The West Midlands is known for many things: the birthplace of Shakespeare, Elgar and rugby, the inspiration for writer J.R.R. Tolkien, and the home of key manufacturing such as whistles, chains, jewellery, cars and chocolate. But that’s not all it is known for. In the heart of region sits the beautifully historic yet modern campus of Old Swinford Hospital (OSH).
Established in 1667, OSH brings forth over 350 years of experience to cultivate a boarding education that marries tradition and values with innovation. Founded by industrialist Thomas Foley, MP, the school’s original vision was to provide a boarding education for 60 boys from “poor but honest” families and prepare them for life in the wider world.In 2004, girls were welcomed into the Sixth Form for the first time. Then in September 2021, OSH took another great leap by admitting their first cohort of girls into Year 7, welcoming them into the school’s boarding community. By 2025 the school will be fully co-educational.
Thomas Foley’s legacy remains an important part of the school’s ethos to this day and they take great pride in creating a genuine community of capable, confident and independent pupils.
Now educating and housing girls and boys from age 11 to 18, OSH prepares students for the rigours of further education, future careers and beyond, ready for them to make an impact for the common good in society. By following a broad academic curriculum and offering over 45 co-curricular and sporting opportunities, national competitions and more, every child can discover themselves intellectually and holistically to become fully-realised individuals.
Girl or boy, each child can discover who they can be at OSH. “We understand and respond to the individual and collective needs of our pupils,” says headmaster Paul Kilbride. “We help each one to find and develop his or her own voice and we watch with pride as they grow in confidence and self-esteem.”
Alongside its traditional values, OSH is constantly evolving. Last year, the new Swinford Court building was opened to house the Sixth Form Hub, a second gym, and classrooms for maths, business studies, psychology and computing. Over the summer, new science labs, a drama studio and art studio were installed across the campus, and there’s plans for further developments.
Boarding life at OSH
While it is essential to arm students with the tools to succeed in education and in life, it is just as important to make them feel like they belong.
Joining OSH is not just about academic rigour. A strong focus is placed on the British boarding school experience and that includes forging lifelong friendships, learning how to become independent, and exploring hobbies and passions outside of the classroom.
At the end of June 2022, the school welcomed Ofsted inspectors for a three-day visit to review the boarding provision. Chats with pupils, teachers and staff, as well as feedback from parents and governors, confirmed what most already knew: OSH boarding is outstanding.
Rated as triple ‘Outstanding’ for boarding by two inspections in a row, Ofsted concluded that the School provides highly effective services that consistently exceed expectations. Boarders are able to live together, learn together and thrive.
Boarding pupils live on campus, engage in a huge array of co-curricular activities in the evenings, and partake in many weekend excursions. They have three full homemade meals a day with fresh, locally sourced produce, plus tea and cake at 4p.m. (the most popular time of day!), and snacks and toast are available in the boarding houses throughout the day when boarders find themselves still peckish., In the evenings, they have scheduled and supervised prep time during which they do their homework together, engage in clubs, teams and societies and spend time with their friends. What’s more, pupils and families are able to tailor their boarding experience to best suit their lifestyle, whether that’s living in one of the school’s five boarding houses full-time or a few days a week. OSH is a home away from home.
“Outcomes for children who use the boarding provision are outstanding,” says the Ofsted report. “Children make excellent and sustained progress in many areas of their lives. Children learn to become more responsible, to be trusted to be self-disciplined and commit to the daily routines of boarding life. Their experiences contribute to a marked improvement in confidence, social skills and independence, which will be a strong benefit for later life.”
Holistic support, tight community
Being a boarder at OSH means students are never alone — housemasters, matrons, boarding tutors, coaches, and prefects are all part of the wider boarding team who all offer support. The emotional, social, and physical well-being of pupils is their top priority. Members of the OSH community will go above and beyond to ensure that every student is healthy, safe and happy.
The Ofsted report found “mutually respectful, supportive and encouraging relationships between staff and children promote a caring and tolerant ethos” as well as “meticulous attention” for the children’s health and well-being, including their emotional and mental health.
To board here is to be part of a tight-knit community. Spending the days from dawn until dusk together creates a real sense of belonging, especially for pupils who have moved from many miles away to enrol into such an outstanding boarding environment.
Outside of the school day, an established routine is put into place, ensuring all boarders do their prep, participate in after-school activities, and have a space to call their own. Interspersed in between, though, are opportunities to discover one’s passions — pre-breakfast gym, national engineering competitions, debating at the European Parliament, playing netball in Malta or rugby in South Africa, performing orchestral music in cathedrals, exploring everything from Shakespeare to coding, climbing, Art Club, learning to cook with Chef’s Club, the Combined Cadet Force and Duke of Edinburgh Award, and not forgetting the essential inter-house competitions.
“The provision of activities on and off the school site is excellent… and caters for all interests, enabling children to pursue their own hobbies and try new ones,” says the Ofsted report.
At the same time, pupils come together to create a community built out of trust and respect. It’s a true home away from home — and one that works hard to enable pupils to develop every aspect of themselves for their better futures.
To find out more about boarding at OSH please contact Grace Surman, Director of Boarding Recruitment, on GSurman@oshsch.com.