Lancing College’s Chapel dominates the landscape, boldly announcing its presence in the peaceful countryside of the South Downs National Park. But there’s more to this school than grand Victorian buildings and superb academic record. It’s no pressure cooker, says Head Master Jonathan Gillespie, but a place for genuine self discovery and development.
“Lancing is an academic institution first and foremost, our raison d’être is entry into the top UK universities, and increasingly the American universities are on the horizon. Students spend five years here getting ready for their young adult lives. But school is not just about good grades on paper. Education is about so much more than that, it’s about learning the skills that allow you to stand on your own two feet; self-reliance, self-motivation, how to be a good leader, to recognise and be confident in your own strengths and, even more importantly, to recognise the areas where you’re not so strong so you can bring people with those skills into your team.”
Focussing on added value for each individual rather than league tables is important to Lancing’s ethos. Mr Gillespie is clear his goal is to ensure every pupil is free to grow into the person they want to become, rather than being pressed into a mould. Exam entry policy reflects the inclusive ethos of the school – no candidates are required to enter as private candidates rather than under the College’s name.
Built in 1848 by Christian educationalist Nathaniel Woodard, the senior school is set in 550 acres including its own working farm. Its stunning and ornate Chapel remains central to daily life at the school, used for gatherings as well as worship, but school is open to pupils from all religions, or none. Students join aged 13 or 16 and can take a wide range of GCSE and A level subjects.
Extensive refurbishment of original buildings is a continuing process. Science labs have been given a fresh new look. The Reeve Art School opened in 2008, a contemporary and original structure with spacious photographic and art studios, high ceilings and huge windows showing magnificent views to the sea, over surrounding farmland. Surely a perfect environment for nurturing creativity.
Rows of small practice rooms make up the Music School, with larger areas for groups to come together. There are a number of drama productions each year, and collaboration between music and drama in the form of a major musical production every two years.Usually staged in College’s own theatre, plays have also been put on in the Chapel crypt and a grand production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was performed in the main Chapel with spectacular results. Audience members to praise the show included former pupil Sir Tim Rice.
One student said: “I’m not the best actor, but we all get a chance to be involved here, and the shows are great fun. That’s the best thing about being at a school like this. You can try everything and really enjoy being a part of it all. It’s the same with sport – I love that I can try so many different things.”
Just like home
Sixty per cent of the 550 pupils are boarders, split into nine houses each with their own live-in staff. Houses are a mix of age groups, with younger pupils sharing rooms between two to five, and older students each having their own study bedroom.
“We have the same room for the whole year, so we really like to make it our own,” said one pupil. “I go home just about every weekend, but this is like the other half of my bedroom – I have my photos and posters up, it’s just like home.”
Most boarders come from Sussex and surrounding counties, but there are also overseas students, with 29 nationalities coming together in the classrooms. Lessons until 6pm during the week, some day pupils opt to stay until 9pm for the evening study sessions and clinics, giving them the same level of support as the boarders. School continues on Saturday morning, with sport matches held in the afternoon.
“In a changing world, timeless qualities are all the more important – integrity, honesty and reliability.”
Plans are already in the pipeline for a £10 million state-of-the-art sports hall, gym and swimming pool to replace existing facilities. This is part of the ten year development programme, and promises to attract talented and gifted pupils and make it a formidable sporting presence in the south-east.
Head Master Mr Gillespie said: “We may have Victorian buildings at our core, but we are a forward-thinking school. All pupils and staff will soon have a school iPad. We must embrace this technology as part of school life. But in a changing world, timeless qualities are all the more important – integrity, honesty and reliability.”
With this recipe of values, pastoral care and excellent facilities, Lancing College is sure to keep its fine reputation as a leading independent school.