What it's like
Founded in 1889 by Dr Cecil Reddie, the originator of a movement which led to the foundation of Bedales, Gordonstoun and similar schools; the pioneering methods have since been widely adopted. In 1969 it was one of the first boys' schools to become fully co-educational. Its handsome and well-equipped buildings lie in a beautiful 140 acre estate on the banks of the River Dove, in rural Derbyshire close to the Peak District. Facilities include a working farm, equestrian centre (BHS-approved), a multi-purpose sports hall, art, music, design and IT centres and a purpose-built studio theatre. A small, friendly school, with a progressive approach based on balance - an educational philosophy where academic, personal and social developments are given equal standing. It aims to give all pupils knowledge to facilitate success and achievement, commitment to nurture and care for the environment, challenges to build strength and test courage, cultural enrichment to widen perspective and responsibility for the needs of others. Boarding is in small friendly homes run by resident house parents as family units until the sixth form, when boarders live semi-independent lives in a log cabin complex in the school grounds. A staff:pupil ratio of about 1:8 ensures small classes and individual attention so that, by the sixth form, pupils have a solid foundation of independent study. Examination results are good and most sixth-form leavers go on to degree courses. Music, drama and art are all vigorously supported. A comprehensive range of activities is integral to the curriculum, including an outstanding outdoor education programme, which has taken pupils to all corners of the world. Membership of the Round Square provides a strong international perspective.
Pupils & entrance
Pupils: Age range 5-18; 330 pupils, 191 day (115 boys, 76 girls), 139 boarding (84 boys, 55 girls). Senior department 11-18, 230 pupils (140 boys, 90 girls). Entrance: Main entry ages 5-11, 13 and 16. Own assessment used; for sixth form entry, 6 GCSEs at least grade C (grade B in sixth form subjects). No special skills or religious requirements.
Scholarships & bursaries
Some scholarships awarded at 11 and 16, based on all round aptitude and attitude. Small number of bursaries for Old Abbotsholmians to send their children to the school
60% live within 30 miles, 17% live overseas.
Head & staff
Head: Steve Fairclough, appointed 2003. Teaching staff: 35 full time, 6 part time. Average turnover 6% pa. Average age 35.
GCSE: 30 pupils in Year 11. 87% gained at least grade C in 5+ subjects. A-levels: 22 in upper sixth, achieving an average final point score of 288.
82% of sixth form leavers go on to a degree course (30% after a gap year). 35% take courses in maths, science and engineering, 30% in business and social sciences, 35% in arts and languages. Others typically go on to further education, training or into employment.
GCSE, AS and A-levels (including vocational A-levels). 18 subjects at GCSE, 21 at AS/A-level including film studies, psychology and business studies; 1 vocational A-level. Sixth form: Most sixth formers take 4 subjects at AS-level, 3 at A-level, in addition to general studies AS-level (optional at A-level). 20% take science A-levels; 25% arts/humanities; 55% both. Vocational: Work experience organised. Vocational A-levels offered. Special provision: Specialist teachers for both dyslexia and EFL. Languages: French and Spanish offered at GCSE, AS and A-level. Regular joint ventures with schools worldwide for community service overseas. ICT: Taught both as a discrete subject and across the curriculum. Wireless computer network throughout school; pupils can work from school computers or their own and access the school system via the internet.
Music: About 60% of pupils learn a musical instrument; instrumental exams can be taken (pupils regularly achieve grade 8). Many musical groups including orchestra, choir, jazz band. Drama: GCSE drama and AS/A-level theatre studies offered. Many pupils involved in major school productions. Art and design: Popular at both GCSE and A-level. Engineering and pottery also popular.
Sports & activities
Sport: Rugby, soccer, cricket, tennis, swimming, athletics, netball, hockey, rounders, badminton, squash, volleyball; all optional to some extent from Year 11. County representatives at cricket, rugby, hockey, netball and riding. Activities: Outdoor education a particular feature; large numbers take bronze, silver and gold Duke of Edinburgh's Award. Community service compulsory for a term at age 14, then optional. Conservation has a high profile (recently won a national Queen's Anniversary Award). Many clubs and activities such as film-making, cooking, art, clay-pigeon shooting, riding, electronics, pot holing, abseiling, Warhammer.
Uniform: School uniform worn; business suits in sixth form. Houses and prefects: Competitive houses. Head boy/girl and prefects elected by the school but appointed by the Headmaster. Religion: Attendance at religious knowledge compulsory. Social: Academic lectures, university visits, debating competitions, theatre and concert visits, expeditions. Annual French and Spanish trips (Years 7-11), Round Square exchange students (Germany, Canada, America, South Africa, Australia, India) and international service projects. Pupils allowed to bring own bikes and horses. Meals self-service. School tuck shop. No alcohol allowed.
Pupils failing to produce homework once could expect work to be re-done under supervision in detention; those caught taking drugs on the premises could expect their right to stay at the school withdrawn.
10% have own study bedrooms; 90% share with 1-3 others. Single-sex houses of 18-25. Qualified health advisor on site. Pupils can provide and cook own food. Flexible weekend exeats (arranged with house parent). Visits to the local town arranged twice a week for all ages - younger ones only in a group.
Association of former pupils
(The Abbotsholmians Club) run by Mr Derek Sederman, c/o the school