An independent school in Hampshire is celebrating after it announced record numbers of boarding students, against a backdrop of weakening growth in the rest of the sector.
Highfield and Brookham Schools, Liphook, have experienced sustained growth in the number of students boarding in the last decade, from 38.1% of students in 2011/12 to 50.5% in 2019/20. The school’s overall intake has also increased in the same time period by 17 percentage points.
The school’s figures contrast with the national trend. According to the 2019 Independent Schools Council (ISC) annual census, the number of boarders in the UK has gradually declined since 2015. In contrast, Highfield has seen the number of boarders increase by 15 percentage points in the same time period.
The latest year’s intake is the school’s highest since it dropped its compulsory boarding policy in 1999.
For the first time, Highfield’s senior boarding house is full and currently accommodates 129 boarders from years six, seven and eight. The junior boarding house, for years four and five, is currently home to 13 students with space to accommodate a further five more come summer.
According to the school’s senior leadership team, numbers of boarding pupils usually rise in the summer term as parents think about preparing their children for senior school.
The school has hurriedly begun upgrading its facilities in anticipation of increased demand, with spare rooms pressed into service as new dorms.
Those rooms deemed suitable will be converted into bedrooms over the Easter break for part-time boarders. The school has invested in its boarding facilities in recent years, including two new dorms, for 10 children, in 2016.
The school has also overseen the appointment of a new head of boarding, Bertie Campbell Baldwin, to manage the expansion.
Phillip Evitt, headmaster at Highfield School, said: “Our boarding provision is at the heart of our school and we are thrilled that it continues to thrive each year. My team is very proud of what we have achieved and believe it will help support our boarding community for years to come.”
The schools of Highfield and Brookham are in Liphook, on the borders of Surrey, Hampshire and West Sussex. The schools sit amid the South Downs National Park in 175-acre grounds.