Ampleforth

Logo of Ampleforth

Pupils Info

Gender – Co-Ed School
Age range – Age 13-18
Number of pupils on roll – 609 Pupils

Characteristics

Average Class Size: 22
Day and Boarding School
Oxbridge Entrance Percentage: 9%
Day: £20 133 – Boarding: £30 264
A* to B at A-Level Percentage: 72%

SUMMARY

There are few schools that can compete with Ampleforth in terms of having such beautiful grounds. The school buildings are arranged higgledy-piggledy around the Abbey and surrounding this is 3000 acres of magnificent rolling countryside. If you stand outside the Abbey on an autumnal afternoon, looking across the valley, you can’t help but understand why Yorkshire was dubbed “God’s own country”. Founded in 1802 by Benedictine monks, Ampleforth has grown exponentially both in terms of student numbers and the buildings that they occupy. Some of the more modern buildings are, shall we say, less aesthetically pleasing than they could be, but this is only highlighted by the otherwise spectacular surroundings. It feels incredibly remote, which may be why 30 per cent of the students come from Yorkshire, but in surprisingly it is only 1 hour 45 minutes from Kings Cross to York on the fast train so, London parents, don’t be put off.

Background and Reputation

Benedictine values are inherent; the school’s guiding principles still come from The Rule of St. Benedict who, if the school and its pupils are anything to go by, must have been a very sensible chap. They pride themselves on their varied intake – an increasing number coming from non-Catholic and occasionally even non-faith backgrounds (though they do make the point on their website that Christians and Catholics are likely to benefit the most from this type of education; fair enough). It is important not to make the mistake of thinking the monks must be a bunch of introverted fuddy-duddies; they are far from that. Quiet-spoken Headmaster, Father Gabriel Everitt is very worldly-wise and seems completely aware of the challenges and potential limitations of a spiritual education. Therefore rather than attempting to turn all the pupils into overlypious theologians, they are content with instilling in them what they term a “compass for life”. Certainly the boys and girls we spoke seemed to have strong moral bearings, an appreciation of their surroundings and, most notably, a delightful loyalty and affection for the monks (not in an odd way, I promise). Past pupils grin like Cheshire cats when they recall memories of their school days, and it’s not all about Mass and theology, trust me. They are a practical, sparky, down-to-earth bunch and the boys, compared to many of their contemporaries, are remarkably gentlemanly. It seems chivalry is not dead; at least not in Yorkshire. They live by an admirable ethos that ‘the strong should have something to strive for and the weak nothing to run from’ (an extract from The Rule of St. Benedict) and this is reflected in the school’s mission statement: we ask much of the gifted and encourage the weak. It obviously works given that one of the past students we spoke to was from the fourth generation of Old Aplefordians; though she “was the first girl”.

Academic and Exit Results

Ampleforth is, by no stretch of the imagination, an academic hothouse. This is not a criticism; just as most of us shouldn’t aspire to be Linford Christie, Amplefordians shouldn’t aspire to be Einstein. Though there are ambitions to improve in this area, we hope that this won’t be at the expense of the school’s charm – there are plenty of other options for parents wanting their children to get straight A’s and life shouldn’t be dominated by league tables. Ampleforth pitches itself perfectly between the likes of Milton Abbey and Harrow; though with slightly more Christian zeal. That said they shouldn’t be ashamed of their results: last year’s a-level results saw 77 per cent achieving grades A* – B; perfectly respectable. The overall aim is that everyone tries their best and that is commendable.

Social and Pastoral

There are a total of ten boarding houses, three for the girls and seven for the boys. One of the most notable changes over the last few years has been that the monks are no longer housemasters. They have been replaced by families but have remained as ‘house chaplains’. There is an on-going improvement project with the boarding houses, so it’s certainly worth scoping the place out before selecting one. The girls have integrated well and have nice purpose-built houses. On arrival, they are each assigned ‘guardian angels’ in the form of peer mentors with whom they form reciprocal supportive relationships. With only two exeats a year (both in the winter term) many parents who live in other parts of the country choose to rent cottages in Ampleforth village. This creates a cosy atmosphere with parents becoming involved in school life (or as much as they want to be). With 30 per cent of the pupils coming from overseas, many are informally ‘adopted’ by locals and are often invited to lunch or for exeat weekends. The monks provide “friendly, balanced advice that I would certainly come back for once I’ve left the school” confides pupil. There seems to be an excellent rapport between staff and pupils and the disciplinary system is based on this mutual respect.

Sport, Music, Art and Drama

They make up for what they lack in the classroom on the sports field and can boast an unbeaten boys’ hockey team. Ampleforth has excellent sporting facilities – including their own 9-hole golf course. There is a good design and technology department in which the boys and girls learn practical skills including electronics. There’s a strong focus on DofE and CCF, in which the girls are successfully encouraged to take part; much to their delight, they beat the boys last year in the CCF Challenge. The music, as one would expect from a Catholic school, is outstanding. The choirs are often invited to sing in Catholic and Anglican cathedrals and often perform in the Abbey, where touchingly there are a considerable number of past pupils’ weddings. Not surprisingly with such beautiful grounds as inspiration, some truly wonderful landscapes hang in the art schools – both modern and ‘trad’ in style.

Extracurricular

The evening activities (between 5 – 7pm) are compulsory. The monks live by the mantra that to be busy is to be happy and the pupils adopt this attitude enthusiastically. They certainly know how to have fun. Activities range from the more mainstream (golf) to the slightly more obscure (stripping down a Land Rover to rebuild it the next week). They’ll certainly know how to change a tyre. There is an excellent philanthropic side to the school. They have their own charity that raised funds to build a school in Nepal. There is an annual ‘pilgrimage’ to Lourdes, families are welcome to join. Many continue to go long after leaving school; “you have no idea; it really isn’t what you’d expect; it’s actually really great fun for somewhere people usually go because they’re really ill or about to die!”

Contact

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