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Probably not a school for workaholics but then, they probably wouldn't come. Very much a school for joiners-in and those with breadth and brain... 'If we fall out we tend just to fix it and hug it out'...your shoulders drop as you step out of your car and breathe out. We loved the year 10 work on 'Surfaces, facades and veneers' and the sixth form studio was full of mind-stretching, clever creativity, alongside examples of the crucial skills of drawing and painting. Many staff live on site and have boarding duties. Head's modest house, also on site, all adds to the sense of community...

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What the school says...

We are a school that inspires Achievement with Values, Character and Community. Our vibrant learning community empowers each student to achieve excellent outcomes. Ours is an education for succeeding in life, as well as in academic assessments. Set in a delightful park in Reading, just outside London, our students have an enriching environment in which to learn, reflect and grow.

The success of our approach is demonstrated by UK Government 16-18 league tables, which place the school in the top 100 in England for the academic progress made by our students. Despite being among the top performing schools in the country we are no results factory. We believe a school must be judged by the full range and depth of achievements of its students, and at Leighton Park we develop young people who understand, cherish, and make a difference to the world which they inherit.

Leighton Park is particularly known for Creative STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths), with a particular emphasis on creative problem solving and interdisciplinary approaches. The School is a Lead School for the National Centre of Computing Education. Our iSTEM+ programme has won several awards, including:
Winner for Secondary Schools - national Community STEM Awards
Winner - Business Education IT Facility Award
Winner - Ripple Effect Prize for use of innovative learning technology
Finalist - Education Business STEM Innovation Award
Finalist - Independent Schools Association, Innovation in STEM Award

Music is another particular strength of the School with a brand new Music and Media Centre opening early in 2019. Our Music department is accredited as a Flagship Music Education Partner, the only school in Europe to hold this prestigious status, with 50% of students studying an instrument and 27 music teachers on staff.

With Quaker values at the centre of all that we do, our emphasis is on our students loving their learning, encouraging them to try a huge range of new experiences and developing their greatest talents. You will be struck on visiting us by the warmth of relationships that characterise the school, the wealth of opportunities for personal development, and the sense of calm and purpose in which that development takes place.
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Curricula

International Baccalaureate: diploma - the diploma is the familiar A-level equivalent.

Other features

Music and dance scheme - government funding and grants available to help with fees at selected independent music and dance schools.

Sports

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

Rowing

Sailing

What The Good Schools Guide says

Head

Since September 2018, Matthew Judd, previously second master at Haberdashers' Aske's boys and executive head of its prep. Degree in geography from University of Wales and teaching qualification from Cambridge. Started his career at Habs in 1993, becoming head of department and housemaster; moved in 2005 to be principal at MPW college in London before rejoining Habs five years later as second master and then later head of the prep and pre-prep. Also an ISI inspector and was motivated to apply for the job after inspecting the school. Grew up in Crawley and was the first person in his family to go to university, having attended the local comp in the shadow of Gatwick airport – ‘if you were a boy, you went into baggage handling; if you were a girl, you went into duty free.’ Lives on site with his partner Ian; a keen musician, and enjoys travel and fitness.

Academic matters

Academic work is taken seriously and pupils strive for success – as they should – although not, thankfully, a results-driven school. In 2018, 51 per cent A*-A/9-7 at GCSE. New GCSE offerings include dance, engineering and food tech. A level and IB offered though IB numbers not yet on a par with A level takers. In 2018, 33 per cent of A levels gained A*/A. Overall IB average 30. Very strong added-value - top school in Berkshire. IB retained partly because 'its values are so much those of the school'. Useful cross-fertilisation - IB and A level languages often taught together in year 12 and all take an EPQ for its educational value. Good languages. BTec in creative digital media available in years 10/11. Very good teacher:pupil ratio at 7.5 pupils to one full-time teacher and some sixth form classes with only one or two students. Small but well-stocked library and much praise for the range of visiting outside speakers. Interesting displays of work - we were moved by the WW1 montage of Old LPs fallen in battle which made it all pathetically real.

Parents, for the most part, praise the teaching - 'My son is enthused by everything - especially the Mandarin' - while there is some sense that a little more rigour, vigour and initiative might not come amiss here and there. School counters that its added value shows great rigour. Very much a school for joiners-in and those with breadth and brain.

EAL classes for small number of students who need them and school prepares them for FCE and IELTS exams. They don't take an additional language and use one of the class English lessons to boost their language skills. Some 15 per cent on the SEND register - surprisingly few for a school with such a good reputation for supporting those with an educational special need. Individual learning centre and all staff involved in support. No in-class assistants unless provided by the pupil's LA. Helpful and flexible approach, as parents attest, and 'they are quite relaxed about Ritalin, they take it in their stride'. A sense that the large and highly-regarded SEN team are there to make themselves less and less needed.

Games, options, the arts

Large and beautiful site, with fields, pitches, courts and tracks which positively set your muscles aquiver. 'My son is not sporty but they have really got him to love it,' a mother marvelled. Music is big here and no other house activity compares with the annual House Music, which is taken very seriously - 'almost too seriously,' we were told, 'as everyone gets really into it and the noise is louder than at a football match'. Good number learn an instrument in school and remarkable cohort of fine musicians - ie beyond grade 8 - practise here. Art exceptionally varied and imaginative. We loved the year 10 work on 'Surfaces, facades and veneers' and the sixth form studio was full of mind-stretching, clever creativity, alongside examples of the crucial skills of drawing and painting. Pottery, photography, textiles and DT work provide evidence of novel, individual ideas being fostered. DT provision newly enhanced by laser cutter, CNC router and 3D printer. Drama also lively - big productions, mostly musicals, in attractive, flexible theatre, its regular seating arranged, interestingly, in the guise of a Meeting. Also small drama studio in stand-alone brick building, formerly a squash court.

Lots to do. And lots of encouragement to try things out. Huge range of clubs and activities and masses of space for them all. Young Enterprise, DofE, trips of all kinds but no CCF, of course.

Boarders

School would not claim that boarding accommodation is up-to-the minute. Rooms are spacious enough. Most younger years share in 3s and 4s. Sixth formers in singles but not an en-suite or even a bedroom with basin anywhere on site - yet. All houses well-provided with table games, TVs and sofas - they feel like home only with more fun. Many day pupils stay until 7.00pm or even 9.00pm, thus getting the best of two worlds.

Many staff live on site and have boarding duties. Head's modest house, also on site, all adds to the sense of community and pupils love that 'our tutors are in the boarding houses after school and we can just chat to them'.

Background and atmosphere

Situated in the centre of 'the park' - an apt name for this spacious, meadowed site with hundreds of mature trees, garden areas, large reedy pond, generous planting and low-rise blocks - is the main building, an elegant 1850s white house. It was bought by an earlier incarnation of the school in the 1880s and more land was donated by the Reckitt family - the aim being to educate Quaker children for Oxbridge. It remains a Quaker-run school as the majority of governors are Quakers and, although no member of the Friends remains on the staff and only penny numbers of pupils are Quakers, the school lives by and exudes those gentle, civilised and socially responsible values. Few who leave here take nothing of those with them, and many see them as a guide for a healthy life. A palpable sense of calm pervades the place - you feel it as you drive in and your shoulders drop as you step out of your car and breathe out.

This is not just another school and it is best not to approach it as such. Nor is it 'alternative', though the pupils and teachers being on first name terms can deceive you into thinking so. The Quaker philosophy is central and, although it is never pushed at you, its calm wisdom steals gently into one's consciousness. 'When you're in year 9, you don't really get the meaning of it,' one soon-to-be-leaver told us, 'but, by the end, especially when life is hectic, you really appreciate it. It helps you find quiet time to clear your thoughts.' Weekly Meeting for Worship and monthly Meeting are the overt Quaker practices but, in the diverse mix of today's population, no particular faith dominates and everyone brings to the sessions what they wish. In practice, this approach changes relationships. 'Calling teachers by their first names makes you treat them as people - you don't have to be on your best behaviour and it makes you more inclined to learn,' we were advised. And, of pupil:pupil dynamics: 'If we fall out we tend just to fix it and hug it out.' The Peace Pole - an extraordinary carved wooden column visible from most parts of the school - enshrines these principles, as do the many examples of pupil creativity - benches, tables etc carved from fallen trees on the site - around the place.

Lots of buildings of all eras, little of startling architectural merit though the Oakview restaurant is cleverly designed and a popular addition. We were very impressed by the food - its freshness and variety - and deeply regretted not being able to stay to sample it. 'Theatre Special is when they cook it in front of you - like a performance; pork baguette is a thing of beauty,' apparently.

Some splendid individual rooms, especially in the main building. New all-singing-all-dancing music and media centre with rehearsal and performance rooms plus a fully-equipped media suite. We were repeatedly struck by the good order of the site - not an instance of peeling paint, a shabby carpet or a stained wall met our eye and, over an extensive tour, we saw not a shred of litter. Signing is useful and not municipal in style.

Houses, named after notable Quakers, matter but not too much - except at House Music. But the traditions and values of the place inspire spontaneous, unaffected loyalty.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

Discipline maintained with a light touch and some incomers given refuge after mishaps elsewhere become model citizens here. Historically great place for deserving second-chancers - 'The only people to get kicked out are complete idiots as they'll have had several warnings'. However, is now taking a firmer line under new leadership, we are told. A parent told us that 'they encourage them to become self-reliant and independent' and 'unlike at other schools, they can pick up their own clothes and make their own supper'. 'They are good at integrating kids who've been fish-out-of-water at their previous schools.' More rules than you might expect - no eating while walking around, no use of mobiles during the school day - but all designed to consider others and to maintain the peace. And school is subtly stiffening the teacher-pupil dynamic to remind all that, in the classroom, work is what matters and discipline is there to protect that principle.

Pupils and parents

Day pupils outnumber boarders 3:1. Full boarders outnumber weekly/flexis by 4:1. And boys outnumber girls - as in most co-ed schools - by 2:1. Some 72 per cent are UK nationals, the rest from everywhere - 29 nationalities at time of our visit, so no cliques and enclaves. Vast majority of UK students are local or local-ish. Healthy 75 per cent of boarders in school at weekends. Old Leightonians: Sir David Lean, Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, Jim Broadbent, Laura Marling, Eliza Bennett, Michael Foot, Lord Caradon, Lord Frederick Seebohm and a fair clutch of MPs plus Rowntrees, Cadburys, Clarks, Reckitts, Morlands and Frys.

Entrance

Online entrance tests in English comprehension and maths, plus creative writing exercise and short interview in the January preceding entry for years 7-10. Entry to sixth form conditional on GCSE or equivalent results, plus interview. At 11+, 95 apply for 40 places; at 13+, 35 apply for 15-20 places. At year 10, 20 apply for 10-15 places. Year 11 is a 'pre-sixth' year for overseas students. There are six applicants for each of the 20-30 places in the sixth form. Second language speakers sit an EAL test.

Exit

Some 40 per cent leaves after GCSEs. Roughly similar percentage of sixth form leavers to Russell Group universities, a third off to do creative degrees. One to Oxford in 2018, one to the US and three to European universities. One parent enthused, 'we liked the fact that alongside the leavers who read medicine at Oxford they celebrate those who go and learn circus skills'.

Money matters

Not an immensely rich school but a decent amount of money available for bursaries. Emphasis on enabling those whose financial situation would not allow them to attend, to do so, so most recipients on awards of 50 per cent or more. Robust mean-testing and assessment of income/commitments/assets etc. Six on 100 per cent bursaries at time of our visit. Scholarships mostly worth 10 per cent.

Our view

A school in which to grow. Not for hustlers, bustlers and takers but great for thinkers, makers, givers, be-ers.

Independent schools frequently offer IGCSEs or other qualifications alongside or as an alternative to GCSE. The DfE does not record performance data for these exams so independent school GCSE data is frequently misleading; parents should check the results with the schools.

Who came from where

Who goes where

Special Education Needs

Leighton Park School currently offers specialist support for a number of students in the Individual Learning Centre. This is provided by six well-qualified teachers, who give one-to-one help on a regular basis. Students receive support from the Centre for a range of learning challenges and difficulties, individually arranged, and in close co-operation with their subject teachers. All students are screened on entry to the school, to determine whether additional support is appropriate. Study skills, including identifying the individual learning style, revision, organisation and mind-mapping are examples of different strategies used to help with students’ learning. At Leighton Park, everyone understands that students will have distinctive learning styles: the community recognises how important it is that all students should feel fully part of school life, with their needs openly understood and supported. Students often drop in to the Centre for a chat, or for additional pastoral or academic support. ILC pupils regularly achieve outstandingly successful results in public examinations, and of course play a full part in the rich variety of school life outside the classroom.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia Y
Dysgraphia Y
Dyslexia Y
Dyspraxia Y
English as an additional language (EAL) Y
Genetic Y
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class Y
HI - Hearing Impairment Y
Hospital School
Mental health
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
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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