Bishop’s Stortford College: The Unbridled Unorthodoxy of Creativity and Education
Bishop’s Stortford College

The United Kingdom is consistently regarded as one of the best countries to study for people of all creeds and age groups. Education is an important part of British life. There are hundreds of schools, colleges, and universities, including some of the most famous in the world.

One such institution which is highly regarded as a truly wonderful place for learning is the Bishop’s Stortford College. A place large enough to provide an outstanding range of opportunities for developing well-rounded, skilful, and happy young people, yet small enough for each individual to be nurtured; such is the stature of this illustrious and historic college.

The Rich History

Founded over 152 years ago, Bishop’s Stortford College sits in a green and spacious campus on the outskirts of a market town, mid-way between London and Cambridge. Close to open countryside, this peaceful and safe setting is remarkably easy to reach – just 40 minutes from London Liverpool Street by rail and 10 minutes from London Stansted airport. Catering for children from the ages of 4-18 years, the college has a well-deserved reputation for unpretentious excellence.

Originally founded by a group of prominent nonconformists (protestant churches independent of the Church of England) the school aimed to establish a public school in which evangelical nonconformists might secure for their boys, an effective and Christian education on terms that should not be beyond the reach of the middle class generally. Initially called the Nonconformist Grammar School, in 1901 it was renamed Bishop’s Stortford College.

From the start, the nonconformists worked to break down barriers between people and to respect individual conscience. This was reflected in the combination of boarding and day pupils and in a determination to play a role in the local community – an ethos which still holds true today.

From the outset, the school built a strong reputation for sports, and in 1895 was one of the first schools in England with its own indoor heated pool. As its size and reputation grew, the distinctive red brick school buildings, designed in the arts and crafts style by architect and former pupil, Herbert Ibberson, were added, and the 100 acres of sports fields acquired. In 1902, by taking over an existing school for boys aged 7 to 13 years, Bishop’s Stortford College Prep School was established. The Memorial Hall, the most distinctive building on the campus, was designed in Georgian colonial style by architect Clough Williams-Ellis (creator of the Italianate village, Portmeirion in North Wales). Built in 1922, the memorial hall commemorates the lives of the pupils and staff who lost their lives in the two World Wars and other conflicts.

The Memorial Hall is used for assemblies, concerts, exhibitions, and talks and is central to daily life at the college. In 1978, the first batch of girls were admitted into the sixth form and the transition to full co-education throughout the school began in 1995, coinciding with the opening of a new pre-prep for girls and boys aged 4 to 7 years and completing the current ‘three schools in one’ structure.

Unpretentious Excellence

Today, Bishop’s Stortford College has a reputation for unpretentious excellence and is one of the leading coeducational, all through, day and boarding schools in the UK. Community spirit is strong, the atmosphere is vibrant and pupils buzz with the challenge of learning. Expert subject teachers excite their curiosity – pupils are genuinely happy, inspired, enlightened, and energised to be at school.

At its heart, the college aims to support and deliver a process of all-round growth – academically, morally, spiritually, athletically, and creatively. Every pupil is encouraged, taught, and challenged to fulfil his/her true potential, by being immersed in an environment of discovery and wholehearted participation. Boys and girls have exceptional opportunities to become fulfilled, skilful, and happy young men and women.

The college strives to allow time and space for academic work to be balanced by sport, music, drama, and a diverse choice of other activities, including the Duke of Edinburgh ’s Award Scheme or police cadets in the senior school, service to the community and opportunities for leadership.

Pupils often develop an appreciation and a love of creativity that remains with them for the rest of their lives, and every individual has the chance to join in and try new experiences, whatever their abilities and interests. Ultimately, college leavers can organically contribute constructively to society and play a full role in it, whatever their chosen path.


Whilst being academically selective (pupils take entrance assessments before being offered a place) it is the quality of the teaching that sets the college apart. Independent evaluation of pupil outcomes shows that the value added by the teaching at the college puts them amongst the top 5% of schools in the UK.

The examination results are also excellent; last year almost 79% of GCSE (general certificate of secondary education) results were awarded grades 9-7. The two-year GCSE course starts at the end of year nine and offers 17 subjects. Pupils are expected to achieve good grades in order to progress to the sixth form.

Most sixth formers have risen through the college ranks, having joined at the age of four years in the pre-prep or aged seven years in the prep school. In year 12, a further 30-40 new students from overseas and other local schools, add to the role, ensuring a rich and diverse community. Sixth formers are actively encouraged to develop their independence, their intellectual curiosity, critical thinking, and academic rigour.

The two-year A Level programme offers a choice of 24 subjects and results are outstanding – last year 98% of all results were awarded ranks A*-C. Pupils may also undertake an independent research project or an extended project qualification, both of which earn valuable UCAS points. They are well prepared for university too through an extensive programme of lectures and talks to expand their soft and life skills. Last year, 99% of sixth form leavers gained a place at the university of their choice including Cambridge, UCL, Durham, Exeter, Bristol, Cardiff, etc.

One of the reasons for this high success rate with university applications is the dedicated higher education and careers team, who work with each senior school pupils from year nine, offering continuous guidance, helping them to identify skills, aptitudes, undertake work placements and develop their interview skills. Individuals wishing to apply for Oxbridge or for courses in medicine, veterinary science or dentistry are also provided with additional support.

Leader of the Pack

College head, Kathy Crewe-Read, joined the school in September 2020 following a period of unprecedented growth and investment in the teaching and boarding facilities. She is a school inspector with the Independent Schools Inspectorate.

Joining a team of passionate and dedicated teachers, Crewe-Read was herself originally inspired at school.

“I utterly loved mathematics as soon as I started learning it and always knew I would go on to teach,” she explains. “My earliest memories of maths are of my primary days, when I would return home from school and beg my father, a university lecturer, to write sums for me to solve for pleasure! Mathematics continues to bring me satisfaction and teaching it has been a privilege.”

Aspiring to Make a Difference

State-of-the-art boarding houses with ensuite study bedrooms offer pupils exceptional living accommodation whilst the classrooms and facilities across the campus benefit from a programme of continuous improvement. Part of the investment mentioned before has been in technology – the benefits of which have been clear through the pandemic.

From the start of the first lockdown, the Bishop’s Stortford College was able to seamlessly switch to online and remote learning with pupils continuing to make excellent academic progress despite the circumstances. It is this ability to pivot and adapt that will surely keep the college and its pupils on the path of success for decades to come.

For more Details:

Recent Posts