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West Buckland School is an English independent school in West Buckland, Devon. It comprises a senior school, preparatory school, and a nursery. It is the highest performing school in North Devon[citation needed] and the highest performing co-ed day and boarding school in the South West[citation needed]. It has been shortlisted for 'Boarding School of the Year' in the TES Independent School Awards 2019.

West Buckland School

TypeIndependent school
MottoRead and Reap
FounderJoseph Lloyd Brereton
HeadmasterPhillip Stapleton
Enrollment600 (approx.)

It facilitates 600 pupils of whom around 120 board; 16% of students are foreigners. The day pupils and flexible boarders are drawn from a wide area of North Devon and many use the large school bussing operation in collaboration with local coach operators.



West Buckland School was founded as the Devon County School in 1858 by Rev. J.L. Brereton to provide a public school education for sons of farmers and the middle class. The foundation stone of the Gothic(?)-style buildings was laid in October 1860 by Earl Fortescue, who had provided land and other support for the school.

Under the first headmaster, J.H. Thompson, numbers rose to 150 by 1876 and then declined as a consequence of agricultural depression and competition from other schools.

In the winter of 1912/13 the school was renamed West Buckland School.

During the 1950s it received increasing support from the Devon County Educational authority and became a direct grant school. In 1976, when direct grants were abolished, it finally became a fully independent school.

West Buckland leads the North Devon schools examination league table.

Expansion and developmentEdit

The school has 450 pupils and is expanding in facilities. 2008 saw the completion of a sports hall behind the nineteenth century complex. In April 2010 the 150 Building opened, a combination of buildings containing modern art, design and technology workshops, a theatre which replaced an old theatre together with assembly space for the prep school, and a quadrangle. In Autumn 2015 the 'Michael Morpurgo' library opened. In the building there is also the head of sixth form office, an English and economics classroom, the school library and work area with computers for pupils. Also opened was Parkers, a sixth form boarding house for boys and girls, each with their own room with en suite facilities. Downstairs features a lounge and kitchen for use of day pupils as well.[1]

The four House system of West Buckland School are:

Numerous inter-house competitions are held throughout the school year in music, drama and sport, culminating in Sports' Day on the final day of the summer term. Points are awarded depending on how well houses do in each competition and whichever house has amassed the largest number of points after Sports' Day wins the coveted Southcomb Shield.

An extract from “West Buckland School 1858–1958. The First Hundred Years. A Review of a Century recorded by Friends and Pupils.”

On July 31, 1917, there fell in action, E. H. Southcomb, then a Lieutenant in the Manchester Regiment. He was for many years a very cheerful member of the Brereton House, no great athlete but always ready to play his part to the best of his ability. On leaving West Buckland he went, by his father's wish, to Shrewsbury for two years, and then entered a bank, where he remained till war broke out. On his death it was found that he had left a legacy (£10 10s. 0d.) to the Sports Fund of his first school, and somewhat late it has at last been decided to perpetuate his memory by a Shield which will be held by the House which obtains the chief athletic cups in the School year, which starts in September. For this purpose, each of the Challenge Cups carries a definite mark. The allocation of marks for each cup was not an easy matter and even now the values may require re-adjustment in 1924. The Headmaster formed a committee consisting of Messrs. Corless, Taylor and Walton, and the list as issued by them will hold good at any rate till July, 1924. The winning House will hold the shield, which will be hung over their dining tables, and will also take the right of the line on ceremonial parades.

The House system provides a continuity of pastoral care throughout a pupil's school career, as well as creating opportunities for leadership qualities to be demonstrated.


There are currently four main boarding houses at West Buckland:

  • Bamfylde – situated on the preparatory school site, and catering for girls aged 11 to 16. (named after the Bamfylde family, Barons Poltimore, historic lords of the manor of nearby North Molton)
  • Boyer House – for boys aged 11 to 16
  • Parkers – for sixth form boys and girls aged 16 to 18

Each of the boarding houses has its own houseparent.


Annual Day Fees[when?]: £7,140 – £13,260, Annual Boarding Fees: £21,120 – £24,600[citation needed]


Prefect duties, which include care of younger students, are awarded to senior pupils within each house. The Head and Deputy Head of School are selected from the Senior Prefects. The prefect team typically consists of around 20 members of the upper sixth. They are split into five teams, each having responsibility for one day of the working week. There are also dedicated boarding prefects.

Aside from being Senior Prefects, sixth form members of each house have the opportunity to be Link Prefects. This is where two members of the sixth form are allocated to one tutor group within the house. They will generally visit the group once a week, usually on a Thursday.


The Old West Buckland Association provides regular newsletters to former pupils. It also organises sports matches between current school teams and teams of 'old boys' and 'old girls', as well as organising a number of social events.

Notable alumni include:

The OWBA ties, country (left) and city (right)

Speech DayEdit

On the last day of the academic year, the school holds its Speech Day and prize-giving ceremony. Pupils who have achieved excellence in academic, sporting and other fields are rewarded for their efforts and for their contribution to the school's success. Successful former pupils are often invited to make speeches, alongside a customary speech by the serving headmaster of the school.

The Exmoor RunsEdit

Every year the school holds the Exmoor Run, essentially a cross-country run across Exmoor. The Senior Boys' Run is reputed to be the longest school cross-country run in the country, with a walk of eight miles to the start and a run of ten miles back to the finish (the school). Senior girls are required to walk six and to run seven and a half miles. Junior boys walk out five miles and run back five and a half, while Junior girls walk four and run four.


  1. ^ "Senior School Study Centre and Sixth Form Facilities". Retrieved 2015-01-16.


  • Coates, Berwick: West Buckland School: The Millennium Book (Halsgrove, 2000)
  • Edmunds, Jon.: A history of West Buckland School (Aycliffe Press, 1983)
  • Honey, J.R. de S.: Tom Brown's Universe, The Development of the Victorian Public School (pp 47–103) (Millington, 1977)

External linksEdit