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Set in at the western edge of the Cotswold town of Stroud, the school takes its name from a sandstone arch set close to the School's northern entrance. It is believed to be the only contemporary monument to the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. The residence of Henry William Wilberforce in Stroud is understood to be the main reason behind its construction. Taking its cue from this monument, the school maintains a progressive liberal approach to teaching, setting it in slight contrast to its more traditional grammar school counterparts Stroud High School and Marling with whom the school has a friendly rivalry. Notably the school has in the past experimented with elective subjects for its pre-16 pupils, but has since dropped these failed policies.
The school's country setting provides it with expansive playing fields, including cricket nets, rugby and football pitches, a full size running track, tennis courts and a hockey redgra. The school has a 20-metre (66 ft) heated indoor swimming-pool, and in 1997 opened a fully fitted sports centre including a dance room, gym and large sprung-floor hall. Cross-country running also commonly takes place across the nearby Randwick hills.
Archway also has its own sixth form, which has developed rapidly over the past few years and will continue to do so as it is increasing numbers of vocational courses, as well as expanding the traditional AS and A2 courses available. It is part of the Stroud Post-16 Consortium with Downfield Sixth Form (a collaboration between Marling School and Stroud High School) and South Gloucestershire and Stroud College. The Sixth Form is headed by Mr Julian Young.
The sports centre includes the "Jack Russell Lounge," named after famous former student the England wicket keeper Robert "Jack" Russell another former pupil is Tom Smith, lead singer and rhythm guitarist for Birmingham-based indie rock band Editors, Actress Lizzy McInnerny and maritime historian Louis Paul Barnett went to Archway School also. Former professional footballers, Ian Olney and Mike Cook also attended Archway and current Cheltenham Town striker, Ethan Moore, is a former pupil.