Ripley St Thomas Church of England Academy

Ripley St Thomas Church of England Academy
Motto Believe.....
Established 1864
Type Academy
Religion Church of England
Principal Liz Nicholls
Chief Governor Prof. J Crewdson
Founder Julia Ripley
Location Ashton Road
Coordinates: 54°02′21″N 2°48′06″W / 54.0393°N 2.8018°W / 54.0393; -2.8018
DfE number 888/4689
DfE URN 119796 Tables
Ofsted Reports Pre-academy reports
Staff 150.1
Students 1650 inc. 350 sixth form
Gender Mixed
Ages 11–18
Houses Blackburn, Chester, Durham, York
Publication Believe..... magazine
Alumni organisation The Ripley Association

Ripley St Thomas Church of England Academy is a mixed Church of England high school operating under academy status, in the city of Lancaster in the north-west of England. The school has around 1650 pupils between 11 and 18 years old, 350 of whom are part of the sixth form.[1]


The school started life as Ripley Hospital, founded by Julia, wife of Thomas Ripley, a merchant who traded out of Lancaster and Liverpool. Thomas Ripley was born in Lancaster in 1791, and had been an apprentice to a grocer and linen draper. Since his mercantile career began later than 1807, there is no evidence to link Thomas Ripley with the slave trade. Indeed, much of his wealth stems from the fact that he was one of the first English merchants to embark on trade with China, and much of his subsequent trade was with the East Indies. As a devout Christian, he was keen to establish a charity hospital, modelled on the Liverpool Blue Coat School. Having no children, on his death in 1852 he left a considerable sum of money in trust to establish the Ripley Hospital to cater for fatherless children, especially those whose fathers had been lost at sea.

On 3 November 1864, it was designated to educate an equal number of boys and girls 300 in total providing they lived within either 15 miles (24 km) of Lancaster Priory or 7 miles (11 km) of Liverpool Cathedral.

The main school building, originally costing £30,000, included a first-class gym, woodwork and metalwork rooms, a domestic school for girls, and heated swimming pool, four courts for playing fives and enough full-sized football pitches to allow 150 boys to play at the same time. A farm of some 40 acres (160,000 m2) kept the school supplied with home produced meat, milk and poultry, and a vast kitchen garden gave a constant supply of fresh vegetables. This school was well in advance of its time. The farm won awards for the quality of its meat.

The work of the hospital continued until the outbreak of World War II in 1939, when the building was requisitioned by the army. The pupils then moved out to Capernwray Hall. They expected to return at the end of the war, but the government requisitioned Ripley for another three years for use as an emergency teachers' training college. By then, it was realised that the need for an endowed orphanage was much reduced. State pensions allowed more one-parent families to stay together, and the fashion had moved away from institutional units.

After the trainee teachers left, the building became a National School, then a boys' secondary modern school until 1966 when Ripley Boys' and St. Thomas Girls' Schools amalgamated to become Ripley St. Thomas Church of England School.

In September 1996, Ripley was designated a Language College. Whilst not changing in any way its status as a Voluntary Aided Church School, this does enable the school to develop its language facilities and so become a 'Centre of Excellence' for modern languages, including French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, Malaysian and Arabic.[2]

The school today

Today, 1650 boys and girls are educated at the school, many of whom continue to the age of 18 years and go on to complete university degree courses. The current headteacher is Liz Nicholls, succeeding J. Lailey.

Recent additions include science laboratories, a new Language and Technology block housing new classroom space, new sports hall with full size basketball courts, classrooms and fitness suite, and Sixth Form Centre. Ripley has also upgraded the technology, language and mathematics classrooms as part of a wider upgrade of its facilities. The school site is spacious and contains some exceptional features, including good sports facilities, the school farm, plant centre, walled garden and green space including fine mature trees.

The farm has been the subject of much media attention of late, with features from BBC North West Tonight, BBC Songs of Praise and BBC Newsround, all of which praised the school on the 'Farm to Fork' initiative, as the farm provides produce for the school kitchen. The school appeared on CBBC's Blue Peter on 6 September 2012, with the programme also focusing on the 'Farm to Fork' initiative.[3]

The school raised enough money to build a new multimillion-pound sixth form centre, which opened in January 2009, complete with lecture and conference facilities. Since doing so, numbers in the sixth form have increased, and it is widely renowned as one of the best in the district. Ripley St Thomas has also been as approved a Technology college, adding to the Language status. This means students must take at least one language and at least one technology course, e.g. Food Technology or Textiles at GCSE, continuing the curriculum students experience from Year 7. Ripley has gained many specialisms, including Training School, National Support School and member of the Leading Edge Partnership Programme, providing support to other schools in the area.

In January 2012, an Ofsted report rated the school overall as "Outstanding", the highest of four achievable Ofsted grades. The grade of "Outstanding" was also assigned in all 33 of the areas assessed by Ofsted.[4]

GCSE and A Level results

Ripley St Thomas achieves outstanding results for GCSE and A Level students every year, far outweighing the local authority and national average. The results for 5 or more A*-C including English and Maths has risen from 85% in 2010, to 89% in 2011, 31% higher than the national average.[5]

Sixth form

In 2009, the sixth form at Ripley St Thomas moved into a brand new multimillion-pound complex. Complete with lecture and conference facilities, the sixth form centre serves sixth formers and outsiders looking to host events. The building boasts classroom space holding tutorials and seminars, whilst the sixth form canteen ensures independence from the Main School building can be maintained. 350 sixth formers currently reside in the centre. However, a new extension to the building aims to provide more canteen and social space, alongside adding additional conference facilities. The sixth form is branded separately, and boasts a mature learning environment, for a mature approach to study, creating 'The Best of All Worlds...'

Academy status onwards

On Sunday, 1 May 2011, Ripley St Thomas became the third high school in Lancaster to be granted Academy status by the Secretary of State and was re-designated as "Ripley St Thomas Church of England Academy". The company has been registered with Companies House and an Academy Trust has been set up to run the company.[6] Whilst the name and branding of Ripley changed to reflect academy status, the ethos and beliefs of the school remain true to the heritage, as founded by Julia Ripley. The school still practises as a Church of England institution and the conversion to Academy status mainly concerns the back office running and funding of the school. In principle, the Academy Trust delegate the running of the school to the Governing Body.[7]

See also


  1. "School Information". Ripley St Thomas Church of England Academy.
  2. "History". Ripley St Thomas Church of England Academy.
  4. Ripley St Thomas Church of England Academy, Office for Standards in Education.
  5. "Performance Tables 2011". Department for Education.
  6. "Companies House". Companies House, HMRC Government.
  7. "News". Ripley St Thomas Church of England Academy.
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