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Uniforms and turnout are expected to be immaculate while for some 20 minutes a guest of honour inspects the whole school, taking the salute as pupils march past. One female sixth former talked enthusiastically of the ritual of ‘shining shoes till they shone like mirrors’ ahead of parade.  In keeping with the school's naval heritage, there are three school choirs and a school marching band which performs regularly at …


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What the school says...

Pangbourne College is an independent, co-educational boarding and day school for pupils aged 11-18 in West Berkshire.

As a small school of 450 pupils, we are a community where you can flourish. Providing a challenging academic curriculum, we also offer plenty of co-curricular opportunities for sport, art, music, drama and adventurous training, so that each individual fulfils their potential and develops confidence, values and skills to make a positive difference to the world.

With strong ceremonial traditions which echo our naval heritage, our Flag Values of kindness, selflessness, moral courage, industry, initiative, resilience, respect and integrity are as relevant now as they have ever been, and underpin all that we do as a College.
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Equestrian centre or equestrian team - school has own equestrian centre or an equestrian team.





What The Good Schools Guide says


Since 2005, Thomas Garnier BSc, PGCE. Pangbourne continues to evolve under his steady leadership. Educated at Sandroyd and Radley, Garnier read physics at Bristol, followed by seven years as a Royal Navy officer. After meeting his wife Alexandra, he left the Navy and completed a PGCE at Oxford which included teaching physics at high-performing state school King Alfred's, Wantage. Whence to Abingdon School where he rose to housemaster and then head of boarding, before moving on to Pangbourne. Parents have enormous respect for this 'outstanding' head who has a real affection for the school and its pupils. Mrs Garnier is very much in evidence too and runs an annual piano festival. Their two sons were educated at Pangbourne before heading off to Russell Group universities.

A tall man who exudes the gravitas and calm of a naval officer, Garnier is straight talking and 'a genuine authority'. He understands that 'education is fundamentally relational' and is 'proud that relational capital is strong and not transactional at Pangbourne'. During his tenure he has fostered strong human bonds with the school community. Delighted that 'numbers have never been stronger' and the school boasts a healthy waiting list, with the number of girls having nearly doubled since he arrived. ‘Numbers will be capped at 500, what is special about the school must not be lost. Academically we now cut it, but we're about much more than that.' One of the hallmarks of his headship has been the introduction of the so-called 'flag' values which focus on kindness, moral courage, selflessness, resilience, initiative, industry, integrity and respect. 'These are what most matter here.' Described as 'very accessible' by all and 'there when needed', he works alongside a strong senior leadership team, delegating much of the day-to-day contact to his four deputies, who are very much in evidence. He heads assembly every Friday and always contributes to the weekly bulletin, as well as coaching rowing and the naval section of the CCF. He is regularly seen on DofE trips and attends residentials once a year. An advocate of lifelong learning, after a 25-year gap, he passed his grade 8 flute and piano (with merit) and now dabbles in watercolour.

Leaving in July 2024.


Entrance assessments focus on strengths and skills inside and outside the classroom, with intake focused on incorporating a broad spread of abilities into each class. Neurodiverse conditions embraced. Students come from a wide variety of state and prep schools including Brockhurst, Marlston, Moulsford, St Andrews, Thorngrove, The Manor, and local primary schools such as Bradfield, Goring and Pangbourne. Admissions at 11 into year 7 (year group size about 35) have doubled in the last 10 years with about 50 per cent coming from local state schools. At 13, on average a further 60 students join, mainly from local prep schools.


Recently up to a quarter of students have been leaving after GCSEs with new joiners replacing those departing. Often it's 'just for a change' or for specific subjects not offered by the school (eg ballet, drama, agriculture). School is working hard to enhance the sixth form package with initiatives such as a new school café where sixth formers can enjoy free periods in a relaxed environment. Vast majority of students go on to university, with around 50 per cent Russell Group universities. Bath is popular as are Nottingham Trent, Oxford Brookes and the University of the West of England. One or two Oxbridge places most years but none in 2022. Two students went overseas in 2022 to Dutch universities. Both academic and vocational subject choices popular, as are apprenticeships. Despite its naval heritage, only a handful each year go into the Forces.

Latest results

In 2022, 46 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 22 per cent A*/A at A level (56 per cent A*-B). In 2019 (the last pre-pandemic results), 36 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 20 per cent A*/A at A level (40 per cent A*-B).

Teaching and learning

Staff turnover low. Whilst academic results are on an upwards trajectory, this is not a hothouse. Small class sizes a key feature – largest class is 22 with most averaging 15 up to GCSE. Staff know students very well, with a feeling of mutual respect evident between teachers and pupils. In the words of one parent, ‘Staff are so down to earth and approachable.’ Curriculum has been broadened to enable the mixing of A levels and BTEC for pupils wishing to follow a more vocational route. A third of pupils in the sixth form take a BTEC (same UCAS points as an A level) studying subjects such as film, media, sport and enterprise. EPQ also a popular choice – an extended project on any subject of interest (organising an event also an option). Every student has a baseline prediction to assess their potential (MidYIS/YELLIS) with focus on the value-added the school can offer. Individual pathways built to suit each pupil. School adept at catering for children with a wide range of abilities, making it a popular choice for families with several children wanting to choose one school for the whole family. 'Our three children are all very different, but all have thrived in their own way.' Parents say teachers make them feel welcome and involved. Academic subjects are no longer taught on Saturdays. The school day runs from 8.20am to 5.50pm Monday to Friday, followed by prep, with Saturdays reserved for matches.

Learning support and SEN

Team of 10 learning support staff (one specialist SENCO) is rated highly and described as 'very accessible' by parents we spoke to. High potential achiever (HPA) programme to incentivise and challenge the academically gifted (programme has seen academic results climb markedly since 2020). The school embraces students with minor learning difficulties (ADHD, dyslexia, mild autism, speech and language issues) with individual lessons offered at extra cost. The small class sizes allow teachers to implement strategies devised by the SEN specialists in class with monitoring in place to track progress. For most, the support of their teachers is sufficient. Of the 465 students in 2022, 197 were on the SEN register.

The arts and extracurricular

The busy music centre is home to a very strong music department, with a recital hall, recording suite and 10 practice and teaching rooms, not forgetting the three Steinway grand pianos. Around a third of pupils take individual music lessons. Piano, drums, guitar and singing are favourites. Along with a big band and numerous opportunities to perform, in keeping with the school's naval heritage, there are three school choirs and a school marching band which performs regularly at local community events.

A recently appointed dynamic head of design technology waxed lyrical about the green racing car being designed in the DT studio where pupils can opt for either the product design route or textiles. Forward-thinking ideas are definitely on the agenda here. Art facilities exuded creativity with the light spacious studio including an area for photography and a dark room. The school has three drama studios and is working on expanding the performing arts offering. Theatre trips, drama productions and workshops currently on offer. Years 7 and 8 were performing Shrek on the day we visited the school.

CCF, compulsory in year 10, has a Royal Marines section as well as Army and Royal Navy. We were impressed at how the strong military traditions of the school are used to imbue knowledge of so many key values and life skills. The pride of being part of 'Team Pangbourne' and 'mucking in' came across strongly in pupils we chatted to. However, if this doesn't strike a chord, this may not be the school for you. DofE is compulsory in year 9 and well managed; all students do the bronze award. Three-quarters go on to complete the silver and a third do gold. There are many clubs, including the student journalism club and the debating society.


The school commands a strong reputation on the sporting field with opportunities for all to represent Team Pangbourne. Consistent local, regional and national successes recorded by sports teams. The broad range of activities offered encourages the less sporty to have a go and be active. Viewed as a key element in developing leadership and the 'flag values', at least an hour of sport is timetabled four days a week with fixtures on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Sports performance programme available for the gifted.

Traditionally sailing and rowing are big here (notable successes at Henley) with the boat club situated off site on a six-kilometre stretch of the Thames. Pupils are on the water as much as possible. Recreational sports such as fitness, golf and table tennis available, as well as core sports hockey, rugby, football, cricket and rowing for the boys; hockey, rugby, netball, rowing and tennis for the girls. One parent suggested the offering is 'almost too broad, if that's possible'. Equestrian club well supported. Facilities are good with further investment planned. Recently refurbished outdoor swimming pool and gym, and new Astro hockey pitch proving popular.


Pangbourne has six senior houses or 'divisions' - four for boys and two slightly larger ones for girls - as well as Dunbar, a junior house for 11 to 13-year-olds. Day pupils and boarders integrated within the houses. Around 38 per cent of pupils board in some form, whether full, weekly or part-weekly (usually four nights). The school has recently introduced flexible overnight stays, which have gone down very well with parents. There is a move to encourage pupils from west London to become weekly boarders with London a mere 45 minutes away. Weekly boarders generally start the week on Sunday evenings and travel home on Fridays after school. Parents comment that the school goes out of its way to be flexible where necessary with exeats, travel etc. Small percentage of international students (about 6 per cent) are fully included.

Staff in the boarding houses described by parents as particularly family-oriented, kind and nurturing. We were very taken with the genuine warmth of the matrons and impressed that pupils are taught to iron and do their own laundry as well as being barred from their kitchens (galleys) if they don't keep them up to scratch – life skills we heartedly approve of in today's world. One parent spoke of her son's housemaster being ‘like an uncle’ and boarders we spoke to seemed very at home in their ‘cabins’.

The houses are fit for purpose with decor of dorms basic and functional. Meals are eaten in the central 'mess hall' with the recently overhauled catering department providing good food with an emphasis on healthy eating. Boarders we spoke to seemed happy with activities organised for them out of school hour, although many do go home at weekends.

Ethos and heritage

Set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on a campus of 230 acres within striking distance of Reading, Oxford and London, there is a feeling of space here, although the impression is somewhat ‘red-brick’. The school was originally founded in 1917 by a shipping company to prepare boys for life as officers in the Merchant Navy or Royal Navy. Co-ed since 1996, about 40 per cent of pupils now girls. Buildings comprise a mixture of large Victorian and 21st-century architecture. Whilst the nature of the school changed in 1969 when it became an all-round independent school with charitable status, it is the naval heritage of this Christian school that gives Pangbourne its distinctive character, ethos and ceremonial traditions.

Whilst Pangbourne has come a long way from the austere school it once was, nautical terminology still abounds - houses (divisions) are named after ships and ports, bedrooms are 'cabins', common rooms are 'gunrooms'. Meals are eaten in the 'mess hall' and casual clothes known as 'mufti'. Royal Navy officer cadet uniform is still worn every day. Pupils parade seven times a year in their 'number one' (ceremonial uniform) on the vast parade ground in front of the school. With military precision, these ceremonies take place in all weathers, attended by families, and often enjoyed by Old Pangbournians. Uniforms and turnout are expected to be immaculate while for some 20 minutes a guest of honour inspects the whole school, taking the salute as pupils march past. One female sixth former talked enthusiastically of the ritual of 'shining shoes till they shone like mirrors' ahead of parade and pupils appeared genuinely proud and animated when they spoke of these events, seemingly relishing the discipline involved. The traditions introduce rigour and formality as well as forging a feeling of pride, self-discipline, service and community. Parents enjoy the opportunity to 'really feel part of the community' as well as a sense of pride in the pupils, and seemed surprised how much their children enjoy the ceremonies

The school's impressive ship-shaped Falkland Islands Memorial Chapel, opened in 2000 by the late Queen, reflects the Christian culture and values at Pangbourne (although all faiths are supported at the school). Once a week the whole school gathers here for 'congers' (morning congregational practice).

Students are encouraged to take an active part in Team Pangbourne, including joining committees, student councils and the like. Manners are big, as are the peer mentoring and Taking Responsibility programmes in the first sixth form year. These cultivate leadership skills for positions of responsibility in the final year at school. 'Cadet captains' (prefects) and heads of school are chosen by the head and senior staff.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

There is a real family feel in the houses. Boundaries are clear and very well defined and pupils seem happy with this. 'Pangbourne is responsible for making my son the person he is today' is the sort of remark we often heard from parents. Staff work at building confidence and identifying individual talents in the belief that happy students do well. Diversity also championed, with different abilities and backgrounds welcomed and included. Weekly staff meetings use a traffic light system to identify pupils who need help or greater support to thrive. One pupil we spoke to praised the school for identifying her eating challenges very early, referring her to the school counsellor and helping to deal with issues before they escalated.

Socially, sixth formers enjoy the new café. Firm rules are in place, including zero tolerance of drugs in schoo. On the issue of bullying, several parents remarked that the school had dealt with such issues well. 'Inability to reform bullying behaviour' is not tolerated and is punishable by exclusion from the school. Suspensions are also issued for 'inappropriate, offensive or unpleasant behaviour' and mini detentions used for lesser issues, but the head is very clear that 'everyone makes mistakes' and that in so doing lessons are learned. 'Pupils are encouraged to take responsibility for their actions from an early age,' explained one parent.

The uniform list at Pangbourne is necessarily long (and strict), with uniform standards based on those of the Royal Navy an 'important part of the college identity'. So for girls, nail varnish and unnatural hair colours are not permitted, jewellery usage tightly controlled, and only very discreet make-up allowed from year 9 onwards (not permitted in years 7 and 8). Boys are not to dye their hair and hair must comply with school guidelines. Three uniforms required, one naval uniform for every day and one for more ceremonial occasions, and then there's games kit and clothes for weekends on top. Some parents have noted that buying the uniform comes at a considerable cost but thankfully there is an online second-hand shop. Sixth formers can wear suits to school.

Pupils and parents

Despite the naval background, only a small number of military families. Seventy per cent of inquiries are via word of mouth, predominantly local families who enjoy the 'community' and contributing to it; quiz nights, school balls and parades provide opportunities for parents to mix. Parental involvement is embraced here – parents are involved and invested in their children's education and personal development. 'Thank you for reviewing our school,' wrote one of the mothers we interviewed, herself a trained teacher. About 60 per cent of parents are second generation public school, but most families are dual income and work hard to send their children to the school. Many like the fact that the school suits all their children who often have very different talents, abilities and needs. Most pupils live within a 50-minute drive of the school with the proportion of day pupils on the rise. Six bus routes from local areas including Basingstoke, Chieveley, Henley, Newbury, Maidenhead and Wantage.

Former pupils include film director Ken Russell, Olympic sailor Andrew (Bart) Simpson, motorcycle racer Mike Hailwood, hedge fund guru David Harding, former Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Michael Layard and Dazed & Confused magazine founder, Jefferson Hack.

Money matters

About 25 per cent of pupils receive some form of means-tested bursary assistance. Two and a half per cent of pupils receive bursary assistance equivalent to more than 90 per cent of fees. Scholarships receive no fee remittance. They provide extra opportunities for pupils and opportunities to excel in their chosen talents. Academic and music awards offered at 11; academic, music, drama awards for entry at 13 or 6th form.

The last word

Pangbourne's naval heritage provides the framework for a rounded education, turning out self-assured young adults who are neither arrogant nor entitled. The school is small, down-to-earth and well managed. Clear boundaries make pupils of all abilities feel safe and able to develop the self-confidence to realise their potential. With a caring staff body, the school is hitting the spot with local parents.

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

A well staffed learning support centre ensures that students who need extra subject specific exam preparation or general academic support are well catered for. Prospective families are encouraged to enquire about learning support when scheduling a visit or tour of the College.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
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
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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