In 1486, the school was refounded as a 'Free Grammar School' ('free' here meaning teaching the free, or liberal, arts, not that no fees were paid) by Henry VII on the urging of the then Abbot, John Thorne. After the dissolution of Reading Abbey in 1539, the school fell under the control of the corporation of Reading, its status being confirmed by Letters Patent issued by Henry VIII in 1541. This was reconfirmed in the Royal Charter granted to the corporation of Reading by Elizabeth I in 1560, which made the corporation liable for the salary of the headmaster and gave them the power of appointing him.
There were interruptions to schooling in 1625, when Parliament, forced out of London by the Great Plague, took over the schoolhouse. The civil war also interrupted, with the school being used as a garrison by royalist forces. The school prospered at the start of the nineteenth century, but by 1866 disagreements between the town and school, which had become increasingly exclusive, and problems with the lease on the school buildings had led to falling numbers and the school closed briefly when (according to legend), the inspectors, on asking to see the school, were told "He's runned away".
The school soon restarted, however, with the Reading School Act (1867) setting out its administration and funding. The foundation stone for new buildings, designed by Alfred Waterhouse, was laid by the Prince of Wales in 1870, the school moved in in 1871. In 1915 Kendrick Boys School (founded in 1875 from the legacy of John Kendrick), which had a large endowment but poor facilities, was taken over by Reading, which was poorly funded but had excellent facilities - this caused considerable controversy at the time but was ultimately seen as successful.
The 1944 Education Act saw the abolition of fees (apart from boarding charges), with the cost of education now being met by the local authority.
The 1960s saw the rise of comprehensive education, which threatened Reading's status. However, Reading was exempted in 1973 (along the girls grammar in Reading, Kendrick School) after a petition of over 30,000 local people (a third of the voters of Reading) was handed to the government. It is now a Foundation School, and remains one of the best schools in the country: A recent OFSTED report concluded that "examination results place the school in the top five per cent nationally", "Pupils' attitudes to learning are outstanding" and "The school goes to exceptional lengths to broaden and enrich the education of all pupils".
Notable Old Redingensians