Luckley House, Wokingham
Muddy says: Luckley House co-ed school is bang in Wokingham. It's small, selective, fits in with family like with superb results.
Luckley House School, Wokingham
Luckley House is an independent co-ed, selective school nestled in the Berkshire countryside. It’s in Wokingham and 40 miles from London with great train links from Wokingham station to Reading and London Waterloo, offering day and boarding for children aged 11-18. No sweeping grounds, but a decent 15 acres, with excellent school-room provision for its currently 232 pupils, a cool woodland adventure area and good-sized sports field.
Luckley House has been around for donkeys years, 99 to be exact, but it’s evolved considerably. It was a family home, before it became a school in 1918. The main house replaced the old Manor – a property so ancient it’s mentioned in the Domesday Book. But the story doesn’t end there. In 1959, it merged with Oakfield School based in the Lake District (not exactly neighbours), but moved to the Wokingham site to form Luckley-Oakfield. Why? Actually they shared strong Christian values, an ethos ever present today, and had a vision to grow, modernise and maximise opportunities for the kids by its location and proximity to London.
Until very recently, it was also a girls school, but in September 2015 boys were admitted – initially into years 7 and 12, but rolling out as each new academic year starts. Evolution rather than revolution was key to the transition.
The big headline facility at Luckley House is the brand spanking new, award-winning Whitty Theatre. It was opened in January 2017 by the Earl of Wessex, no less, and the architects van Heyningen & Haward Architects won a prestigious Brick Award in 2016. Seriously wow! Not many schools can boast a 178-seater pro theatre to use for productions, musical concerts, debating, visiting speakers and much more. It’s a real jewel in Luckley’s crown and community arts groups are falling over themselves to use it. Who can blame them.
There’s been a significant investment in sprucing up the classrooms too with modern science, food tech and textile suites. The state-of-the-art music room, complete with recording studio for budding Mark Ronsons and Beyoncés, has a stunning view across the woodland. Will we see the Luckley alumni filling out the O2 or Royal Albert Hall? I hope so. But even if they don’t, what a way to fuel creativity and confidence.
But what about sport, I hear you cry? Luckley has a large sports centre with extensive playing fields, cross country tracks, netball and tennis courts, trampoline and a climbing wall. Yup, a climbing wall. And it’s huuuuuge. Plans are afoot to add an astroturf pitch, and a swanky dance studio will be developed in the Whitty Theatre. As with all schools, there’s a shopping list, but what I liked about Luckley is that it’s not style over substance. Each investment is well considered and must add value to the kids’ education.
By their own admission, boys’ sport needed development, so the appointment of Matt Humphrey as Head of Boys Sport is great news. He’s a sports nut (that said, show me a PE teacher who isn’t) – coaches cricket at Binfield CC, is a regular on the football pitch and leads the Independent School U13 regional squad. Following some great wins last year, Matt’s on a mission to add more competitive fixtures – football, hockey and rugby matches are scheduled throughout the new term – and a junior golf programme will be introduced in January 2018, in partnership with Sandmartins Golf Club. Fooouuur!
On the technology front, everyone (staff and pupils) is given a Microsoft Surface Tablet. By connecting to the school intranet they can access homework, school information and teaching support. It also prepares them for their lives beyond Luckley House. Let’s be honest, we’re all guilty of swiping and scrolling too much on our devices, but I reckon learning to have a responsible attitude at this stage, is a good thing.
The days are short, ending at 4pm and no Saturday school. So, it fits well with family life meaning you get to check in with your children and hang out at weekends. But if you’re juggling the working week, they can stay later and most do. The school offers a wide range of after school clubs, with a programme that changes each term and can include, for example, animation and movie club, Duke of Edinburgh, Combined Cadets Force, Gardening, Robotics. and sporting fixtures to name a few, I want to stay too. Plus most of the activities are included in the fees. The ones that aren’t tend to be off site.
Small class sizes and one-to-one teaching support explains the excellent A-level results. Forget the sixth form common room? Say hello to the sixth form centre. There are rooms to study, rooms to chill, a computer suite and kitchen. Think halls of residence without the debauchery. Seriously, though, it treats them like young adults and prepares them for the next chapter of their lives. The dress code is smart. Boys wear suits (easy), but the girls interpretation of the policy has a lot more personality (I remember those days well).
The school’s largely made up of day pupils, but 30 currently board and there’s room for 60. Who doesn’t love the idea of occasional flexi-boarding? It means you can go on that work trip or *ahem* have a midweek night out knowing your kids are having a school sleepover. The rooms are not going to win any prizes for interior design, but they are modern, light and clean having enjoyed a recent Changing Rooms style makeover. You’ll need to see past some screwed up clothes and the odd messy bed, some things never change.
A selective school with a lot of focus on excellent teaching, as you would expect the results are very good. Luckley House has 54% GCSE pass rate A*-A/7+ (28% A*/8+) and once again a 100% pass rate at A- level. Jane Tudor and her team encourage the kids to aim high and be aspirational. Oxbridge is always an option, but Luckley pupils often want somewhere a bit modern, more relevant to their career goals (*cough” with a cracking social scene).
Jane Tudor’s been in the hotseat for five years, having held the deputy headship at Luckley House for two years, and prior to that she was at Notre Dame in Cobham. Being a practicing Christian is part of the job description but she has a healthy approach to how the Christian values of the school should be enforced, promoting respect, tolerance and kindness regardless of faith or lack of it. l also like the way she handles the kids – with two boys of her own, she knows how to walk the line between matronly kindness and rule-enforcer. She’s calm, reassuring and fair – but definitely not a pushover. Jane prides herself in knowing all the pupils in her school. You’ll often see her chatting with them in the corridors and she still teaches Year 7 and A-level science.
The location for starters. Historically, some of the land has been sold off around Luckley, so it sits in a Brookside cul de sac. Not that you notice once you are through the gates, but it means you don’t get that impressive view of the main house when you drive in. (It’s OK we’re not that shallow.)
As you would expect, the house system is fundamental to school life and when the boys joined, they changed the house names, honouring past Heads – Cornish, Blake, Galloway and Randle. But who will get the heave-ho to make way for Tudor (cue nervous laughter).
You’ll also notice there’s no bell. The pupils do not have to endure this ear-blistering alarm to tell them to move on to their next class or signal it’s feeding time at the zoo. The teachers tell them when lessons are finished, creating a sense of calm. It’s nice. As Aretha Franklin put it, it’s all about R.E.S.P.E.C.T. And from the teachers and pupils I met, there’s a lot of it going around.
Wrap around care: Breakfast is available from 7.40am which has to be a good thing (go on, boot ’em in!). The school day starts at 8.45am and kids can stay past 4pm to take part in the after school clubs until 5.30pm (including tea). Pupils can also book for supper and ad-hoc nights to board. Luckley is your flexible friend and it definitely helps when you are busy working parents.
Fees: Day £5,405 per term, Weekly Boarding £8,766, Full Boarding, £9,458, Ad hoc single night £43, so a less expensive than many independent schools I’ve been to.
Word on the ground: The parents I’ve spoken to say Luckley House has much improved. Academically it’s robust, pastoral care is excellent, and parents recognise that the lower fees mean new facilities don’t appear overnight. The ISI Compliance Report from February 2017 in described the school’s emotional and spiritual support as excellent with above average academic results. So thumbs up all round.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Anyone looking for a small school with strong academic results that won’t require you to remortgage the house. The Christian ethos of the Luckley School has great appeal. Brilliant for those who want to find a school that fits in with modern family life.
Not for: Those looking for grandeur – you won’t find a Highclere-style sweeping drive and pupils dressed in old-fashioned uniforms here.With the school being selective, academic excellence is a given, but it’s not going to suit every child.
Dare to disagree?! Don’t take my word for it! Have a look for yourself at the Open Morning on Sat 30 Sept – arrive at 9am for brekkie, or if you need your Saturday morning zzzz, hot foot it to the school in time for the Head’s speech at 9.45am. As ever, let me know what you think.
Luckley House School, Luckley Road, Wokingham, Berkshire RG40 3EU. Tel: 0118 978 4175.