A school which is going from strength to strength under the strong leadership of its dynamic headmaster. It is now the first choice for many parents who would traditionally have sent their children further afield. We tried hard to elicit negatives from parents, but everyone was universal in their praise. Fantastic value added, where each child is tracked and challenged to reach their full potential in all areas of their lives, and where they are encouraged to push themselves beyond their comfort zone.
Since 2005, Mr Tim Manly BA MSc (mid-forties). Educated at St Edward’s Oxford followed by Oriel College, Oxford where he read classics. He had always wanted to go into the teaching profession and after six years as a headhunter in the City and an MSc in industrial relations from the LSE, he went to Cambridge to do his PGCE at the age of 30. Says it was the best decision he ever made and has never looked back. Spent six years at Sevenoaks, where he became head of classics and housemaster, before moving to Oakham as deputy head. Married to Henny; they have four children in the school.
He arrived when Hurst was treading water and has taken it from strength to strength and increased the numbers from 630 to 1,030 (for all three schools). He has raised the intellectual atmosphere, but 'feels that academic achievement is not an end in itself but a key to future success - life is about personal bests and engaging with opportunities'. Manners, civility and courtesy are his personal crusades, and pupils are strongly encouraged to write thank you letters and reply to invitations. He is a man of extraordinary energy who does not believe in down time, apart from the odd brief escape to his cottage in Wales. Feels there is no room for complacency as things can slip very quickly. The staff room has been revitalised, and about 70 per cent of teaching staff have joined since he took over. One pupil said, ‘The headmaster makes people want to do well for him’. His door is always open and he knows children and parents by name.
In 2011, 47 per cent A*/A at A level, 60 per cent A*/A at GCSE. Strong sciences and maths at A level. Pupils can do A level in their native language eg Dutch and Polish. IB offered since September 2011 with the first exams to be held in 2013 – about 20 students have opted for this in each of the first two years. The school offers the A1 language paper in German. The head would like to see the IB embedded as a viable alternative to A levels and would like about 40 to choose IB each year whilst 100 do A levels. About 30 per cent of A level students take the extended project qualification. Need to get an A or A* in GCSE in subjects to be studied at A Level or IB.
Challenge grades are particularly popular with parents. Based on IQ tests, an ambitious but, with hard work, achievable grade is set at the beginning of each academic year. Children are assessed through challenge grade reviews every three to four weeks and these, accompanied by teacher comments and a graph to plot progress, are emailed directly to parents. ‘Problems are picked up as soon as they arise and there are no nasty surprises,' says one happy parent. Children meet their tutors each week to discuss academic progress. There is a strong work ethic throughout the school; children are set extra work during the holidays and half term and are encouraged to take initiative and responsibility in all aspects of their lives.
Good SEN department with three full-time and four part-time teachers - about 15 per cent of pupils need some support, mainly for mild dyslexia and dyspraxia; this is charged for.
Foreign nationals who want to join the sixth form are screened for English before arrival. EAL compulsory for anyone who needs it and is included in full boarding fee for international students. Although there is a well-stocked library, the use of text books is diminishing in favour of electronic media; increasingly, work is done on subsidised iPads, and the academic block bristles with Apple Macs. Plenty of careers guidance - sixth formers are given interview skills coaching and help with writing cvs. Parents and pupils can attend presentations on UCAS and there are gap year fairs and seminars. All are encouraged to take part in Young Enterprise initiative where pupils have the opportunity to create and run their own business – they were the local prize winners for best company in 2011 and 2012. OJ Club of former pupils very supportive of the careers programme and many come back to make careers presentations and offer executive shadowing schemes.
Games are compulsory in the first year but after that, those who hate team sports can do something else eg outdoor pursuits or health-related fitness programme monitored by the school. Lots of enthusiastic teachers mean that most people find something they enjoy – biking, surfing, kayaking, sailing etc. Everyone has to do at least three exercise sessions a week, reducing to two in the sixth form, and most girls keep going with sport. Minor sports include fencing golf, shooting, triathlon, power-walking and riding - Hurst sponsors the annual schools' competition at Hickstead. House and inter-school competitions in the major sports and many minor sports eg water polo and cross-country running. 'Everyone has a chance to play in a team if they want to – the school will put together a team and find a fixture.' Everyone encouraged to have a go and 'you don’t have to be good but just have fun' – it is hoped pupils will find a sport they want to continue after they leave. Lots of sport played at county level and occasionally pupils are selected to represent their country.
Vibrant music department with orchestra, jazz band and wind band as well as various ensembles and quartets; some 140 in the choir and about half learn a musical instrument. Class music compulsory in Shell (year 9) and the whole school is involved in some way in the annual house music competition.
Huge range of activities from car racing to rock climbing and all Remove (year 10) do silver Duke of Edinburgh award through the CCF. The school has set up a farming project in conjunction with Plumpton College with pigs (one of the pigs is used for the Boar's Head Feast), chickens, fruit trees and a conservation group where children can learn countryside skills like hedge-laying. The aim is that they discover what they enjoy and develop life-long hobbies and interests.
Art room open to all – not just those studying for public exams. Photography, textiles, ceramics, sculpture graphics as well as drawing and painting. Drama is offered at GCSE and A level as well as an extra-curricular activity. There is a Shakespeare play each year and a musical most years as well as lots of small productions in the drama studio – often student directed. Nineteen productions in 2011. There is a playwright in residence with weekly workshops for those who want to write for theatre.
Dance compulsory for Shell (Year 9) and is also offered at GCSE and A level. Increasingly popular with boys and girls – contemporary dance, breakdancing, hip hop, street dance all offered. Trips all over the world - community expedition to Malawi, cultural exchange to China, plus subject trips to eg Italy, Barcelona, Iceland.
Founded in Shoreham in 1849 by the educational pioneer Nathaniel Woodard. It moved to its present purpose-built site in 1853 and the chapel was finished in 1865 - a beacon of Victorian muscular Christianity. Set in 140 acres, with views to the South Downs and surrounded by playing fields. From a distance it could be mistaken for a monastic community, but this first impression belies a vibrant and forward-looking school. Constant updating and refurbishment – the science and DT blocks were refurbished, the new academic quad was unveiled and the second Astroturf completed all in 2011.
The mantra ‘achieving your personal best’ permeates all aspects of school life, not just academic but also participation in sport and clubs, activities and social relationships. When the school was founded in the 19th century, ‘ancient’ ceremonies were introduced to give it a feeling of tradition and history. There are banner ceremonies and on Ascension Day, everyone climbs the nearby Wolstonbury Hill for a special service, and the headmaster distributes ‘Lowe’s Dole’, money left by the first headmaster for the choir. The Boar’s Head procession and Feast at the end of the Michaelmas term, when a boar’s head is carried through the cloisters accompanied by the choir singing a 16th century hymn, is one of the highlights of the school year.
About 60 per cent board to some degree – mostly flexi, often three nights a week, but over 100 weekly boarders. Full boarding not offered until sixth form and tends to be for foreign nationals. There are 10 houses up to lower sixth divided into day and flexi-boarding – with a strong system of pastoral care and communal responsibility and a tradition of inter-house competition. There is a robust anti-bullying policy, a representative from each year group in each house sits on the school council, and house guardians are chosen for their approachability to discuss any social issues within the house. The lower sixth act as prefects, mentor the younger children, are responsible for the day-to-day running of the houses and supervise prep and lights out. Sniffer dogs and random drugs testing from time to time – all sounds a bit alarming but Hurst does not have a drugs problem.
Upper sixth has its own house, St John’s, which is set apart from the main school buildings and is more like a hall of residence where everyone has their own study bedroom. Co-ed, with girls and boys in separate wings, which are alarmed at night. Students have their own common-room, kitchen, computer room and laundry room. They run their own lives, but are not cut off from the rest of the school, and organise school functions and charity events; all the sixth form have to do some form of community service.
Hurst is a Christian school and the chaplain plays a major part in school life, but Christianity is not imposed on anyone. Pupils encouraged to recognise spiritual dimension and to develop a strong moral compass and sense of duty. Compulsory Friday evening chapel marks the end of the school week. No Saturday school, just sport, activities and play rehearsals.
Around 95 per cent live within about 45-50 minute drive. Head wants to keep the school local with an international dimension. Tweeded landed gentry, city commuters, medics and local farmers and businessmen. Good network of school mini buses run morning and evening from as far away as Hove, Copthorne, Lewes, Seaford, Forest Row and Horsham. 'Very parent friendly, and school bends over backwards to make life easy for parents,' says one working mother – the weekly and flexi-boarding option and no Saturday school particularly popular. Parents particularly praise the very good communication via emails and newsletters and the regular parent-teacher meetings Active parents’ association run social events - coffee mornings, barbecues, interhouse quizzes and the Christmas fair.
Famous former pupils include Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, chief of the defence staff in the Gulf War, various MPs and ambassadors, former general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, Sir David Hart, actor Michael York and film director Ronald Neame.
Not hugely selective, with 55 per cent pass rate at common entrance. Keeping a fairly broad church becomes increasingly difficult as the waiting list grows. School’s own exams in English, Science and Maths for those coming from schools which do not prepare for CE. Doesn't cull after GCSEs. Many come up from Hurst’s own prep school; others come from local prep schools, eg Windlesham House, Great Ballard, Dorset House, Great Walstead, Pennthorpe, St Aubyns, Westbourne House and Handcross Park. Some from local primaries and a few from London day schools. Some 40-50 join in sixth form. Need an A* or A in subjects to be studied plus a minimum of a C in maths and English or the equivalent in home country. Occasionally spaces in year 10 at start of GCSE course – entry by school’s own tests. Almost at capacity, with waiting lists in some years – does not want to get much bigger as will grow out of the chapel – already building a gallery.
About 20 leave after GCSEs often to go to sixth form colleges - do not lose any to competitor schools. Send to a wide range of universities including several to Oxbridge each year. Others to a good range of universities to do eg medicine and veterinary science, others to more creative courses eg theatre studies at Leeds, creative writing at Royal Holloway and music production at Leeds College of Music. About half take a gap year.
Means-tested bursaries, sibling discounts and special bursaries to help children of former pupils. Range of awards at 13+ and for the sixth form – academic, art, sport, drama and IT worth up to £1,600 per term can be topped up by means-tested bursaries. Also means-tested bursaries to take a child to the next stage if parents experience financial hardship.
19 May 2013