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Lancing College

What says..

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. They did. Lancing’s farm provides a refreshing alternative for those who want to get their fresh air and exercise off the sports field. Would-be vets learn to give injections to animals, and anyone who wants to gets to bottle-feed the lambs – or even ...

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




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 forging a sterling academic career at Oxford (specialising in Shakespeare). Edited the Longman School Shakespeare edition of Richard III, which garnered very favourable reviews. Eventually, wanting a less narrow life (‘the bit that really excited me was teaching students'), took a post at the Royal Grammar School in Worcester. Three years as head of English at Malvern College followed, then four years as managing head of Bedales School, before he settled into the top job at Lancing. Married to Lydia, a psychoanalyst, with two sons, one at Oxford and the other currently in the sixth form.

‘Approachable and visible,’ was the verdict of parents. Head and school seem to be a particularly good fit; he 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.


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’.


Up to 20 per cent leave after GCSEs, but school insists it doesn’t cull. ‘We have an academic bar, but it’s administered humanely. If you take someone at 13, you have a duty to look after them.’ At 18, 65 per cent to Russell Group universities. Bristol, Cardiff, Durham, Exeter, Imperial College, Leeds and UCL all popular, with others off overseas. Three to Oxbridge in 2021, plus two medics. Art, design and architecture are all popular choices – a love of beauty, perhaps, being a happy side effect of living on this ravishing campus.

Latest results

In 2021, 62 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 41 per cent A*/A at A level (87 per cent A*-B). In 2019 (the last year when exams took place), 46 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 44 per cent A*/A at A level (71 per cent A*-B).

Teaching and learning

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.

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. They did, 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; half a term prior to this is spent learning how to amass and assess information. The head himself teaches 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 (average size 18, smaller in the sixth form) we saw were teacher-led and traditional, but friendly and relaxed with good student input. ‘Exceptional and dedicated teachers,’ according to one parent.

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. Learning everywhere is purposeful, calm and undertaken with satisfaction. Superb library is open seven days a week – strict silence rules, but there is also a seminar room for collaborative work and plenty of computer workstations.

Learning support and SEN

Two full-time and one part-time SEN teachers support the small number of students 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.

The arts and extracurricular

One of the best programmes of extracurricular activities we’ve come across anywhere with facilities and staffing to match. Lancing’s farm provides a refreshing alternative for those who want to get their fresh air and exercise off the sports field. 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 to gets to bottle-feed the lambs – or even to get up in the night to help deliver them.

Music here is ‘unrivalled’ and we thought that outside of a specialist music school, you’d be hard-pressed to do better. 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’. 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.

Drama is popular and well-resourced – ‘outstanding,’ wrote one parent - with around 10 events a year including productions. 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. Now offers photography GCSE as well as A level. Busy calendar of community service includes DofE and the outreach programme for sixth formers. Lots of school trips – recent destinations have included Malawi, Germany and Iceland. ‘It’s been brilliant,’ said an upper sixth former; ‘I’ve got involved in so many different things and I’ve loved them all!’


The one-word question ‘Sports?’ to a group of students received an universal exhalation of satisfaction. ‘What’s great about Lancing sport is that it really is for everyone, and you can find your level.’ 'The range of sports here is just ridiculous!’ Main ones are football, hockey, netball, tennis (on both hard and grass courts) and cricket. One student we spoke to relished his place in the 6th football team, playing twice a week for enjoyment; 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.’ Cricket is also strong – Mason Sidney Crane is an OL. Excellent swimming pool, used by locals as well as school community, since 2018 home to LC Swim Club affiliated with Swim England. Endless list of more niche sports includes sailing, squash, basketball, riding (brand new equestrian centre), Eton fives, golf, fencing, badminton, water polo and aerobics. CCF also popular; we witnessed a boy being awarded an enormous trophy for success in target rifle shooting.


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); new co-ed day house. Full, weekly and flexi options and free boarding for day pupils if an activity goes on past 9pm. Of the day pupils, half stay over regularly and it’s not uncommon for there to be 280 pupils in school over a weekend.

All houses are for the full age range of students from years 9 to 13. No separate sixth form accommodation, but they have their own corridor and common room and the students said they preferred the resulting age diversity. On entry, 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. All houses have a matron and, say students, ‘They’re all welcoming.’ ‘Our second mum!’ 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 if it was part-time, enabled them to get the most out of being here. ‘You’re more involved’; ‘It’s easier to work.’ 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.’

Ethos and heritage

Traces its origins back to 1848, but on the present site since 1857. There can scarcely be a lovelier school approach anywhere. Emerging from 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 doesn't seem fanciful to say that the benign effects of this are perceptible throughout the school.

Consider the light and airy art department (with sea view), bursting with imaginative work, the wonderfully high-ceilinged library or 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 by itself, 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. Everyone has to attend college eucharist on Wednesday morning, as well as on one or two Sundays each term, but the approach is inclusive. 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 as 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. 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.

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.

Pastoral care, inclusivity 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’.

Long-established peer support scheme 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 skills such as listening, confidentiality and 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 pupils we spoke to, however, insisted that bullying was rare and that instances were dealt with swiftly. Certainly behaviour around school appeared 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.

Catering has changed recently and there is now much praise for the food, 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 so can only agree.

School operates a six-day week with Saturdays being given over to a mixture of lessons and extracurricular activities. Day pupils have to be in school by 8.15am and must stay until 6pm so it's not the place 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.

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. Bus service covers a wide area and there's a shuttle between Lancing College and the preps. New London bus serves those needing to get back from the capital on a Sunday evening.

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.’

The last word

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.’

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 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
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

Who came from where

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