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No massaging of results here - if you study for a subject you sit the exam. 'Failure not necessarily a bad thing,' says school. 'Sometimes it can provide a much needed wake-up call.' Happy, relaxed but purposeful atmosphere, knots of pupils engaged in conversation amongst themselves or with staff. Polite and smiling welcome from everyone; a real sense of community. Rooms were reassuringly ‘lived in’, personalised with posters, photos, soft toys and general clutter. Full activity programme and a new year 5 boarder spoke glowingly of…

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2015 Good Schools Guide Awards

  • Best performance by Girls taking Drama & Theatre Studies at an English Independent School (GCE A level)
  • Best performance by Boys taking Drama & Theatre Studies at an English Independent School (GCE AS level)
  • Best performance by Boys taking Spanish at an English Independent School (GCE AS level)
  • Excellent performance by Boys taking Art & Design (Fine Art) at an English Independent School (GCSE)

Other features

All-through school (for example 3-18 years). - An all-through school covers junior and senior education. It may start at 3 or 4, or later, and continue through to 16 or 18. Some all-through schools set exams at 11 or 13 that pupils must pass to move on.


Equestrian centre or equestrian team - school has own equestrian centre or an equestrian team.


What The Good Schools Guide says


Since 2014, Mark Turnbull MA, previously deputy head of Eastbourne College. Studied geography at Liverpool University and did an MA in London; taught geography at Sevenoaks, where he was also head of department, housemaster and head of boarding. An active hockey, cricket and rugby coach, he has led charity and international projects. Married with three children.

Academic matters

In 2016, 39 per cent A*/A grades at GCSE and 32 per cent at A level (67 per cent A*/B). Improved academic standards ‘spectacular with the same intake', due to personalised learning, with setting in French, maths, science and humanities, focused learning support and ‘aspire’ programme for gifted and talented. Combined with individual monthly assessment of effort and attainment measured against targets, with tutor sessions to motivate further improvement. All available online to pupil and parents, together with full reports three times a year. Success breeds success and has allowed the school to turn down the odd pupil.

Broad curriculum with separate sciences and a taste of three modern foreign languages and Latin in year 7, reducing to two language subjects by year 9. Choice of 19 GCSE subjects – usually nine or 10 taken. Committed staff, a blend of age and experience who ‘provide inspiration to the pupils and are very positive and caring'. ‘A pretty impressive bunch’ a general view from parents, articulated by one. Small class sizes, less than 20, and significantly smaller groups, down to four pupils, study a selection of the 22 A level courses offered. Sixth form enrichment through the EPQ plus Open University YASS modules - offered alongside A levels for those who require stretch and challenge. Most interests and abilities catered for though those wanting to pursue purely vocational courses are directed elsewhere at 16. No massaging of results here - if you study for a subject you sit the exam. 'Failure not necessarily a bad thing,' says school. 'Sometimes it can provide a much needed wake-up call.'

Special educational needs support tailored to individual need and provided through support in the classroom on the whole. Full time special educational needs co-ordinator and successful buddy system where older children with experience of a learning difficulty mentor younger ones. EFL provided (two to four lessons a week), one-to-one, in study periods, but anyone arriving from abroad must have a basic level of English.

Lots of computers, including some in each boarding house; every pupil has email and a computer link in their study bedroom.

Games, options, the arts

Rugby, cricket, cross-country and hockey loom large in the (very full) fixture list. International coaching over the past few years has led to such success that the school has had to drop traditional fixtures in search of more competition. With impressive investment in indoor and outdoor sports facilities almost any and every sporting interest is covered. Seven hard and three grass courts, together with the opportunity to train in Portugal, ensure continued popularity of tennis.

Keen drama started by Russell Harty - several OGs and some pupils active in the profession, but luvvies and their tantrums not tolerated. The Richard Whiteley Theatre, named after the late TV presenter, who was an old boy and governor, provides a suitable and flexible venue for such recent diverse productions as We Will Rock You and Alice in Wonderland.

Art and design taken seriously – a real strength with good facilities across the disciplines, resident artist changing annually, impressively ambitious design work allowing some pupils to skip university foundation courses.

A third of pupils learn an instrument (some play professionally), heavenly chapel choir and lots of bands regularly tour home and abroad. Plenty of opportunity to perform in front of a home crowd with a programme including recitals, concerts and annual rock concert, not to mention the fiercely contested ‘themed’ inter-house Singing and Speaking competition.

CCF compulsory in year 10, those that carry on can gain silver and gold D of E awards and earn an additional four A/A* GCSEs through the CVQO Public Services BTec scheme, in addition to military qualifications. Making the most of its glorious Dales location, outdoor pursuits activities abound; conservation projects and all the usual opportunities too.


Seven houses - four boys', two girls', one junior (years 7 and 8 together with junior school boarders). Different character to each of the boys’ houses (not surprising with 500 years of history), not so for the girls. All pupils allocated a bed, room mates usually a mix of day and boarding. Small dorms for years 7 and 8, study bedrooms for years 9 and up, shared until year 11 (boys) or sixth form (girls). Senior house staff tutor years 7-10, with pupils choosing their tutors from year 11. Exeats – four a term. Few full junior boarders, though some flexi-boarding in the eight-bedded dorms in the junior boarding house. Full activity programme and a new year 5 boarder spoke glowingly of kindness, good dinners and fun.

The boarding houses we visited were comfortably furnished and in good order though the boys’ evidenced more wear and tear. Rooms were reassuringly ‘lived in’, personalised with posters, photos, soft toys and general clutter. ‘Keep calm and carry on’ seems to be the universal mantra. Sixth formers play an important role in the smooth running of the house and are rewarded with single rooms. Year 9 prep is done in separate study areas and monitored by sixth formers. Common rooms, displaying fine examples of residents’ art, are filled with squashy sofas, board games, puzzles, a Wii, DVDs and music. Strict rules on TV watersheds but Saturday night is film night.

Background and atmosphere

Set in the western margins of the magnificent Yorkshire Dales beneath an imposing limestone escarpment, 60 minutes' drive north of Manchester and Leeds (so the brochure says). Founded in 1512, moved to present site in 1869. Attractive buildings overlook Giggleswick village beneath the fabulously restored chapel, complete with landmark copper dome, a fitting reward for the walk up the steep hill.

Immaculate and comfortably sized school campus (big enough to be roomy, small enough to retain a real sense of community) with a calming oasis of lawn in its midst. Happy, relaxed but purposeful atmosphere, knots of pupils engaged in conversation amongst themselves or with staff. Polite and smiling welcome from everyone; a real sense of community.

Promotes a real ‘can do’ philosophy, encouragement and support for pupils to have a go at anything and everything. Evening prep, activities, clubs, house events, rehearsals and sports practices mean it's a 12 hour school day, with little respite on Saturdays. All the pupils we spoke to seemed to thrive on it, though Sunday evening chapel was popular for the lie in it provided. Not surprisingly, day pupils opt to use their bed in their boarding house on occasions – for a fee.

Recent sympathetic development has included the Richard Whitely theatre, sports halls, all weather pitch, upgrade to classroom facilities and at the heart of the school, the wonderful Sharpe library, where there’s always a buzz of activity. IT suite and internet café are popular venues for nightly prep.

All meals eaten in the modern dining hall (cafeteria system, separate sittings, lots of choice and pupil endorsement that the food is good). Boarders can supplement with toast, hot drinks and other snacks they prepare in the house kitchenettes (girls’ facilities more extensive than boys’ – surprise, surprise).

Sixth form centre with bar on the edge of the main campus– current cohort trying to find ways to make it more ‘happening’. Alcohol allowed at weekends but consumption strictly monitored.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

Parents see pastoral care supported by medical centre, school doctor and chaplain as a major strength. They describe pastoral care as ‘fantastic’, ‘the staff are dedicated and genuinely care about the children’. Correspondingly, there are no significant pupil behaviour problems, though lack of accessibility to temptation in this rural location may help. Chapel is an integral and important part of the school but faith more important than denomination and appreciated by a number of parents who believe ‘it adds a special personal spiritual experience'.

Thorough drugs checks (this is no-nonsense Yorkshire) - sniffer dogs brought in termly; compulsory drugs testing used on known and suspected offenders and anyone dealing faces immediate expulsion. Smokers required to attend cessation clinics.

More traffic from boys to girls’ houses, visits welcomed but permission must be sought to move away from public areas. Behaviour between sexes 'should not cause embarrassment to anyone'. Staff vigilant for anorexia and similar – system in place to check on pupils suspected of skipping meals, including height/weight monitoring and meal attendance cards.

School engenders a non-bullying culture and staff vigilant for anything that may make a child feel isolated. Sixth formers charged to look out for anyone feeling wobbly. House masters maintain good communication links with parents.

Pupils and parents

Some 55 per cent fully board, the rest are local children from a large catchment area; school transport system. Numbers stable though reduction in boarding. Recession has seen families release property equity by moving to the area - children remain as day pupils; parent commutes to work. Healthy 60:40 ratio boys to girls. School fully co-ed since 1983. Seventeen per cent overseas, 16 per cent expats and Forces - popular with all these. Parents in business and the professions. OGs: James Agate; Richard Whiteley; William Gaunt; Sarah Fox. OG society well established on the internet.


At age 11 Giggleswick entrance exam, at age 13 normally CE together with interview and previous school's report. Entrance into sixth form is by a minimum of five GCSEs at grade B; around 35 new sixth form entrants per year. Giggleswick Junior School, the main feeder for Giggleswick at age 11, shares campus.


Around 15 per cent leave after GCSEs. Sixth formers to a range of mostly northern universities; one to Oxford and two medics in 2016. Others to eg Bath, LSE, St Andrews, York, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Durham, Edinburgh, Warwick, Central St Martins.

Money matters

Scholarships and exhibitions for academic, all round achievement, sport and music are awarded at 11+, 13+ and sixth form, with art at 13+ and sixth form and sixth form only design, drama. There are 15-20 awards annually, ranging in value from 10-50 per cent of fees a year, the majority for 20-25 per cent. Means-tested bursaries can increase fee reduction to 75 per cent for scholars who could not otherwise take up an offered place. School has benefited from large gifts from OG Norman Sharpe and more recently Graham Watson (late governor).

Our view

An ‘all round’ education with support and encouragement across a spectrum of academic and extracurricular activity, for any willing to take on the challenge. It is a warm and welcoming school with no sign of snobbishness (as you would expect in Yorkshire); secure in its strong moral foundations. As one of our guides said, ‘you just have to be prepared to give everything a try, and if you fall out of line there’s always someone to help pick you up.’

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Special Education Needs

Giggleswick School Learning Support Department offers appropriate help to any pupil with SEN across the entire 3 - 18 age range. At the Senior School this is normally in the form of additional individual withdrawal lessons based on either literacy, numeracy or curriculum support. Some SEN pupils pursue a reduced curriculum of modern foreign languages, studying only one instead of two languages in Year 9 and dropping this at GCSE. Withdrawal lessons are from non-GCSE subjects, but sport and music are also usually not withdrawn from. Provision can be made for additional support either in the classroom or 1:1 from classroom assistants should this be necessary. The provision is broadly similar at Giggleswick Junior School. In addition to the withdrawal lessons classes also receive some in-class support from a teaching assistant or from two gap year students; support may be provided by North Yorkshire LEA for pupils of nursery age. School currently has no pupils with statements of SEN, but has admitted statemented pupils in the past as both day pupils and as boarders. The SENCO works closely with parents and the LEAs concerned to ensure that appropriate provision and progress is made in line with the statements. 09-09

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Aspergers Syndrome [archived]
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders [archived]
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Delicate Medical Problems [archived]
English as an additional language (EAL)
Epilepsy [archived]
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class Y
HI - Hearing Impairment
Hospital School
Mental health
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
Not Applicable
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
PD - Physical Disability
PMLD - Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty
SEMH - Social, Emotional and Mental Health
SLCN - Speech, Language and Communication
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
VI - Visual Impairment

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