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High School Pathways
Downside School

Downside School is one of the UK’s leading Catholic boarding schools, with a long history dating back to 1606. It provides mainly boarding education for boys and girls from the age of eleven to the age of eighteen.

Excellent academic results

Downside is a school that goes from strength to strength academically and is now well within the top echelon of schools.

46% of A-level grades were A*– A grades and 90% A*– C (2016 results)

13% of all students progressed to Oxford or Cambridge universities (in 2015)

92% pass rate for GCSEs, 50% A*– A grades (in 2015)

A Benedictine education

Downside School is attached to the Benedictine monastery. The most recent inspection by ISI reported that “The pupils’ excellent personal development draws clearly on the school’s Benedictine ethos, strong sense of community and excellent pastoral care.” Core aspects of Benedictine education include:

Teaching and learning

Teaching and learning are central because of the need for pupils to be skilled and educated in a competitive world but also because our higher purpose is to grow in the knowledge of truth, which leads to God.

Welcome and hospitality

Pupils work and staff work together to form a kind, mutually supportive community, based on the core principle of Christian love.


Humility enables people to live truly, communicating honestly with each other and God, enabling this love to develop.

Personal discipline

Personal discipline is essential for the well-being of the individual and the community. It enables us to be free to pursue higher ambitions, such as service and the pursuit of knowledge.


Careful, active listening is an essential part of positive human relationships, and is emphasized at Downside.

Concern for the individual

Downside School emphasises the importance of living within a nurturing spiritual community; concern for the individual enables groups of individuals to live and grow together.


Reverence is a hallmark of life at Downside School and part of the worship and love of God in Christ. It draws the School into a communion whose members grow together in the love of truth and of one another.

Personal support to ensure academic success

Outstanding examination results are the priority and nothing in the school day is more important than what happens in the classroom.

Everyone is encouraged to aspire beyond their academic expectations and systems are in place to ensure that both pupils and staff perform to their utmost. Academic clinics are held each week to assist pupils who might experience difficulties in individual subjects.

The Tutorial System

The Tutorial System at Downside School provides individual support for the pupils throughout their school career to help guide their academic progress. Tutors are attached to particular houses where they work in conjunction with House Masters/ Mistresses and they are in regular contact with parents. Pupils see their Tutors at least three times a week.

An ongoing commitment to welfare

In the Week's Independent Schools Guide 2015, Downside School was awarded the title of 'Best for well-being'. Downside is proud of its outstanding pastoral support for all pupils and has long been known for its strong sense of community.

Nearly all Downside School pupils board seven days a week, and 22% of pupils are from overseas. Weekends for boarders are full, busy and purposeful, with a full programme of activities.

Flexible entry points

While most students will enter the main School in September for the start of Autumn term, entry is also possible in January for the Spring term or April for the Summer term.

Exceptional on-site facilities

Downside School is housed in magnificent buildings set in a 500 acre estate at the foot of the Mendip Hills. The Old House – formerly known as Mount Pleasant – dates from the 18th century; Isabella House was completed in 2007. The Abbey Church, partly designed by Giles Gilbert Scott, lies at the heart of the School.

Downside School has all of the facilities expected of a modern, independent school. These include:

  • 100-acres of sports fields for football, rugby, cricket and other games
  • Volleyball, basketball and tennis courts
  • Large sports hall
  • Indoor 25-metre swimming pool
  • 600-seat theatre
  • Art room and fashion workshop
  • Large, historic dining room
  • New high-speed internet access throughout the School

Sports and the arts

Sport for All

Downside School believes that physical activity plays an important role in every pupil's life. Sport for All is a central part of the School's philosophy as is the desire for every pupil to enjoy sport and achieve their own personal best.

The expectations of Downside School, as well as its reputation in the outside community, are that they deliver a premium sporting experience, within an atmosphere of enjoyment, endeavour and success.

"The contribution of curricular and co-curricular provision is excellent. Sport is well co-ordinated. Specialist staff coach teams with a significant benefit to the pupils’ enjoyment and success." ISI inspection report January 2013

Music at Downside School

Downside School is renowned for the quality of its music. The Schola Cantorum provides the choral music in the Abbey Church and has topped the charts with its CDs The Abbey and Gregorian Moods and there are several chamber choirs. Orchestral, band and chamber music also flourish at Downside School, with frequent concerts and weekly recitals.

Academic results in Music, both at A-level and GCSE, have been excellent. Each year the School awards a number of music and choral exhibitions and scholarships at 11+, 13+ and 16+.

Students at the Kings International Study Centre join main Downside School students at choir practice every Friday.