Ackworth School was founded in 1779 by John Fothergill on behalf of The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and the School Committee (or Board of Governors) is still accountable to this body. The School was established for Quaker boys and girls and the Quaker Christian ethos, with its emphasis on quiet reflection and the search for God within oneself and within others, lies at the heart of the School.
Periods of reflective silence form part of each day, during Morning Meeting and before meals for example, and each Thursday there is a short silent Meeting for Worship for the whole School. On Sunday morning boarders attend Quaker Meeting for Worship unless they wish to attend another place of worship. The importance of respect for others and honesty at all times emphasised by the Quaker faith helps to produce a calm, friendly atmosphere which is supportive and reassuring for young people.
The majority of pupils are from non-Quaker families and about 10% come from other countries. Indeed, the international nature of the School, especially in the Sixth Form, is one of its distinctive features. As in any such community there has to be a clear disciplinary framework and our expectations are high. Ackworth pupils respond well to this and to the opportunities provided for assuming responsibilities, for example within the boarding houses and on the School Council.
A study bedroom in one of the boarding houses
Since its foundation in 1779, Ackworth has always been a mixed boarding school and currently about one-third of the Senior School boards. There are separate boarding houses for boys and girls, each with comprehensive care, guidance and support appropriate to the age of the pupils.
Ackworth has developed a flexible approach to boarding in response to parental and student needs. Some students only go home for the three main holidays, others go home most weekends. Some board for the whole of their time at Ackworth, others board for perhaps one or two years. About half of the boarders are from overseas, the rest come from many different parts of the UK. Some board at Ackworth because it is a Quaker School and/or their parents came here, others are first generation boarders who perhaps board because both parents work and boarding saves them spending a great deal of time driving to and from school.
Most boarders share a bedroom with one or two other students. There are common rooms for playing table tennis, watching television and other such activities or for simply having a chat over a cup of coffee and a piece of toast. Resident staff are available at all times and other staff, including the Head and Deputy Head, live on site. We cannot replace parents but we do everything we can to make boarders feel at home. The boarders learn to live in a tightly knit community with a wide age range and a strong international mix. There has to be give and take, and older students provide a helping and supportive hand. All of this is immensely valuable but, above all, many boarders simply find boarding fun.
Boarding helps students to focus on study. Time and energy are not wasted on travel and boarders have access to the School's excellent library late into the evening and throughout the weekend.
Sixth Form boarders have shared studies as well as their bedrooms and some day scholars switch to boarding in the Sixth Form. They do this partly to take full advantage of the facilities for study and social interaction offered by the School and partly to gain a degree of independence which will prepare them for living away from home when they go to university.