History of Sidcot School
The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) was founded by George Fox around 1652 during the reign of Charles II. The Society was a non-conformist dissenting group whose members turned away from the then, unjust nature of Anglican Worship. Quakers believe that you do not need churches and ministers as a vehicle to speak to God, that one can do that directly and due to this rebellious action, especially at the time of the autocratic regime of the church, many were arrested and imprisoned.
In 1667, Fox, in consequence of this social persecution began to encourage Quakers to set up schools of their own, and in 1699, the hamlet of “Sithcott” was selected as a location for one of these schools because of its “very healthy and serene air.” The school opened its doors in the summer of 1699 in a building on the site of the present school to boys from Quaker families under the first headmaster, William Jenkins. He later sold the building in 1728. Another Quaker school was opened in nearby Yatton, however by 1784 the Headmaster, John Benwell, moved the school back to Sidcot once again. By 1805, there were 45 boys at Sidcot, however the school was struggling financially and had to close that year. With financial guarantees from Quaker Meetings throughout the south west of England, Sidcot was able to re-open in 1808 in the main building we use today, to teach boys and girls of members of the Society “in low circumstances”- in fact, Sidcot is one of the oldest co-educational schools in the UK.
Between 1902 and 1930, Sidcot was under the headship of Bevan Lean – perhaps one of our most influential headmasters to date. A Quaker and a doctor of science, he recognised the need for the school to provide better facilities for the children, establishing the Old Library, Arts and Science blocks, the 6th form, the student office holders, and the Island magazine (a publication that is still produced by the students today!). Bevan Lean also pioneered the discovery approach to learning, and this, along with his commitment to providing the best in education and facilities, is still prevalent now.
In the years that have passed since then, many things at Sidcot have changed, with significant investment in the modernisation of the buildings and facilities. However we remain true to our Quaker heritage, and to George Fox’s wish that “All must be meek, sober and gentle, quiet and loving and not give one another bad words at any time.” We continue to respect one another and to nurture the talents of each individual child, encouraging them to achieve their goals and of course, our rural location means that we are still surrounded by “very healthy and serene air”. In its early years Sidcot met, and overcame many challenges, yet through the determination, strength and vision of our ancestors we have evolved into the successful and dynamic school that we are today. It is this enthusiasm and optimism that we take from our predecessors to guide Sidcot into the future, ensuring that we provide top quality education and life changing experiences for many generations yet to come.