Epsom College A GSG School
- Epsom College
- Head: Mr Jay Piggot
- T 01372 821234
- F 01372 821237
- E firstname.lastname@example.org
- W www.epsomcollege.org.uk
- A mainstream independent school for pupils aged from 11 to 18
- Boarding: Yes
- Local authority: Surrey
- Pupils: 800
- Religion: Church of England
- Fees: Day 17,100 - £23,472; Boarding £23,520- £34,617 pa
- Open days: March and October
- Review: View The Good Schools Guide Review
- ISI report: View the ISI report
What The Good Schools Guide says..
When it comes to décor, different departments exhibit endearing idiosyncrasies - from pot plants in chemistry lab (and sign announcing ‘nudisme interdite au delà de cette limite’) to blue-painted English rooms (also notable for friendly clutter of framed posters and attractive display boards already filling up nicely in second week of term) while modern languages is all-purple (even down to lampshades). Black wall in one of physics labs, however, is for sensitive experiments and ‘not because...
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. ...Read more
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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)
Cambridge Pre-U - an alternative to A levels, with all exams at the end of the two-year course.
What The Good Schools Guide says
Since September 2012, Mr 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 house master 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.
Career success undoubtedly assisted by personality and appearance - quietly dashing, though doesn’t overdo the leading man business. Gimlet vision, too - noticed and swiftly dealt with errant piece of rubbish – a very small plastic wrapper, only one in otherwise immaculate grounds.
Lordy, lordy, what a popular man he is. Pupils - ‘a joy,’ he says - say he makes an effort to know names, comes to matches and makes with the social chit chat. Biggest vote winner, however, are the birthday cards - otherwise sophisticated international pupil clearly thrilled with his, particularly handwritten signature - cynic had checked authenticity with damp finger just to be sure. Parents also like what they see. Innovations all welcomed. ‘Very proactive behind the scenes and has pushed through some sensible changes,’ says one. Definitely a step up from predecessor. ‘School ran well but didn’t have the personality.’
College was already known to him before the headhunters came a-callling, and found vision, ethos and commitment very much to his taste. Younger son, a keen golfer, moved with him (older brother is going great guns at Eton).
‘Would love’ to teach again and might when has got through current to-do list, which is lengthy. Getting shorter by the minute, though. ‘Some heads would take a while to work out what they were going to do,’ says teacher. ‘He’s made lots of changes already.’ Popular changes include axing of seasonal timetables, originally to make most of winter light, but cause of mega all-round confusion to all.
High profile reintroduction of matrons into the houses was an Eton-inspired development that’s brought a caring, maternal touch (thus far, all women) to details such as tracking down missing shirts and sewing as well as control of rowdy element. Of even greater significance has been academic shake up, still ongoing, starting with observation of every member of staff since he arrived, followed with ISI-style feedback. ‘A privilege,’ he says. (We’re sure they feel the same). Many stay for years. No wonder, with perks headed (for many, though not all) by housing either on-site or within a few minutes’ walk. ‘My wife told me we’re not going to move,’ said one. Given Epsom property prices, you can’t blame her.
In addition to the introduction of heads of year, designed to add missing link identified in recent inspection, he’s also not going to stand in path of old-timers who could be moving on to greater things elsewhere, while rejigging weak spots including A level languages and biology and GCSE English literature. Dynamic incomers, including former Uppingham head of modern foreign languages – similar developments in science – are being brought in together with fledgling new generation of bright young things adding oomph to lessons (occasional dullness one of few inferred criticisms in last inspection report).
Still more shaking up to come, however, essential given school’s previous sleepiness and ‘red-hot’ competition - Wellington, Cranleigh and Charterhouse as well as St John’s Leatherhead and Reed’s School. Bumping up interior life of school is part of the process, with Eton’s dawn to dusk (and beyond) intellect-boosting programme the inspiration for mind-expanding programme – expect more pupil-organised drama, musical and debating activities (medical, history and politics societies are already on the go) sparking impassioned discussions that ramp up the intellectual temperature from tepid to mercury-busting.
Mark of success? Would like popularity of places to increase to the point where competition for boarding places as strong as for day hopefuls.
One of formerly mid-ranking schools to have substantially upped game in recent years. Fun lessons got pupils on the go, literally so, with movement minus the music, A level students standing up for miracles (theology) and marginal cost (economics) - everything, in fact, but their rights.
Parents, while agreeing with head that some teachers are ‘past their best’, think generally offset by vast majority who are ‘engaging, personable and, most importantly, able to motivate. They appear to love their subjects and to enjoy teaching and the company of the children - none of these are a given, in my experience.’ Megawatt enthusiasm often a game-changer, especially at sixth form level. Sciences score particularly high conversion rates. ‘Was my dream to be a translator – now it’s chemistry,’ said pupil.
Ability to devote time to all (an impressive 55 hours contact time a week) means that ‘there are no lost causes,’ says head. Plentiful tracking and feedback means pupils know where they are and how they can improve, feedback seamlessly integrated in lessons. ‘We put down our comments when we’ve had a test and it gives teachers a good idea of where we are,’ said sixth former.
Though class sizes aren’t teeny tiny - average 20 for GCSE (maximum 23) and between 10 and 12 at A level (15 max), with pupil to full time teacher ratio of 8.4 - school is consistently good when it comes to added value, setting in maths, banding in languages and sciences (where small group of less able students might do GCSE dual sciences rather than IGCSE triple). No-one takes ‘silly’ numbers of GCSEs, says senior teacher – aim is to ensure good grades in manageable quantities.
Currently, results generally very good given relatively mixed intake, with 70 per cent A*/A grades at GCSE; 85 per cent of A level entries graded A*/B and 61 per cent A*/A in 2016.
Good, largely traditional subject range, almost ology-free - ‘nothing against psychology but it just isn’t us,’ says teacher - though language options now include GCSE Mandarin, originally for overseas students but now open to all. However, MFLs not the strongest suit, with few takers at A level - maths and economics much the most popular.
Hugely dynamic head of DT is also bumping up recruitment, particularly amongst girls, by ensuring that environment, full of technological marvels - though it’s pupils’ superb mortice and tenon joints and chamfering skills that help pull in the A* grades - is also tidy (‘was grubby and fragmented’) with plenty of wood-turning (apparently the secret of cross-gender appeal).
Big feature is Extended Project Qualification (EPQ), a mini-dissertation that, at best, combines originality and staying power (recent topics include carcinogens in food and madness in Henry Vlll’s court - separately). Worth the effort. One pupil, down an A level grade and out of university course, called department head and used hers to talk her way back in again. No doubt that attracts the very able – one pupil, exile from leading girls’ school, delighted to be somewhere that praised good work rather than training spotlight on pupils only when failed to deliver top grades - though one parent queried its suitability for the truly brilliant. ‘Might be a bit too comfortable,’ she thought. ‘It’s a broad church and some kids are too bright [and] shouldn’t be there.’
Extra scaffolding where needed, with clinics all the way through the school in all key subjects and teachers not just present (many live in) but in many cases ‘always available.’ That said, school isn’t geared up to cope with anyone with more than mild learning difficulties. Of the 100 or so pupils with SEN, none is currently statemented, SpLD the overwhelmingly dominant need, though have coped with (mild) ADHD as well.
Plenty of emails home and ‘progress reports every three weeks,’ ensure that everyone knows what’s going on, while lengthy school day (finishing 6.00pm) incorporates sufficient free periods for the organised to sock it to the homework.
And though initially gentle pace startling to alumni of non-stop pushy preps, school gets praise for stress-appropriate levels of pushing tailored to each child. ‘They know which way to push,’ says mum of recent leaver. ‘The teacher told my child that she “might get an A in biology GCSE, but I don’t think so".'’ Nettled, daughter was spurred on to do just that.
Games, options, the arts
Sport success plentiful - boys’ and girls’ rugby VIIs regular regional winners, lots of post-school success, too (five OEs play for Harlequins), ditto hockey (mixed seniors won Surrey U18 competition), as do minors with recent captain of golf driving his way to Stanford Golf Scholarship (first European for over 10 years, says school) and shooting. Facilities generous – including swimming pool - and, in case of one of two sports halls, close to giant-size (even better when new sports pavilion up and running), two cracking sports halls, one giant sized, six squash courts, a swimming pool and a fencing salle, No partridge in pear tree (but would undoubtedly be doing a few press ups if there were).
Outside, timetable pushes variety - first years will have both outdoor and inside sports in an afternoon and, further up the school, non-standard sports can be done off site - riding, for example and climbing, until school got its own climbing wall. Range ensures that ‘you’re not penalised if you’re not sporty,’ thought a mother, with matches for all. ‘Sport is very important, whether you're A team or D/E/F team material,’ agreed another parent. Sports captains, rated by the rank and file – ‘positions are well earned,’ thought one - have a real say in team structure. ‘You can discuss team composition with the coach and that’s good,’ thought pupils. Termly activity sheet encourages pupils to experiences shock of the new. One boy, initially dreading jive dance, discovered instead that he was ‘that sort of person’ – and loved it.
Plenty head for D of E, room for all (can add more staff if demand is high). CCF feather in school cap – one of oldest and biggest in country, teeming with facilities, (we liked esteem-heavy ‘confidence’ rather than assault course). Wears success lightly - numerous impressive sports cups casually behind bars with the guns).
Arts also attacked with relish. Music felt to be ‘on the ascendant,’ thought teacher, with lots of instrumental lessons - drums, singing, electric guitar and piano the biggest sellers, some reaching diploma level; challenging, performance opportunities ranging from low stress impromptu recitals to high quality productions including The Cunning Little Vixen and excellent chapel choir, masses lining up to audition - a macho-free area, reckoned year 9 and 10 pupils. Those not making the grade can ‘let voices develop’ in non-selective Glee Club instead.
Visual arts, recently upgraded, feature confident, instantly recognisable year 9 pictures of Kew Gardens – one of many trips. Everybody gets out a lot, DT excursions to real factories (Brompton bikes to Henry vacuum cleaners) so popular that school staff sign their Sundays away, too, school chef enjoying outing to Cadbury’s as much as pupils.
Similar numbers for full boarding and weekly. Boarding houses, dotted round the site, now all done up to the nines - matching up to head’s aspirations to equal best in Britain - with decking and glass snazzy-ness. Sensible trouble-preventing measures include half-termly dorm swaps and plenty of weekend activities for full boarders, from trips to Thorpe Park to house evenings and bowling. ‘Never lonely because lots going on,’ said sixth former.
Buddy system helps combat homesickness (most reckoned that worst was over within first week), one house even creating own surrogate family, one year group per generation and organising popular old fashioned sports day as an ice-breaker. Here, too, matrons, add much appreciated extra tea and sympathy layer (housemistresses - always academic staff - can ‘sometimes be more of figure of authority,’ thought sixth formers).
Background and atmosphere
Altogether a civilised place to be, starting with laid-back parking regime, permitted along one side of the one way road that winds round the lush green campus (new upper sixth drivers are vetted by the head), imposing chapel at its heart. Though patron is HM the Queen, not a high-society institution. Started life as the Royal Medical Benevolent College, a charitable Good Thing, helping the relics of deceased impoverished medics. Strongly Victorian in spirit and execution - most buildings completed between 1850s and 1920s. School wasn’t welcomed by all, overt charitable status ‘distasteful’ to recipients, reckoned contemporary letter to Lancet.
Took only boys for the first 120 years or so (sisters presumably expected to marry their way to economic success); girls added 1996 largely as emergency recession-busting tactic (local area had suffered heavily and pupil numbers had plummeted). Now, of course, school wouldn’t be without them and they’re on almost equal terms in the sixth form, though minority partners in other years. Desired ratio is 60:40 is, thinks head, about right, ensuring girls have the same options as boys, particularly when it comes to games. ‘All get the chance to contribute,’ he adds, firmly. No complaints from girls themselves, or parents, so seems to be working. Added a lower school - years 7 and 8 - in 2016.
Though it’s all 19th and early 20th century authenticity from the front with ‘real wow factor,’ thought parent, sold on first visit, tasteful modern extensions stretch back a considerable distance to the rear (current bursar, a woman, was a former architect, and it shows). Behind public face is ‘pupil world’, the second sweep of buildings where most of the teaching takes place. Modern additions – humanities building particularly palatable - don’t jar (though some areas, like maths and theology blocks, could be nicer, and almost certainly will be when funds permit).
When it comes to décor, different departments exhibit endearing idiosyncrasies - from pot plants in chemistry lab (and sign announcing ‘nudisme interdite au delà de cette limite’) to blue-painted English rooms (also notable for friendly clutter of framed posters and attractive display boards already filling up nicely in second week of term) while modern languages is all-purple (even down to lampshades). Black wall in one of physics labs, however, is for sensitive experiments and ‘not because we’re pandering to goths,’ explains larger than life department head.
Technology warmly embraced with Wifi throughout (and ‘extreme’ internet safety settings triggered by word ‘Middlesex’) and the Hub, new high tech room where lessons can be recorded for posterity. Tradition equally enjoyed but not pointlessly so - most of original medical artefacts and stuffed animals that once dominated science rooms have gone. ‘Antiques dealer took the rest,’ says teacher, cheerfully.
Pastoral care, well-being and discipline
Seniors a strong force (and will be even more so once head succeeds in replacing current sixth form block with something altogether spiffier). Take turns to lead assemblies that are so far removed from commonplace fare that we had to double check that searingly articulate reflections on 9/11 were being delivered by sixth form girls. It appears effortless. No wonder - it's been in rehearsal since June, points out the friendly chaplain. Older pupils keen to stress that ‘hierarchical system associated with traditional English boarding school, pitting year group against year group' is ‘a terrible idea’ and will pitch in to take sides if older boys show signs of picking on younger ones. ‘It’s part of our role and it works.’
Little in the way of serious misbehaviour, however, with just two pupils ‘withdrawn by parents’ (expulsion by face-saving euphemism) in senior teacher’s 15 years. Drugs issues in both cases, though it’s very rarely the end, behind the scenes second chances often possible. Day to day, class silliness and late homework the main issues, reckoned pupils, with escalating sanctions – lines, notification of tutors, warnings, departmental then school detentions - rattled off by all.
Lots of rewards, too – from pizza or chocolate for work-related merits and distinctions to privileges of seniority – sixth form day girls cited joy of leaving sports kit on shelves in study rooms instead of trekking, when younger, to go to separate storage area.
And though house system (separate for day and boarding pupils) engenders ferocious sense of competition (choir contest in particular), it isn’t carried over into lessons, ‘which stops it becoming tribal,’ reckoned parent.
Pupils and parents
Predominantly local intake with vast majority of pupils, including 95 per cent of UK boarders, living within 10 to 15 miles. School keen to expand the range but, meantimes, results in happy fusion of streetwise Londoner with leafy Surrey-ite, reckoned teacher – cool without the ennui.
Many staff have own children here (has peaked at 40 or so). One parent we spoke to who’d opted for local alternative thought numbers were excessive – though appeared to be a lone voice. Working mums - far more these days – were something of a feature to the point where socialising tends to feature nights out to ensure ‘you don’t feel out of the loop,’ thought career-driven mother.
Cosmopolitan feel added by international component (largeish at 20 per cent) drawn from Hong Kong, Malaysia, Russia and Korea, though many more from western Europe. For the 10 per cent 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'.
Malaysian numbers probably not affected by opening of sister school in Kuala Lumpur in 2014 - first foray into pastures new, as ‘there will always be pupils who want a UK education,’ reckons school.
School is after all-rounders with several strings to their bow and ‘fair share of the bright pupils’. Once a second choice regular, increasingly a bill-topper, recruiting from over 40 preps and state schools, likely to increase as it extends reach (Danes Hill and Downsend, Shrewsbury House, Aberdour and Feltonfleet feature prominently though no official feeders). Full-on charm offensive attracting south west London schools.
New 11+ intake 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 - NVR, English and numerical skill plus interview), same again (minus NVR) for non-prep candidates in January of year 8.
Once ‘day pupils were brighter and more studious’ than boarding pupils, thought one insider. No longer the case.
If no joy at 13+, small number of places at 14+ (three to five only, English, maths and NVR tests). Second biggest influx is post-GCSE with 45 to 50 joining the sixth form, following VR, NVR and numerical skills tests plus interview. Push to up state school numbers (currently around 20 per cent of the total) as a way of ‘supplementing the ratios’. Some haggling after year 12 for a handful of pupils whose progress gives cause for concern. Repeating year not an option, dropping a subject can be the solution.
No shortage of ambition, most achieving first choice unis; Exeter, Bristol, LSE, Loughborough, Nottingham, Warwick, Durham, Edinburgh, SOAS, Manchester, Oxford Brookes and Queen's Belfast are top 10 university destinations; four to Oxbridge in 2016. Economics and finance followed by business, geography and sociology popular though, despite high quality art as A level option – and photography just added – it’s currently not being pursued as a degree option.
Annual bursary spend close to £750,000 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. Lots of scholarships on offer, academic and Headmaster's (for 'a wide range of disciplines' from drama to chess) at 11+ and 13+, sports and music at 16+ too.
With demographics and parent power going his way, head's boarding aspirations could well be realised. ‘A brilliant school for my son,’ said mother. Another commented that school had got 'everything there was to get' out of her child. ‘You really can't ask much more than that’.
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 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)|
|Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory|
|Has SEN unit or class||Y|
|HI - Hearing Impairment|
|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|