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Outdoor learning is the jewel in the school’s crown. Many youngsters do D of E (bronze, silver and gold) while CCF is compulsory for year 9 pupils (optional after that). New head of outdoor learning encourages pupils to challenge themselves. ‘We’ve got enough tents to put 100 people under canvas,’ he told us with a note of pride in his voice. 

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What the school says...

West Buckland School is a co-educational day and boarding school for 3-18 year olds. It was founded in 1858, nine miles from the town of Barnstaple and stands in nearly 100 acres of grounds in beautiful North Devon countryside near the western edge of Exmoor and just ten miles from the coast.

The school currently has over 600 boys and girls aged 3 to 18. Academic standards at the school are high, and for many years West Buckland has been one of the consistently high performing schools in the South West of England at GCSE and A-level. In 2017, 70% of A-levels were passed at A* to B grades whilst at GCSE, 88.1% of English and maths exams were passed at 9 to 5 grades, with 95.2% of the other GCSE subjects passed at A* to C.

The vast majority of sixth formers progress to university and a consistent 50% plus of students take up places at universities in the Russell Group, regarded as some of the best and most highly sought after universities in the UK and indeed the world.

There is considerable emphasis on extracurricular activities at the school with a proud record in boys and girls games, drama, music, the Combined Cadet Force, outdoor education and the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme.

The schools buildings and facilities have developed steadily throughout its history. There is an outstanding sports complex centred around the Jonathan Edwards Sports Centre which opened in 2008. The award-winning 150 Building, a major 5m development which includes the Art and Design Technology Departments and a Theatre, opened in 2010. Autumn 2015 saw the opening of an excellent Sixth Form Boarding house, with 70 en-suite bedrooms and social and work areas, together with the new Michael Morpurgo library and study centre.

Further information about the school may be found on our website.
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What The Good Schools Guide says


Since 2016, Mr Phillip Stapleton BSc MA Ed MBA (40s). Educated at Bishop Stopford School in Kettering, followed by Durham University, where he read biochemistry and immersed himself in music, drama and sport. Several university friends became actors (including Alex Macqueen of Peep Show and The Inbetweeners fame), but he modestly says: ‘I wasn’t good enough’. Initially set on a career in molecular genetics, he stayed on at Durham to take part in a show, embarked on a PGCE and discovered he loved teaching. ‘It brought everything together – working with inquisitive minds, a passion for my subject and the chance to perform,’ he says. First teaching post was at Stonyhurst, followed by Charterhouse, where he taught chemistry and became a housemaster. Then moved to Ardingly, where he was deputy head for five years....

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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.

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Special Education Needs

West Buckland is an inclusive school where we are willing to consider any student whom we believe we can help. Every year group has a number of pupils who have moderate learning difficulties such as Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Specific Learning Difficulties. Our Learning Support Team (one Teacher and two Classroom Assistants) have Special Needs qualifications and have these support arrangements for work in the Support Base and alongside subject specialists: Age 3-18: Meetings with staff and parents, observations across the curriculum, standardised assessments and involvement with appropriate specialists (such as Educational Psychologists). Years 3-7: In class support plus short periods of basic skills/Study Skills work in response to individual needs. Year 8 and 9: Also have timetabled Learning Support in groups of up to eight instead of doing a second Modern Foreign Language. Year 10 and 11: Up to eight students per year may opt for Learning Support lessons in place of a GCSE subject. Those with the most severe needs may have the option not to take a modern language. In class support where most needed. Year 12 and 13: Appointments, as necessary. All pupils benefit from the use of IT - and many use their own laptops in class and to complete Prep. The Support Base is usually open from 8.30 am to the end of the school day at 5.00 pm. Any student may seek help outside lesson times. There is also support available for Boarders Prep four evenings a week. We pride ourselves on having good communication with parents so we can work together to help our youngsters at school and at home. Progress is regularly reviewed and on the basis of specialist advice we seek exam dispensations (such as extra time, supervised rest breaks, use of IT) for students doing formal exams (11+, SATS, 13+, GCSE, AS and A2).

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