Reporting the largest pupil roll since its foundation nearly 500 years ago, Sedbergh School’s headmaster Andrew Fleck puts steady growth and a recent surge in demand for places down to a strong identity and character.
A geologist, experienced sailor and ocean canoeist, Andrew Fleck moved from Ashville College in Harrogate to Sedbergh, in 2011. He said: “Following our strongest exam results in years, significant investment in the infrastructure of the school, and with the highest number of Old Sedberghians in touch with the school than at any other time, enquiries have risen steadily. At the start of the next academic year, the school will have more than 530 pupils; in terms of growth, we are now outperforming schools in London and other rival schools in the North. We put this down to the fact that, from our experience, we know that schools like Sedbergh are rare in the South and we are unique in the North – we are a full boarding school, one of only a handful left in the country. Almost all of our Senior School pupils remain at Sedbergh through the weekends because we pack it full of sports, activities and social events. They want to be with their friends. Sedbergh chose to retain house-dining years ago – three times a day, every pupil sits down to a formal meal in the Boarding House dining room, where the day’s conversation is buzzing.
This year, academic results rose for the third year in a row and all pupils were able to study at their chosen university – typically, popular choices for Sedberghians include London School of Economics, Nottingham, Durham and Edinburgh. Deputy Head Dan Harrison points to the changes the School has introduced over the last three years. “It ranges from week-long study visits to Cambridge University, to the 100-hour revision challenge at Easter and to the introduction of Study Skills workshops with Elevate Education. Our Nine Star programme, which launched in September, gives our top academic scholars time in the curriculum to devote to a bespoke course aimed at developing mental agility and independent study and research skills, pushing the boundaries of learning.
“Full Boarding allows plenty of time for extra lessons and tutorials, and a great deal of thought has gone into tactical planning for success as well as the quality of teaching and marking, both reviewed weekly. Even during the School holidays, pupils are eager to join a tour or study visit. This year, pupils have been on tours with Modern Foreign Languages, Music, Classics, Cricket and Rugby, and our Running team has just returned from a week in the French Pyrenees. These opportunities all support learning and personal development during term time and provide fantastic opportunities for building confidence and getting to know new friends.”
Sedbergh has long been known for the strength of its sport, and the honour boards in rugby and cricket pavilions are crammed with Internationals. Netball, hockey, cricket and rugby teams challenge for a place in national finals on a regular basis and the Rugby Sevens team brought home the Rosslyn Park Sevens trophy in 2013. This month we have a National Champion in the Sedbergh Equestrian team and our girls are county champions at netball and hockey in every age group. It is not just in team sports that pupils excel – the school shoots at the highest level and performs strongly on the sailing circuit – last month the School team won the Laser 3000 Trophy at Rutland. Adventurous pupils can climb and cave, others shoot and fish. And it is extraordinary to see the whole school gripped by fell-running fever as the historic 10 Mile Wilson Run approaches in March. After that? They have a concert. Imagine blowing your tuba after running 10 miles across the fells!
What is the School’s secret of success? “It is the infectious ambition of pupils and staff who embrace all manner of challenges with enthusiasm and camaraderie,” claims Andrew Fleck. “Quite simply, pupils and parents tell us that Sedbergh feels like a School where anything can happen!”