LVS Ascot is a non-selective, co-ed school offering day and boarding for children aged 4-18. You’ll find it on a leafy road, close to Ascot Racecourse, and surrounded by green spaces. The school has a university campus vibe, set in 25 acres of parkland, with a cluster of purpose-built buildings arranged for maximum efficiency when the kids are on the move. The Infant and Junior school can be found on the same site, but set back from the buzz of the seniors.
Uniquely this is a Licensed Victuallers’ School, originally set up in London in 1803 to provide an education for the offspring of publicans. It moved to its current site in 1989 – to offer a modern education with all mod cons. It continues to support families in the drinks trade, but is open to all. Oh, and Her Majesty The Queen, just happens to be the school’s patron. Virtual curtsey, Ma’am.
Immense. Impressive. Immaculate. There is no expense spared here. The beauty of a purpose-built site is that you don’t have to shoehorn all the kit and kerboodle into a listed mansion – and LVS Ascot has it all. Like a Generation Game conveyor belt, there’s an abundance of sporty facilities – indoor swimming pool, large sports hall, full size astro pitch, fitness centre, netball court, four tennis courts and acres of playing fields.
It will come as no surprise that LVS Ascot does very well at fixtures, and boasts a handful of sporting stars – England U16 hockey player Luisa Northing (capped 18 times for her country), Tom Gregory a gifted golfer and there are a number of academy footballers at Chelsea and Wimbledon FC.
Jazz handers will love the 250-seater theatre with state-of-the-art lighting and sound and drama studio and if your more Ed Sheeran than Eddie Redmayne [or any other actor and musician of a different name], then the music room and recording studio will blow your mind. In fact music is a pretty big deal at LVS Ascot, with five choirs, not including the staff and parent choir run by principal Christine Cunniffe. If you fancy belting out a few numbers, apparently it’s good for mind and soul.
In terms of buildings, the new Sixth Form centre, is a stunner that includes social hangouts, cafeteria and study rooms – a grown up, creative space that looks like the offices of a tech start-up and prepares them for the transition to uni.
Across at the Infant and Junior School the easy flow of classrooms continues but in a smaller form. It also has charming outdoor spaces for both the littlies and a smart wooden play fort for the juniors.
If you’re looking for a hot house, you won’t find it here, but don’t think this is the soft option. LVS Ascot thinks like a grammar school but the academic pressure cooker is turned down low. Expectations are high and the children are ambitious for themselves, but there’s an emphasis on being happy, inquisitive, robust and kind. The bi-product of this, is that they have the tools to reach their full potential – helped, no doubt, from class sizes of 15 (occasionally rising to 22 in the top sets of maths and english).
This year’s results prove it works with a third of students hitting the A*-A jackpot (grades 7-9) in maths and bumper number of grade 4-9 across all subjects. It’s a similar tale for A level students, too. The school has maintained its 85% pass rate, achieving added value in a number of subjects. The majority of pupils go on to their first choice uni. One smart cookie, took her A level exams a year early and will be heading off to London to study Law. Impressive, right? As a passionately non-selective school, success comes as a result of the diverse range of strengths and abilities.
LVS Ascot reputation is that there’s something for everyone whether you’re sporty, creative or academic, so it’s unsurprising that there’s a a good co-curricular provision. Like drama? So did alumni Tracey Ullman! Nuts for sport? Learn from their professional coaches and mix up traditional team sports with basketball, Zumba, handball and rowing.
A fan of the arts? LVS Ascot stages a super-slick theatre production every year – The Wiz was a storming success at the end the 2019 Summer term. They also launched a music festival in 2015 which has trebled in size since the first one five years ago and a large number of students from the music charity The Nucleo Project (based in North Kensington) come and perform. If your child is an unashamed geek or not keen to go with the pack, you still have options – YouTube Club, percussion, foreign film club and public speaking! You’re getting my drift here.
How many schools can boast and an X Factor judge/ music mogul in their alumni. Yes, it is rumoured that Simon Cowell studied here as a child (dodgy v-neck t shirts and high waisted trousers were not part of the uniform), as well as tech entrepreneur Holly Tucker founder of Not On the High Street. I wouldn’t describe the school as eccentric, but having a pet gecko (much loved by the students) is pretty out there.
They also ask get the pupils to provide lesson feedback – and they don’t hold back with their criticism, there can be a lot of red pen. LVS Ascot is a democracy, voting at hustings for their head boy and girl and they even ran an LVS EU referendum. In this instance it was a landslide victory for the Remainers. Not shy of the big life questions, they host brilliant lectures like Supermassive Black Holes, Exploring the Dynamic Universe, Microbirth and Spies which are really popular with the kids. I’m loving the fact that it is the norm for girls to play football and cricket too.
WRAP AROUND CARE
The senior school day ends at 4pm and pupils can stay on site for activities or in the library until 6:45pm. The Junior School runs a daily After School Care service for all pupils until 5pm where children can finish homework before activities start. Eleven bus routes operate across Berkshire, Surrey, South Bucks as well as three London, to and from Chiswick, Richmond and Waterloo. From aged 8 to 18, boarding is available, either weekly or full time. There are four bright, modern houses with a home from home vibe – although I would argue more fun. One is a *ahem* co-ed boarding house, but you won’t need to hit the hormonal teen panic button, the staff make sure everyone keeps a strictly PG code of conduct. Basically, parents have plenty of options if they’re struggling with school runs.
Christine Cunniffe (above) has been in the hot seat since 2010 – a bright, no-nonsense woman, who I suspect gives good hugs and cracking advice. She oozes warmth. After a brief flirtation with law, Caroline pursued her love of piano by working in London’s plushest hotels ticking the ivories – think baby grands, glam evening gowns and martinis. She later discovered teaching and loved it. Quite the career change. Going straight in as head of music, she kicked off her career in the state sector, before joining LVS Ascot as an ambitious director of music in 2003. The school had no choir when she arrived, but was performing at Eton College Chapel just two terms later. I really liked her. She is passionate about the school’s non-selective status, giving every child the building blocks to succeed, including . Mental health and wellbeing are not buzz words, happiness, resilience and kindness work like a ring of steel for both the pupils, staff and parents.
FEES: Unlike booking an easyJet flight, the fees are refreshingly transparent. Term fees include lunch for day pupils and all meals for weekly and full boarders, books, exam fees, sports fixture travel, personal accident insurance, the majority of after-school activities and the evening and weekend activities for boarders. Infants – £3,460 per term; Juniors – £4,144-£8,854; Seniors £5,878-£10,470 and Sixth Form £6,202-£10,897. Discounts are available for anyone working in the licensed drinks trade and armed forces.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Kids who don’t thrive in a fast-paced environment, get lost in large class sizes or need additional support to reach their potential. LVS Ascot’s has a superb Learning Resources Centre.
Not for: Energetic alphas, brainiacs and anyone looking for starchy uniforms and grade II listed buildings.
Dare to disagree?! See for yourself if you agree with my verdict.Don’t take my word for it! Have a look for yourself at the Whole School Open Day on Saturday 21 September. Can’t make it? Contact the admissions team (01344 882770 or email email@example.com) and arrange a ‘walk-in’ visit.
LVS Ascot, London Rd, Berkshire, Winkfield Row, Ascot SL5 8DR