At Fyling Hall we build a bright future on the wise foundations of our past. We believe, that a friendly, supportive atmosphere matters to a child and how they learn and that children learn best when they feel secure and content.
In the Beginnining…
… was Mab Bradley, the ‘merrily brilliant’ young woman who founded the school in 1923. A ‘born teacher’ who ‘always made you feel the world was bigger than you knew’, she was described in later years as a ‘fountain of intelligence and humanitarian wisdom’, with ‘a presence that commanded instant respect while, at the same time, being one’s ideal of a granny’.
It has long since become part of Fyling Hall legend that this remarkable woman was inspired to found a school after attending a dinner party in London. Hearing of a small and sickly boy, she offered tuition in bracing Yorkshire air. He would go on to win the top scholarship to Winchester. But with him and just three other boys, the school that was to become Fyling Hall sprang – almost accidentally – into being.
‘Finer or more healthy surroundings for a school are not to be found in England.’ So claimed the first prospectus for Fyling Hall, printed in the mid-1930’s. ‘The Grounds are laid out in terraces which provide admirable sites for outdoor Classes, Dancing, Plays, and other Performances.’ Thus, the alfresco production pictured here – ‘The Winter’s Tale’, perhaps, given the lurking bear?
The Great Trek
In 1940, the school was evacuated to Inglewood Bank near Penrith. Just as well, perhaps, since a large bomb dropped in the woods two days later. While the pupils travelled in buses, however, petrol rationing did not allow for the transportation of horses. A former pupil, Bob Dawson, was working as riding master in exchange for the Latin tuition he needed to qualify as Articled Clerk to the Town Clerk of Scarborough. With the brash optimism of a teenager, he offered to trek the school ponies over the Pennines to rejoin the children.
‘Children were living in Spartan conditions. The school would totally have confounded the Health & Safety pundits of today. We had no mains electricity; no mains water (delicious spring water from our own reservoir, but probably laced with politically incorrect particles) and frightful concrete showers and loos (known affectionately as ‘Bog End’), while a long railway carriage in the garden served as a senior boys dorm.’
Fyling Hall is a school with a uniquely vibrant personality. This springs, in no small measure, from the ideals and remarkable character of our founder, Mab Bradley. Even as we stride confidently into the 21st century with sophisticated facilities and technologies undreamed of in her day, there remains much about the school she would recognize.
Without doubt, she was a woman years ahead of her time. In an era when boarding co-education was viewed as dangerously revolutionary, she was determined that boys and girls should learn together – and at Fyling Hall they still do, at all ages.
In a class-riven society, she believed that all children, whatever their background or circumstances, deserve the best possible education – and was known, in times of parental hardship, to accept fees paid in eggs, bales of hay and even flower bulbs. Our finances have long since been put on a more formal (not to say more secure) footing, but we are proud that our fees remain amongst the most affordable in the country.
The Spartan conditions endured – and even, it seems, enjoyed – by early pupils make entertaining reading elsewhere on this site, but belong very much to the past. Mab’s daughter Clare White, who took over the school on her mother’s death, led a hugely successful programme of building and modernisation in the 80’s and 90’s. Nevertheless, we remain a straightforward, unfussy place. Not only do we – like Mab – want access to our education to be available to as many as possible, we believe, as she did, that a friendly, supportive atmosphere matters more to a child than fitted wardrobes.
And her inclusive philosophy extended beyond social or financial concerns. Long before comprehensive education, when failing the Eleven Plus or Common Entrance examinations could blight a child’s future, she refused to impose an entrance test for admission to her school. She passionately believed that every child possesses the ability to excel in some sphere, and that it is the duty and joy of a good teacher to find and nurture that spark. Her own ability to do so – to transform 11-Plus failures into Latin scholars and die-hard rugby players into Shakespearean actors – has become the stuff of legend. We continue to be non-selective academically, and our exam results annually prove her wisdom.
Similarly, we share her understanding that education – real education – must range beyond syllabuses and set texts, that children come to a school to learn about life as well as quadratic equations. We, too, hold firm to traditional values of integrity, good manners and mutual respect. As one of her pupils put it, hers was: ‘the type of education that really counts in the end, and that is an education in learning to live with and respect one another, regardless of background or aspirations.’ We like to think our present pupils will one day say the same.
Above all, perhaps – and this is, of course, reflected in our motto – we believe, as she did, that children learn best when they feel secure and content. As today’s inspectors from the statutory bodies regularly comment, this remains a wonderfully happy school.