Sir William Borlase's Grammar School

Sir William Borlase's Grammar School
Motto Latin: Te Digna Sequere
(Follow things worthy of thyself)
Established 1624
Type Academy grammar school
Headteacher Peter Holding
Founder Sir William Borlase
Location West Street
England England
Coordinates: 51°34′13″N 0°46′54″W / 51.57021°N 0.78163°W / 51.57021; -0.78163
DfE URN 136781 Tables
Ofsted Reports Pre-academy reports
Students 1,080
Gender Coeducational
Ages 11–18
Houses      Britons
Publication The Borlasian

Sir William Borlase's Grammar School (commonly shortened to Borlase or SWBGS) is a selective state grammar school accepting girls and boys aged 11–18 located in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, England.[1] It is situated on West Street,[2] close to the town centre and also accepts students from nearby towns. It has around 1000 pupils, including a sixth form of about 380.


Front of SWBGS


The School was founded on its present site in 1624 by Sir William Borlase[2] in memory of his son Henry Borlase, MP for Marlow, who died in that year.[3]

Sir William Borlase

Sir William Borlase was descended from Taillefer of Angoulême, who fought on the side of King William at the Battle of Hastings. John Borlase, his father made his fortune in London and this enabled his son to establish himself in Marlow as a country gentleman. He lived at Westhorpe Manor House in Little Marlow and became not only Sheriff of Buckinghamshire but was a Member of Parliament for Aylesbury. In 1603 he was knighted by James the First. In 1624 and in memory of his son Henry who died that same year, Sir William decided to build a "free school" in the town in order "to teach twenty-four poor children to write, read and cast accounts, such as their parents and friends are not able to maintain at school". Boys entered the school between the ages of ten and fourteen and at the end of two years, six of the best were given two pounds each to apprentice themselves to a trade. Sir William died in 1629 but the school has survived to this day.


The school has served the town of Marlow and its surrounding district, including High Wycombe and Maidenhead, for over three centuries. In 1987 the school became co-educational when girls entered into the lower sixth.

Specialist status

In September 2005 the school was awarded specialist school status as a Performing Arts College, by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES).[4] The school planned an application for science & maths status as well before the scheme was discontinued.


In September 2007, the school moved to a two week timetable, with five one-hour periods a day, two before morning break, two after break, and one after lunch, in line with most other schools. This is to facilitate individualised learning.

Academy status

In June 2011 the school became an Academy.[5]

Awards and inspections

As well as its performing arts status, the school holds a number of awards and marks including the Sportsmark Award, the NACE Challenge Award, the Healthy Schools mark, the Continuing Professional Development Mark and is designated as a National Support School.

The most recent full Ofsted inspection (as of Autumn 2014) occurred in June 2012. The report noted that the school has "an inspirational learning culture which is embraced by staff and students".[6] Consequently, Borlase was judged to be an 'Outstanding' school.

The Pink Clock Tower

The Pink Clock Tower at Borlase was a remnant of a Leavers' Day prank in 2004. It was later re-painted white.[7]


(Records Destroyed)

This work was completed by a Borlase's Grammar School pupil, involved in a documentary about the school.

Physical Layout

The school has a collection of facilities of varying vintages. The school office and reprographics room is housed in the original flint building, which was unveiled in 1624. Since then the school has added a Victorian cloister, and an Edwardian era Chapel, which has gradually been added to over a period of about 40 years. These classrooms were until recently used to teach mathematics.

In the 1970s further expansion occurred. A new school hall and several classrooms were built.

In the late 1980s a new sports gym was added, followed in 1992 by new modern languages facilities and library in a new building facing onto West Street.

In 2000, after the school started admitting Year 7s, the "Audrey Moore Building" (named after its chief benefactor) was built to house new classrooms, a sixth-form common room and a new canteen, replacing the old sports pavilion and canteen.

In 2004, as part of the school's bid for Arts Award status, a new performing arts theatre (to house facilities for music, drama and dance) was built on the site of the old swimming pool. The building also houses purpose-built IT labs and metal and woodwork facilities. It was opened on 7 December 2004 by HRH the Duke of Gloucester. As a result of this building work, other space within the school was adjusted with a rolling programme, and a new style eatery called "Mimi's Café" was added, along with a new Sixth Form Centre. At the beginning of the 2006 Autumn term, the headmaster announced that the Library was to be renamed the "Learning Centre".

The school has a modern gym that houses resistance machines, free weights and cardiovascular equipment. This is used primarily for rowing, a sport that is at the school.

In 2009 the old "greenhouse" was replaced with a new building to house pupils' lockers.

At the end of the 2010 summer holidays the school started building a new cookery building on the area where the decking once stood, this was completed in 2011 with the addition of a large English room above the kitchens.

The school now contains a theatre, a music and technology block, and an art centre.

In September 2016, a new building was opened on the site of the old locker room. This new building houses 3 Sixth Form work rooms, Sixth Form mentoring offices and a new maths classroom

Coat of arms

The school coat of arms is emblazoned on all school literature and on the school uniform. Originally, the Taillefers of Angoulême had a crest of a ghostly hand emerging from a cloud. It is holding a badelaire to give one power in a struggle, be it sporting or academic. Behind this, on the background, can be seen eight stars.

Then, in the era of Henry VIII, the addition of the other arm gripping a horseshoe (replacing the former sword) showed how one must rise above conflict, and work together to overcome an adversary.

It is also noted that there is a knights' visor above the logo. The one on which it was based can be found to this day, with the rest of the armour, in the Board Room at the school.

The motto Te Digna Sequere means 'follow things worthy of thyself', and it was added in the Victorian era as an additional banner.. The school also has a secondary maxim 'offer the helping hand' that has been developed in the past century.

In addition to the coat of arms the external walls contain this plaque with a biblical quotation.

House system

Sir William Borlase's Grammar School has six houses: Britons, Danes, Normans, Romans, Saxons and Vikings. They are named after the various ancient national groups held power in Britain. Pupils have coloured stripes on their ties indicating the house that they are in.

Houses form the basis of the vertical tutoring system at Borlase with each house comprising seven tutor groups.

There are various house competitions throughout the academic year ranging from the biannual music & dance competitions to cross-country & sports day and public speaking & mathematics.

Academic societies and clubs

School clubs cover a wide range of topics from the Drama Clubs for all years to Zen Soc.

The school hosts a number of different academic societies.[8] These all have vocational links and are usually run by Year 13 students with an advisory teacher attached. They include Engineering Society (EngSoc), MedSoc, Modern United Nations Society, Psychology Society (Psych Soc), Geology Society (GeolSoc), LawSoc and HistSoc.

The Arts

Music, drama and dance are studied by all in Key Stage 3 and can be continued throughout student's GCSE and A-level years.


The school puts on a Junior Musical and Senior Production on alternating years with other drama opportunities occurring throughout the school year. These are performed in the school's state of the art theatre. Recent senior productions have included 'Fiddler on the roof' and 'Dr Faustus'. The school recently put on a production of 'Les Miserablés'.[9]


The school host various concerts throughout the year as well as achieving highly in national music competitions. All musical talent is celebrated in the Autumn concert and at various other showcases later in the year. The junior concert is another event specifically aimed at the younger choirs and bands. Musical groups include Jazz band, Big Band, Ukulele orchestra, Brass Concert Band and Junior Wind Band.

There are many singing opportunities at the school. Junior Boys and Girls choirs are run by sixth formers and allow younger participation. Madriguys, Chapel choir and Gospel choir are gender-specific choirs specifying in different types of music with most choristers also belonging to the mixed Cantorum choir. The choirs perform at all of the school's concerts as well as taking a leading role in the Christmas service at Marlow's All Saints Church by the River Thames.

Rock and Pop bands perform in the annual 'Rocktober' band night as well as at events in the local area.


Dance is utilised as a subject in its own right as well as aiding other studies. Borlase Strictly come dancing in Year 8 is a chance for the whole year to develop their ballroom dancing skills and in Year 7, students perform a dance linked to one of the non-performing arts subjects.



Sir William Borlase's Boat Club is one of the best boat clubs in the country, with many of its members reaching international events.[10] It is open to all students from Year 9 onwards. Sir William Borlase's Grammar School won the Fawley Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta in both 2012 and 2014. In 2014, the J16's pre-qualified for the Princess Elizabeth Cup at Henley, this is a great achievement as the Princess Elizabeth is a J18's event.


Borlase Hockey is one of the leading school hockey clubs in the country with over 200 members.[11] The club is based at Marlow Sports Club. As of Autumn 2014, the club had 7 junior internationals within its team. The club has regular successes in both Indoor and Outdoor National Competitions.[12]

Expeditions and trips

The school gives lower years chances to go on academic school trips ranging from the British Museum to the battlefields in northern France and Belgium. On top of this, in the summer holidays sixth formers can attend some wide-ranging school expeditions ranging from trekking across Svalbard in 2012 to backpacking in Ammassalik and volunteering in Uganda in 2015.

Notable former pupils

See also


  1. "About the School". Sir William Borlase's Grammar School. Retrieved 19 April 2006.
  2. 1 2 "Marlow Town Highlights". Marlow Society. Archived from the original on 12 January 2006. Retrieved 19 April 2006.
  3. Wheals, Brian Brenchley (1984). Theirs Were But Human Hearts. Self published. ISBN 9780950905303.
  4. "Specialist Schools Home". DfES. Archived from the original on 3 August 2006. Retrieved 20 April 2006.
  5. "Open academies map and schools submitting applications". Department for Education. Retrieved 22 July 2011.
  6. "OFSTED Inspection of Sir William Borlase School 2012".
  7. Ltd, Not Panicking. "h2g2 - Sir William Borlase; Its true history".
  8. "Sir William Borlase Grammar School Academic Societies". Retrieved 16 November 2014.
  9. "Sir William Borlase Grammar School Arts". Retrieved 16 November 2014.
  10. "Sir William Borlase Grammar School Rowing". Retrieved 16 November 2014.
  11. "Sir William Borlase Grammar School Hockey". Retrieved 16 November 2014.
  12. "Sir William Borlase Grammar School Sports Club". Retrieved 16 November 2014.
  13. 18 Feb 2002 (2002-02-18). "Bunny Allen". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 2013-01-04.
  14. Andrew Saint (8 June 2000). "AW Cleeve Barr | World news". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-01-04.
  15. "Prof Richard Britnell Authorised Biography – Debrett's People of Today, Prof Richard Britnell Profile". 1944-04-21. Retrieved 2013-01-05.
  16. "Sir Graham Burton, KCMG Authorised Biography – Debrett's People of Today, Sir Graham Burton, KCMG Profile". Retrieved 2013-01-05.
  17. "Mr Jeremy Cresswell Authorised Biography – Debrett's People of Today, Mr Jeremy Cresswell Profile". Retrieved 2013-01-05.
  18. "Prof Tony Culyer, CBE Authorised Biography – Debrett's People of Today, Prof Tony Culyer, CBE Profile". 1942-01-07. Retrieved 2013-01-05.
  19. Manjoo, Farhad. "Hawk-Eye saved tennis from bad line calls: Paul Hawkins' invention, designed for cricket, has moved to other sports. - Slate Magazine". Retrieved 2013-01-05.
  20. "Dowager Duchess of Devonshire visits childhood home". Wycombe District Council. 28 May 2008. Retrieved 6 August 2008.
  21. "Ken Snakehips Johnson Story". Ken Snakehips Johnson. Retrieved 19 April 2006.
  22. "Marlow's History". Marlow. Retrieved 19 April 2006.
  23. "LEE, Phillip James". Who's Who. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
  24. "Science Board Member - Justin Wark". STFC. 2012-10-04. Retrieved 2013-01-05.
  25. Cowe, Roger (16 February 2002). "Obituary: Garry Weston. Penny-wise entrepreneur at the head of Associated British Foods". London: The Guardian Newspaper. Retrieved 3 February 2009.

External links

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