Why Downside, a Senior School in Somerset, is the Perfect Choice for Military Families

Choosing the right school for your child can be a difficult decision. At Downside, we understand that as a military family, a strong sense of unity and care are paramount to your child’s future, and we believe that there’s no better place than a boarding school to offer this sense of continuity and belonging. Our way of life at Downside, underpinned by our Benedictine values, offers an extremely special existence.

Established in 1606, Downside is a prestigious Catholic school. The School teaches both boys and girls, from 11 to 18, and has a strong history of educating children from military families. Knowing this, we’ve put together a few of the reasons why we believe Downside School offers the perfect environment for a child from a military family, which include military subsidy on school fees.

Activities throughout the week and weekend

At Downside, around 80% of our pupils are full boarders, meaning they remain at the school during evenings and weekends. Although seen as daunting for some, our boarders at Downside enjoy the freedom offered, as well as the increased levels of support and routine defined through their studies, extra-curricular activities and social time.

Nestled in the heart of the Somerset countryside, Downside’s idyllic location offers tranquillity to enable concentration and focus, whilst still in close proximity to a variety of landmarks including the historic City of Bath, cosmopolitan Bristol, and the attractions of Longleat and Stonehenge, to name just a few. Our location enables us to offer a variety of activities and excursions ‘on the doorstep’ during the weekend and outside of lesson times. Our staff regularly accompany the pupils into Bath for shopping and cinema trips, along with various other activities such as horse-riding, sailing and paint-balling.

A typical boarder at Downside will join one of our six boarding houses, Caverel or Isabella houses for the girls, or Powell, Barlow, Roberts or Smythe for the boys. Girls joining from ages 13 will join Caverel House, and those from 11-18 will join Isabella. Similarly, boys joining from ages 11-13 will join Powell, then from age 14 will move to one of the senior boys’ houses.

Throughout the week, pupils at Downside will complete full days of timetabled lessons followed by regular tutor period sessions and supervised prep study in the evenings. During the weekend, Saturdays are busy with lessons and organised sports matches, whereas Sundays are focused on trips and relaxation following Mass in the Abbey Church and a tasty brunch! There is a sense of friendly competition, with pupils regularly engaging in inter-house competitions and activities, including sport, music and drama – these are great fun and often highly anticipated by the whole school community.

Stability and support throughout school years

Throughout their time at Downside, our pupils enjoy a busy and purposeful learning career supported by their teachers, house masters and other staff around the school. Within a boarding environment, in contrast to many day schools, our staff are able to fully understand your child, given that the contact time is much greater; in addition to teaching an academic subject, many of our teachers also take on pastoral duties and lead activities outside of the classroom, enabling the team to take a holistic view of your child’s needs.

At Downside, we pride ourselves on caring for every pupil, and with around 5% of our pupils from military backgrounds, we understand that life can be a little more complicated. Many of our staff are from military backgrounds, which gives us a great starting point and foundation to understand and nurture any worries you child may be feeling before coming away to school. Downside really is a unique place, with a respect and different outlook for our pupil’s individual needs; we were even voted ‘Best for Well-Being’ by The Week magazine.

The School is conveniently situated next a number of key travel hubs including Bristol airport, Bath Spa station, and M4, M5 and A303 road links – this makes us easily accessible for families located both near and far. At the start and end of each term there is also a shuttle bus to London Heathrow and Richmond (South West London).

Our pupils are motivated by a huge range of activities and experiences to ensure that they find their niche. Click to view further information on our sporting activities, drama, creative arts and our preparation and previous results for pivotal GCSE and A Level exams.

Combined Cadet Force (CCF) and Other Extra-Curricular Activities

As a prestigious school with an historic military association, we encourage our pupils to take part in the Combined Cadet Force (CCF), which develops responsibility, self-discipline and leadership in our pupils.

The CCF at Downside began in 1909, as the Officer’s Training Corps (OTC), where many of those training and learning at Downside School later fought in both World War I and World War II. With permission from the War Office, the Downside OTC operated a firing range with service ammunition at the bottom of one of our cricket fields. Our site also hosts a piece of captured German artillery, serving as a reminder of the efforts of our pupils. In honour of these efforts and for all who fought, the Prince of Wales paid respect by laying a wreath at the war memorial in 1923.

Our Third Form pupils all take part in the full range of CCF activities, before specialising as cadets in either the Royal Navy or Army. CCF training takes place during one afternoon of the week, often including adventurous activities such as sailing, canoeing, climbing, mountain biking, caving and overseas ski trips.

Further to this weekly practice, pupils are encouraged to take part in Duke of Edinburgh and Ten Tors expeditions, additional camps and training sessions.

To learn more about the CCF at Downside, click here.

Finding out more about Downside School

As a traditional boarding school, instilled with a sense of respect for all, Downside offers the perfect environment for your child to flourish and achieve in all areas.

To find out more about life at Downside, click here to view our gallery, and download our prospectus. Alternatively, for any other queries, please call 01761 235100 or get in touch via our contact form.