Leighton Park School
Day and boarding school
|Houses||5 (4 Senior, 1 Junior)|
|Colours||Blue, Gold, Brown|
|Campus||64-acre (260,000 m2) parkland campus|
|Former Pupils||Old Leightonians|
Leighton Park School is a co-educational Quaker independent school for both day and boarding pupils in Reading in South East England. The school was founded in 1890, following the closure of Grove House School, also a Quaker establishment.
The school is based in a parkland estate just south of Reading town centre, next to the University of Reading's Whiteknights Park campus. The school is a member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference. It offers both the International Baccalaureate and A Levels at sixth form and sends a high proportion of its pupils to Russell Group universities and Oxford or Cambridge .[not in citation given]
Matthew Judd has been the headmaster since September 2018 after the previous headmaster, Nigel Williams, who was appointed as head in January 2013, retired after serving 24 years at the school in a variety of roles. Nigel succeeded the previous headmaster Alex McGrath, who had previously been the deputy headmaster of Trent College.
Leighton Park School is recognised as the top school in Berkshire and in the top 40 nationally by the UK Government’s league tables for Sixth Form progress.
Leighton Park was opened in 1890 by members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), as a public school for boys. It was founded after Grove House School, also a Quaker school, closed in 1877. Grove School had educated notable personalities such as Lord Lister, Alfred Waterhouse and Thomas Hodgkin.
Leighton Park grew from four boys in 1890 to 103 in the 1920s. The junior school became the independent Crosfields School, making Leighton Park solely a senior school. By 1970 the school had 300 pupils, and in 1975 girls were admitted to the sixth form. In 1993 the school became fully coeducational. Today the school is home to around 475 pupils drawn from over 20 different countries.
In 2006, Sir Steve Redgrave opened a new dining room at the school.
In 2015, the school celebrated its 125-year anniversary which it celebrated by creating enchanting illuminations. Students from Year 7 to Year 9 created time capsules from 1890 discovering much about life at Leighton Park for the first pupils. “It was a great insight into a day in the life of a student in 1890” said Evie Morgan, Year 9. In June the Head, Nigel Williams, decided to commission a Peace Pole as a more permanent reminder of the school’s birthday. Nigel commented that "[He] wanted Leighton Park to have a lasting reminder of our 125th anniversary, something that reflected our Quaker heritage and was also in sympathy with the character of the community and the beautiful park land within which the school resides."  When Nigel retired in 2018, he only had one specific request for his portrait: that "the painting needed to show the park and specifically the Peace Pole, his pride and joy!"
In March 2016, the school was granted planning permission to develop the main hall and music department into the Music and Media Centre (MMC) which will enhance the facilities for teaching Music and Media at the school. The building was scheduled to be finished in January 2018 but there have been delays in construction.
Traditions and routines
Leighton Park, due to its Quaker faith, has customs and traditions which differ from those in Anglican schools. These include:
- "Collect": A daily meeting similar other schools' assemblies, in which pupils gather for presentations and talks. Every collect ends with a silence lasting several minutes to reflect on the topic addressed. Unlike many school assemblies, hymns are not sung. These generally occur on Mondays, Fridays and alternating Wednesdays.
- "Meeting for Worship": A weekly event similar to Quaker meetings across the country. The meeting lasts about 20–25 minutes and is held in silence to reflect on thoughts and feelings, with a free forum for anyone to stand up and speak about issues on their mind. This occurs on Thursday mornings before lessons begin.
- "Monthly Meeting": A meeting in which pupils can air grievances on any matter. It is usually chaired by the head boy and head girl. The school senior management are usually present to respond. These occur monthly on Tuesday mornings.
- In the spirit of Quaker teachings, pupils and staff refer to each other on a first name basis in order to create a sense of equality.
There are five houses at Leighton Park: four senior (School, Field, Grove and Reckitt) and one junior (Fryer). Each senior house has around 100 pupils, and the junior house has approximately 120 pupils. The houses are integral to school with many inter-house competitions occurring throughout the year, including the annual house music competition, the Richard Coleman sports shield and the merit cup.
The first house established was the original "School House" which is now called "Old School" due to the construction of a more modern house which retains the same name, followed by 'Grove House', after Grove School, which Leighton Park has historical links with. The junior house, 'Fryer', houses pupils aged 11–13. All the houses are mixed sex. School, Field and Reckitt all have facilities for day and boarding pupils. Fryer pupils can board in the senior houses. Grove House had long been a boarding house, however in September 2017 the school announced that boarding would cease due to complications in the pipework of the building, making it a day house. Pupils in Grove House can board in other houses however many pupils, parents and OL's hope that boarding can resume in the house in the future.
The school has a floodlit astroturf sports pitch and 22 tennis courts along with four main sports fields. The school's provision includes athletics, cricket, rugby, hockey and netball, football, tennis and swimming. The school awards sports scholarships to talented students.
The school hosts an annual cross-country competition with a course more than 2.5 km long. There is also a house 'Road Relay' race and regular inter-house sport competitions in rugby, football, athletics, hockey, tennis and swimming.
Leightonian Funto Fabunmi-Alade was English Schools Athletics sprint champion in her age group for several consecutive years. In April 2011, student Charlotte Turner qualified for the UK National County Cross-Country Championships while in Year 10.
The school recently hosted a Super Six Rugby Sevens Tournament, a spin-off of the 'Super Six' rugby XV cup competition that the school founded and takes part in with five other schools. It has won the cup on several occasions. The school also participates in the Daily Mail Cup rugby competition.
Music and drama
The head of music is Rosemary Scales. All students at the school have the chance to learn an instrument. It also awards music scholarships and organizes multiple concerts, an annual house music competition and has multiple musical groups such as the orchestra, vocal, jazz and brass groups. Students can study music at GCSE and in the sixth form as well as music technology.
In March 2016 the school was granted planning permission to develop the main hall and music department into the Music and Media Centre (MMC). The MMC will include a new frontage and extension on the side which will not only enhance the facilities for teaching Music and Media but also provide a new pedestrianised landscape area around the hall that the whole school can enjoy. The building will contain seven new practice rooms and three new classrooms; a 'live lounge' inspired by BBC Radio 1, which can be used for band rehearsals, recordings and broadcasts; a custom-built media room including a green screen, lighting, editing equipment and a surround sound cinema system. An Extended foyer will provide a new frontage to the existing main hall and create an area of light and space which can be used for small receptions. Externally, the paved and pedestrian areas around the hall will provide seating and areas of relaxation for the whole school community and visitors to enjoy. The building was scheduled to be finished in January 2018, however there have been delays in construction.
In 2014, 19 new Yamaha pianos were delivered to the school, including a 9-foot concert grand piano and sixteen upright pianos, under Yamaha's Music Education Partner Programme. The pianos were assembled on the front lawn of the school which provided a unique opportunity for students, who came in especially to welcome the pianos onto the Park, to play them all together. Nigel Williams commented “This is such a wonderful opportunity for all our students, to have access to these beautiful instruments which will become an integral part in the musical life of the school and the wider community.” The Director of Music, Rosemary Scales, commented “In looking to replace the stock of existing pianos, the quality of the instruments was clearly a key factor but we also wanted to find a partner who was equally passionate about making music accessible, irrespective of individual capabilities, and Yamaha very much reflected this approach within their Music Education Partner Programme." The delivery of the new pianos, which coincides with the start of the our 125 year birthday celebrations, is an important corner stone of sustaining and growing the musical reputation of Leighton Park in producing both excellent musical scholars alongside providing opportunities for the all the schools’ students to discover their musical talents. The CFX Grand Concert Piano, which is the first to be purchased by an educational institution in the UK, was personally selected at Yamaha’s European HQ in Hamburg in June by Leighton Park’s Director of Music, Rosemary Scales, with the assistance of Julian Joseph, the globally acclaimed virtuoso pianist, bandleader, composer, arranger and broadcaster. Julian Joseph commented “I was thrilled to be invited to help the school select the pianos that best suited the demanding and varied musical settings of their musical education curriculum; inspiring school, inspiring teaching and now inspiring instruments.” 
The drama department is headed by Peter Scoggins. Leighton Park's Main Hall theatre is the home of school productions. It is also often hired by local choral and drama companies. There is usually one main School production per academic year, alternating between a musical and a play.
Younger students at Leighton Park have the opportunity to perform in the "Fryer Festival" in the summer.
The school offers GCSE drama as well as A-level theatre studies.
Leighton Park was featured on the BBC Politics Show, which was hosted at the site in December 2010.
In April 2005, Quaker-based Sunday Worship was broadcast live from Leighton Park on BBC Radio 4. Heard by an estimated 1.75 million listeners, the sequence of readings, music, ministry and silence "reflected the essence of Quaker values to the wider world."
In November 2011 thieves stole Maverick the Harris hawk from a teachers aviary. Maverick was used "to build a more adventurous curriculum for pupils" and helped students learn physics. Pupils were left distraught after the theft as a core team of pupils had been trained to handle him and it was planned to bring added adventure to lessons.
In popular culture
The school is mentioned in the play and film The History Boys by Alan Bennett. The headmaster mentions schools he would like to emulate regarding high pupil entry to Oxford; among them is Leighton Park — 'or is that an open prison?', he adds.
Notable old pupils include:
- Sir John Adye, former director of the GCHQ
- Crispin Aubrey, Civil Rights campaigner
- Sir Tony Baldry, former MP
- Julian Bell, poet and Bloomsbury member
- Quentin Bell, Bloomsbury member, artist and writer
- Eliza Bennett, actress
- Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, composer and jazz pianist
- Michael Binyon, journalist
- Sir John Birch, former ambassador
- Owen Bowcott, journalist
- Derek Brewer, Secretary and Chief Executive of Marylebone Cricket Club
- Jim Broadbent, Oscar winning actor
- Sir John Braithwaite, chairman of London Stock Exchange
- Basil Bunting, poet
- Helen Cadbury, chair of Barrow Cadbury Trust, poet, author, educator
- Kristian Callaghan, British pistol shooter, winner of Bronze Medal 2014 Commonwealth Games
- Lance Clark (retail; founder of Soul of Africa), ex-CEO of Clark's Shoes
- Nathan Crowley, Oscar-nominated art director in the film industry
- Baron Davies of Stamford, former MP, minister and life peer
- Leonard Doncaster, geneticist
- Christopher Dorling, co-founder of Dorling Kindersley
- Phil Dunster, actor, Olivier Award nominee 2016
Jordan Gage, actor, "Bat out of Hell"
- Jason Durr, actor
- Owen Edwards, pioneer of Welsh TV broadcasting
- Prof. James Fairhead, anthropology, University of Sussex
- Hugh Foot, Baron Caradon, former ambassador
- Michael Foot, former Labour Party leader
- Robert Gillmor, artist and ornithologist
- Hugh Haughton, Professor at York University
- Tim Ingold, anthropologist and Professor at Aberdeen University
- Sir David Lean, Oscar award-winning film director
- Po Shun Leong, artist
- Peter Litten, film director
- Tom Lowenstein, poet
- David McFarland, former Professor of Animal Behaviour, Oxford University
- Laura Marling, award-winning singer songwriter
- Tom Maschler, publisher and writer; former Chairman of Cape, co-founder of The Booker Prize; founder of The Book Bus
- Jagat Singh Mehta, Foreign Secretary India, 1970s
- John Mitchell, musician and music producer
- Nicholas Moore, poet and son of GE Moore, Cambridge Philosopher
- Sir Oscar Morland, diplomat and ambassador
- Prof. Peter Nienow, Edinburgh University, awarded Polar Medal 2017, recognition for his pioneering glaciological work in the Arctic.
- Lawrence Owens, archaeologist
- Nathaniel Parker, award-winning actor
- Patrick Parrinder, Professor of English, Reading University
- Sir Roland Penrose, artist, historian and poet
- Henry Priestman, singer/songwriter (The Christians)
- John Prizeman, Architect and leading Author on Modern design
- Prof. Mark Rainforth, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Sheffield University
- Prof. Dan Reinstein, eye surgeon
- Karel Reisz, award-winning film director
- Prof. Julian Stallabrass, art historian, photographer and lecturer, Courtauld
- Ian Stillman, missionary
- Steven Tsui, consultant surgeon, clinical director of transplant services at Papworth Hospital
- Richard Vernon, actor
- Richard G. Wilkinson, social epidemiologist, author and advocate
- Timothy Williamson, Wykeham Professor of Logic, Oxford University
- Dr Robert Wilson, pioneer surgeon in New Guinea and took the Surgeon's Photograph of the Loch Ness Monster
- Stuart Zender, musician
- "Leighton Park School, Reading – The Good School Guide". Goodschoolsguide.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-07-09.
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- "Leighton Park School – Home". Leightonpark.com. Retrieved 2010-07-09.
- Portrait Painting. (2018). The Park: the Leighton Park School newsletter, (Summer 2018), p.9.
- Baghurst, P. A.; Nichol, L. W. (1975-11-18). "The binding of organic phosphates to human methaemoglobin A. Perturbation of the polymerization of proteins by effectors". Biochimica et Biophysica Acta. 412 (1): 168–180. doi:10.1016/0005-2795(75)90349-9. ISSN 0006-3002. PMID 80.
- "Leighton Park Facilities". Leighton Park. 2011-05-01. Retrieved 2011-05-01.
- "Charlotte Turner placed 1st for Berkshire". Leighton Park. 2011-04-05. Retrieved 2011-05-01.
- "BBC Politics Show at Leighton Park School". Berkshire Life. 2010-12-06. Retrieved 2011-04-29.
- "Worship". Leighton Park. 2011-05-01. Retrieved 2011-05-01.
- "Scientist wins royal award for work in Arctic", BBC News, 23 January 2017.
- The Leightonian [school magazine] (pub. 1895).
- The Park [school magazine] (pub. termly).
- Old Leightonians Club. A list of names and addresses of the old boys of Leighton Park School (pub. 1945, 1957, 1973, 1990).
- Brown, S. W. Leighton Park: A history of the school (pub. 1952).
- Leighton Park School, Leighton Park: The first 100 years (pub. 1990).
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