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A friendly and beautiful place to grow up. Fits oddballs - we met some pupils who were strongly individual but seemed very happy at Lancing. 'Not for the inert,' said one teacher, 'nor for one-dimensional academic types,' said another. The music department is housed in standard 60s fare, but is staffed by teachers full of love for their subject and incredibly enthusiastic about sharing that love with pupils. Their scruffy studies overflow with sheet music; one, curiously, with…

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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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Sports

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

Rowing

Fencing

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What The Good Schools Guide says

Head master

Since September 2014, Dominic Oliver MPhil, who left an academic career at Oxford to teach in schools, starting out at the Royal Grammar in Worcester, then moving to head of English at Malvern College, before becoming deputy head of Bedales schools. Married to Lydia, with a child at Lancing College and another at Lancing Prep.

Clearly feels comfortably at home at Lancing, which he describes as ‘recognisable public schooling with a unique combination of warmth and vigour’; more subtle than Bedales ‘self consciously liberal’ approach, but perhaps no less radical under its new leader. As a head who enjoys the work of old boy David Hare and other establishment rebels, he wants to hear his pupils' voices: school council will soon come into being and Mr Oliver teaches the third form debating – he enjoys provoking argument. It takes a certainty and confidence in both self and school to allow dissent and a bit of cheekiness; and quite some nerve to put a big wheel and carousel outside that grimly beautiful sinners and hellfire chapel on founder's day.

Mr Oliver brings a new culture of reflective education, with a greater emphasis on enrichment, and more students than ever doing the EPQ. They're tightening up on entrance standards - there must be evident sparks of intellect, and the very best grades will be needed for entrance and expected as outcomes (although they should be a natural outcome of the new intellectual regime).

Mr Oliver’s most desirable quality for pupils is to be illuminated (a word which suggests a glowing sort of enlightenment).

Academic matters

Very good, consistent performance at GCSE and A level: 59 per cent A*/A grades at GCSE in 2016; at A level, 53 per cent A*/A grades, 77 per cent A*/B: great results from a virtually mixed ability school. Not top grades at all costs: pupils are set a target appropriate to them, and there is celebration if the target is met; whether that target be a C or A*. 'Not an exam factory, so doesn't attract those sort of parents', and one parent commented that they opted for Lancing over a more academically pressurising competitor. Tremendous value added at Lancing – pupils achieve exam grades they wouldn't have dreamed of.

Core subjects are always streamed, others usually so (where numbers allow). Class sizes around 18 in years 9-11, down to a maximum of 15 in the sixth form. Maths is outstanding, popular with pupils and excellent results - a triple maths A level student enthused about the teaching, and useful weekly drop in sessions. Pupils give good reports of history too. Super science labs, remodelled in last few years, although science results not outstanding. Great well-stocked library with mezzanine level of computers. There are plenty of languages on offer: French, German, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Latin – pupils start with two languages in year 9, and must continue with one until GCSE. German and Chinese strong. A jolly year 9 German class showed off their iPads (now standard issue), which come into their own when teaching languages: teachers can set oral homework, and iPads will correct pronunciation; no more lost homework since pupils are emailed assignments.

Two reports during each term with grades for each subject, and a full written report at the end of term. Early remedial action if someone is falling behind - 'no one falls through the net'. A learning support department supports around 80 pupils with mild to moderate learning difficulties (mostly mild dyslexia), of whom 35 require continuous one-to-one support (at extra cost). Recent significant increase of in-class support via two full time and one part time learning support teachers who assist small groups within curriculum areas.

Games, options, the arts

School week covers six days, so four afternoon sessions for options - pupils here like to keep very busy. One afternoon a week students choose between CCF or community service. Drama is popular, even with non-actors - some of the academic hard core work backstage for light relief. Theatre seats 180, retractable seating means it's possible to play in the round, and make an orchestra pit in part of the old swimming pool on which the theatre was built. Drama GCSE, but not enough takers for A level, though LAMDA available. About 15 productions a year - recently full-scale musical Oliver! and risque 'Tis Pity She's a Whore. Also an open air theatre.

Plenty of games sessions (down to twice a week for sixth formers), with lots of choice - focus on football, hockey, netball, cricket and tennis, but lots of other options, even for the not keen - 'I get by on yoga,' said one. One boy said he came to Lancing because it's a football school - other public schools generally favour rugby. Extensive playing fields, tennis courts, Astroturf pitch and swimming pool. And for those who love animals, farm is a sports/activities option - a sport hater/animal lover could exist blissfully at Lancing. The farm has really developed in recent years, particularly on the conservation front, and includes rare pigs, alpacas, lamas, turkeys, chickens, geese and goats, and lots of cuddly smalls and sheep - kids can get permission to stay out late and help with lambing. Meat and eggs from the farm have started feeding the school this year, and they are experimenting with a market garden with the aim of supplying veg too. Opportunities for five years' worth of vet experience as well as links with local agricultural colleges and primary schools and, via the school's Young Enterprise programme, for the marketing of college produce and wood supplies.

The music department is housed in standard 60s fare, but is staffed by teachers full of love for their subject and incredibly enthusiastic about sharing that love with pupils. Their scruffy studies overflow with sheet music; one, curiously, with a child's layout mat on the floor and a dog in the corner - who has apparently won over many recruits to music. 'They are mad,' said one pupil kindly, 'but we have a great time.' Plenty of practice rooms, which only get too busy at Associated Board exam times. Drum kit handy for those who want to pop in for a jam. Glorious choir (lovely CD - Surrexit), and numerous orchestras and bands. Lunchtime concerts most weeks, and a big concert every half term. Many continue to patronise the music block even if they don't take the subject, and around 300 learn instruments, some multiple instruments. A fine tradition of composition and of producing organ scholars to Oxbridge colleges .'It's all about joy in music making,' said one teacher - there is certainly much delight taken in music here. One parent, who encouraged her reluctant son to join the choir, says he enjoys it more than he ever (as a teenager) would admit - 'It's a very special thing to be part of.'

Art is a strong area: housed in a contemporary purpose-built centre, full of light, with eager students keen to show off their amazing work: everything from oils to an installation of hanging clingfilm, called 'Urban' - clay room and kiln, printing, etching, photography and fine art - 'Waterfront was our first topic this term, so we went to Venice' - where else? Older pupils have their own areas, so don't have to clear up paintings under way - the spacious rooms feel full of many little studios. Weekly drop-in art sessions for those who have never lifted a brush, or keen artists who just haven't got enough time to follow an art course. Art at every turn throughout the school - one house has turned the curve at the bottom of a stairwell into Venice.

Great DT centre, with examples of GCSE and A level work which wouldn't look out of place in a designer furniture store, along with a few quirky ideas - for dog owners who feel all that bend and throw is just a bit too energetic, how about an automatic dog ball launcher? Again, those who don't continue with this option can nevertheless return to pursue DT as a hobby.

Boarders

Over two-thirds of pupils at Lancing are boarders, around 330 full and 70 flexi (more boys than girls). Certainly boarders seem very happy and enjoy having a wealth of activity available on their doorsteps. Modern, comfortable accommodation, with a rolling programme of refurbishment, although you won't find the gold taps one parent was hoping for. Years 9 and 10, two to four in a room, from year 11, single study bedrooms. Shared rooms are filled to capacity with beds and desks, but the pupils don't object to cosy conditions: one sixth former told me how much she missed sharing a room with friends - 'I've been with them since I was 13 - they are like my sisters.' Day pupils can board for a night free if they are at school after 9 pm on school business, such as play rehearsals, which pleases parents.

Friends can visit house communal areas - although pupils often go and chat out on the quads after dinner. Houses have common rooms (with Sky +), squashy sofas and views over rolling countryside, and kitchens with daily deliveries of bread, spreads, and fruit for any time consumption. Each house has Wifi throughout; one house has a sweet shop open in the evenings. Sixth formers have their own common room and houses have a number of kitchens for different year groups - 'It's the best thing about the house.' School café opens at break, in the afternoons and evening for hungry pupils after prep.

Flexible boarding structure, with no differentiation between full and weekly boarders, who pay the same fees and can stay at weekends if they wish. Day pupils can pay by the night for flexi-boarding if they have evening activities.

Background and atmosphere

Grand old buildings of Sussex flint, dating from 1848, with elegant quads and huge chapel standing on the hill overlooking the rolling Downs. In this beautiful setting, it feels distinctly public school, but it's not as cut glass as all that. Clearly impresses parents - 'They're experiencing things to do with heritage and a sense of history which seep into their experience and become something they value.'

A Woodard school, it has a strong Christian tradition, still very much in evidence. No skipping weekly chapel here, for conscientious objectors or other faiths - 'It might not be something they carry on with later in life, but at least they have been exposed to it - like maths,' said a teacher. Although a Christian school, they are not out to convert you - pupils of all faiths or no faith are welcome here. It's more about the values of Christianity, and in particular caring for each other. The service is a wonderful thing to experience - inside, the chapel is glorious and the voices of the choir soar - only St Paul's Cathedral has a higher ceiling. High church with plenty of bells and smells and the accompanying pageantry. Pupils seem to attend quite happily though, girls wrapped in 19th century style cloaks of house colours; boys just cold. Most troop up for communion or a blessing. Pupils assure us that a fair number attend voluntary chapel - held in the crypt daily before breakfast or in the evenings in houses. One parent said she felt doing the communal thing is very important - apparently leavers most miss their time in chapel. New television screens mean that, on high days and holidays, when the place is packed with parents and former pupils, all can see and be involved in the services.

There is a rather splendid dining hall - could almost be a back up chapel should something happen to the other one, with long wooden tables and new wooden chairs. Wide range of food available, nice, but not remarkable on the day of our visit - one pupil said it 'goes up and down a bit.' Sixth formers can skip breakfast in the dining hall and cook their own.

The sixth form is not for those who want to scruff around in jeans and tee shirts for a couple of years - smart business wear is expected here, with more responsibility as prefects or house captains, and more independence, in organising time in and out of school: year 11 and sixth formers can go into Brighton, and they're considering allowing the sixth up to London. In common with the rest of the school, some fabulous trips on offer: the travel section of the school magazine resembles a highly desirable travel brochure.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

Parents say it is 'like being part of a community with a strong family atmosphere.' Well-defined house system with a network of people taking care of pupils. As well as housemasters/mistresses (the first point of call for parents), there is a matron on hand, year 10 'uncles' and 'aunts' for new year 9s, and the peer support system provided by sixth formers. If all this fails, 'there is always a teacher you get on with particularly well'. Pupils admit to feeling a bit homesick for a few weeks, but say it quickly wears off. At break time, kids troop back to their house common room for squash and biscuits: some kids pop in and straight out again, others sit and chat to matron and other house staff. It is a moment away from work - like having a break with your mum. Matron - 'We are their family here.'

Parents feel discipline is 'not in your face'. Seems to work, but quite gently done. Approach 'firm but fair'. One mum says the balance must be right, because the kids are so relaxed about going to school. Bullying, drug and alcohol abuse not generally a problem, but will be dealt with severely. The one pupil who could recall an episode of bullying was clearly startled by how strictly it had been dealt with.

Communication is good where a parent has a concern - email or telephone contact will lead to a rapid and thorough response; new Parent Portal. Parents say school is very welcoming and encourages parents to feel involved; plenty of social events - plays, concerts, matches, lectures, informative talks, dinners and a healthy Parents' Association. There is some small tension between the parent who felt that parents of day pupils require more communication (than those of boarders), and the staff feeling that 'occasionally helicopter parents need to be told to buzz off in the interests of their child.' This does feel like a school where parents should be prepared to step back a bit, and let their child develop responsibility for themselves.

Pupils and parents

Fits oddballs - we met some pupils who were strongly individual but seemed very happy at Lancing. 'Not for the inert,' said one teacher, 'nor for one-dimensional academic types,' said another. Pupils from Lancing's two preps and other prep schools in the area. Parents generally middle class professionals, city types, and around 25 per cent of boarders from overseas. School runs its own buses, routes to suit need from the surrounding area, and shuttle between Lancing College and the preps.

Former pupils include playwrights Sir David Hare, Christopher Hampton and Giles Cooper, lyricist Sir Tim Rice, novelists Tom Sharpe and Evelyn Waugh, Shakespeare scholar and writer John Dover Wilson, singer Sir Peter Pears, Archbishop Trevor Huddleston, TV presenter Jamie Theakston, Sir Christopher Meyer, Charles Anson, Dr Rana Mitter, Sir Roy Calne, Stephen Green (Baron Green of Hurstpierpoint) and Alex Horne.

Entrance

Gently selective – mid 50 per cent pass rate at CE, with separate assessment for those from the state sector. For the sixth form, need good GCSEs and school reference, interviews and tests.

A few places in year 10; some 30-35 places for girls at sixth form, 10-15 for boys.

Exit

Around 15 per cent leave after GCSEs. Five to Oxbridge in 2016, several to North American universities. UCL, LSE and other London colleges popular alongside Exeter, Warwick and Bristol. Broad mix of subjects ranging from engineering and economics to zoology and theology.

Money matters

At 13, academic, music, art, drama, sports and all-rounder scholarships, up to half of fees, which can be augmented depending on family circumstances. Sixth form awards - academic, music and art, up to a third of fees.

Our view

A friendly and beautiful place to grow up. Pupils are happy, and unselfconsciously themselves. This is a place where individuals will flourish, and there is evidently great care and attention to ensure this is so. Not for those who like to take things easy - a culture of keeping busy.

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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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