Epsom College

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Epsom College's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Epsom College is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles


Headteacher Jay Piggot
Epsom College is situated in
85 acres of Surrey parkland
yet only 20 minutes from
central London
Jay Piggot became headmaster of Epsom College in 2012 and
began a concerted effort to improve the school’s academic
standing. Although the school had always excelled at sport,
the standard of teaching was uneven across departments.
Since this time, pupil numbers have risen by 23 per cent and
the school has improved significantly in both A-Level and GCSE
results tables. Jay tells
The Parliamentary Review
about the
techniques that have caused this improvement and how parents
in Surrey and southwest London are taking notice.
I was appointed headmaster of Epsom College in 2012, following six years as head
of Campbell College, 17 years as housemaster and assistant housemaster at Eton
and three years at Millfield prior to that.
When I took up my headship, I found a school blessed with many qualities. Its
location – an 85-acre Surrey parkland estate – is breathtaking; a sense of community
is tangible here, with 70 per cent of staff housed on-site; and the school’s proud
sporting tradition has witnessed success against schools far greater in size and
One year after my appointment, we were visited by a team of ISI inspectors. Their
report chimed with my own findings. The inspectors and I were also in agreement
over which facets of school life required improvement. Most notably, the quality of
pupils’ experience across the school day was uneven. There was too much variation
across academic departments, with pockets of exceptional teaching contrasting
with others that fell below the required standard.
»Headteacher: Jay Piggot
»Established in 1855
»Based in Epsom
»Type: Secondary
»No. of pupils: 900
Epsom College
Highlighting best practice
Naturally, what takes place inside a
school finds its way into the homes
and dinner parties of the local
community. The received wisdom
seemed to be that Epsom was a
strong sporting school, best suited
to the academically able all-rounder
– shorthand for “the second-choice
The challenges we faced were to address
the issues of in-school variation, to
improve the academic standing of the
school and to become the number-one
choice for families in the competitive
market of Surrey and southwest London.
Elevating Epsom’s academic
To build confidence and overturn long-
held perceptions, my senior leadership
team and I delivered wide-ranging
structural and strategic changes. We
embarked on a campaign to elevate
the school’s academic standing while
never losing sight of what makes
the school unique: its community, its
focus on service and leadership and its
steadfast allegiance to the principles
of benevolence and excellence that
guided our founder, Dr John Propert.
Pastoral care required assiduous
adjustments to flourish, and the
changing demands of the local
prep school market indicated that
it was time to progress plans for a
lower school. The initiative would
complement our already successful 13+
and 16+ entry points by welcoming
pupils of aspiration and ability at 11+.
No one wants to be part of a merely
adequate institution. We want
the academically ambitious and
intellectually curious to revel in the
life of the mind. We want our pupils
to be thrilled at the discovery of new
passions and pursuits, their hearts
open and their horizons wide. We
want families to look back on their
choice of Epsom sure in the knowledge
that their children excelled academically
and learnt well for life, developing into
happy, tolerant, confident individuals
who value their part in a community and
want to make a difference in society.
Six years into my time as headmaster,
the school has travelled a great distance
towards this goal: rising up tables,
breaking records with each year’s
examination results and swelling our
numbers. The community is stronger
than ever, and that unquantifiable goal
of happiness is abundant.
These changes have been undertaken
collectively. No school can be better
than its staff, and leading a school is a
collective endeavour. I have delegated
responsibility and empowered the senior
leadership team to lead from the front.
Reaping the rewards
The introduction of a pastoral leadership
team and an academic leadership
team highlights this approach and
has ensured that the second master
and the academic deputy head have
been able to improve our pastoral and
academic provision.
Science has always been
strong at Epsom, with
its historic ties to the
medical profession
Art is one of the subjects
to now enjoy close to
100 per cent A-A* at A
Level and GCSE
We embarked
on a campaign
to elevate the
standing while
never losing
sight of what
makes Epsom
The year 2018 marked the third
consecutive year of record examination
results, and we are now viewed among
the “best of the best” by
The Week
for our co-curricular provision and for
providing an outstanding education
for all-rounders. We have also risen
impressively in
The Telegraph’s
table: from 132 in 2015 to 73 in
2018 for A-Levels, and from 95 to 59
Earlier this year, the Department for
Education ranked Epsom among the
top two per cent of all schools in
England, and among the top five per
cent of independent schools, for the
value we add at A-Level.
Between 2014/15 and 2018/19, pupil
numbers rose by 23 per cent, the
number of parents registering to attend
our open mornings went up by 233
per cent and the number of registered
applicants went up by 130 per cent.
The market is ferociously competitive,
and even as a school receives new
accolades and hard-won plaudits,
public perception can still lag behind
the current reality of the school’s
The challenge to close this gap is
undoubtedly assisted by the official
verdicts of external adjudicators.
Independent reviews, commentary
and expert opinion are persuasive;
in Epsom’s case, the opinion formers
have noticed the school’s transition.
Consequently, parents are too.
In February 2019, I welcomed the ISI
inspectors to Epsom for a second time.
It is immensely gratifying that they
found a school much changed from
the one they visited in 2013.
Epsom was adjudged to have passed
the “focused compliance”
of the inspection on all counts. The
second part of the process centred on
the educational quality
of the pupils’
experience in terms of academic and
other achievements and personal
Epsom was ranked
“excellent” on both counts, with no
recommendations made for future
Our aim is to continue to turn out
bright, confident, happy pupils. The
ISI inspection report recognised this
development. For the inspectors to
have studied Epsom and found that
we provide excellence in all areas
of learning is most pleasing and
a reflection of our hard work and
collective endeavour.
However, the best measure of any
school is what its pupils go on to do
with their lives, and the manner in
which those lives are lived. Six years in,
and many changes later, I believe that
the real value in turning around this
school is that we are enabling young
people to revel in the transformative
effect of an outstanding education.
In February
2019, the ISI
found a
school much
changed from
the one they
visited in 2013
Key to this transformation has been the structural and strategic changes
introduced and delivered by my senior leadership team. Developments
have been many, varied and wide-reaching. Highlights include:
»The introduction of heads of year to enhance pupil support and
to complement the work of house tutors, housemasters and
»Significant and sustained focus on academic performance, including
three “departmental MOTs” per year, to share good practice and
ensure equal levels of excellence across the whole school
»A full programme of academic enrichment, including a daily
cultural hour for guest lectures, debates and plays
»Enhanced staff development through the introduction of more-
detailed and supportive appraisals and the implementation of
advanced skills teachers
»Data-driven pupil reporting and intervention
»The successful launch of a £8.4 million capital campaign for a new
sixth-form centre to open in 2020, the opening of a sister school in
Malaysia and the opening of Epsom’s lower school in 2016
»Re-energising the school’s founding principles of “benevolence and
excellence”, evidenced by a timetabled service programme that has
seen pupils provide over 10,000 hours of charity and community work
ȣ13 million investment in the refurbishment and renovation of the
day and boarding houses


This article was sponsored by Epsom College. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss

Even by the standards of the day –this has been one of the most exciting and unpredictable years in British politics.

The leadership election we’ve just seen marks a huge moment in our country’s history. This government is taking a decisive new direction, embracing the opportunities of Brexit and preparing our country to flourish outside the EU.

As international trade secretary, I’ll be driving forward work on the free trade agreements that are going to be a priority for the government. Free trade isn’t just an abstract concept bandied around by technocrats. It is crucial for a strong economy and for the ability of families to make ends meet. Free trade benefits people in every part of our country, as British firms export to new markets and people doing the weekly shop have access to a wider choice of goods at lower prices.

The essence of free trade is in the title: freedom. It’s about giving people the power to exchange their goods without heavy government taxation or interference. Commerce and free exchange are the engine room of prosperity and social mobility. I’m determined to tackle the forces who want to hold that back.

One of my priorities is agreeing an exciting new free trade deal with the US, building on the great relationship between our two countries and the Prime Minister and US President. But I’ll also be talking to other partners including New Zealand, Australia and fast-growing Asian markets.

And with the EU too, we want a friendly and constructive relationship, as constitutional equals, and as friends and partners in facing the challenges that lie ahead – a relationship based on a deep free trade agreement. Our country produces some of the world’s most successful exports, and the opportunity to bring these to the rest of the world should make us all excited about the future. It is this excitement, optimism and ambition which I believe will come to define this government.

For too long now, we have been told Britain isn’t big or important enough to survive outside the EU – that we have to accept a deal that reflects our reduced circumstances. I say that’s rubbish. With the right policies in place, we can be the most competitive, free-thinking, prosperous nation on Earth exporting to the world and leading in new developments like AI. To do that, we’ll give the brilliant next generation of entrepreneurs the tools they need to succeed. Since 2015, there has been a staggering 85 per cent rise in the number of businesses set up by 18 to 24 year olds – twice the level set up by the same age group in France and Germany. We’ll help them flourish by championing enterprise, cutting taxes and making regulation flexible and responsive to their needs.

As we do that, we’ll level up and unite all parts of the UK with great transport links, fibre broadband in every home and proper school funding, so everyone shares in our country’s success.

2019 has been the year of brewing economic and political revolution. 2020 will be the year when a revitalised Conservative government turbo charges the economy, boosts prospects for people across the country, and catapults Britain back to the forefront of the world stage.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss
Secretary of State for International Development