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The chapel is at the heart of the school and its sizeable 1960s extension means the whole school can gather together five mornings a week. ‘Having the whole community together means the school is very cohesive and supportive,’ said a parent. Singing is a huge part of chapel – ‘the louder the better’, say pupils. ’Uppingham takes singing very seriously,’ a sixth former told us while another said: ‘It’s my wake-up call in the morning. I’m never not in a good mood afterwards...’

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What the school says...

Uppingham School is a fully boarding school established in 1584, the School is situated in a beautiful part of central England. There are immense rewards in terms of academic and social development to be gained from the Uppingham experience. In addition to the Schools strong commitment to music, drama, art, design and technology, and sports, high academic standards are a priority. If pupils are willing to be helped and guided there is virtually nothing they cannot achieve at Uppingham. ...Read more

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Since 2016, Dr Richard Maloney MA PGCE PhD, previously head of St Bede’s Senior School (now Bede’s). He was awarded an assisted place at Latymer Upper in west London and says he had brilliant teachers – ‘genuinely inspirational people’. He read theology and moral philosophy at the University of St Andrews, then did a PGCE at the University of Cambridge. He’d originally planned to be a lawyer but ‘I didn’t think I could face it’ and rang up the admissions people at Cambridge instead. The PGCE course he had his eye on was full but within half an hour they’d wisely made an extra space for him – ‘and here we are all this time later’. As he says: ‘You don’t need to have a plan as a young person but you need the ability to be nimble, to be brave and to enjoy what you have in front of you at that moment.’

His teaching career began at Bingley Grammar School, followed by Chigwell School, where he taught RS and philosophy, became a head of department at 25 and later head of sixth form. In 2006 he was appointed as deputy head at Sutton Valence School, simultaneously completing his PhD in education policy part-time in a record three and a half years. ‘Writing is my craft and I really enjoyed it,’ he says.

Forward-thinking, erudite and energetic, he has led an agenda of change at Uppingham, ‘reimagining the school for the next phase of its existence’, although he modestly insists that he’s ‘just a blip in the institution’s history’. ‘We have real confidence in who we are here,’ he says. ‘We have always had a wonderfully holistic philosophy but we are reimagining it for the next century.’ Changes he has brought about include ramping up the bursary provision, expanding the senior leadership team, building stronger relationships with the local community, introducing five ‘leave-outs’ every year (there weren’t any exeats before) and opening a new house for day pupils in 2024. At the time of our visit there were 67 day pupils, mostly very local, but in future there will be 24 day pupils per year group, with the day house open from 7.30am to 7pm (existing ‘day-in-boarding’ pupils can keep their places in boarding houses if they wish). The head was amused by pupils’ pressing questions when he announced the new day house. ‘They asked “where will they eat?” and “are we all still going to fit into chapel?”’ he says. The answer to the first question is ‘in the buttery’ and to the second, a resounding ‘yes’.

Proud of the school’s international mindset (20 per cent of pupils are international and the school will open an offshoot in Egypt in 2024 and in Vietnam two years after that), the head says that Uppingham is ‘authentically British in tone but has a global outlook’. He's passionate about widening access to the school and when we visited 78 pupils were on ‘significant’ means-tested bursaries. Eight were receiving bursaries of more than 100 per cent and 50 were on bursaries of at least 75 per cent but he hopes that there will be more in the future. ‘There’s a real mission and purpose to widening participation,’ he says. ‘We are trying to do something profound and we really mean it.’

Many heads don’t teach these days but he’s not one of them. He teaches A level philosophy and theology – mainly because he loves teaching but also because ‘it says to my colleagues that I try to put my money where my mouth is’ and ‘it’s good for the pupils to see I’m not just swanning about and standing up in chapel’. Parents are impressed by him. ‘He really does embrace the school’s vision of forward thinking but taking tradition with him,’ said one. ‘He’s very dynamic – a doer who gets things done,’ said another, while a third described him as ‘very switched on’. ‘He has shaken things up to keep the school fresh, modern and relevant.’

His study is unlike those of most heads we meet – despite its traditional setting, it’s sleek and modern, with a wooden floor, chic sofa and armchairs and desk with trestle legs, all curated by a German designer. Married to Tracey, the programme director for a teacher training company and vice chair of a large academy chain, they have two children, both at Uppingham. In his spare time, he reads ‘voraciously’ (politics and history in particular), loves sport (he’s an Arsenal fan) and spends time at the family house in the Dordogne, chopping wood and enjoying outdoor pursuits.


The process starts three years before the date of entry and the school is usually oversubscribed. ‘People like what we’re doing,’ says the head. ‘We’re outperforming what is becoming a difficult market.’ Year 9s come from around 90 feeder schools, with nearby Maidwell Hall (which merged with Uppingham in 2022), Brambletye and Witham Hall sending good numbers. The school receives between two and four applications for each year 9 place.

Around 150 pupils join at 13+, though numbers are likely to rise once the new day house opens (the head says that ‘all being well’ pupil numbers will be around 920 in future). Most sit pre-tests in year 7 – online verbal and non-verbal reasoning, English and maths plus an interview (online or in person) and reference from candidates’ current schools. Some take Common Entrance (55 per cent average pass mark) in year 8 or the school’s own exams (maths and English comprehension) and interview.

It’s even more competitive at sixth form level, with five girls and eight boys for every place (50 new joiners in total). Sixth form applicants need at least three 7s and three 6s at GCSE (at least 8s to study languages, maths and the sciences at A level) but it’s rare for existing pupils not to make the cut. Those coming from elsewhere sit three tests – in maths, English and a chosen subject – and have an interview too.


Very few post-GCSE leavers – the vast majority leave at 18 for university. Several to Oxbridge each year (six in 2023) and a few medics, with 90 per cent choosing the likes of Bath, Durham, UCL, Edinburgh, Exeter and Newcastle. Around 10 a year head overseas, to universities such as Holy Cross University, University of Arizona, Tufts and University of Mary Washington. Some progress to professional performing arts schools or do art foundation courses but more common subjects are engineering, natural sciences, business, politics and international relations.

Growing interest in degree apprenticeships, with pupils scooping recent places at Morrisons, JP Morgan and law firms. Tutors and subject staff oversee the UCAS process, offering specialist advice and guidance. About a third choose gap years.

Latest results

In 2023, 69 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 51 per cent A*/A at A level (82 per cent A*-B). In 2019 (the last pre-pandemic results), 69 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 45 per cent A*/A at A level (73 per cent A*-B).

Teaching and learning

GCSE and A level results are impressive but the emphasis is more on excellent teaching and a broad education than grade chasing. At A level, pupils have a choice of 26 subjects and can take any combination under the sun. The school offers a BTEC in sport, with the majority getting starred distinctions. Around a third do an EPQ (those who don’t might take AS maths, a LAMDA qualification, a diploma in French language studies or coach sport).

Most take nine or ten subjects at GCSE, including maths, English language, English literature, science (80 per cent take three separate sciences but some opt for two sciences or combined science) and at least one language (French, Spanish, German and Mandarin offered, plus Latin and Greek). Science is genuinely exciting, with pupils relishing the chance to use the school’s swish science centre, complete with 16 labs, an environmental room and a stunning wall-mounted periodic table showcasing samples of every chemical element. The science centre regularly runs events for local primary schools, with Uppingham pupils leading some sessions themselves.

Setting for maths, sciences and languages but plenty of opportunity to move around. ‘The sets are fluid – there’s no ceiling on achievement here,’ says the assistant head (teaching and learning). The average class size is 16 up to GCSE and around 10 for A level. Each pupil has a tutor – these change every year but youngsters keep the same tutor for the sixth form. ‘They’re there to help you but they will be honest with you,’ said a pupil. ‘Tutors end up knowing every child really well and really care about them,’ a parent told us. ‘They know your child inside out – like exactly where they are at and where they need to push.’

Careers department runs a host of events about UK and global universities, gap years and spotlights on careers like management consultancy, investment banking, accountancy and the media. Parents’ meetings are held online these days – once a year for each year group, apart from year 9 parents, who have two.

Learning support and SEN

New head of learning support was restructuring the school’s processes when we visited, making the department more integrated into the school as a whole. Up to 20 per cent of pupils access learning support for needs such as dyslexia, autism, ADHD and social, emotional and mental health issues – one-to-one, in small groups or with in-class support from teaching assistants. In year 9 additional English support is offered to EAL pupils who need to improve their level of written English.

The arts and extracurricular

Artistic endeavour is encouraged throughout the school. ‘They are very good at showcasing all the children’s talents,’ said a parent. Several major drama productions a year, plus house drama and smaller productions. When we visited rehearsals were in full swing for Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman, with the musical Oh! What a Lovely War up next. The stunning 280-seat theatre is one of the largest school theatres in the country, with a black box studio space next door. Three full-time theatre technicians but pupils do lots of the lighting, sound, make-up and front of house themselves. Around 30 pupils a year take drama GCSE and up to 10 do A level.

Music is a joy, with three music schools, three recording studios and a department of more than 45 full-time and visiting staff, many of them professional musicians themselves. Around 40 per cent of pupils have instrumental lessons – everything from the harp to the bagpipes to GarageBand – and there’s a plethora of music ensembles, orchestras, choirs and jazz bands to join. Concerts galore – from lunchtime concerts in the local church to tours at home and abroad and from Battle of the Bands to Jazz Jam. A talented singer recently released her music on Spotify while a group called 9.5 comprises sixth form boys who sing acapella and have developed a TikTok fanbase. ‘They take old songs and bring them back to life,’ a pupil told us.

Art, textiles and design take place in the Leonardo Centre, a stunning glass-fronted art block designed by old boy Piers Gough. The walls teem with vibrant artwork and there’s also a film studio, photo lab and ceramics studio. Pupils try their hand at everything from fine art, textiles and ceramics to photography, sound and video. We joined a DT lesson where a teacher was encouraging enthusiastic year 10s ‘to be as creative as possible’ in designing multi-purpose pencil holders made of rainbow-coloured plastic. Around 60 take DT at GCSE and 40 or so do art, while 17 a year take A level DT and a similar number chooses art.

Pupils insist that Uppingham isn’t all about the academics. ‘I’m an awful musician but I still played in the concert band,’ said one boy. ‘There’s no way you could come here and say there is nothing for you.’ The enrichment programme encompasses around 50 activities – from drone racing to songwriting – and if there’s anything that isn’t covered pupils set it up themselves. Sixth formers have recently launched their own podcast, chatting with the school archivist about Uppingham’s history. CCF and DofE available and there’s also the extensive Make a Difference (or MAD) programme, where pupils volunteer in the community, help out in primary schools and organise fundraising events for charity. One girl helped to refurbish an old people’s home while another visits an elderly lady with her friend every week.


A minimum of three sessions of sport a week for all but many do far more than that. Saturday matches plus walking back and forth between lessons and the boarding houses keep everyone super fit. ‘We do a lot of sport,’ a pupil told us approvingly, adding that students, staff and parents turn out in droves to cheer everyone on at matches.

Facilities are top notch, including acres of playing fields plus an impressive sports centre with a six-court sports hall, 25-metre swimming pool, gym, squash courts, two dance studios and a huge fitness suite. Main sports are football, rugby, cricket, netball, hockey, athletics, swimming and tennis but additional choices include volleyball, badminton, lacrosse, rounders, dance, squash and basketball. One of the highlights of the year is The Routh, the inter-house cross country championships, where pupils compete in a challenging five-mile run.


Full boarding for the vast majority (no weekly or flexi boarding, so ‘no one dips in and out’). There are currently 15 boarding houses on the school’s 120-acre site, five for girls, nine for boys and one for new girl sixth formers, each with their own USP, ethos and ‘friendly rivalry’. According to their location, they’re dubbed town, country or hill houses. Boys’ house Brooklands, for instance, is situated up the hill in a rambling Victorian mansion, complete with a mini arboretum and a stream at the bottom of the garden. and flood-lit tennis court. The downside is that it’s a good 10 minutes’ walk from lessons but pupils don’t seem to mind.

Boarding houses of 50 or 60 are run by housemasters and housemistresses, supported by deputies, tutors, matrons and domestic staff, and have a real family atmosphere. Parents are made to feel part of the community too. ‘At some schools parents are held at arm’s length but at Uppingham we’re very much considered part of the house and the school,’ said one. We visited West Bank, one of the boys’ houses, where two matrons cover the house from 7am to 7pm six days a week. ‘They are brilliant,’ we were told. ‘Their role is a pastoral one, focusing on the boys’ wellbeing and welfare, communicating with parents and even leaving sweets and a card on their pillows on their birthdays.’ With tasteful décor throughout, games room, dining room, shower rooms for each year group and dorms of between two and four (single bedsits for sixth formers), it looked like a real ‘home from home’. Up until the sixth form pupils have their own cabin-like studies – small spaces with desks and shelves that they can decorate themselves. A former pupil loved the place so much that when he returned for a visit he threw himself into a cross-country session and then joined everyone for lunch.

We were invited to lunch at Johnson’s, a girls’ house, and were impressed by the genuine camaraderie between the year groups. The pupils on our table were warm and welcoming, talking enthusiastically about the friendly atmosphere, the karaoke nights, the house guinea pigs (real, not stuffed) and the forthcoming black tie Christmas dinner, for which each year group was doing a skit.

An array of house competitions – everything from the eagerly contested house shout to house photography. Prefects do ‘lunch swaps’, visiting year 9s in different houses once a week. In-house dining is an integral part of Uppingham – all pupils go back to their houses for meals and staff are often invited as guests. ‘It gives the house a homely feel,’ a girl told us. ‘One day you might be sitting next to a trustee for lunch, the next it might be prospective parents.’ The school recently changed catering providers – a pupil told us the food is ‘much better’ than before but there were still a few grumbles. Older boarders can visit friends in other houses three times a week from 9pm to 10pm while year 13s can go to the school bar (drinks strictly monitored) on Wednesday and Saturday nights.

Ethos and heritage

The school was founded in 1584 by Archdeacon Robert Johnson and its handsome, honey-coloured buildings are dotted across the pretty market town of Uppingham. Pupils are much in evidence walking to lessons through picturesque streets or popping into the popular Baines Bakery for a hot chocolate. ‘We are so immersed in the town,’ said one. Parents like the fact that Uppingham is ‘a safe and beautiful town’ but isn’t in the middle of nowhere so pupils ‘can decompress by going into town and having a pizza’.

An extensive building programme has been undertaken over the last 20 years and it’s beautifully done, new additions blending beautifully with ancient archways, cobbled courtyards and mullioned windows. The chapel is at the heart of the school and its sizeable 1960s extension means the whole school can gather together five mornings a week. ‘Having the whole community together means the school is very cohesive and supportive,’ said a parent. Singing is a huge part of chapel – ‘the louder the better’, say pupils. ’Uppingham takes singing very seriously,’ a sixth former told us while another said: ‘It’s my wake-up call in the morning. I’m never not in a good mood afterwards.’ The library is housed in its own listed building, a quiet, studious space open till 9pm. A portrait of Victorian education pioneer and former headmaster Edward Thring, who built Uppingham into a national renowned boarding school, hangs in pride of place and there’s a moving memorial to former pupils killed in conflict.

The atmosphere everywhere is busy and purposeful. ‘Coming here was the best decision I’ve ever made,’ said a sixth former. ‘There’s such a friendly vibe. You can’t help but walk around with a smile on your face. You never feel on the outside here.’ Pupils bristled at the idea that Uppingham is a ‘posh’ school. ‘Most people here are very fortunate but no one is ostentatious,’ was the common view while a parent told us the school ‘doesn’t have any airs and graces’. A year 13 pupil recalled that when pupils from a local academy visited for mock Oxbridge interviews one said: ‘This wasn’t what I expected at all. I thought you were going to be elitist and posh, but you’re not.’

Girls were first admitted in 1975 and the school went fully co-ed in 2001. There are a few more boys than girls in the school as a whole (51.3 per cent boys to 48.7 per cent girls) but it’s 50:50 in the sixth form. The tuck shop (known as the buttery) sells fruit, sweets, bacon butties, smoothies and drinks and is ‘a nice place to catch up with people’. Navy and grey uniform looks smart but unfussy. Sixth form girls love their navy ankle-length skirts (mostly worn with Dr Martens boots) and chic tweed blazers (‘my mum wants to borrow mine,’ laughed one). Sixth form boys wear dark business suits. Loads of different house and prefect ties – so many, in fact, that pupils play ‘tie bingo’ for fun.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

Well-structured pastoral programme includes PSHE and Life Skills, helping teens to develop positive habits and behaviours. The school has appointed an assistant head (safeguarding), a paediatric nurse with CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health services) experience. ‘She’s a brilliant addition to the team – her knowledge of teenagers and mental health of varying degrees is very broad,’ said a parent. Health centre is open 24/7 and there are three on-site counsellors. Many of the matrons have training in Mental Health First Aid and emotional literacy support and two visiting psychologists, an educational psychologist and a psychiatrist run clinics in school. ‘The school is very responsive,’ said the parent of a pupil who experienced a health issue. ‘They couldn’t have done more to help. They put a plan in place, gave her one-to-one time and arranged online tuition – all the time thinking of ways to support her academically and pastorally.’

Clear rules and sanctions on bullying, smoking, drugs and alcohol but the school takes circumstances into account. ‘I’m a great believer in the redemptive power of education, in empowering pupils to make good choices,’ says the head. His approach permeates the whole school. ‘When things go wrong – they’re young people and they do – it’s about reflecting, understanding how and what went wrong and how we can change,’ agrees the senior deputy head. A team of 30 wellbeing advocates, all year 12s who have been trained by The Samaritans, help pupils who may be struggling. They also organise events, such as in-house pizza and quiz nights and creative activities in the dance studio for younger pupils. Year groups mix well together, with older pupils mentoring younger ones from the moment they arrive.

A total of 36 prefects (or ‘pollies’, as they are known in Uppingham-speak), including four school captains (two boys and two girls). ‘It isn’t just a ceremonial role,’ one told us. ‘We really have a say in the day-to-day running of the school.’ ‘Is Uppingham strict?’ we asked some of them and they insisted that it’s only strict when it needs to be. There’s a growing emphasis on restorative justice – in other words, when a pupil gets something wrong tutors and house staff focus on tackling the root of the problem and helping them to resolve conflict rather than doling out punishments.

Pupils and parents

The school is well connected geographically – it’s well-placed for the A1, M1 and A14 and the fastest train from Kettering to London takes 47 minutes. Ninety per cent of boarders live within three hours’ drive. They come from all directions – Yorkshire, Northumberland, Scotland, Wales, East Anglia and the home counties. Around 10 per cent are children of old Uppinghamians.

The pupils we met were a delight – chatty, enthusiastic and keen to make a difference. ‘They’re such nice, well-adjusted people,’ the head of science told us and we had to agree. ‘I always notice how kind the pupils are here,’ added an English teacher. ‘It’s my fourth school and the kindness really stands out.’ Meanwhile a parent whose son joined the sixth form told us: ‘He absolutely thrived at Uppingham. They find what makes the kids tick and are seriously supportive.’

Former pupils include Mark Haddon, who wrote The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Rick Stein, Stephen Fry, Boris Karloff and Ralph Freeman, the civil engineer who designed the Humber Bridge, the UK’s longest single-span suspension bridge.

Money matters

Scholarships are awarded at 13+ and 16+ for academics, music, art, textiles, design and technology, sport and drama. There’s also an all-rounder scholarship at 13+. Scholarships are no more than five per cent of the fees but means-tested bursarial support is available, if necessary up to 110 per cent of the fees. The school is firmly committed to developing its bursary programme further and there’s growing interest locally for day places. It recently advertised its sixth form bursary places to a large multi-academy trust in Leicestershire and at the time of our visit had already had 20 applications.

The last word

An intellectually stimulating school in idyllic surroundings that inspires huge loyalty and cleverly manages to be both traditional and forward-thinking. Pupils, whether they’re academic, sporty, musical or artistic, are well aware of their good fortune and throw themselves into school life with gusto.

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

The aim of the Learning Support department is essentially to support boys and girls to achieve to the best of his or her ability in mainstream subjects. This department supports pupils who need help in learning. The degree of support varies according to individual needs, most pupils having slight, rather than moderate or severe, learning difficulties. Dec 09.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
English as an additional language (EAL)
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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