Repton School

For the school of the same name in Dubai, see Repton School Dubai.
Repton School
Motto Porta Vacat Culpa
(Latin: "The gate is free from blame")
  • Bequest made: 1557
  • Land for school acquired: 1559
Type Independent day and Boarding School
Religion Anglican
Headmaster Alastair Land
Chaplain Adam Watkinson
Chairman of Governors Sir Henry Every Bt
Founder Sir John Port
Location Repton
DE65 6FH
Coordinates: 52°50′27″N 1°33′04″W / 52.8409°N 1.5510°W / 52.8409; -1.5510
Local authority Derbyshire Council
DfE URN 113009 Tables
Staff ~100
Students ~600
Gender Coeducational
Ages 13–18
Houses 10

Navy and Yellow

Preparatory School Repton Preparatory School
Former pupils Old Reptonians
Bursar Carl Bilson

Repton School is a co-educational independent school for day and boarding pupils in Repton, Derbyshire, England. The school has around 660 pupils aged between 13 and 18, of whom 451 are boarders. Repton School taught only boys for its first 400 years; Repton started accepting girls in the sixth form early in the 1970s, and within 20 years became completely coeducational.


Foundation and early years

The school was founded by in a bequest of Sir John Port of Etwall, who died in 1557 leaving funds to establish a grammar school at Etwall or Repton, provided the students prayed daily for his family's souls.[1]

In 1559 Gilbert Thacker granted buildings at the site of Repton Priory for the school, but lawsuits quickly began between the School and the Thacker family focusing on use of the approach to their home.[2] Relations with the Thackers deteriorated such that, by 1650s, the school and the family were embroiled in litigation. In 1642, the school commenced an action against the Thacker family and in 1652 the family also brought an action against the school which was settled out of court. The atmosphere around the dispute was aggressive and on occasions the Thackers diverted drains into the school's buildings by constructing dams. In 1670 a wall was built to keep the parties apart.[2]

Pupil numbers seem to have oscillated between 80 and 200 in the first hundred years, but as the school was free until 1768 it is unclear how teaching was afforded.

The headmaster was free to keep, and did keep, cattle in a room within the school in this period.[2]

A pupil's letter home in 1728 relates to his father that the headmaster, George Fletcher, would withhold meals from the boys if they were unable to recite scripture.[2]

Decline and Renewal in the 18th and 19th Centuries

The school declined in the 1700s and the 1800s.

Pupil numbers were below 50 by 1833, and a former pupil recalled after leaving:

"even more than the paucity of its numbers, was the almost total absence of all those facilities... cricket ground we had none. Football was played upon the gravel, between the Arch, and the broken pillars...No gymnasium, no fives court, no racquet court...No French, no German, no Music, no Natural Science... No chapel, no master's house beyond the Arch, no bridge (at first) across the Trent, no railway.... Why did even 50 boys resort to Sir John Port's old School?" [2]

Although by 1830s some of the reforms of Dr. Thomas Arnold were being implemented at the school,[2] the school went into further decline in the following decades.

Decline was finally arrested by headmaster Steuart Pears, who worked hard to raise the school's status and reputation. There was a significant struggling with Charity Commissioners and the Clarendon Commission to have the school accepted as one of the great public schools,[2] however the Commissioners excluded Repton from their 1864 report (which included only nine schools), and so the school was excluded from the Public Schools Act 1868.[3]

In 1884, a chapel was added to the school's buildings.[4]

20th Century

Harold Abrahams CBE, the Olympic champion in the Paris Olympics of 1924 in the 100m sprint, depicted in the 1981 film Chariots of Fire, joined Repton School in 1914. Recalling his time at the school, Abrahams said he encountered anti-semitism often feeling bullied and alone.[5]

In 1907 a gymnasium was added, this building is now listed at grade II.[6]

1,912 former pupils of the school served in the First World War, of these 355 died in service.[7] A war memorial was added to the school's site in 1921.[8]

In the 1920s, the poet Vernon Watkins was sent to Repton; his quiet, gentle character provoked regular bullying in his early years, but in his last years he attained more popularity once he was able to show ability in sports. When he died the school wrote that he was "perhaps the best poet Repton has had".[9]

In the Second World War, 188 former members of the school lost their lives serving their country.[10] The school itself struggled before and during the War: the school owed £50,000 and, in 1941, the Board of Education said its 'future is doubtful’.[11] One boarding house (The Cross) was closed in 1938 and a second (Latham House) was closed in 1942. The total number of pupils was 353 on the outbreak of war but only 273 in 1943. Numbers then recovered. The Cross was reopened in 1945 and Latham House in 1947. By the time the school celebrated its quatercentenary in 1957, it was full with 470 pupils.[12]

Roald Dahl

Writer Roald Dahl attended in the 1930s; his experiences are related in his semi-autobiographical book Boy, in which he describes an environment of ritual cruelty, fagging and beatings.[13]

Jeremy Clarkson

In the 1970s, broadcaster Jeremy Clarkson attended Repton. During his time at the school other pupils forced him, he says, to lick the toilets clean, defecated in his tuck box, cut up his clothing and so on. He has stated this extreme bullying made him a "suicidal wreck".[14] Clarkson has stated that as he entered the sixth-form he was expelled for "drinking, smoking and making a general nuisance";[15] the school maintains he left by consensus. The 'Stigg' character in Top Gear is said to have been named after the school's pejorative slang term for new boys, a private reference with the producer Andy Wilman who attended Repton with Clarkson.[16]

Recent events

The school has grown and invested; in 2013 a £9 million Science Priory was built. During the preparations for the building work, archaeological digs were undertaken which indicated the site had been occupied in the Roman period.[17][18] The School is from time to time included in the Tatler 'Guide to Top Prep and Public Schools'.[19]

Health and safety offence

Criminal enforcement proceedings were brought against the school by the Health and Safety Executive in October 2014.[20] Magistrates fined the school £10,000 following a guilty plea to a health and safety indictment after an incident of negligence which resulted in a grandmother sustaining serious back, head and hand injuries.

Sexual misconduct by teacher

A former Head of Physics was disqualified from teaching indefinitely by the National College for Teaching and Leadership, following a finding of unacceptable professional conduct.[21][22][23]

Other events

In 2011, the Headmaster contacted all parents following an incident in which some 13- and 14-year-old girls obtained alcohol, after which one was required to attend hospital.[24]


The School is inspected by the Independent Schools Inspectorate. The most recent Integrated Inspection took place in March 2014, finding the school to be "exceptionally successful in achieving its aims... the quality of the pupils' achievements is excellent".[25]

The Department for Education ordered an emergency inspection in January 2015 reviewing welfare and safeguarding compliance under the Independent School Standard Regulations (ISSRs) and the National Minimum Standards for Boarding (NMS). The school failed to meet national minimum standards. However, it successfully implemented an action plan in time to met all the standards and requirements at a Monitoring inspection in November 2015.[26]


Per year, fees currently stand at £33,066 for boarders, and £23,475 for day pupils.[27] There are scholarships available for drama, sport, art, music, academic capacity and 'all rounder talent'. There is also some bursary assistance.[28]


Repton Priory was a 12th-century Augustinian foundation dissolved in 1538. After dissolution, the Thacker family lived at the Priory until 1553, when, fearing the priory would be recommissioned under Queen Mary I, Gilbert Thacker destroyed the church - a task almost entirely completed in a day[29][30] - stating: "He would destroy the nest, for fear the birds should build therein again."[29]

Accordingly, only parts of the original buildings remained when the school was established:[31][32] footings of areas of the priory remain in some areas, uncovered during construction work in 1922; the bases of a cluster of columns of the former chancel and chapels; fragments of an arch belonging to the former pulpitum, moved to their current position in 1906;[32] and fragments of the door surrounds of both the chapter house and warming room.[31][33]

The largest portion of the priory to survive is known as "Prior Overton's Tower", which is post 1437; largely altered, it has been incorporated into a 19th-century building.[34]

The School Arch, formerly part of Repton Priory, it was moved to its current site in 1906.[32]

Houses and Pastoral Arrangements

A little over two thirds of students are boarders.[35] The school has 10 houses: 6 for boys and 4 for girls, the houses comprise

Although the school is in a low crime area, there are occasional incidents: for example in May 2015 a cache of laptops and mobiles were stolen from pupils in a boarding house,[37] while a further theft of a valuable chalice from the chapel occurred in March 2016.[38] In contrast to its twentieth century history, the school has now got strong anti-bullying policies [39]

There is a chapel which is Anglican in foundation.[40]

Sports and clubs

The school competes in various sports including football, Field hockey, athletics, Rugby union and tennis. Notable sporting former pupils include 1932 Wimbledon tennis finalist, Bunny Austin and several first-class cricketers.[41] In 2013 six former pupils played in the same international hockey match.[42] The school has a Combined Cadet Force and a music school, as well as various after school clubs.[43]


The school's motto, Porta Vacat Culpa ("the gate is free from blame"), is a quotation from Ovid's Fasti.[44] 'The gate' (Porta) refers to the school's arch[45] and, by a synecdoche of pars pro toto, the school itself, whilst also being a pun on the name of the school's founder, Sir John Port.[46]

Overseas client schools

The school set up Repton International Schools Ltd (RISL), licensing its brand to off shore client schools via that wholly owned subsidiary company. The client schools are wholly owned by private equity firms and are licensed to use Repton's "brand".[47]

According to 2014 and 2015 accounts, Repton School in the UK gains around £250,000 and £300,000, gross of and tax and disbursement to RISL directors and staff etc.[48]

Client schools comprise, in the UAE: Repton School Dubai, which opened in September 2007 and situated on a site in Nad al Sheba; Repton School Abu Dhabi, which opened in 2013 on Al Reem Island, Abu Dhabi; and Foremarke Dubai opened in 2013 and is located in Dubiotech, Al Barsha South.

Further relationships are in development in Hong Kong[49] and India.[50]

Prep school

A junior school, Repton Preparatory School, was founded in 1940. It moved to nearby Foremarke Hall in 1947.

Social action

In May 2016 the school made defibrillators on its site available to the local community.[51] Some of the staff at the school have been vocal about the issue of speeding traffic in the village of Repton, and have participated in public speed gun enforcement.[52]

Many of the school's facilities are used by the wider community. Olympic gold medal and world record holder Adam Peaty used Repton's swimming pool as a training facilty. His coach, Melanie Marshall also teaches swimming at the school.[53]

Film and TV settings

The school has twice, in the 1930s and 1980s respectively, represented the fictional Brookfield School in a 1939 film and a 1984 BBC version of Goodbye, Mr. Chips.[54][55]

Around 200 students were extras in the 1939 film.[56]

Notable Old Reptonians


  • Thomas Whitehead (1621–1639)[90]
  • Philip Ward (1639–1642)[90]
  • William Ullock (1642–1667)[90]
  • Joseph Sedgwicke (1667–1672)[90]
  • Edward Letherland (1672–1681)[90]
  • John Doughty (1681–1705)[90]
  • Edward Abbot (1705–1714)[90]
  • Thomas Gawton (1714–1723)[90]
  • William Dudson (1723–1724)[90]
  • George Fletcher (1724–1741)[90]
  • William Asteley (1741–1767)[90]


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  44. Ovid's Fasti, book 2, line 204
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  46. article entitled "Pro Pelle Cutem, The Hudson's Bay Company Motto" by E. E. Rich in Manitoba Pageant, April 1961, Volume 6, Number 3
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