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The Good Schools Guide

Review of Lord Wandsworth College

Our View

Long known to us, never before thought worth a place in the Guide, Lord Wandsworth was an Ugly Duckling whose spring has arrived in the shape of a fine headmaster. Well on the way to Swan-dom.

Background and Atmosphere

Created in 1912 under the will of Sydney James Stern, Lord Wandsworth. Twelve hundred acres of Hampshire chalk down were bought as a refuge for agricultural orphans, the occupations provided drifting gradually away from manual to academic toil, taking fee-paying pupils soon after the last world war. Well spread out in these rather bare uplands, looking much like a 20th century Hampshire village, never inspiring in its architecture but not offensive either. Main campus pleasingly higgledy-piggledy. Glorious feeling of surrounding space, though children not allowed unsupervised access to the wilder bits, or the working farm. The care of orphans remains central to the school’s identity and ethos, though with the current death of gruesome agricultural accidents the school no longer asks for a farming background.

Foundationers, as they are known, make up 10 per cent of the school population, are heavily supported financially (about eight per cent of fee income is used, with the full support of those paying, for this purpose), and fit seamlessly into this unpretentious school. As long as Foundation candidates are up to the school’s entrance standards they are chosen on the basis of need, not performance: the objective is to do well by the children, not flatter the school’s exam and sporting performance with imported superstars.

Parents speak of an immensely friendly school, the head of personal growth and character. And, with the inevitable exception of the boys’ changing rooms, it smells good too. ‘The school understands parents, opens its arms to them, says “how can we help – how can you help’. Lots of parental involvement with the school as a result. ‘I am as much a part of LWC as my son is’. School runs from 8:30 in the morning to 3:45 in the afternoon, but it rarely works out that way. What with activities (so many, so well run, so enthusiastically enjoyed), and friendships, and homework, and boarders to set the pace, parents report days that run till 8 or even 9:30pm – and then there’s the flexi-boarding: occasional nights at any time and at short notice, but if you contract for three nights a week you get ‘your own bed’ (we think this means a dedicated bed, rather than not having to sleep top to tail) and competitive rates.

Boarding in comfortable houses: nice study/recreation areas (mostly), restrained decoration, comfortable dormitories with engaging personalities – but too many blank pin boards and animal-free beds. No nasties, a certain amount of mess and tubs of Promax and Diet Fuel for the sports-mad boys. Mixed-sex house (but separate dormitories) for the first two years, separate houses thereafter. Weekends properly provided for, with trips and films. The film 300 is a favourite with the boys: ‘an inspiring story about duty and loyalty, courage and honour’ or, according to A O Scott’s review, ‘about as violent as Apocalypto and twice as stupid’.

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