The Skinners' School

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The Skinners' School
Motto "To God Only Be All Glory" and "In Christo Fratres"
Established 1887
Type Grammar school;
Headmaster Edward Wesson
Founder Worshipful Company of Skinners
Location St John's Road
Royal Tunbridge Wells
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DfE number 886/5418
DfE URN 140595 Tables
Ofsted Reports Pre-academy reports
Students 819
Gender Boys
Ages 11–18
Houses Sebastian, Atwell, Hunt, Knott
Colours Red and black
Publication The Leopard

The Skinners' School (formally The Skinners' Company's School for Boys and commonly known as Skinners'), is a British grammar school with academy status for boys located in the town of Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England. Established in 1887, the school was founded by the Worshipful Company of Skinners (one of the 108 livery companies of the City of London) in response to a demand for education in the region. Today Skinners' remains an all-boys grammar school, recently awarded specialist status in science and mathematics in recognition of these disciplines' excellent teaching. The current enrolment is 824 pupils, of whom around 230 are in the sixth form. The first headmaster was Reverend Frederick Knott, after whom Knott House is named. The current Headmaster is Edward Wesson who joined the school in September 2013 replacing its former headmaster, Simon Everson.

Skinners boys generally take eleven General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) tests in Year Eleven (aged 15–16), and they have a choice of four or five A-levels in the sixth form. An Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) inspection in 2007 graded The Skinners' School as "outstanding". The majority of students go on to higher education following the completion of their A-levels at the end of Year Thirteen (aged 17–18), and in 2011, one in ten Year 13 students gained an Oxbridge offer.


The Skinners' School in Tunbridge Wells was the second school to be founded by The Worshipful Company of Skinners. The first Skinners' Company school, founded in Tonbridge, was called Sir Andrew Judd's Free School (an independent institution), now called Tonbridge School, which only accepted fee paying boarders, leaving the locals of Tonbridge without an education. As a result, The Skinners' Company decided to found another school - The Skinners' Company's School for Boys - and after a prolonged row between towns Royal Tunbridge Wells picked as the location. The school opened with 53 boys, many of whom had to walk in excess of six miles to reach class each day. The citizens of Tonbridge, again angry at the neglect of their sons, encouraged The Company to found a third school in 1888 - Sir Andrew Judd's Commercial School - which is now The Judd School. Finally, in the 1890s, The Company opened a girls school in Hackney, London, called The Skinners' Company's School for Girls.

The school has expanded and evolved over the years. On 1 April 1992, The school (formerly a voluntary aided grammar school) became a grant maintained school, reverting to voluntary aided status again in 1998, following the Education Reform Act of that year. Recently, additional accommodation has been provided for purpose-designed design and technology facilities and classrooms; a modern languages centre was completed in 2002 and a new music and performing arts centre opened in 2003. Ongoing development of the latter will provide further valuable provision for both curricular and extracurricular activities. Recent refurbishments have included new facilities for the sixth form. Specialist science status was awarded in 2005, which resulted in refurbishment of the science block. The school has since also gained mathematics and computing specialism status, and also twice achieved the 'green flag' status as an ecoschool. The school won a prestigious teaching award in 2009 in recognition of the work completed concerning environmental sustainability. On 1 February 2014 the school converted to academy status.

A full program of team games is maintained throughout the year with notable successes, particularly in rugby, cricket and athletics. The school enjoys a deep rivalry with The Judd School and, to a lesser extent, with Tunbridge Wells Grammar School For Boys.

Buildings and Property

The school consists of a range of buildings built at various stages of the school's history. While each building services specific departments, these have changed as new building/facilities became available:

  • The Main School and The School House are the oldest buildings on site and were the only buildings of the school when it opened in 1888 (built 1887). School House contains administrative offices including the school reception, headmaster's and deputy headmaster's offices. Main School houses the staff room and the library. Until recently, Main School was home to the music department and biology department, but these moved to other buildings when better facilities became available. The large rooms left behind have become home to some the English department.
  • The New Wing was built in 1960. Due to its stark architecture, the concrete building is most out of place within the school and is often ironically referred to as The 'New' Wing. It contains the physics and chemistry laboratories and more recently now serves the biology laboratories. The laboratories were completely renovated on the school being awarded special science status in 2005 which prompted the biology department's move. New Wing also contains the sixth form facilities and the dining hall, which contains the canteen and is where whole school assembly is held before lessons every Monday morning.
  • The Knox Wing (built in 1980) contains 8 class rooms each of very similar appearance. These rooms serve as form rooms and also class rooms for economics, geography, history, religious studies and Politics.
  • The Leopard Building (built 1994) contains dedicated rooms for art and design/technology. Recently it has become home to IT rooms and the other class rooms serve as form rooms and rooms for mathematics. In 2010 the design technology rooms were upgraded to include facilities for delivering food technology.
  • The Cecil Beeby Building is the one of the newest building on the school grounds built in 2002. This provides dedicated resources for the modern foreign language department and also provides form rooms. It was built on the site of two old cabins where German used to be taught.
  • The Old Gym was constructed in 1900 and is now too small to meet the sporting needs of the pupils and now acts as a careers office and gallery room for the art department.
  • The new sports hall was officially opened by the Chair of the Governing Body on the 9th November 2012. Inside the main hall can accommodate four badminton courts, five a side football, basketball, hockey training and cricket practice nets. At the far end it holds a large indoor climbing wall and upstairs houses a state of the art fitness suite, dance studio and classroom.

Byng Hall

In 2003 the school acquired Byng Hall. Originally the St John's Church Institute[1] and later part of St John's Primary School, the governors of Skinners' had been hoping to purchase it for many years. It is stylistically very similar to the Main Building and School House and is viable from the front of the school plot.

Skinners' received grants from central government and ran an appeal in school and through the old boys network to raise the funds for the buildings purchase and renovation. The final building received a conservation award from the Tunbridge Wells Civic Society for the sensitive restoration[2] which now enables Byng Hall to be used by the music and drama department; school drama productions and music recitals in The Thomson Theatre are prominent features in the school calendar.


Skinners' owns a large set of playing fields just along the main road that runs outside the school on the border of Tunbridge Wells and Southborough. Called Southfields, it was originally intended to be the site for the new school when plans were drafted in the 1930s. World War II prevented the move from occurring, but the foundations for the buildings are still present in one corner.

The fields are home to five rugby pitches, a football pitch, cricket nets, three cricket squares and various athletics facilities. The pavilion, featuring three changing rooms, was rebuilt in 2005 following an arson attack.

Form System

Each year group at the school is divided into forms. In years 7 there is now 5 forms and 8 there are four forms, organised by house as assigned to the pupils on entering the school. In years 9-11 the pupils are reorganised into forms represented by colours: blue, green, white and yellow. In years 10 and 11 there are separate teaching groups from the forms. In the sixth form there are five forms in each year.


All students are assigned a house on entering the school. The four houses of Skinners' are named after notable contributors to the school, each designated a colour which determines the colour of the trim on the school blazers, caps and scarves worn by the pupils, as well as athletics kits. While the house only initially determines which form the student is in, it forms the basis of sport teams throughout each pupil's career at the school. As such, friendly rivalries exist between each house especially amongst cricket hockey and rugby teams, with competition peaking at sports day. These houses are:

Atwell Green donated money to help fund the school


Hunt Yellow donated money to help fund the school


Knott Blue the first Headmaster of the school


Sebastian White the first Chairman of the school Governors


School uniform

The Skinners' School has uniform requirements that apply to all boys at the school, including those in the sixth form. These requirements have changed over the decades.

Variations throughout each school year, although some traditions have been repealed:

  • Year 7 (First year) Black shoes. Grey socks.trousers White collared shirt. School tie (black, red, and house colour, diagonal stripes). Grey, long sleeved, V-necked, woollen jumper (optional in summer). Blazer trimmed with two lines: burgundy and house colour, with school emblem on the breast pocket.
  • Year 8 (Second year) Long trousers.
  • Year 10 (Fourth Year)

There was also the honours school tie for pupils who made an achievement for the school name, such as winning a local inter-school race. This tie was red, black, and white, diagonally striped.

Present Day
Years 7-10:

  • Black shoes.
  • Black trousers or shorts (though these are rarely worn being highly unfashionable amongst the pupils).
  • White shirt.
  • School tie (with house colour).
  • Black V-necked jumpers are optional.
  • Blazer (with house colour).
  • School scarves are optional.

Years 11-13:

  • Black or brown shoes.
  • Most boys wear either a black or grey suit. This is optional, and the original blazer may still be worn, although is an unpopular choice.
  • Boys in the 6th form may wear a white, blue or black shirt.
  • Boys in year 11 should only wear white shirts.
  • Any jumper, round-neck or V-neck can be worn as long as it is a suitably subdued colour with no logos.
  • Those in the sixth form wear the sixth form tie (black and decorated with leopards). Boys in year 11 continue to wear the school tie.
  • School scarves are optional

Sports Kit
PE/Gym Lessons

  • White shorts
  • House singlet
  • White socks or no socks
  • Non-marking trainers


  • Black and red hooped rugby shirt
  • Black shorts
  • Black socks with red hoops at top
  • Appropriate footwear for football, hockey or rugby

Other ties are also available, however. Sporting achievements result in the presentation of school 'colours', a tie unique to the sport the achievement was gained in, which is presented by the headmaster in front of the school. The same goes for outstanding ability within the CCF. Prefect ties can be worn by the head boy, deputy head boys, as well as school and form prefects (These are black with horizontal red stripes).

Many boys have represented sports teams at county, regional and national level. Ties awarded to such boys are also accepted within the uniform policy.

  • Teachers wear smart-casual clothing, with university gowns only worn on Skinners' Day during the ceremony.

Sixth Form

The sixth form are provided with their own common room, featuring a canteen and recreational seating, and an adjacent study centre equipped with computing facilities. There is also a common room for prefects situated under the headmaster's office in School House. There is also a common room for Sixth Form English students equipped with computing facilities and recreational seating area.

The current head of sixth form is Mr Craig Fleming.

Academic Performance

The Skinners' School performs consistently above average and was awarded a "1 or outstanding", from Ofsted inspectors, on 6 June 2007.[3]

In 2010[4]

  • 71% of entries achieved A and B grades (excluding General Studies).
  • The vast majority of candidates achieved excellent grades, with 68% of grades being at A* or A.
  • The overall GCSE pass rate (5 A*-C) was 100%.


The current headmaster is Edward Wesson.

Notable past headmasters have included:

  • The Reverend Frederick Knott, after whom the school house Knott is named;
  • Cecil Beeby, after whom the Modern Languages school block is named;
  • Gerald Taylor;
  • Peter Braggins;
  • Simon Everson

Student Leadership

In the summer term of Year 12, school prefects are selected. Leadership roles amongst the prefects now include the head boy, two deputy head boys, the chairman of the school council, the parents' association and Old Skinners' Society liaison prefect, two senior prefects and four house captains. Other school prefects are divided between the roles of duty prefect and form prefect.

There are usually approximately sixteen form prefects, who take responsibility for a year eight or year seven form, two to a form.

Boards in School Hall denote previous positions of importance including Head Boys and CCF Commanding Officers. Until recently boys who earnt a place at an Oxford or Cambridge college would have their name added to the University honours board although that practice has now been ceased due to the volume of boys gaining Oxbridge places each year.

Notable former pupils

The Leopard song

The Skinners' School, like many schools started by London livery companies, has a school song. The lyrics are by Percy Shaw Jeffrey and appeared in the school magazine December 1894,[citation needed] and are as follows:

Now hands about, good Leopards all,
And sing a rousing chorus,
In praise of all our comrades here
And those who went before us;
For to this lay all hearts beat true,
The gallant hearts that love us,
So fortune 'fend each absent friend
While there's a sun above us.


Sing Leopards Sing (Breathe)
Floreat Sodalitas.
Little matter, well or ill,
Sentiment is more than skill,
Sing together with a will
Floreat Sodalitas,
'dalitas Pardorum.
The ivy climbs by brick and stone
About the buttressed Hall;
So memory weaves a charm to keep
Her servitors in thrall.
And whiskered leopards think with awe
Of Bab-el-Mandeb's Straits
Where in the days of long ago
They wrestled with the fates.
Then here's a toast before we part,
"The School House By The Lew"
And may its friends be stout of heart,
Its enemies be few
So we will pledge our noble selves
To use our best endeavour,
That while the merry world goes round
The School may stand forever!

Meaning of the song

The song contains two lines in Latin: Floreat Sodalitas and 'dalitas Pardorum. Floreat can be translated as "let [it] flourish" and Sodalitas as "fellowship" or "companionship"; 'dalitas is a contraction of Sodalitas (in the same way that fortune 'fend is a contraction of fortune defend) and Pardorum is the genitive plural of Pardus, meaning "Leopard" (the school emblem). Floreat Sodalitas therefore means "Let fellowship flourish" and 'dalitas Pardorum is "the fellowship of the leopards".

" Bab-el-Mandeb's Straits" is the name former pupils used to call the passageway to the old Headmaster's office (originally in Main Building). The apostrophe and the "s" may be anachronistic (a grocer's apostrophe) or they may refer to the nickname of the first headmaster (Mr Knott) being Bab-el-mandeb. The name is Arabic for the "Gates of Grief"[5] and the Straits are vital international shipping waters to this day. The Headmaster's office is now used by the librarian.

It refers to the choice confronting a boy when told to 'report to the headmaster', which was a daunting prospect in the past. Having climbed the stairs, the alternative to turning right and entering the headmaster's room, would be to turn left and jump from the balcony down into the main hall.

Students are told that The Lew, mentioned in the final verse, is a now submerged stream which ran alongside Somerset Road. It may also refer to a small suburb of the town next to which the school was built.


The original last line of the third verse was "The Guild may stand forever". A long-standing tradition at the school is to elongate the s sound in the word "whiskered" to create a hissing sound. Over time, enthusiastic boys, partially spurred on by the semi-disapproval of the staff, extended the tradition to all words within the second verse. While the students are never encouraged or told of this tradition, it is passed down through the years by the older boys to those starting at the school, during renditions of the song.

In recent years (starting in the late 1990s) it became customary (at least at Skinners' Day rehearsals) to loudly and deeply shout the word 'breathe' after the first line of each chorus, as a tribute to a much-loved retired music teacher, Mr Tony Starr, who shouted the word during rehearsals to remind the student body to breathe at that point.

The song has another version written by Shaw Jeffrey who adapted its lyrics for his new school when he became headmaster for the Colchester Royal Grammar School.


It is popular among Skinners students to over emphasize the 's' on certain words of the song, which is also a remnant of Tony Starr's time as music teacher. He initially encouraged the additional emphasis but (like the 'breathe') the excessive emphasis has become a light hearted homage. These words include 'Straits' pronounced straight-ssss, 'whiskered' pronounced wissss-kerd and finally 'fates', pronounced fate-ssss. This song is sung by the School on Skinners' Day.

Old Skinners' Society

Founded in 1890 by the Old Boys of the time, the Old Skinners' Society has four main aims:

  1. To promote, preserve and strengthen the ties of sentiment which exist between Old Boys and the School and to encourage the closest liaison between the Society and the School.
  2. To provide opportunities for Old Boys to keep in touch with their former school friends and with the School.
  3. To encourage the formation and activities of branches of the Society.
  4. To provide and promote financial and/or material assistance to the School.

On leaving the school the majority of leavers sign up to the society for life, making them eligible to attend the many social events the society organizes.

The current president of the society is Peter Braggins, who is a former Headmaster.

See also


External links