Named after Britain’s most famous military commander, Wellington College has
been the very model of British schooling for over 150 years. Located in a 400
acre estate, the college is surrounded by beautiful grounds; you’d be hard
pushed to find another such a rural setting in close proximity to London.
Founded to support children of deceased officers who had held commissions in
the Army, Wellington has moved on and only a small minority at the school come
from military families. Avant garde as ever, the school admitted its first
girls into Sixth Form in the 1970s; in 2006 become fully coeducational.
Wellington’s website lays claim to be “a fusion of originality, innovation and
150 years of tradition and history produces an education unlike any other”.
Background and Reputation
Amongst all the pomp and ceremony that goes with the most traditional of
public schools, something bizarre has happened – namely the current
‘commander’ Dr Anthony Seldon. With his new outlook and cutting-edge approach,
Wellington now finds itself as the ‘alternative’ choice. With a CV nearly as
long as some of his pupils’ double-barrelled names, Dr. Seldon is anything but
dull. Surprisingly hands on, the Headmaster has been attracting both praise
and criticism from parents and pupils alike since taking control in 2006.
Wellington broke ranks and adopted the IB Diploma Program alongside A Levels.
Being the first independent school to introduce the Middle Years Programme as
an alternative to GCSEs, the school is far from being stuck in the mud.
Alongside these educational changes comes Anthony Seldon’s ‘Eight Aptitudes’
approach to teaching: linguistic, logical, cultural, physical, spiritual,
moral, personal and social. According to their website this is, “Wellington’s
way of ensuring that we pay attention to the many different types of
intelligence evident in the children we are educating and encourages the staff
to think across the aptitudes in order to develop the whole child.” Happy to
look outside the British school system for new ideas, Wellington College is
quickly becoming one of the most successful secondary educational places in
the country. Indeed, the very model of a modern Major-General.
Academic and Exit Results
While the introduction of Well-Being and Happiness lessons might send
prospective parents running (and perhaps the Iron Duke himself), Wellington’s
academic results speak for themselves. It is no mere coincidence that
Wellington’s advance up the league tables has been brisk since Dr Seldon’s
arrival. He is determined to position Wellington as a ‘world class’ school,
‘world’ being the operative word. He has taken inspiration from top American
high schools and has introduced a number of (arguably cringey) graduation and
award giving ceremonies as well as a swanky new ‘E-learning centre’ that
houses all the typical mod-cons and laughs in the face of the poor blackboard.
Yankiphobes take heed. It is, however, clear that these Amercianisms are not
deterring parents; pupil intake is soaring, hitting 1000 students in 2012 (up
by over 300 from 2005). The pessimists amongst you might note however that
this considerable rise in popularity coincided with Wellington becoming fully
coeducational. His globalised approach to education is not limited to the
ceremonial side of things or to the new-age learning; his enthusiasm for
modern languages is verging on the obsessive, and by ‘modern’ we don’t mean
French and Spanish. Seldon knows only too well that the sun rises in the East
and his new, impressive ‘Modern Languages Institute’ sees pupils learning
Mandarin, Cantonese and, would you believe it, Hebrew! Fear not, Classicists
amongst you, Latin and Greek have not been forgotten. Seldon has every right
to be proud of Wellington’s academic achievements – 2012’s A-level results saw
65 per cent of pupils getting A*s-As. If we are to throw one criticism at the
reformative headmaster, whose zeal is reminiscent of Dr. Arnold’s, then it
would be that he has not focussed as much of his attention as one would expect
on providing SEN support. The well-known saying “you’re only as fast as your
slowest team member” seems largely to have been ignored. “Not really somewhere
for anyone who struggles to keep up”, warned a mother.
Social and Pastoral
As with so many other boarding schools, there are strong house identities.
Structured vertically to ensure that friendships occur across the age groups,
there is a real sense of “house community”. The majority of pastoral care is
found within the houses; with housemasters and mistresses taking their
responsibility of loco parentis very seriously, they are the first port of
call for students with any worries. Day pupils are assigned a ‘day house’ so
aren’t left out of enjoying the excitement of inter-house competitions. For
those considering starting as a day pupil and possibly transitioning to
boarding, there is the option of being assigned a boarding house (an extra
£1000 per term) from the get-go. Not remotely lenient as far as drugs are
concerned “and don’t we know it”, confirms pupil A.
Sport, Art, Music and Drama
Accommodated in the vast grounds are very impressive sports facilities. It’s
the normal story of a successful sporty school making a conscious effort to
offer more than purely the ‘rugger field’ and this is evident in their chess,
shooting and polo teams. Their weeklong summer ‘Arts Fest’ was a resounding
success with displays of varied artistic mediums filling two spacious
buildings. A school perhaps not as geared towards music as others, it still
can boast a strong college orchestra, with an impressive number of pupils at
grade 8 level. Drama is supported by a new and lavish theatre with the
eccentric headmaster himself directing one play a year.
In line with expectations, the boys and girls are open to a wide range of
options from day trips, guest speakers and there’s always room for the Airfix