“I’m not that good at hockey, I’m in the D Team, but I still have a great time.” This Year 10’s experience sums up much about life at Hurstpierpoint College. While he excels in academia and his main passion is for drama, this pupil joins in all aspects of school life with gusto, and always tries his best.
It’s an ethos of which Headmaster Tim Manly is extremely proud. “At Hurst we love our B,C,D and E teams. No-one’s beneath the radar and no-one’s on the bench. We encourage everyone to participate fully in school life, and to do their best in every area.” He discourages a culture where only some subjects are ‘cool’, and seeks an environment where every pupil can be themselves and fully enjoy their school experience. “It’s not about elites or tribes. Here, you tell the boys they’re doing dance and they’ll say ‘ok, I’ll give it a go’.”
This theme is evident throughout the school. Pupils are excited to explain the diversity of their experience and achievement. Rugby captain is also captain of the choir. You can be studying in state-of-the-art science labs one minute and kayaking the next. School day is long and jam-packed with inspiring opportunities.
Tim Manly has been headmaster since 2005, overseeing huge growth in pupil numbers and achievements, while preserving the friendly nature, ethos and character of the school, which was founded by Nathaniel Woodard in 1849.
More than 1,000 pupils aged 4-18 now attend Hurst. Some start in Pre-Prep or Prep, but many join from elsewhere for GCSEs and A levels. New pupils praise the friendly welcome they receive: “I settled in really quickly, and I love it. I get so much more help with my homework here. I’ve been able to try lots of new activities and I’m hoping to go on to study philosophy and psychology, subjects I wouldn’t have had the chance to study at my last school.”
There are ten school houses, providing day and boarding pupils with space to study, socialise and relax. House system also brings different year groups together, forming supportive friendships: “If I’m having a problem with my homework there’s always a teacher to help, but I can also ask a sixth former who’ll know all about it.” Another pupil added: “The teachers tell us, the worst thing you can do is not ask if you don’t understand something. They make you feel really comfortable and it’s not a problem if you need to ask for help.” Houses also enjoy fierce but friendly competition in sports, music, debating and general knowledge competitions.
Pupils speak passionately about the range of academic choice. “Languages like Latin and Ancient Greek are really good to do, and if you’re interested in a subject teachers are always ready to give you more to learn, they really stretch you.”
School has the oldest Shakespeare Society in existence, with a production every year. “Performing Shakespeare is so much fun, the teachers are great at explaining the language and putting it into context during our workshops. It’s a real benefit when we come to study Shakespeare in English later on,” a Year 10 student said. Shakespeare plays are just one part of the 20-plus productions staged each year. Drama rehearsals and workshops bring together pupils from across the school, creating a warm sense of community. Students also involved backstage preparations and direct shows. School’s own theatre offers a versatile large stage for dramatic and musical productions. Outside areas including picturesque Inner Quad also used for performances. Drama studio is loved by pupils as a more intimate setting for shows, with fully equipped dance studio next door.
“Performing Shakespeare is so much fun, the teachers are great at explaining the language and putting it into context during our workshops.”
Every pupil has the opportunity to learn a musical instrument in the Music School’s small practice rooms, it also has drum room and music tech facilities. Music hall hosts many concerts each term.
Set in 140 acres of beautiful Sussex countryside, there’s plenty of space for evolution. School has two astro-pitches in addition to a large multi-sports hall with gym and swimming pool. Pupils use the surrounding countryside for sailing, kayaking and for Duke of Edinburgh expeditions – all are encouraged to take silver and many Sixth Formers achieve gold.
Campus developments have seen state of the art facilities springing up and original parts of the school being repurposed. Large new library opened in September 2013, its former space now a new girls’ day house. New mezzanine floor in the beautiful chapel allows whole school to come together twice a week. St John’s Upper Sixth Halls of Residence provide a university-style environment, smoothing the path from school to further education.
Headmaster Tim Manly said: “It’s not about getting good results for the sake of the school. Children are at their best when they’re fully engaged, achieving and feeling confident. We tell them, you’ll be judged on two things: how you make the most of the opportunities and talents you have, and how you treat one another. If you get these things right, you’ll have a great time here.”
Judging by the results, students have been keen to accept this challenge.