Free school story: Holyport College | newschoolsnetwork.org

Free school story: Holyport College

Holyport College, which was officially opened by the Her Majesty the Queen in 2014, was established in connection with Eton College and became the first free school in England to offer boarding.

The school replicates the academic aspirations and exemplary pastoral care currently provided by Eton College and aims to be of particular benefit to the most disadvantaged.

The school, which is already well oversubscribed, caters for boys and girls aged 11-19, with a sixth form set to open in 2017. Unusually, the school has entry point in year 7 and year 9 and caters for 500 pupils: 225 boarders and 275 day pupils.

As the sole educational sponsor, Eton College has had a considerable influence on Holyport’s approach to education, supporting and shaping the school by taking a leading role on the governing body. In accordance with Eton’s approach, Holyport’s curriculum is based on a holistic boarding school ethos, with small class sizes, an emphasis on enrichment opportunities and a focus on traditional subjects.

Pupils at Holyport benefit from the free use of some of Eton’s facilities, notably its sports pitches, and lessons from some of its teaching staff in subjects such as Art and Classics. Other initiatives to encourage links between pupils at the two schools include Holyport’s pupils being able to attend Eton’s diverse array of society and speaker meetings, and boys from Eton coming to Holyport once a week to offer mentoring.

The school’s Head Master, Walter Boyle, believes passionately in the benefits of boarding, having previously been the Deputy Head of Wymondham College, an ‘Outstanding’ state boarding school in Norfolk. His experiences have shown him how it can particularly support the most vulnerable, since, "if you take children out of chaotic home environments, if you can give them a nice stable environment in which they can live and learn, that can be the break the child needs to get the grades to enable them to go to university.”

Through the provision of a number of bursaries and a commitment to working with local authorities to help place children who are on the edge of being put into care, Holyport is able to deliver an exceptional education for all children, regardless of their background. As Boyle explains, “There's no academic selection for the school. We are an all-ability comprehensive school. We don't want people thinking it's just for people from more advantageous backgrounds. The majority of our day pupils are just ordinary kids who live locally."