Skip to main content
Bishops Stortford College

What says..

A concerted effort to improve results through academic rigour, targeting and ‘working smarter’ has paid off – now among top 20 UK co-ed independent schools. Without five centuries of history to draw on, Bishop’s Stortford College isn’t widely known, but is among the generation of schools founded in the Victorian era that are quietly succeeding. ‘The school expects a lot from the children and as a parent that is exactly what I want,’ said one parent. Despite…

Read review »

What the school says...

Bishop's Stortford College is large enough to provide an exceptional range of opportunities, yet small enough for students to be known and valued. At the heart of the value offered are the people. It is the infectious enthusiasm, imagination and dedication of staff, which, in partnership with parents, enables pupils to grow into well-rounded, skilful, caring and confident young people, equipped and ready for the adventures and opportunities life has to offer. ...Read more

Do you know this school?

The schools we choose, and what we say about them, are founded on parents’ views. If you know this school, please share your views with us.

Please login to post a comment.

Other features

All-through school (for example 3-18 years). - An all-through school covers junior and senior education. It may start at 3 or 4, or later, and continue through to 16 or 18. Some all-through schools set exams at 11 or 13 that pupils must pass to move on.

What The Good Schools Guide says


Since September 2020, Kathy Crewe-Read, formerly head of Wolverhampton Grammar. Originally from the Isle of Man, she has a maths degree from Aberystwyth; taught at King William's College, St Swithun's and Yarm school and was deputy head at the King's School, Chester before joining Wolverhampton. She is a school inspector for ISI.


Via interviews, entrance tests and school references; takes a range of abilities, not just academic high-fliers. At 13 majority come from the prep school but also takes some 12-15 external entrants annually; small number join at 14, in time for GCSEs. Some 30-40 join in the sixth form – entrance is by interview and written tests; need at least five grade 6s at GCSE with 6+ in A level subject choices.


A handful – some 15 per cent – leaves after GCSEs to study A levels elsewhere. Nearly all sixth formers head to university. Handful to Oxbridge most years - none in 2019 or 2020, though. UCL, Bristol, York, Warwick, Durham, Cambridge, Nottingham, Loughborough, Edinburgh, Exeter and Bath all currently popular.

Latest results

In 2020, 79 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 62 per cent A*/A at A level. In 2019 (the last year when exams took place), 76 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 50 per cent A*/A at A level.

Teaching and learning

Academic results have soared in recent years – unrecognisable in comparison to the college of 10 to 15 years ago. School attributes this to the arrival of girls when the college went fully co-ed in 1995 – not only did they bring self-motivation but they raised the academic bar. A concerted effort to improve results through academic rigour, targeting and ‘working smarter’ has paid off – now among top 20 UK co-ed independent schools. Maths, history, English literature, psychology and physics are most popular subjects at A level, with strongest showing in theatre studies, art and geography. Out of the running for GCSE league tables due to IGCSEs, which parents gladly accept, but commendable results. Prestigious ‘10 club’ tie for at least 10 9-7 grades at GCSE. Language provision has broadened – on joining senior school, pupils choose two modern foreign languages (most having been introduced to French, German and Spanish in the prep, not to mention Latin, which will return as an A level subject in 2019). Pre-empts the changes to GCSEs which head fears will discourage language take-up.

Streams and sets for most subjects meet needs of all, including the gifted. Head recoils at the suggestion of a hothouse. ‘We won’t sacrifice the breadth that comes with a boarding school curriculum – we just want to do everything well and keep some balance.’ Broad-based academic intake – ‘results are due to the quality of teaching and learning,’ emphasises school.

Learning support and SEN

A dedicated learning support team of three sensitively supports 30 students with specific learning needs (charged as an extra), including dyslexia and Asperger's. All international students are offered one or two EAL lessons a week and reach IGCSE level (required for university admission).

The arts and extracurricular

Music important – around 10 per cent of pupils perform to grade 8 or beyond. Pianos in most boarding houses, plenty of airy practice rooms. Much-appreciated resident college musician supports in readiness for exams and accompanies. Orchestra and all manner of ensembles large and small. Twenty concerts a year, including choral work for pupils, parents and staff, plus a couple of ventures into the world of opera. Well-equipped theatre provides venue for some stunning musical and dramatic performances (set for recent production of Cabaret still in evidence when we visited, though slowly transforming into Scottish heathland for next epic – Macbeth). New art centre with stunningly mature GCSE and A level work on display in spacious ateliers.

Trips and tours across the globe including India, New York, Malawi, South Africa, Barbados, and a fair few closer to home too. Wide choice of extracurricular activities including DofE (the college is the leading school in east Hertfordshire), debating (standing room only for some hot topics) and community work.


Successful sports: unbeaten seasons in rugby and hockey now the norm – several ex-international players offer top-level coaching and inspiring role models. County hockey and district netball and swimming champions – swimming a major sport in fabulous pool; tennis and water polo also popular.


Full, weekly and flexi boarding, the latter most popular. All boarding houses new or refurbished, all en suite. Saturday lessons and sport mean everyone is at school till Saturday afternoon. Most go home on Saturday nights, but eg paintballing and visits to theme parks organised for those still in school. Own comfortable boarding house for prep pupils. Few full boarders but 50+ stay a minimum of two nights a week – most popular Wednesdays (sport after school) and Friday (Saturday morning lie-in for mum and dad).

Ethos and heritage

Founded in 1868 as a non-conformist boarding school, with aspirations of securing an effective and Christian education on terms that should not be beyond the reach of the middle class generally, originally sited on the outskirts of Bishop's Stortford. Once boys only, now 45 per cent girls. Full-on Saturday school for all from 8.20am until 3.40pm has its detractors, but most accept it’s necessary if children are to make the most of all that’s on offer.

Despite recent new developments (including new teaching facilities and sixth form learning centre in 2021) and proximity to town, the 130-acre campus still has a rural feel. Governors canny through the economic downturn and fees have remained relatively low. Boarding houses in a rolling renovation programme.

Despite these physical changes, ‘We are a large school, but we retain the small-school feel,’ says school, and unabashedly goes on to describe Bishop’s Stortford College as ‘cuddly’. ‘A really positive environment,’ suggested a parent. Certainly the all-pervading ethos is one of kindness, caring and humanity – a quality the head has discovered is neatly defined by the Zulu word ‘ubuntu’ (which we went home and looked up – perfect). ‘Pupils here are mutually supportive,’ says school. ‘They work hard. When asked why, they simply reply “why not?”’ School is keen to resist the spoon-feeding culture in favour of promoting independent learning in preparation for life. EPQ is popular in the sixth form as is the college’s own research project programme – no UCAS points but an academic challenge and something to talk about at university interviews and mention on personal statement.

Superb library with two-storey bow windows, well stocked with books, DVDs (multilingual) and CDs. Ferguson Lecture Theatre is a cosy additional space, where assemblies can be relayed from Mem(orial) Hall, the original, atmospheric school hall. Sixth form Stars in their Eyes a sell-out. Sports hall with fitness suite in the gallery. Five all-weather netball/tennis courts. Two floodlit Astro pitches.

Dining hall large and functional; food plentiful and tasty, on a three-week menu rotation (our sixth form guides tell us the pupils' request for ‘chicken zinger’ through the school council was provided by the catering manager and it was very tasty).

Long list of distinguished former pupils includes presenter Andy Peebles, rugby player Ben Clarke, writer Dick Clement and educationalist Professor John Ferguson. The world of espionage features prominently via former heads of MI5, Sir Stephen Lander and Sir Dick White, and Peter Wright, author of Spycatcher.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

Few discipline problems – school likes ‘to give pupils a chance to get it right’. Strong house system offers support. ‘The school expects a lot from the children and as a parent that is exactly what I want,’ said one parent.

Pupils and parents

‘There really is not a type of child or parent,’ said a parent. ‘Plenty of commuters as London is so close, but there are farmers and scientists and just about all professions going.’

Pupils ‘normal, not arrogant,’ says school, which is 'not keen on elitism.' Most from within daily travelling distance; about 65 per cent of boarders from overseas, including Europe and the Far East. Parents described by one of their number as ‘friendly, sociable, aspirational, encouraging of their children’. Appreciate weekly contact by e-newsletter and the twice yearly news magazine.

Money matters

Assistance for those in financial need. Academic, music, art and sport scholarships offered. ‘A considerable proportion of our income goes on bursaries and scholarships,’ says school. ‘If a child is talented but his or her parents can’t afford us, we will do what we can to help.’

The last word

Without five centuries of history to draw on, Bishop’s Stortford College isn’t widely known, but is among the generation of schools founded in the Victorian era that are quietly succeeding. Local word-of-mouth is enough to keep it oversubscribed – without needing to worry about recruiting for tomorrow, the head and governors can look further into securing the college’s position well into the future.

Please note: Independent schools frequently offer IGCSEs or other qualifications alongside or as an alternative to GCSE. The DfE does not record performance data for these exams so independent school GCSE data is frequently misleading; parents should check the results with the schools.

Who came from where

Who goes where

Special Education Needs

At Bishop's Stortford College, pupils who have a special educational need, eg dyslexia, are welcomed at all stages of the school, providing they are deemed able to cope in the mainstream classroom, with support on a withdrawal basis; a 40-minute lesson on a one-to-one basis each week. This support is with either the SENCO of the other member of the Learning Support team. Both specialist teachers hold the Diploma in Specific Learning Difficulties (Dip SPLD). The pupil identified with a need, will then be given a pupil profile outlining difficulties with suggested strategies for learning, together with targets. Staff will be aware of the level of support that the pupil is being given by the Learning Support team. 09-09

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyslexia Y
English as an additional language (EAL)
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class
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

Who came from where

Subscribe for instant access to in-depth reviews:

☑ 30,000 Independent, state and special schools in our parent-friendly interactive directory
☑ Instant access to in-depth UK school reviews
☑ Honest, opinionated and fearless independent reviews of over 1,000 schools
☑ Independent tutor company reviews

Try before you buy - The Charter School Southwark

Buy Now

GSG Blog >

The Good Schools Guide newsletter

The Good Schools Guide Newsletter

Educational insight in your inbox. Sign up for our popular newsletters.

The Good Schools Guide manifesto for parents