The college began as a small school for 70 boys founded by Benedictine monks, at Ampleforth Abbey, in 1802.The school formally constituted as a Roman Catholic boarding school in 1900. Various buildings were slowly added, including the school theatre which was built in 1909. The first performances took place in 1910, and in 1922 a cinema projector was acquired, but could not be used until the following year when electric lighting and central heating were installed.
The first boarding houses were founded in 1926 to accommodate the growing pupil numbers. In 1929, the Abbey gained ownership of Gilling Castle and opened a preparatory school. Gilling Castle Prep merged with the college's junior school in 1992 before taking on its current name St Martin's Ampleforth after absorbing another nearby prep school.
In 2002, girls were admitted for the first time when the sixth form became coeducational. The first girls' boarding house, St Margaret's, was opened in 2004. Coeducation was extended to the Year 9 intake for the 2010–11 academic year and the college is now fully coeducational.
Since the Catholic emancipation, Ampleforth gained a reputation as one of several schools, alongside The Oratory School and Stonyhurst, popular with the Catholic aristocracy and labeled the "Catholic Eton".
A School for the Lord's Service
Ampleforth is a Benedictine school under the guidance and care of the monks of Ampleforth Abbey.
The Rule of St Benedict, written in the Sixth century, has provided a wise and enduring framework, both spiritual and practical, to guide religious communities ever since. It gives us, in the 21st century, an excellent guide for running a school in “the Lord’s service.” St Benedict shows how, through prayer and work, the individual can grow closer to God through living in a community. The Benedictine tradition appeals not only to Catholics but also to other Christians, who recognise the benefits of its balanced approach.
With the rule of St Benedict at the heart of all we do, the aims of Ampleforth College are:
Though originally only a boys' school the college is now fully co-educational. In 2009 an OFSTED Social Care report said that the overall quality of care was outstanding
There are currently ten boarding Houses at Ampleforth, three for girls and seven for boys. On arrival, all students join a House, which will become a central focus and important base for them during their time at the school.
Each House is home to some 70 students of all ages who live in a friendly and supportive atmosphere which is run by a Housemaster or Housemistress. Every House is named after a saint, and each has their own crest and school colours, nurturing students in a strong spirit of solidarity and loyalty.
A newly arrived student of 13 is not intimidated by the task of finding his or her place in the whole school. Instead he or she begins by building relationships with the twelve or so other newcomers in his or her House and with their Housemaster or Housemistress. They will be the student's closest colleagues for the next five years. A junior student will normally sleep in a dormitory, progressing to a twin room and prepare his or her academic work within the House. He or she will move into a study bedroom in the Sixth Form.
A resident Assistant Housemaster or Housemistress and a team of House Tutors take part in the pastoral care of the House. In particular, a tutor is responsible for the academic progress of every student in a single House year-group. Tutors ensure that every student is correctly placed in subject sets and is studying the subjects that best suit his or her abilities and interests. They also monitor progress. This watchful help will continue throughout the student's stay at the school and will extend to the choice of university and career.
House Matrons are asked to take part in the general pastoral care of Houses and especially to keep an eye on rooms and dormitories. The school expects a collectively assumed responsibility for civilised order and reasonable tidiness. Ampleforth has a clear and definite dress code rather than a uniform, and we ask the support of parents in helping us to ensure that the students wear clothes that meet our standards.
Morning and evening prayers, Mass (whether for the whole House or for groups), seasonal prayers in Lent or at other times, and the annual retreat, are centred on each student's House and House Chapel. Equally, students are welcomed to prayer with the Community in the Abbey Church, and contacts of all kinds with the Community and lay staff are encouraged.
The Houses are by no means exclusive communities. Sporting competition between the Houses is keen. The school's many activities and shared meals make school-wide communication easy, and friendships between students from different Houses naturally develop. Lessons, of course, are organised in year groups, which ensures that students have extensive daily contact with students from other Houses.
A number of senior students are invited to take responsibility for the welfare of the school and the Houses as School and House Monitors. They are answerable to the Headmaster and Housemasters for the trust which is extended to them.
In order to contribute towards the aims of the Mission statement, the curriculum at Ampleforth College is designed to provide a broad and balanced education for students where all are given the opportunity to study a wide range of subjects, thus sharing in the inheritance of a Benedictine tradition in which learning and scholarship are prized.
Through high quality teaching and resources, we aim to provide an inspiring experience to our students and to encourage in them a love of life-long independent learning. Cultural activity, which includes sport, music, art and drama is an important part of the curriculum and all students have extensive opportunities to participate to a high level.
It is natural that the study of Christian Theology is central to the curriculum of a Catholic Benedictine school. Respecting the beliefs of non-Catholic boys and girls and the consciences of all, we hope to communicate and share a lively, articulate and critically aware Christian faith. To this end, all students take public examination courses in the subject and a knowledge and understanding of Catholic belief is supported by all aspects of the curriculum. Moreover, recognising the need for boys and girls personally to appropriate and live out their faith we offer, as a complement to the work of housemasters, housemistresses and the chaplaincy team, a comprehensive Christian Living programme (our version of PSHME) which covers a wide variety of moral and social issues and aims to support our students long after they have left the College.
Subject heads ensure that subject matter and teaching styles are adjusted appropriately in accordance with St Benedict's teaching that we should ask much from the students' strengths and support them in their weaknesses. Departmental schemes of work provide for this differentiation. Through regular reporting, teaching and learning are monitored and evaluated. Students' progress is recorded through the school grading and assessment procedures which also include individual targets in each subject.
In Years 9 to 11, all students follow a core curriculum in Christian Theology, Christian Living, English, Mathematics, Science and PE. A wide range of languages is offered, both modern and classical, and students are expected to take at least one to GCSE. In addition, History, Geography, Art, Music, Design and Technology, Drama and ICT are offered as compulsory subjects in Year 9 and many of them as options in Years 10 and 11.
In Years 12 and 13 we offer a programme of A levels in the belief that such a curriculum will best serve the interests of the whole student body, bearing in mind the ability range of our students. A broad range of options is available from which students choose to specialise in up to four subjects in Year 12, normally reducing to three in Year 13. This allows students to develop a depth of knowledge which, combined with a wide ranging programme of cultural and academic enrichment, provides a good preparation for university study. Christian Theology is expected as one option but not necessarily as an A level subject. All students continue to follow a Christian Living course throughout the Sixth Form.
We expect that at least 90% of our A level students will progress to higher education and we aim to prepare them for this progression, as well as to assist them as far as we can to achieve the grades necessary to gain entry to their chosen institutions. Advice is also offered to those who choose not to follow this path.
Where students with particular educational needs are identified they are offered support as necessary. All will have an IEP which will be reviewed at least annually.
In all years the curriculum followed will depend on the ability of the student. On entry or, if there is insufficient academic information available, at the end of the term after entry, students are allocated to a Form: A to E. This form is determined from previous academic results and serves as a snapshot of their general academic progress. Form A is the top 20% of the year group, Form B is the next 25%, Form C the next 30%, Form D the next 15% and Form E the next 10%. However all subjects are setted independently and so the Form into which a student is placed does not necessarily affect subject setting. The Form is reviewed periodically.
On entry, all students are given a MidYIS baseline test. The results of these are used to ensure that appropriate targets are set for individual students.
Ampleforth operates a two-week timetable cycle in order to maintain a balanced curriculum. Lessons are 50 min in duration and there are 78 periods in each two week cycle. Of these, 12 are for sports and games and 2 (one per week) is for Chaplaincy and Year Group assemblies. This means that there are 64 periods per two week cycle for the academic curriculum. In addition there is a tutorial period each week. Any numbers of lessons given on the pages giving curriculum details refer to the number per two-week cycle. Students will have a slightly different timetable depending on their particular strengths, for example, in Year 9 some will have additional Mathematics and English lessons rather than Latin and/or Greek.
Currently about 70% of students have their own laptops which can be connected to the school network. We encourage parents to provide a laptop for their son or daughter on entry into the school and information on specifications can be found on the College website. Recent developments in the intranet and virtual learning environment (VLE) resources are such that it is our expectation that all students will find it a considerable advantage to have their own laptop, netbook or equivalent.
What makes Ampleforth so special? Why do people keep coming back to the valley throughout their lives?
Is it the tranquillity and beauty of the place? The grandeur of the buildings? The kindness and wisdom of the monks? The memory of happy times, learning and growing? Or is it something that runs deeper, something more difficult to explain?
It has been said that people who leave Ampleforth for the wider world take with them a ‘compass for life’ – a personal direction finder that will always allow them to hold onto their moral bearings; to seek their own true north, even when life is treating them roughly. This is not the arrogance or overweening self-confidence of youth but a quiet, stead sense of one’s place in the world.
Of course, the first-class teaching and outstanding, all-round education, the broad social experience, the magnificent setting and facilities have something to do with this. Where Ampleforth is truly different, however, is in the Benedictine ethos that forms the bedrock of everything that happens in the College and St Martin’s Ampleforth. Compassion, inclusion and generosity, not always easy to find in the modern world, are just three of St Benedict’s principles.
This idea of a compass means different things to different people. Rather than try to explain it ourselves, we’ve invited a number of Old Amplefordians to tell their own stories. We hope you enjoy reading them.
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