Wellington College has won the ‘Boarding School of the Year’ award at the prestigious Tes Independent School Awards 2018.

League tables have become such a fundamental part of the education landscape that is a brave school that decides to withdraw from them. Wellington College in Berkshire is just such an institution.In this category, the judges were looking for “innovation, imagination and efforts to develop children in ways that go beyond the league tables”.After Sir Anthony Seldon departed as Master in 2015, many were watching to see how Julian Thomas would follow his high-profile predecessor. The answer came, in part, the following year, when he took his school out of the world of league tables as “a sign of a genuine commitment to an all-round and inspirational education”.

What followed was an evaluation of the college’s lower-school curriculum, with the introduction of “lab time” to foster independent learning and thinking. Russian, computer science, astronomy and psychology were added as options. Sixth-form “service learning” was extended to link placements directly to academic studies.

Unique aspects of boarding life continue, including “Maniacs”, the early morning open-water swim regularly attended by 250 pupils.

The judges said: “This outstanding submission both reflected and far exceeded the criteria for the Tes boarding school of the year award. The school’s almost 900 boarders benefit from excellent pastoral care and an exceptional range of service-related, leadership and other activities, several unique to Wellington. These challenge individuals, develop their character and resilience, and prepare them thoroughly for life in the modern world. The school justifiably prides itself on its boarders’ induction programme and its positive engagement with boarders’ views.”

Winners attended a black-tie event at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London, hosted by author, broadcaster, actor and entertainer Gyles Brandreth, where more than 400 attendees celebrated all that is outstanding in independent schools.