History of Reading School

"The History of the Grammar Schools is very largely the history of the nation's secondary education - throughout the centuries the Grammar Schools have been in the mainstream".

Charles Kemp, Headmaster 1939-1966

Founded nearly 900 years ago, Reading School is the great School of the Town of Reading.  It has nurtured men who have made distinguished contributions in all spheres of life, including an Archbishop of Canterbury and a Prime Minister.  Its history has three eras:

1125 - 1539

Reading Abbey was founded in 1121 and the School opened in 1125.  Henry VII established grammar school status in 1486, refounding Reading School in the Abbey's Hospitium of St John.

1540 - 1866

Following the dissolution of the Abbey in 1539, the Town Corporation assumed responsibility, and the School's governance was regulated by  Henry VIII's grant of Letters Patent in 1541 to Headmaster Leonard Coxe.  The Charter which Elizabeth I gave to the town in 1560, included clauses that effectively governed the School, in The Forbury, for a further 300 years.  The School's buildings - and horizons - were expanded under Haviland Hiley, (1716 to 1750).  Under Dr. Richard Valpy (1781-1830), the school gained an outstanding reputation, but from 1830 there followed a decline in its fortunes as the Victorian gentry began to establish the modern network of Public Schools.

1866 to date

The Reading School Act of 1867 enabled the move to its present site in Erleigh Road.   Edward, Prince of Wales laid the Foundation Stone of Alfred Waterhouse's splendid buildings, which opened in 1871.  Following some reconstitution in 1882, the transition to a Maintained School came under Dr William Eppstein (1894-1914), the absorption of Kendrick Boys School in 1916 occurred under George Keeton (1914-1939), and the Education Act of 1944 (which introduced the 11+) was passed while Charles  Kemp was Headmaster (1939-1966).  Kemp's fine achievements were recognised by his peers with his election to the Headmasters' Conference.


Reading School is a Grammar School with about 1000 boys, who are selected on the basis of examined ability, usually at age 11, with further entrants at 13 and 16.  It is a state funded foundation school with no fees for day students.  Boarders pay for food and lodgings but not for schooling.  Ashley M Robson, BA (Hons) MBA NPQH became Headmaster in 2012.  Examination results are outstanding.  The School is consistently amongst the top performers in the UK.