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  • Christ College, Brecon
    Brecon
    Powys
    LD3 8AF
  • Head: Gareth Pearson
  • T 01874 615440
  • F 01874 615475
  • E [email protected]
  • W www.christcollegebrecon.com
  • An independent school for boys and girls aged from 7 to 18.
  • Boarding: Yes
  • Local authority: Powys
  • Pupils: 383; sixth formers: 114
  • Religion: Church of Wales
  • Fees: Day £9,165 - £18,546; Boarding £17,544 - £29,043 pa - Same
  • Open days: 30th March 2019, 21st September 2019
  • Review: View The Good Schools Guide Review

What says..

Pupils spoke to us of the exciting quality of the teachers, the energy and fun they injected and the extra time teachers were prepared to offer for catch up and clarification. Most pupils enjoy getting involved with a variety of sports and activities. Just as well. One pupil told us that he had been selected for five different sports ‘and I’m not much good at any of them. But it was terrific fun and we didn’t lose them all.’ We met a lot of parents at the school concert...

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What the school says...

Christ College is one of the oldest and most successful schools in the UK. Founded in 1541 by Henry VIII it occupies an enviable site on the outskirts of Brecon, a safe, small market town in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park.

Parents and guardians value the unique care and concern pupils receive at the school individual mentoring and support from highly qualified and experienced staff which extends beyond the classroom to every aspect of daily life and leads to a high level of achievement in both academic and non-academic areas.

We know that academic results open doors, so we are committed to helping every individual maximise their achievement in this area. However, we teach well beyond and around the narrow requirements of examinations, and believe that education takes place everywhere a pupil goes and not just in the classroom. These academic achievements should be seen against a background of Christ College pupils full engagement to an excellent standard in sport, with over 30 pupils representing their country over the last 3 years, as well as music, drama, art and other pastoral contributions to the life of the school community. There is a full programme of extra-curricular activities with participation in the voluntary, but highly popular, Combined Cadet Force, and the Duke of Edinburghs Award Scheme.

The Christ College Foundation, which has The Prince of Wales as its patron, has made significant progress as it strives to offer more scholarships and bursaries and better academic, cultural, sporting and social facilities to as many young people as possible regardless of their financial circumstances.
...Read more

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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.

Sports

Fencing

Shooting

What The Good Schools Guide says

The head

Since September 2017, Gareth Pearson (40s), previously senior deputy head at Lord Wandsworth College in Hampshire. Has also been a housemaster at Wellington College and maths teacher at Millfield, as well as a captain in the Royal Marines for eight years. Mechanical engineering degree from Loughborough, teaching qualifications from Plymouth and Bath. He is married to Rhian and they have two children.

Academic matters

Christ College, Brecon does not go in for pictures of A level students jumping in excitement at their results, though, naturally, they are happy to share their delight. They have always had their bright pupils moving on to Oxbridge and top medical schools but overall results have improved. In 2018, 46 per cent A*/A grades at A level. This school is less about numbers, it’s about human beings and their deserved achievements. A recent publication contains a wonderful account of two boys, great friends, and the academic rivalry which they shared for most of their time in the school.

Having said all that, the overall statistics are impressive and not to be ignored. We witnessed some absolutely tremendous teaching. Pupils spoke to us about the exciting quality of the teachers, the energy and fun they injected and the extra time they offered for catch up and clarification. We saw sparky language teaching, lively music and drama, history, sciences, maths, biology: all demanding subjects and all warmly appreciated by pupils. It pays dividends. Medicine, science and engineering degree courses are the most popular. GCSE results are excellent, demonstrating the popularity and success of technical and creative subjects. In 2018, 52 per cent A*-A/9-7 grades.

And what about those people with SEN ? Those few who do were described as ‘moderate, mostly’. But it’s almost worth cultivating some SEN in order to be closeted with the highly qualified, approachable teacher ever ready to help anyone who drops in. She perceives her visitors as engaged in learning to overcome weaknesses, developing a sense of belonging and togetherness, of readiness and enhanced expectations. Let them stop by when they want to. She is full of wisdom and compassion. Every Thursday afternoon is tea party time: often, we were told, pretty lively. The parents we spoke to about her ‘couldn’t find the words to do her justice.’ One final joy: most schools charge for help with SEN. At CCB pupils and parents pay with heartfelt gratitude and affection.

Games, options, the arts

Rugby is regarded by many as the number one sport at CCB, with coaching from a former professional, but it is by no means the only game. There is some football played, a lot of hockey – the school has a number of international hockey players, past and present, boys and girls. Both sexes have been recent Welsh champions at U18s, U14s and U12s and there are outstanding netball teams. Lots of cricket, including a 20:20 Festival involving players from the UK and abroad. Previously outdoor swimming pool now has a roof. There’s masses to do and much to be admired. Most pupils enjoy getting involved with a variety of sports and activities. Just as well. One pupil told us that he had been selected for five different sports ‘and I’m not much good at any of them. But it was terrific fun and we didn’t lose them all.’

Brecon is the HQ of the army in Wales; CCF, compulsory in years 9 and 10, is enormously popular, and when you’ve met the man who runs it you’re half way towards understanding why.

Drama is driven by a dynamic head of department who enthuses not just the pupils but local amateur thespians to join in. There's an annual community project as well as an ambitious school production for the different age groups. Their Les Mis was ‘jaw-dropping’, according to one West End fan we met who had seen the Christ College version.

Music is terrific. We met some delightful and talented pupils practising and returned to listen to a thrilling concert full of energy and skill, sensitivity and passion. Choral singing that might have been written for Polly Garter, multi-age orchestras, a delightful pupil making an excellent debut on the drum - the evening was moving and exciting.

Sixth form curriculum includes speaker sessions on topics ranging from financial literacy to politics and society, plus encouragement to get involved in extracurricular options.

We met a lot of parents at the school concert and they all agreed that it was ‘cool to work' here. One parent volunteered that the pupils worked hard ‘out of inspired interest and loyalty.’ Another phrase that remains is about the school, overall: ‘Whatever they do, they do well.’

Boarders

Boarding is convenient, of course, that’s part of it all, and fun. There are four boarding houses for pupils in year 9-13. One or two of the students with older siblings recognised that these rooms were much nicer than those at most universities. Snooker tables, luxurious, comfortable sofas, large screen televisions, efficient showers and always friends to talk to. Many also talked of their satisfaction at being given positions of authority. All staff are involved in boarding.

Alway House is a day and boarding house where year 5 and 6 pupils from St Nicholas House junior school can weekly board with the year 7 and 8s and which is, unbelievably, over 50 years old. A joyous building and full of intelligently conceived fittings and decorations, an area for sleeping, playing inside and out, ICT for researching particular topics, challenging climbing frames and always kind, creative helpers from all walks of the school and not just walks, because on Fridays they go for a country run.

Background and atmosphere

Founded in 1541 by Henry VIII on the site of the sacked and wracked Black Friars' church, victim of the Dissolution. Students are touchingly proud of this ancientness, as of the crowned 'h' tag, which is the school's logo, and of the fact that the chapel where they meet every morning has been worshipped in since around 1250. Wonderful newish junior school: the St Nicholas House, for pupils aged 7-11 (opened in 2014). Newly refurbished St David's is the house for day pupils in years 9-13.

This small school is amongst the happiest we have ever visited. From the genuinely warm welcome at reception, throughout the whole tour (with a thoughtful and entertaining mixture of guides) and during lunch in the wonderful, ancient refectory with delightful sixth formers, we were treated with courtesy and spontaneous good will.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

The happiness is palpable and high spirited and that says much about the discipline. Pupils and staff walk around greeting, smiling and chatting and, when they see visitors approaching, focus the eyes and smile inclusively. Staff and pupils clearly get on well with each other. Discipline is based on common sense and mutual consideration. We were told of incidents in which anxieties and problems were spotted and addressed by teachers, class assistants, senior pupils and ground staff. In reply to our question about the school’s tangible happiness, one sixth form girl told us: ‘It’s like a jigsaw: everyone seems to fit in.'

The head of school and deputy (one boy and one girl) are selected by the head following nominations from staff and pupils, and there are 15 prefects. Duties? ‘Not arduous,’ said one. ‘People are pretty reasonable.’ ‘Cowed?’ Certainly not. ‘Comfortably co-ed’ – no difference of opportunities.

Pupils and parents

Most pupils come from a radius of some 50 miles, the sons and daughters of army officers, farmers, businesspeople. ‘Fewer demanding expectations,’ we were told by parents who also had experience of the home counties. You do not get the impression that the overseas students have been imported in lorry loads simply to boost grades. In the nicest possible way, those 17 per cent or so of pupils from Germany, China, Hong Kong, Japan and Nepal - there’s a strong contingent of Gurkhas in Brecon - in the sixth form are almost invisible at first visit. The school seems much better than some at fully integrating pupils from abroad so that many get stuck in to rugby, cricket and choir singing. The overseas pupils we met were genuinely happy and involved.

Entrance

Into year 3 for St Nicholas House via an entry morning with 'a range of academic and creative activities', plus small group meetings with the college head and the head of St Nicholas House. Into years 7 and 9 by English and maths assessments and IQ test, plus interview and school reports. Sixth form entry by GCSE predictions, IQ test, school report and interview.

Exit

About 15 per cent leave after GCSEs. Of those who stay, most go on to university and to a wide range of subjects. Three to Oxbridge in 2018 and around a third on total to Russell Group. One off to study maths at the University of Waterloo, Canada.

Money matters

There are scholarships and bursaries available for the able and needy. Incidentally there are no inescapable extras - in fact The Good Schools Guide recently voted CCB in the Top Ten Value for Money Boarding Schools in the UK. We do not have shares in the school.

Therapy and staffing

Our view

When you step back from GCSEs and A level grades; from rugby results and hockey triumphs; from CCF marches and medals; when you pause to marvel at the hills around, enfolding the school and beckoning; when you listen to the wonderful singing in the chapel founded nearly 800 years ago and restored by Gilbert Scott about 600 years later; when you consider that at the time the English Bible was being hammered out by that group of scholars and fanatics presided over by James 1, the Scottish King, Christ College Brecon had already been in existence for nearly 100 years, it is not difficult to feel that much has been absorbed from history and the world around. Perhaps it is not too fanciful to think that the extraordinary atmosphere of friendship, mutual loyalty and academic endeavour has emanated from the variety and insistence of the past. Like many schools of ancient foundation CCB hasn’t always been in a good place, but it certainly is now. What’s more there is history in the making. Ask about the expansion into the Far East. Great things are being delivered, even more is promised and this is a school that warrants admiration, loyalty and, above all, trust. Go and see for yourselves.

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