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  • Hardenhuish School
    Hardenhuish Lane
    SN14 6RJ
  • Head: Mrs Lisa Percy
  • T 01249 650693
  • F 01249 445952
  • E [email protected]
  • W
  • A state school for boys and girls aged from 11 to 18.
  • Boarding: No
  • Local authority: Wiltshire
  • Pupils: 1,523; sixth formers: 285
  • Religion: None
  • Review: View The Good Schools Guide Review
  • Ofsted:
    • Latest Overall effectiveness Good 1
      • Outcomes for children and learners Good 2
      • Quality of teaching, learning and assessment Good 2
      • Effectiveness of leadership and management Good 2
    • 1 Short inspection 23rd January 2018
    • 2 Full inspection 1st May 2013

    Short inspection reports only give an overall grade; you have to read the report itself to gauge whether the detailed grading from the earlier full inspection still stands.

  • Previous Ofsted grade: Outstanding on 6th February 2008
  • Ofsted report: View the Ofsted report

What says..

‘The sense of green space at Hardenhuish and the atmosphere when looking around were the deal clinchers for us and our children....along with the sheep!' Art displays are changed weekly so everything is current; on our visit we saw paintings of skulls and shells, plus portraits, and an interesting take on the history of graffiti. It’s hard to fault it…except that it is very green. Everywhere. In every shade...  

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What the school says...

Converted to an academy 2010.

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What The Good Schools Guide says


Since 2015, Lisa Percy. Previously deputy head for seven years, including a one-year handover period. Originally from Bradford on Avon, Lisa studied geography and French at Wolverhampton Polytechnic (now part of Wolverhampton University), followed by a PGCE at Bristol University. Still teaches geography (had just rushed from a lesson on our arrival) to stay ‘grounded and in touch’ with the pupils and teachers. Married with two girls, she is friendly and down-to-earth, capable of wearing many hats; she’s a teacher, a mum, and ‘an exceptional leader,’ according to parents. Probably one of the nicest heads we’ve met. One mother told us, ‘Mrs Percy is very approachable and is very well respected by parents and children alike. My son is taught by [her] for geography and this is now his favourite subject.’

Academic matters

Consistently good results for a non-selective comprehensive. In 2018, at A level, 55 per cent A*-B grades (29 per cent A*/A). At GCSE, 79 per cent achieved 9-4 in both English and maths and 28 per cent of grades were A*-A/9-7.

Currently only A levels offered in the sixth form, but Hardenhuish is looking to introduce some subjects for those who would like to opt for a combination of vocational and academic qualifications. Sciences and maths are the most popular subjects at A level year on year. French is taught from year 7 and Spanish from year 8, but a language is not compulsory at GCSE. Everyone up to year 11 takes RE but the emphasis is on lifestyle for the last two years, with discussions on marriage, parenting and different religious backgrounds. It is also a popular option at A level.

Hardenhuish is a Microsoft Showcase School so every PC has the latest software and all teachers have tablets and ongoing training. Pupils with special needs use tablets in class, and sixth formers can bring their own to school. There are ICT suites in every department, plus trollies of laptops. Apple Mac suites in the music and photography departments. Microsoft is planning to host events here with other local pupils also invited to learn about the latest technology.

‘Teachers are fantastic and we have come across so many over the years that are just "born" to be teachers,’ one parent told us. Another added, ‘The staff are all very kind, caring, positive and encouraging.’ Average turnover and a good mix of ages; the head likes to balance ‘experience and new fresh ideas.’

Learning support department is based in the manor house (along with Rupert the school dog). Led by the SENCo, there are three SEN teachers specialising in ASD, MLD and SpLD, plus 20 teaching assistants. One parent of a child with Asperger’s syndrome told us, ‘We struggled to get [our child] into school in the mornings and now [s/he] goes willingly.’ High praise for the teachers: ‘This term the ASD teacher allowed [our child] to go into school a day early to look at new teacher’s photos and go over the timetable. This one hour has meant so much to [our child], who is now feeling much calmer,’ she continued. ‘She even arranges coffee gatherings for us parents to help support us too. ‘

Hardenhuish is Lead School for Gifted and Talented learners in North Wiltshire. Provision and support for AGAT (Able, Gifted and Talented) pupils includes challenging learning activities in lessons, enrichment opportunities beyond the timetable, and close tracking of pupils’ progress and achievement. Parents agreed higher achievers ‘appear to be pushed and challenged a lot more in [their] studies,’ but one parent expressed concern that those who are ‘middle of the road’ academically are not always ‘stretched and encouraged to strive to move up.’

Games, options, the arts

Hardenhuish is first choice for many families, not just for the academic opportunities but also for the sport and the pastoral care. The sports facilities are fantastic. Playing fields are shared with neighbouring secondary school, Sheldon, plus there are netball/tennis courts, a gym, a sports hall with a very impressive climbing wall, and use of a large dome in the winter if it’s wet. No swimming pool but the school has recently entered for several galas as there are now so many talented swimmers. Rugby and football teams do well, with successes at county level, and there are national rugby and athletics competitors.

Other sports include badminton, netball and cricket for both boys and girls, hockey and rounders. Extracurricular activities include the equestrian club, cross-fit, climbing, trampolining and table tennis. Sports tours have taken teams to Barbados to play netball and cricket, to the USA for an east coast rugby tour, and Barcelona to compete in football, netball and hockey. Annually there are trips to eg Newport Velodrome, Wimbledon, and outdoor pursuits in the Brecon Beacons for year 9s. Visiting speakers include Sarah Ayton, Olympic sailing gold medallist, Robert Mitchell, Great Britain high jumper, Katy Curd, European women’s downhill mountain bike champion and Stephanie Millward, Paralympic swimmer.

‘The concerts are always amazing, and the Christmas one particularly so,’ one parent enthused. ‘Even children with little or no musical background are able to participate in some form, and those with musical experience never cease to amaze both in ability and diversity of instruments played. One concert we attended had over 200 students involved.’ There are three large concerts per year, plus smaller performances including band night for the gig crowd. Music groups range from flute to African drumming. There’s a biannual musical, recently Anything Goes and Singing In The Rain, an annual trip to perform at the Fringe festival and with local performing arts centres in Chippenham.

Art has recently been moved into the new C centre (Creative). Three new art classrooms all boast high ceilings and are flooded with light. Displays are changed weekly so everything is current; on our visit we saw paintings of skulls and shells, plus portraits, and an interesting take on the history of graffiti by sixth formers. Textiles room and the photography studio are fully equipped with Macs and Apple laptops. There are three resistant materials classrooms (including industry standard laser cutters used for product design) and two well-equipped food technology rooms. Both catering and food technology options are offered.

Lunchtime and after-school clubs include science, chess, creative writing, animation, horrible histories, sheep, sci-fi and fantasy and knitting. Activities days enable pupils can try out new experiences.

Plenty of local trips to art galleries, the theatre or local interests. Also language exchanges, ski trips to Austria, trips to the Battlefields and to Berlin. For sixth formers there is the opportunity to go to Kenya to Camps International.

Background and atmosphere

Founded in 1975 amidst the extensive parkland of the former Hardenhuish Manor and Chippenham Grammar School. The three schools in the area, the secondary boys' school, the secondary girls' and Chippenham grammar were merged into two comprehensives. One became Hardenhuish and the other became Sheldon, based just next door, and separated by the shared playing fields.

Despite its size it feels spacious, welcoming and safe. The manor house and grounds must be the envy of every independent in the area. One parent told us, ‘The sense of green space at Hardenhuish and the atmosphere when looking around were the deal clinchers for us and our children....along with the sheep!'

However, the downside of inheriting a grade II listed house and extensive grounds is the maintenance expense. The school has earned a Green Flag for sustainability: there are solar panels, a biomass boiler, a wind turbine, and pupils are heavily involved in the environmental projects like tree planting and pond clearance. There’s even a flock of rare breed Jacob sheep on site helping to keep the lawns respectable.

All buildings are named by letter; there’s a C Centre (Creative), A Centre (Advanced for sixth formers), M Centre (maths), E Centre (English and performing arts), L Centre (Languages and humanities); you get the idea.

The sixth form study room is large, bright and airy. Sixth formers helped with the design and at their request there are modular tables, a separate quiet study room, and of course, good wifi. The next door meeting room is used by The Syndicate, the school council, which chooses the school charity every year, runs fundraising events and regularly makes teaching or learning suggestions. The Raising Awareness and Mental Health groups also use it regularly.

The resources centre, designed with a teenage bedroom in mind (without the mess), is bright and funky with a beanbag mezzanine area, group tables below and PCs for private study. Open every break and lunchtime, plus an extra hour after school as after-school care.

One parent said, ‘The school has a nice feel to it,’ and we completely agree. Perhaps this is because the clever layout makes it easy to navigate. Perhaps it’s the short strolls between centres that allow a minute to breathe in that lush green space and wave at the sheep. Perhaps it’s because everything is so well maintained and the facilities are so good. It’s hard to fault it…except that it is very green. Everywhere. In every shade you can think of…and more.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

‘The pastoral care provisions, which the school is renowned for, are second to none,’ one mother confirmed. Pupils have a pastoral manager as well as a tutor. Both stay with them all through school. Pastoral managers are non-teaching staff and are on hand every day for pupils or parents to contact. ‘They really do get to know the students well as they grow up through school and can identify any issues early on,’ parents told us.

'Supportive’ and ‘caring’ were words we heard over and over again. There is a school counsellor available three times a week. There is also a ‘nurture room’ based in the learning support centre, run by two full-time staff. This is a safe haven, somewhere to calm down or just be alone.

Pupils and parents

Families are mainly local. Many have moved just to be near the school. One confided, ‘If we had to choose again, we would still choose Hardenhuish.’

School uniform is green but thankfully rather tasteful. Pupils are a well-behaved bunch. We saw boys and girls playing netball as we drove in and plenty on our tour; all seemed engrossed in their day and happy about it. One parent told us that her child 'comes back from school always with a smile on her face and a story to tell.’ Another added, ‘Hardenhuish has certainly helped them to develop into polite, respectful and educated young [adults].’

Open door policy and ‘transparent communication process’ praised by all parents we contacted. Issues are dealt with ‘in a sensitive and timely manner’, we were assured.


Oversubscribed. All applications through local authority. Large catchment area including 40 feeder primary schools. Families living in the villages surrounding Chippenham are given priority so the nearer you can get the better.

‘Seamless’ transition, according to parents, helped by induction days and visits to feeder schools. Once started, all year 7s are packed off on a residential to Swindon to get to know each other properly. One parent, whose child struggled to settle at first, told us, ‘The school was proactive and employed several strategies to help her with forming friendship groups, and while it's not perfect, she is a lot more settled now.’

Entry to sixth form is minimum of five GCSEs at grade 4 or above (including maths and English), with 6+s for specific subjects.


Around 60 per cent stay on for the sixth form. Hardenhuish has the second highest percentage of students going off to HE in Wiltshire (beaten only by South Wilts Grammar). In 2018, one to Oxbridge and one medic. Consistently popular: Bristol, Cardiff, Exeter, Nottingham, Plymouth, Reading, Southampton and Swansea.

Fairly young school to have a long list of famous alumni, but a couple worth noting are Jordan Smith, professional golfer, and one unnamed leaver who recently became the first female to win an engineering scholarship at BMW.

Our view

An extremely successful and caring school. Hardenhuish has it all: good results, fantastic facilities on an impressive site, a huge range of extracurricular activities, and a top reputation for pastoral care. Some schools are worth moving for; this is one of them.

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

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Interpreting catchment maps

The maps show in colour where the pupils at a school came from*. Red = most pupils to Blue = fewest.

Where the map is not coloured we have no record in the previous three years of any pupils being admitted from that location based on the options chosen.

For help and explanation of our catchment maps see: Catchment maps explained

Further reading

If there are more applicants to a school than it has places for, who gets in is determined by which applicants best fulfil the admissions criteria.

Admissions criteria are often complicated, and may change from year to year. The best source of information is usually the relevant local authority website, but once you have set your sights on a school it is a good idea to ask them how they see things panning out for the year that you are interested in.

Many schools admit children based on distance from the school or a fixed catchment area. For such schools, the cut-off distance will vary from year to year, especially if the school give priority to siblings, and the pattern will be of a central core with outliers (who will mostly be siblings). Schools that admit on the basis of academic or religious selection will have a much more scattered pattern.

*The coloured areas outlined in black are Census Output Areas. These are made up of a group of neighbouring postcodes, which accounts for their odd shapes. These provide an indication, but not a precise map, of the school’s catchment: always refer to local authority and school websites for precise information.

The 'hotter' the colour the more children have been admitted.

Children get into the school from here:

most years
quite often
sometimes, but not in this year

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