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Of impressive range of academic clubs and societies, most talked-about is Stan-X, a collaboration between professors from Stanford University and sixth form scientists breeding unique fruit fly strains (not as easy as it sounds) and sequencing their DNA. Base has university-style workstations and collaboration zones plus handy teaching aids, our favourite a pack of name-that-fly flash cards – Fruno? – with pupils presenting their findings in the US and co-authoring academic articles. Gorgeous sports facilities include numerous grass pitches recently augmented with brightly coloured…

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What the school says...

Haileybury is an independent co-educational boarding school which offers a fully-rounded education for boys and girls aged 11 to 18. Haileybury is located between London and Cambridge, set in 500 acres of beautiful rural Hertfordshire.

Founded in 1862, Haileybury is proud of its history, tradition, community and values, taking the best from the past while looking to the future. Academic achievement and outstanding co-curricular provision are at the heart of the school, offering Haileyburians a truly all-round education and ensuring they leave as confident, tolerant and ambitious individuals who are leaders and life-long learners.

Boarding continues to be popular at Haileybury which The Master, Martin Collier, attributes to the fact that the College provides its boarders with a fulfilling, happy experience. Approximately 75% of the pupils board across the thirteen Houses within the campus grounds where more than 90% of our teachers also live.

We offer a dedicated Lower School (Years 7 and 8), a unique Year 9 curriculum, a wide range of I/GCSEs and the choice of IB Diploma or A levels in the Sixth Form. Haileybury is consistently rank highly in The Times’ IB League Table. Our aim is to get every pupil into their first choice university.

Haileybury offers a range of Academic, Music or Sports scholarships which are measured as a percentage of the school fees. Bursaries are available to applicants according to need and are not reserved only for those who have been awarded scholarships.
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Curricula

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

Sports

Rowing

Sailing

What The Good Schools Guide says

Master

From September 2024, Eugene du Toit, currently head of Wellington School. He has also been senior deputy head at Trinity School, Croydon and undermaster at St Paul’s School. Educated in South Africa, he studied business economics at the University of Witwatersrand and went on to complete a master’s in leadership and an MBA, both at UCL.

Entrance

‘If your child is confident, good at sport and academics and you wish to push them forward then [this is] the right school for them,’ says parent. ‘It’s not just about the intellect,’ confirms another. ‘The school takes your child’s personality and character into consideration.’ Nothing else in the area offers comparable heft, as demonstrated by the extensive bus network (map stretches to Gerrards Cross).

Main entry points in year 7 (popular with locals whose children attend state primary schools) and year 9 (online cognitive assessment tests plus maths and English papers). Similar for year 10 – number of places varies year by year. Unusually, sometimes take up to a handful of pupils in year 11 who complete a pre-IB course, consisting of iGCSEs, in a year. Usually international, invariably bright and highly motivated. For sixth form, six GCSEs at grade 6 or above, as well as sitting school assessments.

Exit

Vast majority (90 per cent) stay into sixth form. In 2023, three to Oxbridge, two to study medicine. Top subjects included law, business, economics, engineering, politics and sciences. UK top universities: Exeter, King’s College London, Nottingham, Leeds, Bath, Durham, Bristol, University College London, London School of Economics and Political Science and Birmingham. Overseas institutions include Ivy League (Columbia and Yale), McGill (Canada) and top institutions in France (Sciences Po and ESSEC) and Germany (LMU). Three pupils took up apprenticeships and degree-apprenticeships.

Latest results

In 2023, 81 per cent of GCSE grades were 9-7. Of A levels, 45 per cent were graded A*/A and 80 per cent A*-B. IB diploma average 39 points.

Teaching and learning

Parents overwhelmingly positive about the teaching and even ISI inspectors were – almost – gushing.

Requires commitment. ‘There’s a very different vibe [now],’ says a parent. ‘The school has pushed academics – but at a price… it’s tougher than it used to be.’ Doing all you can and then, ideally, that bit more is common, with pupils ‘encouraged to be super prepared’. Some told us that they learn topics before they are covered in class – but were comfortable with expectations. ‘Yes, there are endless things there for the taking but though the school will push you to some extent, you must go and take them,’ said one.

No shame, however, in seeking help – and plenty on offer. ‘If kids aren’t doing well or are falling down, they’ll pick them up,’ says one parent. Gets the balance about right, too, without tipping into spoonfeeding. The school makes them ‘responsible’, says another. ‘My child will say, “I need to get this done,” and own it.’

Lessons notable for well-prepared staff addressing on-the-ball pupils (with no hint of back row dreaminess) in classes averaging 16, maximum 22, up to year 11 and eight, maximum 14, in the sixth form. Overall staff to pupil ratio is one to seven. We watched top set year 8 pupils relishing a spot of recreational GCSE maths, galloping through the sums while another class was deep into complex relationships between numbers. ‘I like frying your brains,’ said the teacher with amiable ferocity (ours were certainly somewhat braised).

From year 9, school life is on a larger scale. Classrooms dotted all over the place (timetable allows for a brisk gallop between lessons) have the requisite tech – Apple for all – and even some legitimised graffiti thanks to writeable whiteboard desk lids. Some subjects already paperless, more on the way. There’s limited though flexible setting (maths, science, languages) and a substantial increase in homework, which doubles to two hours a day from year 9. Pace is brisk to ensure an early finish to the GCSE curriculum (most take 10 subjects), leaving plenty of time for revision.

Most sixth formers opt for A levels (taking three, occasionally four), around a third taking the IB diploma (which mops up most of the linguists). Extension programme on top. Same teachers for both – a breeze, apparently, ‘given the amount of overlap between the two’, said one member of staff. Top A level subjects (23 offered) are psychology, economics and maths – theology and philosophy also popular.

Of impressive range of academic clubs and societies, most talked-about is Stan-X, a collaboration between professors from Stanford University and sixth form scientists breeding unique fruit fly strains (not as easy as it sounds) and sequencing their DNA. Base has university-style workstations and collaboration zones plus handy teaching aids, our favourite a pack of name-that-fly flash cards – Fruno? – with pupils presenting their findings in the US and co-authoring academic articles.

Dedicated teachers undertake own academic investigation, new Journal of the Haileybury Institute of Educational Research, covering thorny issues like how to make GCSE collaboration more productive (answer – very much summarised: let pupils choose their own groups).

Learning support and SEN

‘Wouldn’t rule [the school] out if child had some form of neurodiversity,’ says a parent. ‘But the child would need to be highly motivated and want to learn. If they struggle with anxiety and are nervous [would not suggest it].’

All new pupils screened on arrival with around 100 currently getting some level of support, though policy stresses that pupils should not need one-to-one lessons to access the curriculum. Will (as legally they should) take disability into account if sanctions are being considered and in theory welcome pupils with EHCPs ‘who are suited to the school’s educational offer’.

School’s head of learning support, accessible, well-informed and popular (learning support centre now moved from ‘dusty corridor’ to heart of the school), will support wherever possible – and ‘we have pupils with ADHD and high functioning autism who thrive’. As elsewhere, there’s growing recognition of the need for earlier identification and more support for girls with autism. Single weekly timetabled sessions plus specialist groups for pupils with ADHD and autism. Can also support pupils with sensory needs.

But there are limitations. EP reports can specify ‘access arrangements that we can’t meet’ – it’s not possible to offer scribing, for example, because of room requirements, while the size and scale of campus means that ‘some children could struggle in this environment’. Team includes head of SEN, deputy, assessor for access arrangements and part-time dyslexia specialist – but there’s no educational psychologist or autism specialist on site.

Currently have almost 200 pupils who have English as an additional language – but usually to a high standard. Most are supported in class, with a small number working to an adapted curriculum.

The arts and extracurricular

Though surprisingly few take music, drama and art at A level, there is plenty of high-level inspiration about, including just-glimpsed artist in residence. Vivid creations (art and DT) range from consequences-style pictures (toad head, tree bark midriff, booted human legs) to ammonite-shaped chair with coiled roof.

Music, with top-notch head of department, is singled out for particular praise. ‘Brilliant, can’t speak highly enough of it, very holistic,’ says a parent. Forty per cent of pupils take individual instrumental or singing lessons. Expectations are correspondingly high: drama and music scholars singing (or playing) for their supper, commitment to regular private practice expected and anyone selected for a performance or production urged to turn up to regularly. ‘As Oscar Wilde wrote, “A man is most noticed in his absence”,’ says the school handbook, (possibly) more in anger than in sorrow.

For the committed, fabulous music tours – chamber choir off to Australia and South East Asia – and high-quality productions, termly at least (Frankenstein, Les Misérables among them, invariably sold out), are among the incentives, even if prising the time required out of an already crowded timetable can be challenging. ‘I cannot conceive of a way they could cram any more into their daily lives,’ said one parent.

But they do, choosing between multi-activity adventure skills and enduringly popular CCF (‘Not fun at the time dragging log through the woods but I’m glad I did it,’ says lower sixth pupil), and raising impressive amounts for charity. One pupil sourced and sold branded house hoodies, raising £14,000 (using that convenient payment method – the termly bill). Others set up societies, edit magazines or get involved in Model United Nations – and appear to enjoy every moment. ‘It’s that holistic thing,’ says staff member. ‘If you’re not willing to at least try… it’s pointless coming here.’

Sport

Outstanding sporting reputation remains intact. It’s just that other aspects of school life have grown up round it. Gorgeous facilities include numerous grass pitches recently augmented with brightly coloured AstroTurf versions; a vast sports hall ensuring that eg hockey and cricket sessions can be held year-round and – our favourite – the dazzling swimming pool in a woodland setting, greenery pressing atmospherically against its rear glass wall.

Take ‘sport for all’ as an instruction as well as a philosophy and you get the idea. Sport ‘occupies a pivotal role in Haileybury life’, says school literature, taking up two full afternoons a week and two hours on Saturday. Numbers are mind-boggling. Boasts 20-ish teams for core sports (boys’ hockey felt by some to be a notch below rugby and football in terms of kudus), 25 different sports in total and – we took the school’s word – over 1,000 fixtures a year, A, B and C squads regularly into double figures. Girls’ sports taken as seriously as boys (cricket particularly strong), displacing boys from some of the nicest pitches (not all parents thrilled with this).

Team efforts (recently including boys’ hockey and girls’ lacrosse) routinely reap honours at county and national level, while individuals do even better (rugby player recently selected for England U18 men’s squad).

Probably not the school for a child with zero interest, because everyone ‘will get involved in some competitive sport’, says a parent. While ‘you don’t absolutely have to be brilliant at games to have a fabulous experience’, being an elite player confers some desirable perks.

Sports stars join the invitation-only high-performance programme and the most luscious pitches are reserved for the top teams and their followers. Rugby on the school’s XV pitch, with its stunning backdrop of terrace and chapel, attracts the largest, noisiest crowds; top team cricket is on the Pavilion pitch (‘If called to play there, you’ve made it,’ says a parent), whose weathervane – Father Time – is a facsimile of the one at Lord’s.

Boarders

Twelve centrally located senior houses (six girls’, six boys’) plus one for lower school pupils. Civilised feel, with pupils checking in during the day, grabbing a snack or changing books so not weighed down by a full day’s supply.

Two thirds of pupils board overall, 60 per cent in year 9, 90 per cent in the sixth form, many local. Day pupils succumb to the convenience of boarding life (leave at 5.45 when clubs and activities run till 9.30pm and you miss out) as well as its charms, which include views over those beautifully landscaped 500 acres.

Around 30 per cent of boarders stay in school over the weekend, with five ‘in-weekends’ during the year, when a Saturday night stay and Sunday chapel is compulsory for all. Local minibuses ferry groups of pupils to Tesco to stock up on treats, or to other activities such as riding.

For some, own houses fulfil all social needs, though pairings between houses help fill any friendship gaps. All houses mix boarders and day pupils (avoids any ‘them and us’ sense) and prefect posts are open to both. Houses are allocated by the school (only same-sex siblings have a say), carefully balancing characters, nationalities and interests to ensure that no area dominates. ‘Whichever House you are placed in will be the best one for you; everyone thinks that their House is the best,’ says school literature (their capitalisation).

Houses are named after big figures reflecting school’s service traditions, though girls in Lawrence House weren’t quite sure whether TE, DH, Gertrude or none of the above was being honoured. Those we saw were refurbed up to the nines. When we asked to see a ‘before’ version we were told firmly that ‘there are no bad houses’. Fun touches include squashy sofas ‘off eBay’ – fine if they meet fire regulations – in Kipling (boys’ house) and olive-tiled bathroom (girls), so appealing it’s a preferred meeting point.

Particularly notable are the strong relationships with staff – ‘Not friends but they can go and talk to them,’ says a parent. Houseparents, are ‘excellent role models’, ‘approachable’. They’re backed up by team of academic tutors who were also praised for quick response and common sense approach – removing pressure and working with and listening to families where a child is in distress to come up with an effective, collaborative solution. ‘Let us do what we needed to,’ says a parent.

Ethos and heritage

Founded as a boys’ boarding school in the 1860s on the site of the former East India Company training college, which closed in 1858. As the school history is unsurprisingly keen to stress, ‘This new Haileybury had no connection to the old College and was a different school in every way, creating pupils with a particular dedication to service and with a strong moral compass.’

Dip in numbers during WW2 led to merger with the Windsor-based Imperial Service College – which had in turn absorbed Rudyard Kipling’s alma mater, the United Services College (the inspiration for Stalky & Co.). Girls were first admitted in the 1970s (now make up 50 per cent of pupils) and the school has also expanded overseas, opening two satellite schools in Kazakhstan and one apiece in Bangladesh and Malta, though, stresses the school, their purpose isn’t to provide handy additional revenue streams.

Soon to have its name officially truncated to Haileybury College (previous title, Imperial Service College, understandably ringing a little oddly these days). Dedication to service remains, even if absent from the title – most visible in the school’s laudably ambitious goals. ‘In its commitment to a fairer and more tolerant world and creating pupils in that mould, Haileybury today continues to shape the world and make it a better place for all,’ says the website. Ranges from the domestic – pupils undertaking coaching or mentoring within the school as part of their Duke of Edinburgh award – to the international, with the Haileybury Youth Trust funding construction of sustainable buildings in Uganda.

There’s certainly a lot of pleasure to be had in the school buildings. Taking in Greek and Gothic revival, Queen Anne and Neo-Georgian as well as eco-friendly modernity, they make a surprisingly harmonious whole, full of delightful contrasts, from the magnificent quads, beautifully planted (latest addition to the gardening team is a former catering assistant who fell in love with the grounds and retrained to be able to join them), to the original vast terrace and feast-your-eyes library.

Newest addition, completed 2023, is a science hub complete with solar panels, green roofs and heat pumps. School (which already has own bees, wormeries and zero tolerance for single-use water bottles) is aiming for net zero throughout. Will be collaboration central, open also to Haileybury Turnford pupils and bringing together not just science subjects (and those fruit flies) but design technology and robotics, too.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

While not an exceptionally strict school, expectations are unambiguous (parent and pupil handbook stretches to 60 densely worded pages), with every eventuality apparently catered for, from the usual temptations to local pub visits (prefects only, if over 18) and dress code for Sunday brunch (no slippers – sliders just about okay).

As elsewhere, school is supporting more pupils with anxiety and mental health problems and would be responsive to trans pupils. Sensible uniform policy: girls can choose from kilts or trousers, for example; prefects can choose a suit ‘of any style’. Pupils encouraged to self-refer – one in seven will seek advice or help at some point, says the school. Well-resourced wellbeing centre, staffed by three counsellors with an independent listener also on hand, is felt to be a highly effective source of support. Other initiatives include training pupils as peer supporters. ‘Everyone has someone,’ says pupil.

Lower school pupils in years 7 and 8, with just 15 in a teaching group – brilliant for forging enduring friendships (flexi-boarding helps) – have their own base, complete with classrooms and indoor and outdoor recreation spaces (including rather overheated conservatory). They get to know the fabulous facilities in gentle stages, making forays into the rest of the campus, all overseen by head of lower school who’s very highly regarded by parents. ‘The best,’ says one. ‘It’s fabulous, nurturing with a really easy transition,’ says another.

Parents praise school’s willingness to listen to families. ‘Absolutely amazing in terms of supporting the child – appears to be nothing they won’t help you out with,’ said one. Given all this, we were surprised to hear several reports about questionable rituals (involving towels and gauntlet running). School, understandably concerned, is investigating but says that while these ‘may have been mentioned by parents previously, [they] are very much confined to the past’.

Otherwise, so thorough is the wellbeing programme at every age (parents are also invited to talks on eg dealing with challenging teenage years, drugs and alcohol) that lower school pupils felt that it was the one subject they could do with less of. One even wanted it scrapped altogether. As a parent pointed out, this proved how well it was working. ‘Most kids are confident, doing well and don’t need it, but if one in 20 is struggling, [they will] benefit.’

Pupils and parents

A warm, welcoming community, liked by locals – children are ‘disciplined, polite, happy’ families, said our taxi driver – a big fan. Active parents’ association and numerous events cater for parents, working and otherwise. ‘We didn’t need new friends but made [them] and that’s been really precious,’ says one. ‘Anyone who’s local comes and watches Saturday matches – collegiate feel is really lovely.’

Not a huge amount of diversity – some parents would like to see a wider cultural range. A few worries that the increase in international pupils, while commercially understandable, might change the dynamic. At the moment, while there’s inevitably money ‘washing about’, parents felt to be ‘less showy and concerned about what they’re wearing and what cars they’re driving’ than at other schools.

Money matters

There have been chunky increases in fees over recent years, though the parents we spoke to didn’t flag this as an issue. Bursaries up to 110 per cent. Academic, music and sports scholarships worth up to 10 per cent at 11+ and 13+/16+ (when art and DT are added)

The last word

A busy, buzzing, highly successful school with huge self-belief, energy and high expectations. Confident, self-motivated, serial joiners-in with matching aspirations will be in their element. Fruit flies, required to make the ultimate sacrifice, might want to think twice.

Please note: 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

We are a small, fully qualified team which can provide specialist teacher assessments and specialist teaching for specific learning difficulties. Pupils are withdrawn from subject lessons once per fortnight for individual tuition which often focuses on spelling rules, writing skills, reading skills, comprehension exercises, memory trainers, study skills and exam and revision strategies. Each child has an individually-designed learning programme. Some pupils receive weekly tuition and this may involve supporting them with classwork and prep. We liaise with parents directly to discuss and review the support programme. Overseas children are able to have individual or group EAL teaching which normally takes place at the times pupils are not taking a Modern Foreign Language. Parents are required to pay an extra charge for all tuition.

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
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class Y
HI - Hearing Impairment Y
Hospital School
Mental health Y
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty Y
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment Y
Natspec Specialist Colleges
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty Y
PD - Physical Disability
PMLD - Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty
SEMH - Social, Emotional and Mental Health Y
SLCN - Speech, Language and Communication Y
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty Y
VI - Visual Impairment Y

Who came from where


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