Feature: Ashville College in Harrogate

An Ashville performance of Brothers Grimm. Below, Senior Housemaster and sport coach Gilmour Coad with the U15 rugby team and housemaster Mark Lauder; Ashville College pupils take part in the annual sponsored walk. Pictures supplied.
An Ashville performance of Brothers Grimm. Below, Senior Housemaster and sport coach Gilmour Coad with the U15 rugby team and housemaster Mark Lauder; Ashville College pupils take part in the annual sponsored walk. Pictures supplied.

Ashville College is at the heart of the community in Harrogate. Reporter Alex Johnston meets headmaster Mark Lauder.

It is estimated that Ashville College, comprising its Pre-Prep, Junior, Senior and Sixth Form, raises between £45,000 and £55,000 for charity each year.

Image supplied

Image supplied

The amount, shared between causes chosen by pupils of the 60-acre Green Lane school, emphasises the link to the community enjoyed by the Methodist independent school.

People from across the district travel to use its sports centre, and a long-term multi-million pound plan to develop art and design facilities will only strengthen ties between the school, established in 1877, and town, as well as offering students the opportunities headmaster Mark Lauder aims for.

“As a head, I believe in an all-round education. I cannot pick one thing, it has to be everything because children can’t wait,” he said.

“They are growing up. If they focus on one thing and decide to try another later then they miss out. We must focus the pupils on all work - Design, Mathematics and everything else because they are here to learn.

Image supplied

Image supplied

“It is not about privilege - they are not responsible for their parents economic situation, but I would say anyone who is educated is privileged.

“With an all-round education, they are going to grow up not only doing well for themselves and their own wellbeing and progress, but also to have a sense of responsibility for those around them.”

Much of the charity money raised is as a result of the annual sponsored walk, while staff and pupils encourage whole school involvement in national fundraisers such as Children in Need and their own events, including a coast to coast cycle.

Mr Lauder said: “Pupils will come up with their own charity ideas, and residents associations and groups come to use our facilities.

“We are big in the community, and these are the sort of things a school like Ashville should be doing in the community.”

It is true many students attend Ashville given its strong track record of entry into Cambridge and Oxford Universities, a service the school offers to young people across the district.

The headmaster said: “Harrogate has a lot of schools and a lot of children with aspirational parents.

“We offer Oxbridge interviews to students across the area.

“People come to the school because of our Oxbridge programme, but we know we have to increase access across the district to what we offer.”

The Ashville Foundation offers scholarships and bursaries for those wishing to study at the school. Currently over 26 per cent of students are in receipt of some form of bursary or scholarship.

The school has recently changed its sport focus to what it terms physical literacy.

Mr Lauder explained: “We have changed the PE curriculum so it is now about physical literacy.

“It is not games driven. This is a programme that takes place from Year 4 to Upper Sixth, it is about building confidence and increasing engagement in games and sport generally.”

The school’s Sports Scholars Programme encourages younger pupils to learn and engage in all sports, before choosing a specialism as they move through the school.

The headmaster said: “You have got to start somewhere, Sport is about engaging children at all ages.

“At some point these children are going to be parents with their own children, educating them about respect in sport and we need to give them the confidence to do that.”

At the Pre-Prep School, SAT results at the end of Year 2 are 88 per cent higher than the national average.

The Junior School caters for Year 3-6 in its own building, and 97 per cent of children who joined in Year 3 achieved the national standard or above in Maths, English and Science by the time they left in Year 6.

There are over 530 pupils in the Senior School, with 150 in the Sixth Form.

In 2013, 37 percent of sixth form students at Ashville College achieved an A* or A at A-level, while 63 per cent of all exams were graded A*-B. The overall pass rate was 98 per cent.

84 per cent of leavers won a place at university, 71 per cent of which was to their first choice.

The headmaster commented: “Most pupils at Ashville will go for university. I would not expect it to be 100 per cent, and I do not take the view that university education is the only thing for everyone.

“The fact of the matter is we are not an exam factory by any means, that’s the last thing we are.

“If pupils need to leave to do an apprenticeship at 16, we will help them do that.

“The focus is on the individual.”

Mr Lauder knows exam results are of vital importance to parents, but has seen an increase in students themselves having a say in where they choose to study.

He explained: “The education landscape has become more complicated, particularly post-18 education.

“There has been a change in the past ten years with more children doing their own research, because they have access to the information.

“We offer the Sanhedrin process for pupils, whereby after their mock exams, we go through results and then they meet the head of careers. We then talk about the route for them in the sixth form, and of course there is parental input here.

“But pupils are expressing a view to their parents. They are having a say in their education choices.”

A member of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference and the Independent Association of Prep Schools, Ashville has a strong international community.