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  • Epsom College
    College Road
    Epsom
    Surrey
    KT17 4JQ
  • Head: Mr Jay Piggot
  • T 01372 821234
  • F 01372 821237
  • E [email protected]
  • W www.epsomcollege.org.uk
  • Epsom College is an English independent day and boarding school that educates over 850 boys and girls aged 11 to 18. It is located on the slopes of Epsom Downs in Surrey and was founded in 1853 as a boys’ only school to provide support for poor members of the medical profession.
  • Boarding: Yes
  • Local authority: Surrey
  • Pupils: 897; sixth formers: 328
  • Religion: Church of England
  • Fees: Day £18,765 - £25,266; Boarding £33,849 - £37,263 pa - same
  • Open days: March and October
  • Review: View The Good Schools Guide Review
  • Ofsted report: View the Ofsted report
  • ISI report: View the ISI report

What says..

Selective to a degree, but with breadth of intake, staff have to pass muster in proving they can teach a range of abilities, ‘which ultimately means having a range of strategies at their fingertips to capture all hearts and minds, not just teaching to the top end,’ says head. The word ‘unbeaten’ features widely but never with expectancy or smugness – in fact, school wears success surprisingly lightly: numerous impressive sports cups casually behind bars with the guns. ‘Nobody is on the bench at Epsom’...

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What the school says...

At Epsom we want all our pupils to live happy and fulfilled lives. We want our pupils to find a passion for things that matter to them, a respect for others, the opportunity to challenge themselves, and an attachment to the life of the mind.

We understand that life beyond the classroom may transform the lives of our pupils. The breadth of activity on offer at Epsom extends far beyond the classroom, incorporating a world of sport and music, drama and societies, expeditions and camps, and friendship and laughter. Our academic results are excellent and success across a vast range of co-curricular activity has never been better.

On visiting the College, the beautiful still red brick Victorian buildings within a picturesque 85 acres estate is immediately inspiring. Fully co-educational, Epsom College offers modern House accommodation, with five of the Houses having been sympathetically refurbished in the past two years. A new Lower School for 11+ entry opens in September 2016 as we welcome 60 boys and girls into our Third Form. Housed in purpose-built teaching accommodation, the Lower School will offer state-of-the-art facilities and be co-located with the rest of the College’s extensive estate.

Epsom College sits just 15 few miles south of central London, with easy access to both Gatwick and Heathrow international airports.

A committed staff of more than 100 teachers, excellent pastoral care, an experienced Headmaster and a dynamic leadership team all combine to ensure that Epsom College gives our pupils the strongest foundations for future success.

The great majority of our teaching staff live within the College grounds and, together with the 749 boys and girls, they form an integrated community whose strength lies in the emphasis it places on tolerance, benevolence and the developing of individual potential.

Epsom has a long tradition of successfully educating boys and girls from overseas and currently some 15 per cent of our students come from outside the UK. International pupils are part of the very fabric of Epsom and the student body consists of more than 30 nationalities including the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Hong Kong, China, Malaysia, Germany and Russia.
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2015 Good Schools Guide Awards

  • Best performance by Girls taking Economics at an English Independent School (GCE A level)
  • Best performance by Boys taking Economics at an English Independent School (GCE AS level)
  • Best performance by Girls taking Economics at an English Independent School (GCE AS level)

Curricula

Cambridge Pre-U - an alternative to A levels, with all exams at the end of the two-year course.

Sports

Rowing

Fencing

Shooting

What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since 2012, Jay Piggot BA MA PGCE (50s). Previously headmaster at alma mater Campbell College, Belfast between 2006 and 2012, and, before that, put in 17 years at Eton (clearly a hard place to leave), starting as assistant master in 1989 and becoming housemaster 10 years later. Not bad going given that it was only his second teaching job: his first, immediately after completing his MA in English Renaissance literature at Liverpool, was at Millfield, where he taught A level/Oxbridge English.

Modestly dashing, this is one smooth operator and lordy, lordy, what a popular man he is, especially among parents, who claim he ‘has given the school a personality’. ‘He has charisma and exudes a wonderful air of power without being intimidating.’ ‘He is utterly lovely and completely has the children’s interests at heart.’ Students told us they ‘don’t see all that much of him’ but he does assemblies, teaches a bit and comes to matches, as well as inviting students to breakfasts and lunches – seen as golden ticket. Also great excitement about his personally signed birthday cards – ‘and can you believe he gives us Christmas cards too?’ one enthused, wide-eyed.

All his high-profile changes (of which there are many) seem to be popular among students and parents alike, particularly his Eton-inspired reintroduction of matrons into the houses – ‘a mum away from home,’ said one parent. ‘Matrons are the pillar of the house – you can talk to them about anything and they’ll listen and even if they’re not interested, they pretend to listen,’ said one student. His academic shake-up, still ongoing, has seen an introduction of heads of year and – as one student put it – ‘a lot more vibrant and often younger teachers’. ‘They’ve brought in new energy and ideas – it’s been transformational,’ says head (70 per cent live on-site or within a few minutes’ walk). Biggest change of all was opening lower school in 2016 (competitor schools were ‘sweeping up the stronger pupils earlier on’, he explains), with year 7s and 8s taught in own shiny new premises (‘I know they share some of our facilities, but we don’t see them much,’ said a senior). But although this (and increased intake at other entry points) has meant student numbers rocketing from 700 to 900, head promises to cap it at 935 – ‘every cubby hole in the college is now officially taken, not to mention meeting the dining hall and chapel capacity’.

Lives onsite with his wife, two dogs, cat and three children. Oldest (son) went great guns at Eton, then Oxford and is now doing a masters at UCL, the middle (son) is at Bristol University, and his youngest – a girl – attends Epsom College.

Academic matters

One of formerly mid-ranking schools to have substantially upped game, Epsom retains a prevailing sense of progression. Data and pupil intervention have nudged their way up the priority ladder, with subtle testing carried out every three weeks which appears to be tackling underperformance and ensures no report ever has any surprises for parents. Meanwhile, more layers in the academic management team have focused minds on more engaging teaching (‘though some teachers still give boring lessons,’ one student us).

Selective to a degree, but with breadth of intake, staff have to pass muster in proving they can teach a range of abilities, ‘which ultimately means having a range of strategies at their fingertips to capture all hearts and minds, not just teaching to the top end,’ says head. Innovative approach to CPD, with staff not sent off on courses (‘generally winds up being a bit of a jolly’) but instead invited to pick from half-hour power-learning sessions, which they then have to prove they’ve linked to their teaching. ‘All teachers here know they have to work on their craft,’ says school.

Though class sizes have grown - average 23/23 for GCSE and 16 max at A level - school is consistently good when it comes to value added (it’s in the top two per cent in the country for value added), with banding in languages (all do French, Spanish, German and Mandarin from year 7 then pick one, ideally two, for GCSE when Latin and Greek also become available) and setting in maths and science (where small group of less able students might do GCSE dual sciences rather than IGCSE triple – although not enough for students’ liking, it seems, with one telling us, ‘some of my friends absolutely hate science and find it so confusing yet were told they have to do triple’).

Most do 10 GCSES and, in sixth form, three A levels (75 per cent also do EPQ). Results generally very good given relatively mixed intake, with 77 per cent A*-A/9-7 grades at GCSE; 87 per cent of A level entries graded A*/B and 57 per cent A*/A in 2018. Largely traditional subject range, almost ology-free. Maths, science, art and PE do well at GCSE and art, sciences, economics and business studies are the dazzlers at A level.

Extra scaffolding where needed, with clinics in all key subjects and teachers not just present (many live in) but in many cases ‘always available.’ Of the 140 or so pupils with SEN (one with EHCP when we visited), SpLD is the overwhelmingly dominant need and all SEN is at the milder end. ‘They’ve managed our daughter’s extra needs very well,’ said a parent.

Plenty of emails and reports to parents ensure that everyone is kept informed, although one parent told us ‘one parents' evening a year, which is always a bit rushed, seems a bit on the mean side’ (school says there are numerous evenings each year, but not all called parents' evenings – information evenings, choices evenings etc). Lengthy school day (lessons start at 8.20am, finishing at 6pm for seniors) incorporates sufficient free periods for the organised to get their homework out of the way (‘good preparation for using time sensibly at uni’, says school).

Students are challenged but not pressured, say parents. One told us, ‘My son was skimping on his revision at one point – he got a bit lazy really - but the housemaster took him aside and said, “look, you’re a clever boy, don’t blow it” and it worked a treat.’ Other parents like how the school doesn’t ‘steer them in a direction that doesn’t suit them – a child doesn’t want to go to university, they are fine with that’.

Careers advice could be better, feel parents, with one student telling us about a ‘very uninspiring’ careers aptitude test ‘that told my friend she should be a librarian and me a maths teacher’. School points out there are ‘multiple workshops, evenings, societies, world of work evenings, careers fairs etc’.

Games, options, the arts

Sport is successful, ‘but could go up a level’, believes head, who has introduced live-in sports graduates (those who play top flight hockey or netball, for instance) to come in for two-year stints – ‘there’s been a quiet revolution in sport due to the gapees’. Boys’ and girls’ rugby VIIs regular regional winners, lots of post-school success, too. Ditto hockey (girls' first 11s through to fourth 11s lost only two of their 40 games the season we visited). The word ‘unbeaten’ features widely but never with expectancy or smugness – in fact, school wears success surprisingly lightly: numerous impressive sports cups casually behind bars with the guns. ‘Nobody is on the bench at Epsom’, says head; parents agree. Golf is strong – just over the fence is Epsom golf course; two students were recently awarded golf scholarships to US universities. Shooting and climbing popular; riding available off site. Facilities generous - two cracking sports halls, one giant sized, six squash courts, a swimming pool and a fencing salle, among others. But while rugby ‘is still king’ and this is a very sporty school, ‘you’re not penalised if you’re not really sporty and it is no longer a rugger bugger school,’ a student told us. ‘Sport is very important, whether you're A team or D/E/F team material,’ agreed a parent.

Music, drama and arts have a louder voice than in the past (at one time it was little more than a whisper, from what parents told us), thanks to current head pushing their weight. New head of music has introduced greater breadth so jazz, pop, classical, you name it, are all celebrated, with ‘extravaganzas’ every term. ‘Sometimes you see the ballet dancers from the lower school dancing with the 18 year-olds - not always on the money but they get the claps and that’s what it’s all about,’ says head. There are junior and senior choirs (it’s cool to be in the choir here – ‘even the rugger buggers get stuck in’) and a strong orchestra (they get professional musicians to come and play with them to ‘ginger them up a bit’), plus all the usual ensembles. Drama ‘improving’, say parents, although head would like to see the ‘great culture of musical theatre that seems inevitable in co-ed senor schools’ to be balanced with some more serious acting. Art also attacked with relish, with lovely facilities and a university art school feel.

DofE prevalent. CCF feather in school cap – one of oldest and biggest in country. Clubs a plenty – we met one student who’d introduced a film club, another University Challenge. Everybody gets out a lot on trips or to matches – a fleet of minibuses awaited students when we visited. DT excursions to real factories (MINI to New Holland tractors) popular among staff and students.

Boarders

Most boarders are weekly, but full boarding numbers aren’t far behind. Boarding houses, five in total (plus another eight day houses) are all dotted round the site and are spacious, colourful and homely. Kitchen in the girls’ boarding house we saw looked as if it had been taken straight out of a showroom, though a student told us that ‘certainly isn’t the case for all of them’, with ‘some houses much snazzier than others’. Dorms, on the small side and rarely with more than four beds in, functional and with varying degrees of tidiness.

Sensible trouble-preventing measures include optional half-termly dorm swaps and plenty of weekend activities for full boarders, from trips to Thorpe Park to house evenings and bowling. Buddy system helps combat homesickness, while matrons (whose offices are welcoming and cosy) add much appreciated extra tea and sympathy layer. Students told us each house is very different, both in terms of feel and rewards such as town leave (at the discretion of the housemaster or housemistress), but all rules are the same.

Background and atmosphere

‘I thought it might be a bit stuck up, but it really isn’t,’ deemed a parent. Though patron is HM the Queen, we agree it’s definitely not a high-society institution. Altogether a very civilised place to be, though, with sprawling campus rich with lush green lawns and fields, buildings – most completed between 1850s and 1920s, with tasteful modern extensions – and imposing chapel at its heart (‘a place where you get a chance to be quiet and reflective, though services can be boring,’ admitted a student). Started life as the Royal Medical Benevolent College, a charitable Good Thing, helping the relatives of deceased impoverished medics. Modern additions – humanities building particularly palatable - don’t jar and there’s plenty of social areas for sixth formers. Lovely, spacious library – ‘I stay until 9pm some nights,’ an older boy told us.

Took only boys for the first 120 years or so (sisters presumably expected to marry their way to economic success); girls added in sixth form in 1976 then throughout the school in 1996. Now, of course, school wouldn’t be without them and the intake of year 7s in 2017 was 51 per cent girls – the first year they’d had more girls than boys in a class, though they remain minority partners in other years. Desired ratio (for now) is 45:55.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

‘If your child worries – which mine does – there is so much support both available in and out of the houses in terms of their emotional well-being,’ said one parent, although another told us she felt school isn’t for ‘the less robust child.’ Generally speaking, pastoral care is ‘light touch’, says school, though behind-the-scenes monitoring ensures problems don’t get missed. Deputy head reeled off impressive lists of mental well-being speakers and workshops; form tutors, matrons and school counsellor tend to be first port of call for those seeking support. Seniors a strong force and take turns to lead assemblies and, as one student told us, ‘won’t tolerate seeing students picking on others’. Could be more freedom in sixth form, say some. ‘In upper sixth, there’s very little change in school life from earlier on and so the boys push against that when they’re 18,’ said one parent, but students told us it ‘really depends what house you’re in – some matrons are stricter than others’.
Little in the way of serious misbehaviour, with the odd student ‘withdrawn by parents’ (expulsion by face-saving euphemism). Two or three temporary exclusions per term, increasingly social media misdemeanours. Day to day, class silliness and late homework the main issues, reckon students, with escalating sanctions – lines, notification of tutors, warnings, departmental then school detentions. Lots of rewards, too – from pizza or chocolate for work-related merits and distinctions to privileges of seniority.

Pupils and parents

‘You don’t get a lot of Ferraris and designer suits, put it that way,’ said a parent, her barometer of wealth, though it’s fair to say families are well off (perhaps just not showy with it). Used to be predominantly local intake with vast majority of pupils, including 95 per cent of UK boarders, living within 10 to 15 miles – that’s now expanded to 25 miles, with more bus routes to cater for them. Many staff have own children here.

Cosmopolitan feel added by international component, although this has dropped from 20 to 15 per cent in recent years – a proactive measure as school not keen to lean too heavily on the international market: ‘we know that local parents don’t want their weekly boarders exclusively living with youngsters speaking another language.’ For those who are non-native English speakers there is a structured EAL programme in place, but they're fully integrated into the curriculum says the school, 'right from day one'. Sister school opened in Kuala Lumpur in 2014 - first foray into pastures new, with all profits ploughed back into widening access back at Epsom College.

Entrance

School is after all-rounders with several strings to their bow and fair share of the bright students. No longer a second choice regular, the school is increasingly a bill-topper, recruiting from over 40 preps and state schools, likely to increase as it extends reach (Danes Hill, Downsend, Shrewsbury House, Aberdour and Feltonfleet feature prominently though no official feeders).

At 11+, entry via maths, English and VR tests plus interview in January of year 6. Second intake into year 9, with January pre-test in year 6 (VR - scores of around 118-120 the norm).

If no joy at 13+, small number of places at 14+ (three to five only, English, maths and VR tests). Second biggest influx is post-GCSE with 45 joining the sixth form, following VR, NVR and numerical skills tests plus interview. Students at this stage need minimum of seven GCSEs with at least grade 6, and a minimum of grade 7 in their chosen A level subjects (or 8 for more technical subjects like maths, science and modern foreign languages).

Exit

Fewer than 10 students (sometimes none) leave after GCSE; school feels it has a ‘moral obligation to take them all the way through’. Ninety-five per cent to university and of those 70 per cent to Russell Group; two to three per cent to US or other overseas universities. No shortage of ambition, most achieving first choice unis; Exeter, Nottingham, Durham, UCL, Bristol, Leeds, Edinburgh and Manchester in top 10 destinations; four to Oxbridge in 2018 and eight medics. Economics and finance followed by business, geography and sociology popular.

Money matters

Annual bursary spend just over £1m on up to 100 per cent of fees. Possible additional financial support for families with medical connections through the Royal Medical Foundation, based at the school, though since 2000 a separate legal entity. Scholarships for academic, sports and performing arts (drama and/or music) at all entry points.

Our view

‘You feel you’re part of a school that’s really going places – a bit like what it was like at Wellington 10 years ago,’ said one parent. Led with real vision, this school offers an exciting learning environment within an extensive, top-notch campus and the students are among the most inquisitive and delightful we’ve come across.

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

The philosophy of the Learning Support Department is that all pupils can improve and achieve given the appropriate support for their special educational need, (SEN). At Epsom College, qualified and experienced specialist teachers are able to provide for a wide variety of mild SEN: dyslexia, dyspraxia, Asperger’s Syndrome, AD(H)D and other behavioural, social and emotional needs. On average, 8% of pupils have individual support. Within the Learning Support Department is an English as an Additional Language, (EAL), section. On average, 9% of pupils have EAL. Many of these pupils take specialist EAL lessons instead of a Modern Language. Learning Support staff provide additional support for EAL pupils in English Literature. Private tuition is also available. The generic provision is one of personalised learning. Teaching programmes are customised and take various forms: literacy or spelling programmes for pupils with dyslexia; handwriting, touch-typing and organisational support for those with dyspraxia; support programmes for pupils with AD(H)D; exam and revision technique; study skills and time management. The SEN provision often includes a counselling element. The aim is to produce confident independent learners who can invoke learned strategies and techniques automatically across the curriculum. Integral to the practice is close liaison with parents, Housemasters/mistresses, tutors, subject staff, the Medical Centre and other agencies. The Department maintains an SEN Register of all pupils with special educational needs. This list includes a description of the need, and strategies for supporting the pupil in class. LS staff are able to provide more detailed advice to staff and parents, as required. Literacy screening of all pupils on entry ensures that no difficulty goes undetected. Appropriate action is taken if there is a cause for concern. All LS staff are qualified to administer specialist SpLD assessments to tertiary level. This includes testing for access arrangements for public examinations. Occasionally, a recommendation is made for more specialist input, for example, from an educational psychologist. Specialist intervention and tuition consists of 30 weekly lessons of 45 minutes. These lessons are always arranged in consultation with the pupil and are outside the academic timetable and extra-curricular activities. Other programmes of support are offered according to need and can last from 6 to 12 weeks. The cost of these extra lessons is billed at the end of term.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia
Dysgraphia
Dyslexia
Dyspraxia
English as an additional language (EAL)
Genetic
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
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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