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After winding tranquilly through woodland, the road opens out onto the astonishing prospect of the school chapel: 90 feet of soaring Victorian gothic in Sussex sandstone, crowning the rolling grassland that slopes gently down towards the coast. Year 9 students come off timetable for a week each year to write a dissertation on something that interests them, and half a term prior to this is spent learning how to amass and assess information. The head himself teaches students the skills of parliamentary debating. Inclusive approach to sport means that all levels of abilities are catered for. One student we spoke to relished his place in the 6th football team, playing twice a week for enjoyment, whilst his friend in the 1st team practised four times a week and received regular professional coaching...

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What the school says...

Lancing College gets the best out of pupils by offering them a broad spectrum of opportunities and encouraging them to discover their own talents and reach their individual potential. Whilst avoiding the hot-housing syndrome of some schools there is a can do air about the place and the all-pervading scent of academic success. Boarding and day pupils have the same advantages, benefitting enormously from the House structure and extensive facilities, all set within the school's spectacular downland campus. Care and support are paramount and educational, practical and pastoral help are always at hand. This is a warm and happy community.

From art to alpacas (on the College farm), all interests are catered for and intellectual stimulation is enhanced by a wide range of extra-curricular activities. Lancing College is a place where individuals discover themselves, achieve success, enjoy a well-balanced life and step out into the adult world with confidence.
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What the parents say...

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Sports

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

Rowing

Fencing

Shooting

What The Good Schools Guide says

Head master

Since 2014, Dominic Oliver MPhil (40s). A grammar school boy who read English at Sheffield before spending a decade at Oxford forging a sterling academic career with a specialism in Shakespeare. Became interested in pedagogy, and edited the Longman School Shakespeare edition of Richard III, which garnered very favourable reviews. Eventually found himself desiring ‘a life that was less narrow – the bit that really excited me was teaching students,’ and took a post at the Royal Grammar School in Worcester. Three years as head of English at Malvern College followed, then a four year spell as managing head of Bedales School, before he settled into the top job at Lancing. Married to Lydia, a psychoanalyst, with two sons, both of them pupils in the Lancing family of schools.

‘Approachable and visible,’ was the verdict of parents. Head and school seem to be a particularly good fit. Mr Oliver brings insight and genuine scholarly radiance to the relationship, Lancing provides history and warm-hearted Woodard-style Christian ethics, and both exude silver-haired distinction. A real marriage of true minds.

Academic matters

Lancing is less punishingly selective than (at least one of) its nearby competitors, and this is reflected in its results, which are nonetheless very creditable. 58 per cent A*-A/9-7 grades at GCSE in 2017; at A level, 51 per cent A*/A grades, 77 per cent A*/B.

Make no mistake, however, there is some real scholarship going on here. In 2017 the school set up The Heresy Project to celebrate the anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his articles to Wittenberg church door, and to encourage Lancing lower sixth formers to challenge orthodoxy. Almost all of the year group rose to the challenge, and we thought the resulting essays were impressive examples of coherent and independent thinking. How does the school achieve this in its students? According to the deputy head academic, by placing a high value on intellectual joy and curiosity. Year 9 students, for instance, come off timetable for a week each year to write a dissertation on something that interests them, and half a term prior to this is spent learning how to amass and assess information. The head himself teaches students the skills of parliamentary debating and integrating quotation into argument. Lucky students, we thought, who seemed to take all this for granted, praising the lessons simply as ‘really enjoyable’. The classes we saw were teacher-led and traditional, but friendly and relaxed with good student input. ‘Exceptional and dedicated teachers make the highest academic achievements possible,’ according to one parent.

Class sizes are small: usually no more than 18, and routinely smaller than this in the sixth form. School is up to date technologically, with interactive whiteboards fitted in the large, airy classrooms, and iPads commonly used. Languages offered include French, Spanish, German and Mandarin. One parent lamented that compulsory Latin had been phased out for the year 9s. Excellent science facilities, although the physics class we saw were gleefully piling outdoors to launch water rockets against a spectacular backdrop of flatlands and sea. Learning everywhere is purposeful, calm and undertaken with satisfaction. Superb library is open seven days a week – strict silence rules, but also a seminar room for collaborative work and plenty of computer workstations.

Two full-time and one part-time SEN teachers support the small number of students here with mild dyslexia, dyspraxia, slow processing, etc. ‘The school was able to accommodate my son’s additional needs beautifully, enabling him to shine in the areas he loved, and he is now at a top university,’ wrote a grateful parent. International students must already have excellent English and are screened for this on application, but once here, they receive regular EAL support.

Games, options, the arts

One of the best programmes of extracurricular activities we’ve come across anywhere, with facilities and staffing to match. The one-word question ‘Sports?’ to a group of students received an exhalation of satisfaction from all. A student enthused, ‘What’s great about Lancing sport is that it really is for everyone, and you can find your level.’ ‘And the range of sports here is just ridiculous!’ cried another. The main ones are football, hockey, netball, tennis (on both hard and grass courts) and cricket; inclusive approach means that all levels of abilities are catered for. One student we spoke to relished his place in the 6th football team, playing twice a week for enjoyment, whilst his friend in the 1st team practised four times a week and received regular professional coaching. Even this unathletic reviewer thought the football pitches were amazing – ‘As school pitches go, this has to be one of the best in the country,’ said a sixth former proudly. Cricket is also strong – Mason Sidney Crane was an OL. Excellent swimming pool is used by locals as well as school community. More niche sports offered include sailing, squash, basketball, riding (new equestrian centre was finished in 2017), Eton fives, golf, fencing, badminton, water polo, aerobics and fitness – the list goes on. CCF also popular, and we were intrigued to witness a boy being awarded an enormous trophy for success in target rifle shooting.

Lancing’s farm provides a refreshing and quirky alternative for those who want to get their fresh air and exercise in other ways. Run by the estates manager with two part-timers and an abundance of student help, there are lots of ways to get involved. Would-be vets learn to give injections to animals, and anyone who wants gets to bottle-feed the lambs – or even, we heard, to get up in the night to help deliver them.

Music here is ‘unrivalled’, according to students, and we thought that outside of a specialist music school, you’d be hard-pressed to find better provision. Wealth of opportunities includes orchestras, choirs, a cappella club, Big Band, rock music workshops, conducting classes, improvisation workshops, composition lessons and a full programme of chamber music coaching. Between 30 and 40 concerts each year ensure that everyone gets plenty of chances to perform. Instrumental lessons offered on practically anything, ‘including Chinese flute,’ according to a student. Masterclasses and professional recitals are common, as are visits to concerts and opera. The chapel is home to no fewer than three organs, and the chapel choir and choral scholars sing evensong at major cathedrals across the country.

The school has an excellent theatre, and drama is popular and well-resourced – ‘outstanding,’ wrote one parent - with around 10 events a year including productions – recent shows include Guys And Dolls, Amadeus, Coram Boy and Lady Windermere’s Fan. There’s even an open air theatre, opened by Agatha Christie in 1960, where the Founder’s Day play is performed every summer term. Dance is also offered – ballet, contemporary, street jazz. Art is very big here, and we thought the work on display was superb. ‘The art department is wonderful and full of happy, enthusiastic teachers,’ wrote a parent. Busy calendar of community service includes Duke of Edinburgh and the outreach programme for sixth formers. Lots of school trips – recent destinations have included Malawi, Germany and Iceland.
A parent commented, ‘We’ve been so pleased with the way Lancing has enabled each of our children to find the things that energise and enthuse them.’ ‘All our children have been given great opportunities,’ said another. ‘It’s been brilliant,’ said an upper sixth former; ‘I’ve got involved in so many different things and I’ve loved them all!’

Boarders

Some 60 per cent of the students board and boarding is very much the school’s ethos. Seven of the nine houses are for boarders: four for boys and three for girls, reflecting the slightly boy-heavy intake (which school is working to address). Full, weekly and flexi boarding all available, and free boarding offered to students if an activity goes on past 9pm. Of the 40 per cent day students, half stay over regularly, and it’s not uncommon for the school to have 280 pupils in school over a weekend.

All houses are for the full age range of students ie years 9 to 13. Sixth formers have their own corridor and common room, but there are no sixth form houses as such, and the students said they preferred the resulting age diversity. On coming into the school pupils generally share in pairs, threes or fours, but two to a room is standard in year 10 and single rooms by year 11. The rooms we saw were spacious and neat, although the lad who declared that ‘Coming down here is a breath of fresh air’ might well have been referring to the wintry interior temperatures we encountered. All houses have a matron and, say students, ‘they’re all welcoming!’ ‘Our second mum!’ There are kitchens for student use, and the school provides milk, toast, etc. Some 70 per cent of teachers live on site and involve themselves in the school, meaning that there are lots of activities and socialising in the beautifully furnished and well-equipped communal areas – ‘There is SO MUCH to do!’ was a comment echoed by many.

Everyone we spoke to agreed that boarding, even it was part-time, enabled them to get the most out of being here. ‘You’re more involved,’ ’It’s easier to work,’ ‘The school does a really good job of keeping us organised’ – etc. As the head put it, ‘For me, it’s the logical extension of educating the whole person. Who wouldn’t want to live here? I wake up every morning and feel that. And that’s the experience of the vast majority of people at Lancing.’

Background and atmosphere

Traces its origins back to 1848, but on the present site since 1857. There can scarcely be a lovelier school approach anywhere. After winding tranquilly through woodland, the road opens out onto the astonishing prospect of the school chapel: 90 feet of soaring Victorian gothic in Sussex sandstone, crowning the rolling grassland that slopes gently down towards the coast. Nathaniel Woodard, the founder, built some cracking schools but knew he was on to something special with Lancing chapel, insisting that it was built to its full height at one end first, so that if he died before completion the proportions couldn’t be cut down to save money. So from the outset, perhaps, the Lancing principle was to put beauty before profit, and it didn’t seem too fanciful to us to see the benign effects of this throughout the school. From the light and airy art department, bursting with imaginative work and with its view of the sea, to the wonderfully high-ceilinged library alive with silent industry, to the working farm with its programme dedicated to the reintroduction of the grey partridge, Lancing impresses as a place where creative thinking is encouraged – or rather, where creativity grows and thrives without even needing to be encouraged, because the soil in which it’s planted is so good. ‘Lancing allows for the eccentric,’ as one pupil put it. ‘It’s about giving them the time to stand and stare,’ affirmed the deputy head. ‘Relaxed, friendly, a happy school,’ said a parent, more prosaically.

Lancing welcomes those of all faiths and of none, but Christian values underpin the school and are made flesh by the chapel. Long, thin, vaulted - and chilly - it’s the only space large enough to house the whole school community, and everyone has to attend the college eucharist every Wednesday morning, as well as on one or two Sundays each term. But the approach is an inclusive one, and all the students we spoke to loved it and insisted it was part of what made their time at Lancing unique. ‘The chapel remains to our whole family a very special and emotional place,’ wrote a mother.

‘It’s an honour to be at a school this pretty,’ and ‘I’ve loved the look of Lancing since I was little,’ were comments echoed everywhere we went. But this is also a busy, bustling community that buzzes with purpose and activity, and perhaps the real beauty of the place lies in the equilibrium and sense of sanity that the school manages to achieve. ‘The school is really excellent at putting eggs in different baskets,’ thought a younger pupil. ‘The first time I came here I knew this was the school for me – it was the balance,’ said another. ‘It’s such a family feel,’ said our tour guide, as we passed a tabby cat washing itself contentedly outside the piggeries.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

Housemasters and mistresses are the first point of call for parents. ‘I cannot praise my son’s housemaster enough for the support he offers to both the young men under his care and their parents!’ wrote one mother, and all the parents we contacted concurred. ‘Housemistress is extremely kind with a lovely family’; ‘Always approachable’; ‘The house staff have been there for my children in so many ways over the years’; ‘Very easy to communicate with’ - etc.

The peer support scheme, now in its 15th year, is also highly valued, with over 50 students applying each year for the 18 or so places: those selected spend over 16 hours being trained by the school counsellor in eg listening skills, confidentiality, dealing with homesickness. No restrictions on phoning home, we were relieved to hear.

Surprisingly, a couple of parents whose opinion of the school was very positive nonetheless murmured that they weren’t entirely satisfied with how the school had dealt with issues around bullying: ‘We’ve found that the school policy on this doesn’t match up with our children’s experiences.’ The students we spoke to, however, insisted that bullying was rare and that instances were dealt with swiftly. Certainly behaviour around school is generally excellent, and parents report that the discipline is ‘firm but fair’. The attractive dark blue uniform is smartly worn, and gives way in the sixth form to equally smart business attire.

The catering manager has changed in recent times, and there is now much praise for the food, which is served up in a magnificent dining hall reminiscent of an Oxford college. ‘Healthier,’ ‘Nicer,’ ‘Plenty to eat,’ say students. We ourselves were served a delicious lunch, and can only agree.
Day pupils have to be in school by 8.15am and must stay until 6pm, and the school operates a six-day week with Saturdays being given over to a mixture of lessons and extracurricular activities. Not the place, therefore, for those with a busy life outside school. A few complaints persist from parents of day pupils that they’re not always kept fully in the loop regarding events and fixtures. Inevitable, perhaps, in a school as energetic and bustling as this where the mindset is primarily boarding. New co-ed day house, Saint’s, opening in September 2018.

Pupils and parents

Accepting of difference and encouraging of resourcefulness, the school suits all sorts but is very much for those who like to keep busy. Around 25 per cent of boarders from overseas. Parents are hard working, professional, aspirational, successful. The school runs its own buses, with routes to a wide range of surrounding localities, plus a shuttle between Lancing College and the preps. New London bus serves those needing to get back from the capital on a Sunday evening.

Alumni include Evelyn Waugh, Sir David Hare, Peter Pears, Tim Rice, Christopher Hampton, Jan Morris, Tom Sharpe, Jamie Theakston and Sir Roy Calne, pioneer of liver transplantation.

Entrance

Selective. At 13+, about 100 places on offer, with around 20 to 25 per cent of these usually going to pupils from the school’s own preps at Hove and Worthing. A few places also available at 14+. At 16+ an additional 40 or so places. School looks for ‘academic crunching power’, but also for a wide-ranging and diverse school community – ‘a willingness to give, and a wish to participate in a broader kind of life.’

Exit

A small number leave after GCSEs, but school insists that it doesn’t cull. ‘We have an academic bar, but it’s administered humanely. Iif you take someone at 13, you have a duty to look after them.’ At 18, mostly to Russell Group universities, with around 10 per cent onto medical or biomedical courses and increasing numbers to the USA. Usually at least half a dozen to Oxbridge each year (five in 2017). Art, design and architecture are all popular choices – a love of beauty, perhaps, being a happy side effect of living on this ravishing campus.

Money matters

Scholarships available in all the usual fields – sports, drama music, academic, all-rounder – plus, more unusually, an organ scholarship for Y12s and the Peter Robinson Cricketing award, which in 2017 was won for the first time by a girl. Owzat!
Scholarships are worth between five and 10 per cent of the fees, and students who achieve one can then apply to the bursary fund for further assistance. Commendably, school is currently fundraising to create 25 Foundationer places by 2022, enabling students from poorer backgrounds to access full-fees assistance. ‘It’s important that we have a mix of students, not just the very wealthy, and it’s making everybody here think about what education is for.’

Our view

A truly beautiful school where the upward spaces encourage students to reach for the skies whilst keeping their feet on the ground. As one parent put it, ‘Lancing is wonderful, and has given my children such a positive start to their lives.’

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Special Education Needs

At Lancing College we recognise that children learn at different rates and have individual needs. Our aim is to enrich and extend the learning of all pupils in accordance with the SEN and Disability Code of Practice 2014. Members of the Learning Support Department are available to assist any pupil who has been identified as having difficulty in accessing the school curriculum. The Learning Support Coordinator works in close collaboration with House Masters/Mistresses and teaching staff to ensure that all pupils have the opportunity to develop to their full potential. Nov 15

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders
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
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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