Sheldon School

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Sheldon School
Sheldon School Logo.png
Motto Unity and Loyalty
Established 1975
Type Academy
Headteacher Neil Spurdell
Location Hardenhuish Lane
SN14 6HJ
Coordinates: 51°28′02″N 2°08′02″W / 51.46714°N 2.13401°W / 51.46714; -2.13401
DfE number 865/5404
DfE URN 136632 Tables
Ofsted Reports Pre-academy reports
Staff 228[1][2]
Students 1,813
Gender Mixed
Ages 11–18
Colours Blue, Purple and Gold
Publication Sheldon Standard
Former name Chippenham Boys' High School
Website School homepage

Sheldon School (formerly Chippenham Boys' High School) is a large mixed secondary school and sixth form in Chippenham, Wiltshire for students aged 11 to 18 and is the largest school in Wiltshire.[3] Since April 2011, it has been an Academy. It is one of three in Chippenham, the others being Abbeyfield and Hardenhuish. Since 1 September 2012, the school has been headed by Neil Spurdell,[4] who was previously headteacher at John O'Gaunt School in Hungerford, West Berkshire.[5] The school is situated in the southern zone of Hardenhuish Park on the Hardenhuish Lane, with Hardenhuish School nearby to the north.


Earliest records[edit]

In 854AD, documents record the settlement known as Hardenhuish on the north-west side of Chippenham. The name probably derives from the family holding of one Herejeard, who occupied the land.

In 1066, the Domesday survey establishes the owner as Arnulf who held it before this date. The medieval manor house and church were situated on the flat land which now form Sheldon School's playing fields.

18th century[edit]

In 1707, the Colborne family purchased the estate and selected a new site for a fine Georgian house, Hardenhuish House, on higher ground to the north, built in 1773 to 1774.

In 1777, Joseph Colborne, of Hardenhuish became Sheriff of Wiltshire.

In 1779, Joseph Colborne, decided that a new church should also be erected on higher ground to the west of his new Georgian house. Dedicated to Saint Nicholas, it was designed by the famous Bath architect John Wood and is supposed to contain recycled material from the earlier church.

19th century[edit]

In 1822, the Clutterbuck family bought the Hardenhuish estate.

In 1826, Thomas Clutterbuck, of Hardenhuish became Sheriff of Wiltshire.

In 1854, Edmund Lewis Clutterbuck, of Hardenhuish became Sheriff of Wiltshire.

From 1875 a private venture grammar school existed in Chippenham, conducted in St. Mary Street by a Mr. Wilson and from 1883 by Mr. Cruikshank.[6]

In 1891, the Technical Instruction Acts (1889 & 1891) provided financial assistance[7] for evening classes in various science and arts subjects. Earlier voluntary classes that had existed were now coordinated, and this became the beginning of a national system of technical education. Subjects included Shorthand, Animal Physiology, Chemistry, Physics, Hygiene, Carpentry and Dressmaking.

In 1893, Edward Newall Tuck was appointed by the Education Committee of the Borough of Chippenham to organise technical classes in Chippenham and district. Classes were held in rented premises at No. 21 London Road and at the Jubilee Institute, as well as villages including Grittleton and Yatton Keynell. Teachers from elementary schools attended classes in a School of Art on Saturdays at the Jubilee Institute. Tuck, in addition, gave talks on Wiltshire history and nature study, he also served as town councillor and was Mayor of Chippenham from 1931 to 1932.

In 1894, pupils were not admitted to classes until they reached the age of 11. Pupils from day schools were admitted free from aged 11 to 16. The fees at this time were fixed at 6d per month, the whole expenses of the school being met by fees and grants from the Science and Art Department and the County Council. Higher grade classes for boys, including Woodwork and Chemistry, were held at No. 21 London Road.

John Coles[edit]

In 1896, under the provisions of the Technical and Industrial Institutions Act (1892), the Borough of Chippenham established the Chippenham and District County School,[8] subsequently known as the Chippenham County Secondary School for Boys and Girls, with Tuck as the first headmaster (He would remain in this post until 1939). The first Chair of Governors was former mayor Alderman John Coles.[9]
The premises were still located at No. 21 London Road and the Jubilee Institute. As the tenancy of the private venture school was to end on 25 March 1896, the Town Council paid Cruikshank £10 for the desks, books and goodwill of his school. Boys were drawn from three elementary schools in Chippenham, the British, National and St. Paul's Schools. In addition twelve boys had previously attended the private grammar school. Others were from other private schools in Chippenham, Corsham, Devizes, Calne and surrounding villages. 39 boys aged 11 to 16 were on the admission register from 13 April 1896. The curriculum included Latin, French, Science, History, Geography, Grammar, Book-keeping, Shorthand, Arithmetic, Writing, Geometry and Freehand Drawing.[6]

In September 1898, a girls' school was established, against some opposition, in the Temperance Hall, Foghamshire. 22 girls were admitted at opening, from the schools of Mrs. Parry (Market Place), Miss Alexander (Monkton Hill), Mrs. White (Marshfield Road), from private tuition and from local National and British schools.

20th century[edit]

On 24 September 1900, the Chippenham District County School opened in Cocklebury Lane, now part of Wiltshire College, (built on an acre of land purchased in 1896 by the County, Urban and Rural District Councils). The ceremony was attended by the Mayor and Aldermen of Chippenham. In addition to Mr. Edward Newall Tuck the headmaster, the staff included three masters and one mistress, there were 99 pupils. The total cost of the project was £6,000.[10] In addition to the buildings and playground, four acres of adjoining land were rented for playing fields. All day classes were consolidated here and pupil numbers increased rapidly.[6]

On 1 May 1901 the decision was taken by the Governors for the school to become a Science School. 4 scholarships were granted to 3 female and 1 male students. In July it was decided to establish a centre for pupil-teachers at the school.

In 1902, local education authorities were established and Wiltshire County Council became responsible for education in Chippenham.

Latin was omitted from the curriculum.

By 1904 there were 101 pupils, 50 from urban and 51 from rural areas. In addition 49 pupil teachers were attending, 9 from urban and the remainder from rural schools, and the evening classes had 139 pupils.

From 1905 girls from elementary schools attended Cookery classes at the Cocklebury Road site.

In 1906, Sir Gabriel Goldney, 2nd Baronet, CVO, CB of Hardenhuish Park became Sheriff of Wiltshire.

By October 1907 the school had 128 pupils, 64 boys and 64 girls. The age of admission was 9, and the leaving age 17 to 18.
In addition to the yearly fees paid by pupils the school was financed by County and Government grants.[11]

In 1908 the fees were £5 5s. 0d. a year, including books. However, there were a number of scholarships available and figures for the year show that of 115 pupils, 66 girls and 49 boys, 57 held scholarships, one a free place, and only 57 were fee-payers.

The interwar years[edit]

In 1922, the school received further County and Government grants.[12]

In the interwar years, numbers of pupils on roll increased steadily, and by 1929 there were 262. The Junior department was reorganised as a Kindergarten and Preparatory Form, catering for 61 children aged 8 to 10. However, the number of pupils over the age of 16 was proportionally small in comparison with the average for Wiltshire Grammar Schools, consequently there was no discrete sixth form, although a small number of pupils did progress to University, some with the aid of County Scholarships.

By the early 1930s the buildings were presenting difficulties of overcrowding.

By 1935 pupil numbers had reached 288, Hardenhuish Park was purchased from the Clutterbuck family by Wiltshire County Council in order to implement the educational requirements of the growing town.

Grammar school[edit]

In 1938, the Secondary Grammar School moved from Cocklebury Road to new buildings (since demolished), erected on the east side of Hardenhuish House.[13]
The old Manor House became the headmaster's room, the school library and some classrooms.[6]
The new school extended over 40 acres of Hardenhuish Park, new buildings contained a hall, gymnasium, laboratories, classrooms, and cloakrooms.

In 1939, the Preparatory department closed.

By 1940 there were 414 pupils, of whom 25 were evacuees, 10 percent were under the age of 11 and, still, only 2 percent over 16.
The Cocklebury Road premises became Chippenham County Secondary Modern School, a senior mixed school taking children aged 11 and over from the primary schools of Chippenham and district.

In late 1940, early 1941 the school took in a large number of evacuees from Wanstead, East London, who had already spent a year in Gloucester.
A field next to school housed a camp occupied by soldiers of the 4th Armored Division[14] and 11th Armored Division,[15] whose headquarters were at Lackham House and Manor.[16] Close relations developed between these troops and the school.

Post WWII[edit]

In 1946, Eric Minter was appointed the new headmaster at Chippenham County Secondary Modern School.

Following the war, there was a steady increase in the numbers of pupils and additional buildings were constructed. The catchment area of the school covered the triangle between Chippenham, Corsham and Melksham.

In 1956, with pupil number at 547, (102 of these in the sixth form), constant growth of the area saw the major development of a new secondary modern school for girls to the south of Hardenhuish Church.
On 28 September, the new Girls' High School opened. These buildings now form part of Hardenhuish School.[6]

In 1958, a field was purchased at the Folly to enable an approach road to be made to serve the new secondary schools.

Chippenham Boys' High School[edit]

In 1959, a secondary modern, Chippenham Boys' High School, was constructed lower down Hardenhuish Park. These buildings now form part of Sheldon School.
The school was officially opened on Wednesday 8 July 1959 by the Minister of Education, Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd.[17]

In 1960, more Grammar School buildings were erected behind Hardenhuish House due to the continual growth of Chippenham. The school began to admit 120 instead of 90 each year.
The three schools occupied some 40 acres of Hardenhuish Park and some 2000 boys and girls attended from the Borough and from the district within a radius of about 8 miles.

In 1966, the Grammar School and the Girls' High School integrated with the Chippenham Secondary Modern Schools in a semi-comprehensive system with all 11 to 13-year-old boys and girls being educated on the Hardenhuish site.
Minter retired as headmaster and was awarded the OBE.

In 1967, George Morgan was appointed the new headmaster.


In 1975, the three existing schools were merged into two comprehensive schools, under the names Hardenhuish and Sheldon. Hardenhuish was made up of the old Grammar School and Girls' High School buildings, spanning right across the old Hardenhuish estate and comprising seven blocks.[6]

The 1975 Chippenham development plan stated, "Two mixed 8 form entry comprehensive schools each to accommodate 1200 pupils aged 11 to 18, with 200 in each school sixth form additionally, to be formed on the campus at Hardenhuish by merging the existing three schools. The Boys’ High School to have additional classrooms and accommodation for girls. The Girls’ High School and the Chippenham School to be merged into one school".

Sheldon would take pupils from the southern and eastern areas of the town and adjacent villages. Hardenhuish would serve the northern and western areas of Chippenham and adjacent villages.

In September 1975 Sheldon School opened as a comprehensive school in the Boys’ High School buildings. It was headmaster, George Morgan, who managed the difficult transition from the Boys’ High School to the newly formed mixed comprehensive, and it was he who chose the name "Sheldon", (once a medieval village then manor), to reflect the school having become coeducational.

In 1979, Anita Higham was appointed headteacher (In 1996 Anita received the OBE for services to education and training).

In 1985, Caroline Cox was appointed headteacher.

In 1991, admissions procedure changed to allow pupils living in the designated area of Chippenham urban primary schools to state a preference for either comprehensive school.

In 1994, Sheldon had its first "outstanding" Ofsted report.

In 1996, the new Science block was added.

In 1997, Tony Cleaver was appointed headteacher.
The school was listed in The Observer’s Top 100 State Schools.
Sheldon became the first school in Wiltshire to gain the national standard Investors in People Award, recognising the quality of staff training and development.
It also achieved the new Sportsmark award for the "outstanding quality of physical education and sporting provision", one of only 400 schools nationally to receive the accolade.
Work on the new AstroTurf pitch was completed.

In 1998, the new Design & Technology block was added.

In 1999, Sheldon became a Foundation School.
The school's intake increased to 10 tutor groups.
It also had its second "outstanding" Ofsted report.

21st century[edit]

In 2000, Sheldon was identified as "excellent" by Ofsted (Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools In England).
It was the first school in Wiltshire to be awarded Beacon Status (awarded to schools identified as the best performing in the country).
The new Arts block was added.

In 2001, Sheldon was awarded Sportsmark Gold, the first Wiltshire school to achieve this award.

In 2002, the school was awarded Specialist School Status and was designated as one of England’s first Science Colleges.
Sheldon was awarded FA Charter Standard from The Football Association.

In 2003, the new Learning Support Centre opened.
On its Olympic Day Fun Run, Sheldon set a new world record for a biggest single school run, with in excess of 900 runners.

In 2004, Gerard MacMahon was appointed headteacher.
Sheldon was again awarded Sportsmark Gold.
It was also awarded the Artsmark Award, for the quality of performing arts.
The school also achieved The Healthy Schools Award.

In 2005, Sheldon was named in Ofsted’s roll of honour as one of "the best of the best" with two "outstanding" inspections.
It had its third "outstanding" Ofsted report, the only comprehensive school in the south west to have achieved this accolade.
The school was also elected to the Specialist Schools Trust "Value Added" club[18][19] for schools with the most pupil progress between key stages, and the school's website was launched,

In 2006, Sheldon was re-designated Specialist School Status which has helped to enrich and transform the scientific aspects of numerous subject areas.

In 2007, the school was again identified as a high performing Specialist School and designated a second specialism as a Sports College with the Performing Arts.
It was also awarded Artsmark Silver.

In 2008, in its fourth Ofsted inspection Sheldon was judged to be "outstanding" in all 38 categories that make up the new inspection framework.
The new Sixth Form Centre was opened.

It was once more identified as a high performing Specialist School.
In 2009, the school was designated a third specialism as a Language College.

Sheldon School's Refectory in 2016

In 2011, Matt Dawson opened The Refectory; an award winning hot & cold dining area.


On 1 April 2011, Sheldon School became an Academy.

In 2012, Neil Spurdell was appointed headteacher.

The Chippenham Vision survey[edit]

In June 2011, 40 sixth formers, male and female, contributed to a survey, carried out by The Chippenham Vision[20] for the Spatial Planning Team at Wiltshire County Council,[21] to assess opinions. Voting on a range of key local issues in a questionnaire produced by The Chippenham Stakeholder Workshop, in September 2010.[22][23] The Council said, "The responses gathered through the consultation will be used to help draft the WCS – a plan which sets out long-term planning and development aims and principles. This will ensure local people continue to have an integral role in shaping plans which will affect them and their communities".[24]

Ofsted and academic performance[edit]

The school is consistently amongst the top performing schools, for its type, in the area and in 2006 59% of its pupils achieved five GCSEs at grades A*-C, including Mathematics and English.[25] Its A Level results were even better and in 2007 the school was fifth overall in the whole of Wiltshire.[26] Sheldon's Ofsted inspections resulted in the school being identified as "particularly successful" on three separate occasions.

In its March 2008 inspection, led by Christopher Russell HMI, Sheldon was judged to be "outstanding" in all 38 inspection categories,[27] an exceptional achievement matched by only six comprehensive schools in 1,500 Ofsted inspections, and in the January 2011 Interim Assessment statement, from Christine Gilbert,[28] parents were informed that indications were that "performance has been sustained".

However, in its October 2012 inspection, led by Mary Massey HMI, Sheldon was judged to be "good" overall.[29] Despite standards having dropped, the school was praised for its pupils' behaviour,[30] stating that it was "outstanding". It also mentioned that "To improve further, the inspectors highlighted the need for the very good teaching observed in the classroom to be taken to an even higher level".

Notable alumni[edit]

(in alphabetical order)


  1. ^ "Teaching Staff ONLY" (PDF). School website. 2013–2014. 
  2. ^ "Support Staff List ONLY" (PDF). School website. 2013–2014. 
  3. ^ "Largest school in Wiltshire". Chippenham Vision. 
  4. ^ Alex Winter (16 March 2012). "Chippenham school names its new head". Gazette and Herald. 
  5. ^ John Garvey (29 May 2012). "New head teacher for John O'Gaunt". Newbury Today. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f "Wiltshire Community History". Wiltshire County Council. 
  7. ^ "Chippenham District County School (S 8460): Sale of property - Order (Ref: ED 27/5268)". The National Archives. 
  8. ^ "Chippenham District County School (S 8460): Proposed appropriation of sum from… (Ref: ED 27/5269)". The National Archives. 
  9. ^ Staff reporter (30 April 2012). "Salute to the man behind Chippenham's John Coles park". Gazette and Herald. 
  10. ^ "Chippenham District County School (S 8460): Endowed Schools Scheme for administration of… (Ref: ED 27/5270)". The National Archives. 
  11. ^ "Chippenham District County School (S.8460): Scheme 14th July, 1909 (Ref: ED 35/2686)". The National Archives. 
  12. ^ "Chippenham District County School (S 8460): Charitable Trusts Scheme 1922 (Ref: ED 27/8728)". The National Archives. 
  13. ^ "Chippenham Secondary School (formerly Chippenham District County School) (S.8460) (Ref: ED 35/6392)". The National Archives. 
  14. ^ "Bimps War: Friendly Allies and the Home Front". BBC - WW2 People's War. 23 March 2005. 
  15. ^ Dan O'Brien. "41st Cavalry". The 11th Armored Division Legacy Group. 
  16. ^ Tony Pratt. "The Manor of Lackham, A Short History" (PDF). Lackham House. pp. 17–19. 
  17. ^ Caroline Fowke. "Sheldon School Celebrates Half Century" (PDF). Chippenham Civic Society. 
  18. ^ "KS2 to KS3, KS3 to KS4 Value Added tables". Department for Education. 2005. 
  19. ^ "KS3 to GCSE Value Added tables". Department for Education. 2005. 
  20. ^ "The Vision". Chippenham Vision. 
  21. ^ "Help plan for Wiltshire's future". Wiltshire County Council. 13 July 2011. 
  22. ^ "Consultation Event". Chippenham Vision. 14 June 2011. 
  23. ^ "Consultation Report" (DOC). Chippenham Vision. 
  24. ^ "Wiltshire Core Strategy Consultation Document". Wiltshire County Council. 2011. 
  25. ^ "Education League Tables - Wiltshire schools Level 2 threshold". BBC News - Education. 11 January 2007. 
  26. ^ "Education League Tables - Wiltshire schools A Level". BBC News - Education. 11 January 2007. 
  27. ^ "2008 Inspection" (PDF). Ofsted. 
  28. ^ "2011 Interim Assessment" (PDF). Ofsted. 
  29. ^ "2012 Inspection Report" (PDF). Ofsted. 
  30. ^ Jill Crooks (16 November 2012). "Ofsted's report praises pupils". Gazette and Herald. 
  31. ^ Mary O'Hara (9 July 2013). "Peter Wanless, head of NSPCC: 'We are more focused on preventing abuse'". The Guardian. 
  32. ^ David Ainsworth (23 January 2013). "NSPCC appoints Peter Wanless as chief executive". Third Sector Magazine. 
  33. ^ "About the Big Lottery Fund" (DOC). Big Lottery Fund. 
  34. ^ "Lunch with Peter Wanless, Chief Executive, Big Lottery Fund - The Future of Grant Makers". acevo. 

External links[edit]

In the news[edit]