PUBLISHED: 11:18 22 February 2011 | UPDATED: 18:55 20 February 2013
Lancing College is built on the dream of one man, Nathaniel Woodard who was born 200 years ago. Head Jonathan Gillespie tells Simon Irwin that the founder would be proud of the way his creation has developed
Thefirst thing that everyone thinks of when you say Lancing College is its iconic chapel, a magnificent 19th century landmark on the horizon. What most people dont know is that it isnt finished. One day it will be completed, unlike the work to improve the school which the head Jonathan Gillespie says will never end.
Talking to Mr Gillespie, the sense you get is that the work to do the best for all the pupils, each individual, is ceaseless.
He is passionate about the principle of educating individuals and assisting them to achieve their full potential in a happy environment.
Our over-riding ethos is that what we do is to look after individual pupils. No one size fits all. Theres no Lancing mould that we put 13-year-olds into and squeeze for five years and then release them at 18 to pop out all looking the same to go out to do the same things. I want my pupils to be happy and I dont mean that in the trite sense. I mean if theyre busy and challenged and have lots to do then they will be successful.
Times have changed and Lancing College has changed with them. One thing that has not is that it is very much a boarding school. Day pupils are warmly welcomed but they are coming into a boarding ethos.
Mr Gillespie says that, unlike in the past, children choose to board rather than being sent away by their parents and that boarding numbers at Lancing are increasing.
Were bucking UK trends because nationally the numbers are declining. Our boarding percentage has gone up 5 per cent since I arrived. Partly its us saying quite unashamedly that were a boarding school and we believe in it.
The Head Master is particularly proud of the schools Ofsted inspection report published in January that said boarding at the school was outstanding. This was the second outstanding report in a row.
The great thing about having lessons on Saturday is that it gives you time in the week to do the sport and the music and the drama and all of those other extra curricular things that add the value that you cannot measure.
In modern boarding schools it is the children who want to board and thats the fundamental thing. So the starting point is very, very positive because the children want to be here or they buy into the boarding ethos as day pupils. We will remain a boarding school with day pupils which is very different from a day school with boarders.
Again, unlike the traditional model where the pupils turned up and didnt leave for seven weeks until half-term, parents can come along to support their children and, after the Saturday matches, the pupils can go home for the rest of the weekend if they wish.
We encourage parents to come and watch sport, we encourage them to come and watch the plays, and parents want to see their children at the weekends. So Saturdays here are lovely. We have lots of parents on the touchline. And for those that want to go home most weekends, they can go home and come back Sunday night or Monday morning.
The quality time that parents have with the children, and Ive had a number of parents say this, improves. They know that Saturday afternoon to Sunday evening is family time. The school takes care of the hassle of homework, of washing the games kit, all those sorts of things. There are parents who say somewhat ruefully that actually they get on better with their children since they have started to board.
As well as the attention given to pastoral care, the school prides itself on its academic results. Last summer 21.5 per cent of its A-level results were A* and 49 per cent of the candidates got at least one A*.
Developments for the future include the adoption of the IGCSE, the international qualification, for English as well as Maths. Mr Gillespie jokes that technically this will mean that Lancing will be a failing school as the Government league tables, unlike all the universities, dont yet recognise the IGCSE!
We think that the IGCSE is a better preparation in these subjects for A-level which is why we have decided to follow it for them.