Independent Schools Inspectorate gave it top grades in every category in its last report, and said it was ‘among the best of the best’.
But for the pupils hard at work learning every day within its walls, it is simply the place they are free to grow, strive and achieve.
“There is so much to do here, you can do beekeeping, or riding, there are chickens or you can learn an extra language like Chinese or Italian,” said one bubbly and confident sixth former. “It’s just an amazing place to be, full of opportunities.”
Buzz of creativity
Certainly an environment with a lot going on. With a huge campus near Haywards Heath, set in 260 acres of idyllic countryside, it currently houses 900 children aged from 2 ½ in the pre-prep department through to sixth formers.
Art School is a vibrant buzz of creativity, an impressive gallery space shows off students’ work and studios including a textile room provide spacious and inspiring areas to work.
Music is a proud tradition at Ardingly with a purpose-built Music School. As well as the opportunity to learn a wide range of instruments, singing is also popular. Chapel Choir leads the worship every week and regularly sings at prestigious cathedrals including Westminster and St Paul’s.
Excellent external coaches join the highly skilled teaching staff to support pupils with a love of sport, whether in golf, swimming, shooting or lacrosse. With a large sports hall and outdoor pitches, the college has many past and present pupils who represent their county, and has strong links with Premiership Football, Sussex County Cricket Club and national league Hockey clubs.
Old Ardinians include Formula 1 driver Max Chilton as well as satirist Ian Hislop, author Neil Gaiman, and CBBC presenter Ed Petrie.
Headmaster Peter Green says every type of boy or girl can thrive at Ardingly, as long as they want to get involved. He is a firm believer that achievement in extra-curricular activities contributes directly to success in the classroom.
“We are very strong academically because we are very good at sport and drama and music and other activities,” he said. “Children and staff work closely together, and those extra-curricular achievements are what makes us a successful family.”
He is quick to point out the Ardinians’ view of family is not a cuddly place. “Ardingly is a true family,” he says. “One which has its ups and downs, its celebrations, its moments of grief, its moments of love but, above all, we are underpinned by forgiveness and failure, two essential ingredients.”
School of obligation
Entry is competitive; pupils who gain a place are expected to prove their worth.
“Ardingly is a school of obligation,” Mr Green says. “We believe that God has created us for a specific purpose; consequently, we have a responsibility, through our studies, to come to know and understand the world and our place in it.”
“we have a responsibility, through our studies, to come to know and understand the world and our place in it.”
Founded as St Saviour’s College, Shoreham, by the priest and educationalist Canon Nathaniel Woodard, it moved in 1870 to its current location. Originally a boys’ school, it’s been co-educational since 1982.
Created as a Christian community, the magnificent chapel lies at the heart of the school. Services are held there by the chaplain, for the whole school once a week with optional daily worship in the more intimate crypt. Today, the school readily welcomes pupils from other faiths, and those with none.
Despite being extremely high achievers, humility and a lack of any arrogance or pretension are vital attributes in Ardinians.
Charity is important, but the school does not encourage pupils to simply jump on a bandwagon and support a high-profile cause. It urges careful and deep thought about which causes to support, with emphasis that justice should be at the heart of charitable events.
Brand new sixth form boarding house has just been opened, providing smart modern new bedrooms for boarders and study rooms for day pupils, all with en-suite bathrooms – feels more like a hotel than a boarding house. Smaller common rooms give friends a comfortable place to gather while the spacious social area on the ground floor is a hive of energy as pupils gather during breaks for table tennis, a game of pool or to watch tv.
The school has seen extensive refurbishment of buildings and facilities in recent years; new business and economics block, modern languages centre, fitness studio, drama studio and ICT suite. It’s all bright, light and airy.
Victorian buildings aren’t the only thing to be brought up to date. So too have the ‘three Rs’ – no longer ‘Reading, wRiting and ‘Rithmatic. At Ardingly they have become Restlessness, Reflection and Rigour.
The Inquiring Curriculum has also been introduced for Years 7 and 8, pushing for ‘greater academic rigour, more stimulating content and the development of a wider range of teaching and learning techniques’
One former head girl commented that Ardingly would suit ‘a hard-working individual who does not only think outside the box, but from time to time thinks like there is no box’.
With all that going for it, there can be no question that Ardingly College is a perfect place to groom the next generation for success.