WINCHESTER College has invited city councillors to hold a meeting at the historic school.

The invitation, thought to be unprecedented, was extended by member of staff Michael Wallis at the town forum.

Mr Wallis was giving a presentation about the college’s work to city councillors. He said the invitation come from headmaster Ralph Townsend and chairman of governors Sir David Clementi who are keen to forge links with the wider community.

Mr Wallis said the private school, founded by William of Wykeham in the 14th century, was keen to break down any perceived “walls” with the outside world.

Cllr Chris Pines described the invitation as “brilliant” adding: “I have watched the college for the last 50 years and how it has changed in attitude. The college used to think Winchester was a small town on the edge of a school. It is nice to see its change in approach and change in vision. After all the college is a huge jewel in the crown locally.”

Mr Wallis said the school was one of the city’s biggest employers with some 517 people, including 360 full-time, on the payroll and 690 pupils. The annual turnover is £28 million.

He said the school is keen to return to the original aims of its founder to educate the “poor and needy.”

In 2014-15 93 boys will have bursaries for more than half their fees, a total of £2.06 million. The aim is to have 25 per cent of boys on bursaries by 2018, although Mr Wallis said it would not be met.

It provides a major boost to the local economy supporting shops such as Wilds Sports, Kingsgate Stores and Wells bookshop and services such as food takeaways The War Cloister, in memory of fallen former pupils, teachers and support staff, is believed to be the biggest private memorial in England, said Mr Wallis.

The school maintains some 90 listed buildings and Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

Boys who are not in the cadet force give community service in local schools and care homes.

Choral evensong in the chapel is open to the public every Tuesday.