A leading school in the rural setting of a small market town in Leicestershire, Uppingham offers a full boarding experience and broad curriculum to 800 students from across the UK and overseas.
Founded in 1584, Uppingham was originally a boys-only boarding school, and alumni include comedian and actor Stephen Fry. Today, this co-ed school believes in breadth and flexibility, giving its students the freedom to follow a wide variety of paths to university – and a wide choice of A Level subjects. It’s a school where “academic ambition matters” and where teachers aim to “bring out the best” in students both intellectually and creatively.
Headteacher Dr Richard J Maloney was previously the head of Bede’s Senior School; he joined the school in 2016.
Uppingham has attracted media attention in recent years for its outward looking polices. In 2018, the school said it would allow a boy to wear a skirt if requested. Uppingham already uses gender-neutral terms like “pupils” rather than girls and boys, and said it was taking this step for its pupils who identify with a gender they were not born with. In 2020, the school introduced its own Covid-19 test and trace system and purchased its own supply of antigen and antibody testing kits, to ensure that all students could return to the classroom as early as possible.
Uppingham has developed its own curriculum that is as challenging as it is broad.
In the first year (Fourth Form) students study a full range of subjects to prepare them for the second and third years (Lower Fifth and Upper Fifth) when they take their GCSE subjects – English, Mathematics, Sciences and a modern foreign language (French, German, Spanish or Mandarin) – alongside their chosen options.
In the Sixth Form, Uppingham offers a very wide range of 26 A Level subjects, as well as a BTEC in Sport; it promises to give students “as much freedom as possible in their choice of subjects at this level”.
There doesn’t appear to be a ‘typical’ Uppingham student, which is a reflection of the school’s flexibility. It offers equal encouragement to students who choose contrasting subjects (for example, French, maths and biology) and to those wanting to specialise (physics, chemistry and maths).
Beyond the classroom, there’s an enrichment programme offering creative arts and academic clubs, community and charity work, the Combined Cadet Force to the Duke of Edinburgh’s award scheme, and much more. It’s built into the school day, so students are actively encouraged to broaden their horizons. There are also many trips and tours to support learning in the classroom, from a Classics tour to Greece to a history trip to Russia.
Music is described as a “way of life here”, and you’ll find many students play at least one instrument. There are three music schools on campus, equipped with state-of-the art music technology and performance spaces; a wide choice of specialist groups such as the bagpipe band, percussion ensemble, guitar ensemble and wind quintet; and many opportunities to perform from lunchtime to performances at prestigious venues such as Trinity College and the Royal Albert Hall.
Uppington is equally focused on the arts, with opportunities to join LAMDA lessons, the Drama Society or perform in house plays and annual productions as varied as Oliver, Frankenstein and Legally Blonde. As “every aspect of staging our shows is pupils-led”, students can get involved on and off stage – and that may be in the school’s 300-seat theatre or adjoining 160-seat black box drama studio.
There’s also huge encouragement for art and DT. The school’s outstanding Leonardo Centre, with facilities including 3D printing, CAD design and laser cutting technology, ceramics and sculpture studios, photography, sound and video engineering studios, a fully equipped fashion and textile studio, and specialist resistant-materials workshops is open seven days a week.
Sport is not overlooked either judging by the variety of competitive and recreational sports on offer here. These range from mainstream options such as football, rugby, cricket, netball, hockey, athletics, swimming and tennis to additional choices such as volleyball, badminton, lacrosse, rounders, dance, squash and basketball. Facilities are impressive at the Uppingham School Sports Centre, which houses a six-lane 25m swimming pool, a 62-station fitness studio, three squash courts, a gymnasium, two dance studios, and six-court sports hall; there are also 12 tennis courts.
Uppingham performs highly in both A Level and GCSE results.
In 2020, 66% of GCSE grades awarded were 9-8 (it was 53% in 2020) and 85% were 9-7 grades.
In the same year, 52% of A Level grades awarded were A* or equivalent, with 85.1% A*A; 69% of students gained straight A*-A grades.
Some students receive offers for Oxbridge each year (four in 2020), while the majority go to highly regarded UK universities with Exeter, Durham, Newcastle, and Edinburgh topping the list.
Uppingham has 15 boarding houses located in the town and on the outskirts; these include nine houses for boys aged 13 to 18, five houses for girls aged 13 to 18, and one house dedicated to Sixth Formers. Although the houses are not ‘on campus’, they are within walking distance of the school and students do pop back for lunch. Before joining the school, families usually visit up to five houses before deciding which house is right for their child.
There’s a housemaster or housemistress and their family living in each house, which helps to create a very family-orientated environment; there’s also a matron in each house to care for the day-to-day health of pupils in the house. Houses eat together at every mealtime.
While the school is very focused on creating a home from home within each house, it also builds a whole-school community by holding plenty of competitions between the houses in sport, music, debating and general knowledge.
The main point of entry is Fourth Form (Year 9) at the age of 13, and there are 90 places for boys and 60 for girls. Students come from more than 80 different schools, including some overseas; up to 20% may not have English as their first language and a further 4% are from British expat families.
Prospective students sit a number of pre-tests, as well as an interview and extended writing task. As well as assessing academic standards, Uppingham makes it very clear that it is looking for enthusiasm!
“Pupils need to be prepared to get involved and to engage with the wide array of activities and opportunities that make our school so distinctive.”
There is no weekly or flexi-boarding at Uppingham – and most students choose full boarding.
Annual fees are £24,450 (day) and £39,492 (boarding).
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