In a world of many challenges, Eltham College focuses on educating young people for life today and tomorrow, says Deputy Head Pastoral Ann Massey

Eltham College has delivered excellent education since its foundation over 180 years ago, but today our thriving co-ed school for students aged 7 to 18 focuses on delivering teaching and learning to prepare young people for a fast-changing world.

Academically selective and delivering results that make us a leading academic school nationally, we are equally known for breadth of opportunities in sport, music, drama and art. We are also a Microsoft-accredited Showcase School (one of only 50 across the UK). Student and parent perspectives are vital, so we are delighted to be named a Top 20 London day school in the Sunday Times Parent Power Good Schools Survey, and also Independent Secondary School of the Year 2024 London.

Focus on Eltham College / Education for life
At Eltham College, the focus is on balancing academic and co-curricular provision, and with strong pastoral support

Our aim is to foster a relaxed and unpretentious atmosphere to make this a welcoming place where people can develop their interests, skills and passions. Our beautiful campus, set in some 70 acres in south-east London, is embedded within the broad and diverse community it serves. This means an inclusive educational experience, multiple partnerships to enrich school and community, and an environment balancing stimulating academic and co-curricular provision in with strong pastoral support. We call our approach ‘Education for Living Life’.

With the Olympic Games in Paris, we are taking the opportunity to remember the example set by one of our famous alumni, Eric Liddell”

We were established just over 180 years ago in 1842, and the College has retained a distinct character, borne out of its Christian roots. Pastoral and wellbeing programmes are multifaceted, with student wellbeing at the heart of our ethos. Our Wellbeing curriculum is known as the ‘5Rs Framework’: Respect, Relationships, Responsibility, Resilience and Readiness.  Delivered weekly, it is tailored to each age group from Years 7 to 13 and overseen by our Head of Wellbeing. 

Focus on Eltham College / Education for life
Sports is a strong suit, and with distinguished alumni including Olympian (and rugby player) Eric Liddell

Our multi-award-winning initiative the ‘Every Name Matters’ project centres on the importance of respecting individual identities and cultural backgrounds by ensuring accurate pronunciation of students’ names. A dedicated group of teachers and support staff has compiled a comprehensive database of names and phonetic spellings, integrating it into the College’s management information system. Students also have the opportunity to record their names, giving teachers a resource to familiarise themselves with accurate pronunciations. The initiative has had a profound impact on staff-student relationships, helping to build stronger connections. This simple but vital act of calling people by the right name creates an environment where every student feels seen, respected, and valued.

Other significant pastoral initiatives have included ‘Life Story’, designed to address concerns raised by the ‘Everyone’s Invited’ campaign. This programme takes a holistic approach in specific classes, equipping students with the skills they need to develop healthy relationships and to navigate life. Extensive research and student input contributed to the development of age-appropriate educational ‘games’ that help to embed respect, empathy, and resilience.

There are multiple student-led affinity groups plus school-wide activities for important events such as Black History Month. As part of our commitment to the wider community, we are working to diversify teaching through a Teaching Insight Programme that provides opportunities for aspiring teachers from under-represented backgrounds to understand more about our profession and develop career skills. Many students are involved in local volunteering and the school has rich and mutually rewarding partnerships with schools and community groups in a network that spans an area stretching from Docklands, across south-east London and down into Kent.

Eltham College has strong partnerships in the local and broader community, attracting students from across the capital and Kent

While Eltham College remains true to its roots – and was proud to celebrate the 180th anniversary of its foundation by Christian missionaries – today we welcome students of all faiths and none. This year, with the Olympic Games taking place in Paris, we are taking the opportunity to remember the example set by one of our most famous alumni, Eric Liddell.

Part of his life story was told in the Oscar-winning film Chariots of Fire, which centred on his sporting prowess. A devoutly religious man, he honed his sporting skills on the playing fields of Eltham in rugby and athletics. At the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris, he won a gold medal in the 400 metres but refused to compete in the 100 metres finals because it took place on a Sunday, a Christian day of rest.  He also competed for Scotland in international rugby and is recognised in the Scottish RFU’s ‘Hall of Fame’. He had incredible sporting prowess, but Liddell had a deeper calling to serve. He travelled to China as a missionary in the 1920s and died, tragically young, in a Japanese civilian internment camp in 1945.  

“Students are involved in local volunteering and the school has rich and mutually rewarding partnerships with schools and community groups”

We are honouring Eric Liddell’s life throughout this year with a series of events, including a concert at the Royal Albert Hall and another at the school, a sports tour to schools in Edinburgh and St Andrew’s, and a charity run of nearly 700 miles from Paris to Edinburgh, via Eltham College.  

Eric Liddell’s memory lives on at Eltham College. We remember him daily in the name of our well-used sports centre, but we also believe he is an embodiment of our Eltham College Aims, most notably as a school that ‘enables students to consider Christian beliefs and values, whilst warmly including those of other faiths and none, so that all might live a life for the benefit of others’.

Ab Ed Spring Cover
Eltham College is cover feature for the spring 2024 issue of Absolutely Education

Eltham College

Further reading: Capital gains – the benefits of going to school in London