A passionately non-selective, co-ed day and boarding school for children aged 4-18, that's unpretentious, thinks like a grammar school without the pressure.
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. 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 is set back from the buzz of the Seniors and the boarding houses also benefit from being on the same site.
The school was originally set up in London in 1803. It moved to its current site in 1989 – to offer a modern education with all mod cons, in beautifully landscaped surroundings. 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.
2021 saw the school win the national ISA award for Outstanding Sport in a Large School, so it comes 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), Chorley forward Connor Hall, golfer Tom Gregory and 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. If you’re 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 something for everyone including two choirs, a musical theatre club and a rock club.
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 including allotments, a forest school 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. While the school is passionately non-selective, it does offer scholarships for entry into the senior school (Year 7) and Sixth Form.
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).
2020’s results prove it works with the GCSE pass rate across all subjects being well above average (97.2% grades 4-9 vs a national average of 78.28%). It’s a similar tale for A level students, with a 100% pass rate, nearly half of which were A – A*. The majority of pupils go on to their first choice uni. Success comes as a result of the diverse range of strengths and abilities.
LVS Ascot’s reputation is that there’s something for everyone whether you’re sporty, creative or academic, so it’s unsurprising that there’s a good co-curricular provision. Like drama? So did alumni Tracey Ullman! Nuts for sport? LVS Ascot has something for everyone, from traditional team sports to basketball and handball.
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. The performing arts programme for 2021/22 is already packed and will include a Disney production, the launch of a performing arts festival and the introduction of the Arts Award (think Duke of Edinburgh for creativity and leadership skills). 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.
Alumni include Holly Tucker, founder of Not On the High Street; Capital FM DJ and presenter of Global’s ‘Official Big Top 40’ Will Manning; singer songwriter and producer Adam Argyle, who has penned hits for the likes of Dua Lipa, Rita Ora and Olly Murs, to name but a few; serial entrepreneur Graham Bosher (founder of Graze, Tails.com and LoveFilm) and former Secretary of State, Lord Moore.
The school asks 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. 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. Parents can also get involved with the live Perspectives talks and real time discussion on Facebook. 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 and South Bucks as well as to and from Chiswick, Richmond and Waterloo. From ages 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, Christine pursued her love of piano by working in London’s plushest hotels tickling 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.
This summer sees the publication of her book, Transforming School Culture through Lesson Observation, a three-stage programme she has developed and lectures on. She is passionate about the school’s non-selective status, giving every child the building blocks to succeed. Mental health and wellbeing are not buzz words – happiness, resilience and kindness work like a ring of steel for the pupils, staff and parents. The school opened a dedicated Wellbeing Hub in 2019, which made the finals of the TES Wellbeing Initiative of the Year Award. It was visited 900 times in its first year of opening and supported 29 students through the stress of Covid-related family illness and bereavement in 2020.
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 evening and weekend activities for boarders.
Infants: £3,595 per term, Junior Day: £4,305 per term, Junior Boarding: £9,195 per term, Senior Day: £6,115 per term, Senior Boarding: £10,895 per term, Sixth Form Day: £6,445 per term, Sixth Form Boarding: £11,325 per term. Academic scholarships and bursaries are available, special discounts offered to HM Forces, Diplomats, those who work in the licensed trade and senior local academic staff.
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 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! There’s a Reception Open Evening on 6 Oct and and Open Morning for Infants & Junior on 12 Oct. The next whole school Open Day is on 20 Nov. Can’t make it? Contact the admissions team (01344 882770 or email email@example.com) and arrange a private tour or virtual visit.
LVS Ascot, London Rd, Berkshire, Winkfield Row, Ascot SL5 8DR