Stoke Newington school
This Hackney school — lovingly known as Stokey School — has a strong reputation for both the creative arts and academia. In 2006, it unveiled its new sixth form, and this year students received record-breaking A-level results, with 83 per cent achieving A*–C grades.
In 2002 the school was awarded a Media Arts specialism, and until 2013 it was a designated ‘media arts and science college’. The focus on the arts still lies at its heart, with links to organisations such as the Barbican and the BBC, and extracurricular activities ranging from workshops (including a self-esteem workshop with TV presenter Miquita Oliver, pictured) to theatre and museum visits, and even opportunities abroad. Examples have included Latin trips to Rome and photography trips to New York. With facilities including a recording studio, theatre, TV studio and photography dark rooms, it’s no wonder sixth-form places are in demand.
Howell’s school, Llandaff
In 1537, Welsh merchant Thomas Howell left 12,000 gold ducats to the Drapers’ Company to provide dowries ‘every yere for Maydens for ever’. By 1860 this sum had grown enough for two schools to be opened: Howell’s School in Llandaff, outside Cardiff, and a school of the same name in Denbigh which has since closed. Although Howell’s now allows boys alongside its ‘maydens’ in sixth form, from three to 16 the school remains single-sex, and is a member of the Girls’ Day School Trust. It also maintains links to the Drapers’ Company, with Drapers Scholarships awarded to exceptional students each year. As well as good academic results (80 per cent of A-level results were A* to B grades, this year), Howell’s also has a new sports complex which opened in September last year. This boasts a pavilion, tennis courts, and an all-weather floodlit pitch for hockey, netball and football.
With a strong Christian ethos, perhaps it’s no surprise that at Lancing, the chapel plays an important role in daily life. But this is not your average school chapel. The gothic-revival building is the largest school chapel in the world, with a nave soaring to 90ft. Founded by Nathaniel Woodard in 1868, this independent, co-educational school for pupils aged 13 to 18 sits on the South Downs, overlooking the sea. With a 550-acre campus, Lancing also boasts its own farm, which means that subjects such as geography, biology and business studies can expand beyond the classroom. The farm’s rare-breed pork and lamb goes to both the school kitchens and local suppliers, and pupils learn about modern farming methods alongside traditional activities such as hedge-laying and coppicing. Conservation is also a focus, and students have been planting elm trees to protect and encourage butterflies, as well as carrying out species monitoring.
In the heart of the Yorkshire Dales, Giggleswick claims to be one of the oldest schools in the country. Founded in 1499 and built in 1512, the original site is now the school’s shooting range. There are 450 pupils aged three to 18, with boarding available from Year 5 onwards. More than 60 per cent of pupils are either full or flexi-boarders. The school is in the process of a multi-million pound revamp of its boarding facilities and a new upper sixth-form house will also be built, with the aim of allowing final year students more independence in preparation for university. Its location means the outdoors plays a big part in school life; as well as offering Combined Cadet Force, which is compulsory in Year 10, the Giggleswick Outdoor Pursuits certificate is part of the Year 9 curriculum, and among school staff there are five mountain leaders, two winter mountain leaders and five rock-climbing instructors.