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West Buckland School is an English independent school located on the outskirts of the village of West Buckland on the edge of Exmoor, 8 miles (12.9km) east of Barnstaple, Devon. It comprises a senior school (including a sixth form), preparatory school and a nursery. John Vick (headmaster since 1997) is a member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference.
There are approximately 700 pupils, of whom around 100 board; 40% of boarders are from abroad. The day pupils are drawn from a wide area of North Devon and many use the large school bussing operation in collaboration with local coach operators.
West Buckland School was founded as the Devon County School in 1858 by Rev. J.L. Brereton to provide a public school education for sons of farmers and the middle class. The foundation stone of the Gothic style buildings was laid in October 1860 by Earl Fortescue, who had provided land and other support for the school.
Under the first headmaster, J.H. Thompson, numbers rose to 150 by 1876 and then declined as a consequence of agricultural depression and competition from other schools.
In the winter of 1912/13 the school was renamed West Buckland School.
During the 1950s it received increasing support from the Devon County Educational authority and became a direct grant school. In 1976, when direct grants were abolished, it became a fully independent school.
West Buckland leads the North Devon schools examination league table. On 30 August 2008 the Western Morning News reported the school's best ever GCSE results and produced a table placing the school sixth out of the twenty-one independent schools in Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset on the basis of points per candidate. The paper also reported on "impressive" A level results in August 2008, noting that over 70% of students achieved 'A' or 'B' grades.
The school is rapidly expanding in numbers and facilities. 2008 saw the completion and opening of the Jonathan Edwards Sports Centre behind the nineteenth century complex and 2010 the completion of a second high cost and adventurous combination of buildings containing Art & Design and Design & Technology workshops, a new theatre, which replaces the old theatre , together with assembly space for the prep school and a new quadrangle. Images of both completed projects are on the school website.
The four houses (in brackets their house colours) of West Buckland School are:
Numerous inter-house competitions are held throughout the school year in music, drama and sport, culminating in Sports' Day on the final day of the summer term. Points are awarded depending on how well houses do in each competition and whichever house has amassed the largest number of points after Sports' Day wins the coveted Southcomb Shield.
An extract from "West Buckland School 1858-1958. The First Hundred Years. A Review of a Century recorded by Friends and Pupils."
On July 31, 1917, there fell in action, E. H. Southcomb, then a Lieutenant in the Manchester Regiment. He was for many years a very cheerful member of the Brereton House, no great athlete but always ready to play his part to the best of his ability. On leaving West Buckland he went, by his father's wish, to Shrewsbury for two years, and then entered a bank, where he remained till war broke out. On his death it was found that he had left a legacy (£10 10s. 0d.) to the Sports Fund of his first school, and somewhat late it has at last been decided to perpetuate his memory by a Shield which will be held by the House which obtains the chief athletic cups in the School year, which starts in September. For this purpose, each of the Challenge Cups carries a definite mark. The allocation of marks for each cup was not an easy matter and even now the values may require re-adjustment in 1924. The Headmaster formed a committee consisting of Messrs. Corless, Taylor and Walton, and the list as issued by them will hold good at any rate till July, 1924. The winning House will hold the shield, which will be hung over their dining tables, and will also take the right of the line on ceremonial parades.
The order of the houses in the overall points standings at the end of the year determines which row of tables each house sits at for the following year in the dining hall (the Karslake).
The House system provides a continuity of pastoral care throughout a pupil's school career, as well as creating opportunities for leadership qualities to be demonstrated.
Courtenay are the current champions (2009-2010).
The houses have each won the Southcomb Shield (first competed for in 1924) the following number of times:
Brereton: 23 Grenville: 23 Fortescue: 21 Courtenay: 20
There are three main boarding houses at West Buckland:
Each of the boarding houses has its own houseparent.
Annual Day Fees (Aug 2008): £5,910 - £10,800, Annual Boarding Fees: £13,875 - £18,675.
Prefect duties, which include care of younger students, are awarded to senior pupils within each house. The Head and Deputy Head of School are selected from the Senior Prefects. The prefect team typically consists of around 20 members of the upper sixth. They are split into five teams, each having responsibility for one day of the working week. There are also dedicated boarding prefects.
Aside from being Senior Prefects, sixth form members of each house have the opportunity to be Link Prefects. This is where two members of the sixth form are allocated to one tutor group within the house. They will generally visit the group once a week, usually on a Thursday. This provides a direct link between the pupils and staff and allows the younger members of the house to be able to chat to older members of the house who they perhaps wouldn't have an opportunity to otherwise talk to.
There is also a peer counselling service called Familiar Faces. This is staffed by members of Year 11 who voluntarily train as counsellors. The Familiar Faces take it in turns to be available to talk to other members of the school in complete confidence in a private location. This is an extremely useful and comforting service, especially if pupils feel that they are unable to express their concerns to their parents or to staff.
Langholme is West Buckland's preparatory school, providing for 5 to 11 year olds. There is also a nursery on site. Accommodation for Langholme pupils is provided in the Bamfylde boarding house.
The Old West Buckland Association provides regular newsletters to former pupils. It also organises sports matches between current school teams and teams of 'old boys' and 'old girls', as well as organising a number of social events.
Notable alumni include:
On the third Saturday in September each year, the school holds its Speech Day and prize-giving ceremony. Pupils who have achieved excellence in academic, sporting and other fields are rewarded for their efforts and for their contribution to the school's success. Successful former pupils are often invited to make speeches, alongside a customary speech by the serving headmaster of the school.
The school has a wide range of sports facilities, including a recently constructed sports centre, named after athlete and former pupil Jonathan Edwards.
Every year the school holds the Exmoor Runs, essentially a cross-country run across Exmoor. The Senior Boys' Run is reputed to be the longest compulsory school cross-country run in the country, with a walk of eight miles to the start and a run of ten miles back to the finish (the school). Senior girls are required to walk six and to run seven and a half miles. Junior boys walk out five miles and run back five and a half, while Junior girls walk four and run four.
Since January 2004 the school has run an automatic weather station. This records principal meteorological parameters which are displayed on the West Buckland School web site with archive data also available.