Skip to main content

What says..

Without five centuries of history to draw on, Bishop’s Stortford College isn’t widely known, but is among the generation of schools founded in the Victorian era that are quietly succeeding. Local word-of-mouth is enough to keep it over-subscribed – without needing to worry about recruiting for tomorrow, the head and governors can look further into securing the college’s position well into the future.

Read review »

What the school says...

Bishop's Stortford College is large enough to provide an exceptional range of opportunities, yet small enough for students to be known and valued. At the heart of the value offered are the people. It is the infectious enthusiasm, imagination and dedication of staff, which, in partnership with parents, enables pupils to grow into well-rounded, skilful, caring and confident young people, equipped and ready for the adventures and opportunities life has to offer. ...Read more

Thank the school

Parents and pupils often have cause to acknowledge the help and support they have received from their schools, for example in helping in the choice of further education or careers. "Say thank you" allows you to send a quick note of appreciation to the school in general or to an individual teacher.


This is a thank you to your school, teacher or careers adviser who helped you to get where you are now.

Please fill in the fields below, which we will transform into a letter of thanks from you to them.

Leave blank if you want to thank the school as a whole

Years you were there

Can be left blank but, if you can, think of a few words that will bring a smile.

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.

What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since 2011, Mr Jeremy Gladwin BSc MEd. Educated at The King’s School, Worcester (chorister) and Whitgift School in south Croydon. Graduated from Durham in geography, taught at Shrewsbury School for 15 years, rising to become head of geography and housemaster, then deputy headmaster at the Royal Hospital School, and headmaster of St Edmund’s, Canterbury. Decided to apply for second headship as 'the opportunity to lead Bishop’s Stortford College was too good to miss'. Recently took a masters in education at Cambridge, focusing on ‘educational leadership and school improvement’, the completion of which has prompted his appointment to HMC committee for professional development. ‘Heads are lonely,’ he says; ‘they need more support. That way we might be able to tackle the current high rate of attrition.’ Also an inspector for both ISI and Ofsted (boarding). Married with grown-up son and daughter. A keen walker, enjoys watching rugby and plays tennis at club level. Loves music, especially sacred choral (weekly attendance at evensong at St John’s College, Cambridge is his de-stresser) and classical. A fine pianist. Mild-mannered, considered, down-to-earth type. ‘Runs a tight ship; proactive and forward-thinking,’ say parents.

Academic matters

Academic results have soared in recent years – unrecognisable in comparison to the college of 10 to 15 years ago. Head attributes this to the arrival of girls when the college went fully co-ed in 1995 – not only did they bring self-motivation but they raised the academic bar. A concerted effort to improve results through academic rigour, targeting and ‘working smarter’ has paid off – now among top 20 UK co-ed independent schools. The 68 per cent A*/B A level grades of a few years ago have given way to 81 per cent in 2016 (54 per cent A*/A). Maths, history, English literature, psychology and physics are most popular subjects, with strongest showing in theatre studies, art, and geography. Out of the running for GCSE league tables due to IGCSEs, which parents gladly accept, but a commendable 68 per cent of passes A*/A in 2016. Prestigious ‘10 club’ - tie for at least 10 A*/A grades at GCSE. Language provision has broadened - on joining senior school, pupils choose two modern foreign languages (most having been introduced to French, German and Spanish in the prep, not to mention Latin). Pre-empts the changes to GCSEs which head fears will discourage language take-up.

Streams and sets for most subjects meet needs of all, including the gifted. A dedicated learning support team of three sensitively supports 30 students with specific learning needs (charged as an extra), including dyslexia and Asperger's. All international students are offered one or two EAL lessons a week and reach IGCSE level (required for university admission). However, this is not solely an academic day school – head recoils at the suggestion of a hothouse. ‘We won’t sacrifice the breadth that comes with a boarding school curriculum – we just want to do everything well and keep some balance.’ Broad-based academic intake – ‘results are due to the quality of teaching and learning,’ emphasises head.

Bring Your Own Device recently introduced – Wifi all over. Pioneering use of geographical information system technology. Interactive science action centre. Solid traditional teaching facilities too.

Games, options, the arts

Successful sports: unbeaten seasons in rugby and hockey now the norm – several ex-international players offer top level coaching and inspiring role models. County hockey and district netball and swimming champions - swimming a major sport in fabulous pool; tennis and water-polo also popular. Prep pupils national finalists in pretty much everything – rugby, hockey, cricket, netball, even football, although only an after-school club. Standout individuals too, notably swimming and tennis.

Music important - around 10 per cent of pupils perform to grade 8 or beyond. Pianos in most boarding houses, plenty of airy practice rooms. Much-appreciated resident college musician supports in readiness for exams and accompanies. Orchestra and all manner of ensembles large and small. Twenty concerts a year, including choral work for pupils, parents and staff, plus a couple of ventures into the world of opera. Well-equipped theatre provides venue for some stunning musical and dramatic performances (set for recent production of Cabaret still in evidence, though slowly transforming into Scottish heathland for next epic - Macbeth). New art centre with stunningly mature GCSE and A level work on display in spacious ateliers.

Trips and tours across the globe including India, New York, Malawi, South Africa, Barbados, and a fair few closer to home too. Wide choice of extracurricular activities including D of E (the college is the leading school in east Hertfordshire) debating (standing room only for some hot topics) and community work.

Boarders

Three senior boarding houses - two for boys and one for girls. Full, weekly and flexi boarding, the latter most popular. Saturday lessons and sport mean everyone is at school till Saturday afternoon. Most go home on Saturday nights, but eg paintballing and visits to theme parks organised for those still in school. Own comfortable boarding house for prep pupils. Few full boarders but 50+ stay a minimum of two nights a week – most popular Wednesdays (sport after school) and Friday (Saturday morning lie-in for mum and dad).

Background and atmosphere

Founded in 1868 as a non-conformist boarding school, with aspirations of securing an effective and Christian education on terms that should not be beyond the reach of the middle class generally, originally sited on the outskirts of Bishop's Stortford. Once boys only, now 45 per cent girls. Full-on Saturday school for all from 8.20am until 3.40pm has its detractors, but most accept it’s necessary if children are to make the most of all that’s on offer.

Despite recent new developments and proximity to town, the 130 acre campus still has a rural feel. Governors canny through the economic downturn and fees have remained relatively low. Indeed, an ambitious programme of facilities upgrade ongoing and due for completion to coincide with the school’s 150th anniversary in 2018. New addition to existing pretty Edwardian building under way when we visited, which provides a new girls’ day house (replacing the previous one), and there will be another girls' house added. Brand new boys’ day and boarding houses are next on the agenda – much more economical to design from scratch than to bring the existing original School House building up to modern living standards; instead it will be repurposed as offices for the head and administrative teams, plus 11 classrooms. By the end of the project, head predicts the college ‘won’t just be beautiful, it will be magnificent!’

Despite these physical changes, ‘We are a large school, but we retain the small-school feel,’ says head, and unabashedly goes on to describe Bishop’s Stortford College as ‘cuddly’. ‘A really positive environment,’ suggested a parent. Certainly the all-pervading ethos is one of kindness, caring and humanity – a quality the head has discovered is neatly defined by the Zulu word ‘ubuntu’ (which we went home and looked up - perfect). ‘Pupils here are mutually supportive,’ says head. ‘They work hard. When asked why, they simply reply “why not?”’ Head is keen to resist the spoon-feeding culture in favour of promoting independent learning in preparation for life. EPQ is popular in the sixth form as is the college’s own research project programme – no UCAS points but an academic challenge and something to talk about at university interviews and mention on personal statement.

Superb library with two-storey bow windows, well stocked with books, DVDs (multi-lingual) and CDs. Ferguson Lecture Theatre is a cosy additional space, where assemblies can be relayed from Mem(orial) Hall, the original, atmospheric school hall. Sixth form Stars in their Eyes a sell-out. Sports hall with fitness suite in the gallery. Five all weather netball/tennis courts. Two floodlit Astro pitches.

Dining hall large and functional; food plentiful and tasty, on a three-week menu rotation (our sixth form guides tell us the pupils' request for ‘chicken zinger’ through the school council was provided by the catering manager and it was very tasty).

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

Few discipline problems – head likes ‘to give pupils a chance to get it right’. Strong house system offers support. ‘The school expects a lot from the children and as a parent that is exactly what I want,’ said one parent.

Pupils and parents

‘There really is not a type of child or parent,’ said a parent. ‘Plenty of commuters as London is so close, but there are farmers and scientists and just about all professions going.’

Pupils ‘normal, not arrogant,’ says head. ‘I’m not keen on elitism.’ Most from within daily travelling distance; about 65 per cent of boarders from overseas, including Europe and the Far East. Parents described by one of their number as ‘friendly, sociable, aspirational, encouraging of their children’. Appreciate weekly contact by e-newsletter and the twice yearly news magazine.

Long list of distinguished former pupils includes presenter Andy Peebles, rugby player Ben Clarke, writer Dick Clement and educationalist Professor John Ferguson. The world of espionage features prominently via former heads of MI5, Sir Stephen Lander and Sir Dick White, and Peter Wright, author of Spycatcher.

Entrance

Pupils are selected via interviews, entrance tests and school references; takes a range of abilities, not just academic high-fliers. At 13 majority come from the prep school but also takes some 12-15 external entrants annually; small number join at 14, in time for GCSEs. Some 30-40 join in the sixth form - entrance is by interview and written tests; need at least five B grades at GCSE with A*-B in A level subject choices.

Exit

A handful - some 15 per cent - leaves after GCSEs to study A levels elsewhere. Nearly all sixth formers head to university. Three to Oxbridge in 2016, including one medic; three more medics and one vet. Subjects range from motorsport engineering at Derby to natural sciences at Durham to theatre and performance at Leeds to social anthropology at LSE.

Money matters

Assistance for those in financial need. Academic, music, art and sport scholarships offered. ‘A considerable proportion of our income goes on bursaries and scholarships,’ says the head. ‘If a child is talented but his or her parents can’t afford us, we will do what we can to help.’

Our view

Without five centuries of history to draw on, Bishop’s Stortford College isn’t widely known, but is among the generation of schools founded in the Victorian era that are quietly succeeding. Local word-of-mouth is enough to keep it oversubscribed – without needing to worry about recruiting for tomorrow, the head and governors can look further into securing the college’s position well into the future.

Subscribe now for instant access to data. Already subscribed? Login here.

  Zoopla sale properties   Zoopla rent properties   Hide Zoopla markers

Powered by Zoopla

Careers intervention used by this School


Subscribe for instant access to in-depth reviews, data and catchment:

Comprehensive catchment maps for English state schools inc. year of entry.
 School exam results by subject and performance GCSE, Alevel or equivalent.
 Which schools pupils come from and go onto.
 Honest, opinionated and fearless independent reviews of more than 1,100+ schools.
 Overall school performance by GCSE, Alevel or equivalent.
 School data comparison by A/B weighted, relative success and popularity.
 Compare schools by qualities and results.
 Independent tutor company reviews.

Try before you buy - The Charter School Southwark
 

The Good Schools Guide subscription

 

 GSG Blog >    In the news >

Newsletter

Educational insight in your inbox. Sign up for our popular newsletters.

Best practice - our expert tips to help your child with exam revision


Just published - The Good Schools Guide 21st edition - 1200 schools fully reviewed and updated. Buy now