Diocesan College

Diocesan College
Diocesan College (Bishops)
Diocesan college bishops crest.png
Motto Pro Fide Et Patria
Established 1849
Type All-Boys Independent College School
Affiliation Anglican, HMC, ISASA
Principal Mr Grant Nupen
Founder Bishop Robert Gray D.D.
Chaplain Fr Terry Wilke
Grades PreK - 13
Location Camp Ground Road, Rondebosch, 7700,
Cape Town, South Africa
Colours Navy and light Blue
Fees(2011) R 76 220 (tuition)
R 133 060 (boarding)
Website www.bishops.org.za

The Diocesan College, or Bishops as it is more commonly known, is an independent, all-boys school situated in the suburb of Rondebosch in Cape Town, South Africa. It consists of three schools: the College for grades 8 – 12 and post matric (an optional year following grade 12 which covers the A-levels); the Preparatory School for grades 3 – 7 and the Pre-Preparatory School for Pre-Kindergarten – Grade0-2.

Established in 1849, it is the fifth-oldest existing school in Africa.[1]



The institution is divided into three parts. Each functions largely independently of the others; but at the same time facilities are shared. The College is situated in Campground Road at the main campus, and a small portion of this land is used for the Pre-Preparatory School. The Preparatory School is nearby.

The Principal of the Diocesan College is Mr Grant Nupen. The school council has recently appointed Mr Vernon Wood as Headmaster of the senior school (College). Mr Greg Brown is the headmaster of the Preparatory School and Noell Andrews is Head of Department for the Pre-Preparatory School. Fr Terry Wilke is the Chaplain of the school, an important role as the school is an Anglican Church School.

The College has eight houses: Birt, Gray, Kidd, Mallett and Ogilvie for day-scholars. Founders, School and White are the boarding houses. Each house has about 70 – 100 students, who are looked after by a housemaster, who have one or two deputies. Tutors work in each house, and follow the progress of a student throughout his high-school career.

The Preparatory School follows a similar structure with four houses: Van der Bijl (for boarders and day-boys), Bramley, Brooke and Charlton.


The Collegiate of the Diocese of Cape Town (hence the name Diocesan College) was founded by Bishop Robert Gray, the first Anglican bishop of Cape Town, in 1849 at his house, Bishopscourt in Cape Town.[2] He founded two schools there, one of which was described as for the "Native children" and the other for "European children" (this being the current school). Living with schools was hard for the bishop and this led him to establish the schools elsewhere. The black children moved to accommodation near the city, where Zonnebloem College now is. This movement left the bishop short of money and so he bought an unproductive farm in Campground Road, Rondebosch, to which the school was moved and on which it remains.

The school did not prosper until Canon George Ogilvie arrived from prosperous St. George's Grammar School, attached to St. George's Cathedral, Cape Town in the city. The canon brought some boys with him and the bishop's school flourished. It then became the Diocesan College, but that too was a mouthful and it was generally referred to as the Bishop's school – hence its nickname.

Originally the school catered mainly for boarders, but since the 1970s it has had more day scholars than boarders. For some years it ran university classes, but in 1910 those classes left for the South African College, which was later to become the University of Cape Town.

The school had only three principals between 1919 and 1982 – Harold Birt, Hubert Kidd, the first layman to be the principal, and Anthony Mallett. Since then it has had three more. Mr Grant Nupen is currently the Principal.

Since 1921, a post matric year has offered students the opportunity to write the University of Cambridge A-Level examinations. In recent times, girls have been admitted to this year. Boarding facilities are also available.


WCED Results 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
Number of candidates 124 123 102 113 123 133 128 140 136 143 140
Number of failures 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
University endorsement (%) 98.4 99.1 98 100 96 96.2 99.2 99.3 97.8 98.6 97.8
A aggregates (%) 21.8 32.5 35.2 41.6 39 43.6 49 47.1 41.2 49.7 25.7
Subject distinctions 135 179 148 211 225 267 290 279 289 320 330

Leavers write the Western Cape Education Department examinations. Post matric students (of which there are few) can write three A-levels. The pupil-teacher ratio is 15:1. 2008 was the first year of the new National Senior Certificate examination.[citation needed]

School scholarships

The College offers scholarships to new students as well as an organ scholarship to a post matric student. These include:

  • The Bishops Scholarship for all-rounders
  • The Theron Scholarship for academic excellence
  • Major and Minor Scholarships for academic excellence
  • The Claude Brown Organ Scholarship is for boys or girls who are organists and who wish to enter a post matric year at the College. They are expected to contribute to the active musical life of the College chapels, and act as assistant organist to the Director of Music.

The school also awards bursaries. These include:

  • Bursaries for the sons of Old Diocesans, so that needy students can attend the school.
  • Bursaries and remissions so that diversity targets can be met.
  • A two-thirds remission for sons of the Anglican clergy.
Rhodes Scholarship

Bishops is one of only four schools in the world to offer an annual Rhodes scholarship since 1901 to an ex-pupil to attend the University of Oxford. This is a result of the school having been part of the initial Rhodes Scholarship Experiment. When approached to help formulate the plan for the scholarship, Bishops was suggested by Mr Ernest Kilpin (later Sir Ernest, after he was knighted for services to the Union of South Africa) as a suitable school for the experiment and Cecil Rhodes agreed. Like Bishops' founder Robert Gray, he mistrusted purely secular education.[3]

There is a high importance placed in humanitarian subjects, with three distinct societies devoted to History alone. On the other hand, the sciences are considerably underrepresented with the only scientific society being the astronomy society.

Uniform and Awards

Boys in uniform.

Bishops has two uniforms: Number 1s and Khakis. Number 1s are worn on formal occasions, and comprise of blazer, black pants, white shirt and tie. Khakis comprises a khaki shirt, shorts and socks. Scholars in Grade 11 & 12 can choose to wear the white shirt with their khaki shorts.


Preparatory students may only wear a standard-issue tie, nothing else. The College students have a different regulation tie, and each House has its own tie. Various ties are awarded, such as an Academic Tie (for a student who has achieved an aggregate of 75% thrice), an All-Rounders Tie (works on a points-system) or the Distinction Tie (for an exceptional achievement). All members of the vote-in societies (Forum and Ten Club), members of the Students Representative Forum, the Public Relations Group and senior members of ensembles have their own ties. Ties are also awarded for service or for attending the school for thirteen years. Special ties (such as tour or exchange ties) may be worn on Fridays.


Excellence in sporting and cultural activities is recognised through the awarding of colours. Initially a boy is awarded half colours, which is a small embroidered badge to be sewn under the mitre on his blazer. This badge has on it the initials of the sporting or cultural activity the boy was awarded the colours for. If further excellence is achieved, the boy can then be awarded full colours. This is represented by another small badge sewn next to the previous badge, with the letters DC on it. A boy awarded full colours is entitled to wear the Colours jersey in place of a normal school jersey. This jersey is white and has the dark and light blue of the cadet and academic jerseys in its collar.


The academic equivalent to full colours is the Academic jersey. Students are required to achieve an aggregate over 85% in 3 exam sessions for students in Grade 10-12 and 90% for boys in Grade 8 & 9, (the award does unfortunately not take into account different subject choice. So someone who takes subjects which are more challenging than another student is handicapped). There are only a handful of boys in the College who are entitled to wear this jersey. The jersey is a dark blue, with a white and light blue collar.


Bishops was the first school in South Africa and the southern hemisphere to start playing rugby,[4] and the main Piley Rees field is the oldest rugby field in South Africa[citation needed]. The school offers many sports; but the focus is on rugby union and cricket.

Rowing has grown in popularity and the school competes in regattas against the top schools in the country.

Over 20 sports matches are played on a weekly basis against schools in and around Cape Town. Many friendly rivalries have emerged, most notably against the nearby South African College School (SACS), and Rondebosch Boys' High School.

Beginning in 1892, the annual Bishops versus SACS rugby match is considered the oldest in Africa, although the keenest rivalry is often considered to be against Rondebosch Boys' High School. A match against Rondebosch is played twice per year in every sport.

Over the past few years the Bishops Hockey side has gone from strength to strength. In 2010 the side beat all their opponents and scored a record breaking 115 goals, while 3 players made the Provincial u18A side: Robbie Edwards, Seb Golding and Michael Watson, while Watson went on to make the South African u17 side. In 2011, Bishops remain undefeated while boasting 6 Provincial u18 players: Michael Watson, Seb Golding, Jacques Tredoux, James Drummond, Charlie Plimsoll and Steven Ryall and two National u19 players: James Drummond and Michael Watson. The Western Province side went on to win the tournament, the first time in 8 years, and Michael Watson and James Drummond were named in the SA u18 side to take on Australia in a 3 test match series. Along with that, Steve Ryall was named in the SA u17 squad.


The main Eisteddfod Owl.

A considerable emphasis is given to culture and the arts at this school - the annual Bishops Eisteddfod being the most important. This involves the eight houses competing against each other after the mid-year exams for the Eisteddfod Owls (a symbolic prize for winning a specific category of the Eisteddfod). There are prizes (owls) for the categories of Speech, Performance (i.e. drama and movement), Music, Visual Arts and Inter-House Singing. There is a bigger owl for the overall winners, known as the Eisteddfod Owl. In 2010 Birt House won the Eisteddfod Owl for an unprecedented fifth consecutive year, in the process also winning the Speech, Performance and Visual Arts owls. Gray House won the Music and Singing Owls.

Bishops also holds the Bishops Classic Pops every three years in the Cape Town City Hall. The school has a Music Department whose equipment includes a computer sound laboratory and recording studio. The school has two very fine organs (and a smaller chamber organ) in its chapels. In addition, the Music Department has launched three new CDs: Choral Vespers (a recording of the evening service), Tour to Russia (a compilation of repertoire taken to Russia by the Choir and Brass Band in April 2006) and Composers of Bishops (a compilation of compositions by Bishops boys over the past four years).

The school has over twenty active societies. The Debating Society has often won the Western Cape Provincial Debating tournament and has a history of producing national and international debaters. It hosted the World Individual Debating and Public Speaking Championships in 2007.

Societies meet in the evenings at least twice per term. Some have speakers of contemporary interest, whilst others tend to engage in an activity. Most societies are open to all boys at the college; however, the Ten-Club is by invitation only and is composed of the top 5 academic scholars in Grade 11 and 5 scholars who are voted in by the outgoing Ten Club. The Forum Society is also by invitation only and invites high-profile speakers.


Being an Anglican Christian school, the school has strong Christian values, and maintains strong links with the Diocese of Cape Town. Chapel services held three times a week and once a term Evensong takes place. This represents an adjustment in emphasis, since in the 1990s, services were held every day, with evensongs on Thursday and Sunday evenings. The school chaplain is the Reverend Terry Wilke. The College has two chapels, both central to life at Bishops. The older and smaller Brooke Chapel is used for more intimate services, while the bigger War Memorial Chapel was built in memory of the Bishops boys who died in service in World War I and is used for daily and Sunday services. A total of 112 Bishops old boys were killed in World War I.[5] In 2007, Bishops was used to elect the new Archbishop of South Africa.

Activities week

Activities Week is a week in which all the boys, after their November exams, participate in a camp - usually between 4 to 7 days long. Each grade (with the exception of Grades 10 & 12) have their own "set" of camps from which they can choose from. Activities range from going on the Orange River to skydiving and hiking. Grade 10s participate in the Bishops Epic, a two week long adventure in the Cederberg Mountains, where special emphasis is put on surviving on the skills and talents of those in your group. The aim of these camps are to get boys out of their comfort zone so that they can learn important life skills.

Three Pillar Plan

The Three Pillar Plan is to raise capital and invest the funds to generate interest and build the Bishops of the future. The three 'pillars' of the plan are: People, Projects and Programmes. Each pillar is to be supported by donors who are either Old Diocesans, current parents or friends of the school.

People: The most significant and important pillar is the People. The aim of this pillar is to increase the number of scholarships and bursaries - currently totaling R1.5million per annum - awarded to scholars. Another goal of the pillar is to attract the best of the best teachers to the College and to enhance development of existing teachers.

Projects: The aim of the Project pillar is to refurbish existing buildings as well as build new ones. Buildings that have been identified for refurbishment are the Mallett Centre and Staff housing. The creation of a new hockey pavilion, lecture theater and classrooms have also been identified as goals.

Programmes: The Bishops' General Endowment Fund is invested to generate an annual income. This is used to guarantee a steady income for the school over a long term. However, this Fund is tiny compared with other schools like Eton College (R2.230b); Harvard (R194b) and Boston College (R700m). The aim is to increase the fund to R160m by 2020.

New Leadership System

As of 2009, a new system of student leadership has been introduced at Bishops. All Matrics (grade 12s) are given the opportunity to run and manage one of about 20 portfolios in their respective houses. Committee meetings for each portfolio are organised during term and consist of 8 leaders (one from each house) and a teacher in charge. Leaders are appraised by themselves, staff and fellow tutees each quarter and awards are assigned to each leader as appropriate by a committee of housemasters. The system has already shown great potential and will be continued in the future.

Relationships With Other Schools

Bishops is a member of the G20 Schools Group, a collection of college, preparatory and boarding schools from around the world including, Eton College the United States's Phillips Exeter Academy, Australia's Melbourne Grammar School and Scotch College, and Switzerland's International School of Geneva. Bishops is also a member of the unofficial Elite Seven schools of South Africa. The College also boasts an International Exchange Programme with schools all over the world, with over 30 exchanges taking place annually.


Bishops participates in outreach programs such as the LEAP program. These programs get the students involved in teaching other students from underprivileged schools skills such as computer literacy and chess.

Old Diocesans

The Old Diocesans' (OD) Union is one of the most active alumni clubs in the country, with membership spanning the globe. The president of the Union is Mr J Arenhold. Former students and staff may join for a once-off membership fee; reunions are often held and correspondence between members is kept up.

Notable alumni:






See also

External links


  1. ^ "Africa Almanac: Africa's 50 Oldest Schools". http://www.africaalmanac.com/top20highschools.html#50. 
  2. ^ "Robert Gray: First Bishop of Cape Town". http://anglicanhistory.org/africa/day_gray.html. Retrieved 25 August 2006. 
  3. ^ Donald McIntyre. A Century of Bishops. Cape Town and Johannesburg: Juta and co. Ltd.
  4. ^ First SA School at community-rugby.com Accessed August 2007
  5. ^ Lambert, John (2004). "'Munition Factories … Turning Out a Constant Supply of Living Material': White South African Elite Boys' Schools and the First World War". South African Historical Journal 51 (1): 67–86. doi:10.1080/02582470409464830. 
  6. ^ Raymond Ackerman at UCT Graduate School of Business
  7. ^ "A builder of others' dreams", Mail & Guardian, 7–13 February 1997, page 27.
  8. ^ Sir Edmund Hakewill-Smith at SA Military History
  9. ^ Vuyani Ngalwana at Personal Finance
  10. ^ Julian Ogilvie Thompson at Biography.com
  11. ^ Rupert Pardoe at First Rand
  12. ^ Gareth Penny at De Beers Group
  13. ^ Gavin Relly at Dispatch
  14. ^ Mark Shuttleworth at whoswhosa
  15. ^ P. K. van der Byl at Rhodesiana
  16. ^ http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pieter_Voltelyn_Graham_van_der_Byl
  17. ^ Nicholas Koster at Bishops Blue
  18. ^ Herschelle Gibbs at Cricinfo accessed August 11th 2007
  19. ^ Adrian Kuiper at Cricinfo accessed August 11th 2007
  20. ^ Tuppy Owen-Smith at Cricinfo accessed August 12th 2007
  21. ^ "Who’s Who of Southern Africa: Professor Timothy Noakes". 24.com. http://www.whoswhosa.co.za/Pages/profilefull.aspx?IndID=5418. Retrieved 2009-06-06. 

Coordinates: 33°57′50.04″S 18°28′52.91″E / 33.9639°S 18.4813639°E / -33.9639; 18.4813639

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