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We proud of our diverse community at Downside, with around 40% of our pupils living outside the UK, representing over 20 different nationalities. Many of our families are British expats living abroad, who choose Downside for their full boarding community and busy and purposeful weekends. With the majority of pupils boarding, our community is an inclusive, integrated and a happy one with a House structure which provides the backbone of our pastoral care as well as a ‘home from home’ for all our pupils.

We want to ensure the experience of admissions to Downside, from overseas, as easy as possible and recognise that choosing a boarding school from afar can be daunting.  We offer both virtual and on-site visits, with many wishing to have a virtual meeting and interview in the first instance and a follow up visit thereafter. The Head and Director of Admissions are available for online meetings, that take the shape of a friendly discussion with the Head, with pupil and parent/s, and an interactive virtual tour of the School and Q&A with the Director of Admissions.

Overseas pupils are fully integrated within all areas of the School creating a strong sense of community spirit and acceptance of multi culturalism. There is a pupil-led International Committee which runs a variety of events designed to celebrate national days around the world. Our excellent caterers organise international food evenings and are mindful of our pupils’ diverse taste buds which drives regular international food tastings and themed evenings which are very popular.

We offer extensive English as an Additional Language (EAL) support  for all pupils whose first language is not English. Assessment at application ensures we have the information required to recommend whether pupils do or don’t require additional EAL support. All pupils are fully integrated into the mainstream curriculum, thereby offering an immersive approach which ensures our pupils make excellent progress. We also offer a recognised qualification in English as a Second Language (ESL) at a number of different levels, including IELTS for University entrance. We have a limited number of places available for pupils who wish to join us for the Summer Term, for one term only, as a taster to boarding school in the UK to help support the decision to join for a longer period. We accept pupils into all year groups apart from Year 13 for this experience.

Our one year GSCE programme is extremely popular with pupils who wish to spend the year gaining qualifications as well as those looking to prepare for our Sixth Form.

We invite all applicants, whose first language is not English, to complete an EAL assessment paper and the online CAT4 cognitive assessment to ensure we have a deeper understanding of their learning ability and can ensure they are in the correct sets for Maths, English and Sciences. In addition, we ask for a School Reference from your child’s current school to complete the application process alongside their interview.

The School remains open for international boarders over the Exeat weekends, of which there are two in the September Term and two in the January Term (Years 7 & 8 only) and none in the Summer Term. The weekend provides children with an opportunity to spend time with friends taking part in a wide range of activities and rest.

Click here for this year’s exeat programme

As you know, I had to go back to Germany for my A levels, even though I tried to stay at Downside. I am writing to you, because I want to thank you for everything you’ve done for me. I had the best year of my life and I was able to make incredible memories that I will for sure never forget. Of course I also had difficult times such as homesickness, but they helped me to grow, get stronger and to be more independent. I’ve been at different schools but I have to be honest, your school community is the most welcoming and kindest and that’s something you should be really proud of. I made friendships that I hope are going to last for lifetime! I will never forget all the netball matches which were definitely one of my highlights and your support when you watched them.
Extract of a letter to Andrew Hobbs from Sophia Z, July 2023

All pupils whose parents are resident outside of the UK require a UK based guardian. This can be a family member (aged over 25) or friend; however, they do need to be contactable and to accommodate the pupil in the case of an emergency, or when the School is closed (eg: half-terms or UM Travel requirements).

For those families who do not have a relative or family friend in the UK, we suggest that you engage the services of a guardianship company in the UK who can arrange travel and home-stay accommodation at time when the School is closed. The School is not able to make these arrangements, however, we recommend the services of AEGIS: The Association of Guardians for International Students.

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