Holyport College heralds a new chapter in Free School education

Walter Boyle, Head Teacher of Holyport College, with some of the pupils Lynda Bowyer

The provision of free school education was ushered into a new era recently with the opening of Holyport College here in the Royal County.

Benefiting from Government funding in addition to the resources and establishment of long-standing prestigious public school Eton College in Windsor, Holyport College is a free school for children aged 11 to 19 based in the outskirts of Holyport, Berkshire. Eton College has helped to support and shape Holyport College prior to its opening in the form of sole educational sponsorship provision, and by taking a leading role on the Governing Body. Now that the school is open, Holyport pupils are able to use some of Eton College’s facilities, particularly for sport, and also join in educational activities at Eton College. For example, pupils can take part in rowing as a sporting activity using the facilities at Eton Dorney or play their home rugby fixtures on the pitches at Eton College. They are also able to attend speaker meetings at Eton College in the evenings, and also work on specific educational initiatives for the benefit of pupils in both Colleges.

The school has day pupils from which it attracts admissions from over 65 feeder schools within its catchment area around the Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. The admissions criteria is considerably different for boarding pupils, many of whom come from outwith the county. The vision and ethos of the school is to develop pupils’ full personal, physical and social potential, and provide them with the relevant tools to go and lead independent and purposeful lives.

Headteacher, Walter Boyle said: “We are very lucky have had such generous funding from the Government and also from Eton College to provide the educational provision we have here at Holyport College. We currently have 123 pupils, but will end up in four to five years’ time with a maximum of 500.”

Tradition is an important part of school life at Holyport College, reflecting the heritage gained from its ties with Eton. From the delicate use of Eton Blue colouring in the school uniform to the annual Thanksgiving and Carol Services held at the Chapel in the grounds of Eton College, Holyport pupils will receive an education which optimises their potential and provides them with lifelong skills. Mr Boyle said: “We have a complete inclusion policy here at Holyport. Each Thursday, everyone, including teaching and administrative staff, takes part in choir practice. We want our pupils to know everyone in the school and an inclusive activity such as choir practice helps facilitate this. These are small things in the whole scheme of things, but they cement the relationship between the pupils and staff, and also between the two schools.”

The traditional ethos is echoed in every aspect of school life at Holyport. Mr Boyle continued: “We have children of all faiths at Holyport as we are a pan-denominational school, but the way in we treat each other reflects traditional Christian values which, if anything, are values which span all denominations.”

Mr Boyle stands proudly outside Winton House at Holyport College

He added: “We are proud to be a boarding school. We make no apology for being a boarding school. We tell our prospective parents that if they want their child to benefit from being a Holyport pupil, then boarding is the better option to make the most of our very demanding curriculum. Our school days are from 8:30am until 5:30pm, so being a pupil here at Holyport is not just to receive an education, but it’s a way of life.”

Pupils are positive and hugely enthusiastic about their experiences at Holyport College so far. Year 9 student Rayyan Chagani is 13. He said: “This is a nice school. I like how it looks. I board here and believe it will give me a great education.”

Ellie Johnson is 13 and lives locally in Fifield. She said: “I like it here because we do lots of sport. I’m a gymnast, so I love the facilities here.”

13-year old Sean Douglas also lives locally to Holyport College and as a day pupil he travels daily into College. He said: “I love the fact that the College is new. It is fun to learn here; the teachers are friendly and the classes are quite advanced.”

Zara Dixon, 11, is in Year 7 and is a full-time boarding pupil from Hampshire. She said: “It’s a lot to get used to but it’s really good fun. Boarding school is a huge difference for me but I have made some good friends. I love that the teachers are always smiling and happy, and I love learning History here.”

Hugo Huggins is 13 and from Windsor. Like Zara above, he also boards full-time at Holyport College. “I love that it’s a brand new school,” he commented. “Here we have lessons that are 45 minutes long so we get to learn a lot more. I particularly like art and mathematics.”

Bursaries are available for students across Years 7 and 9, with four places available in total. One place is reserved for a child from any military family and the remaining three are for children from low-income families who would be expected to thrive in a boarding environment.

To find out more about Holyport College, visit www.holyportcollege.org.uk, or follow them on Twitter @HolyportCollege. Alternatively you can contact them during office hours on (01628) 640150.

Dawn Price, Finance Officer and Mr Boyle in the newly-renovated interior

Pictures: Lynda Bowyer