some boys from the nearby boys' independent school Hurworth House School would take certain subjects there.[7] A separate boys' senior section was later set up for boys aged 11–16.[8] After the closure of its sister school Hurworth House.[9]

In October 2013, the school announced intentions to convert from a private to a free school in 2015..."Independent Education without Fees".[10][11] As a free school, Polam Hall is funded by the state, while remaining fully independent in all the areas that matter. Day pupils are admitted without fees, and follow the national admissions code. Like academies, the school is independent of local authority control, with their own governing body. They will continue to offer boarding. Boarders will not pay fees for tuition; they will pay for board and lodging only. In June 2014, the school was awarded free school status by the Department of Education, and became a free (or public) school in September 2015.[12]


Boarding is available to pupils aged 8 and above. They are looked after by head of boarding assisted by a team of resident house staff. The boarders themselves elect a leadership team consisting of a head boarder, assistant head boarder(s), and two heads of house.[13]

Polam Old Scholars

The Polam Hall Old Scholars Association (PHOSA) has existed since 1894 and now is a registered charity in its own right (No. 1058652), throughout the year the old scholars receive an annual newsletter and have the opportunity to attend the PHOSA AGM at the school every June.

Notable Old Scholars include:


  1. "150-year-old private school bucks trend and admits boys". The Northern Echo. 30 September 2004.
  2. Public Records Office – Census record for 1841 Reference H107/303/23 accessed on March 23, 2011
  3. "Catalogue of the Backhouse Papers". reed.dur.ac.uk. Retrieved 23 March 2011.
  4. Davies, Kathleen M. Polam Hall Story of a School G. Prodhoe & Co., LTD 1981 ISBN 0-9507796-0-1
  5. "Brothers' bankruptcy spurred expansion of People's Park". The Northern Echo. 17 March 2004. Retrieved 29 March 2011.
  6. School History Archived 2011-01-12 at the Wayback Machine
  7. "Boys? A Polam Hall..." The Northern Echo. 8 October 2004.
  8. "International athlete is new head of school". Darlington & Stockton Times. 4 May 2011.
  9. "Parent says "We are absolutely devastated – I think that is the feeling of us all."". The Northern Echo. 30 June 2010.
  10. Barry Nelson. "Polam Hall School set to join the free school revolution (From The Northern Echo)". Thenorthernecho.co.uk. Retrieved 23 February 2017.
  11. "Polam Hall Free School and Sixth Form". Polamhall.com. 20 June 2014. Archived from the original on 16 October 2013. Retrieved 23 February 2017.
  12. "Polam Hall will offer free education (From The Northern Echo)". Thenorthernecho.co.uk. 19 June 2014. Retrieved 23 February 2017.
  13. Boarding Archived 2012-10-14 at the Wayback Machine
  14. Hardwick, Viv (14 October 2004). "Magic MacBeth". thenorthernecho.co.uk. Retrieved 23 March 2011.
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