Catholic Boarding School: The Ultimate Guide

A Catholic boarding school in today’s world is often far removed from how many people envisage them in their minds. No longer are they cold, strict and unpersonable institutions, in fact, they are the polar opposite.

Indeed, Downside School’s vision is to be a bright light in the world of education; illuminating and inspiring the lives of young people through the experience of Benedictine culture. Downside strives to enable all its pupils and staff to develop their own identities through a welcoming and encouraging community and one that holds Christianity at its centre.

Although Catholicism lies at the heart of Catholic boarding schools like Downside, there is far more to them. In the same way, pupils do not at all have to be Catholic to consider a Catholic boarding school. The Benedictine values that are at the core of Downside life, are qualities that many families would want their children to experience and possess.

This article has been put together to serve as the ultimate guide to choosing a Catholic boarding school. It will take you through what we mean by a Catholic boarding school, why you should opt for one, how to select the right one for you or your child and finally what makes Downside such a special example of a Catholic boarding school.

What Is A Catholic Boarding School

So what is a Catholic boarding school? Simply, it’s a boarding school that’s ethos is based on Catholic teachings and beliefs. However, it is so much more than this. What a Catholic boarding does is really focus on the academic, personal, emotional and spiritual development of each and every pupil.

For instance, our Catholic ethos, found upon traditional Benedictine values, rather than being outdated and unrelatable, instead prepares our pupils for the challenges of life after school. In fact, during Downside School’s last ISI inspection it was noted that Downside pupils’ “excellent personal development draws clearly on the School’s Benedictine ethos, strong sense of community and excellent pastoral care. Pupils appreciate the monastic context, respect each other’s views and seek to meet the needs of others.”

Why Should You Choose A Catholic Boarding School

The reason for choosing a Catholic boarding school is simple; what you receive is a well-rounded and more inclusive education. A boarding school such as Downside, will not only nurture academic ability but also ensure that pupils learn about the world around them, their peers and also themselves – which can often prove to include the most important lessons.

At Downside School, our curriculum and extra-curricular timetables aim to instil eight core aspects of a Benedictine education. It important to note that these aspects, are characteristics that any parent – Catholic or not – would be happy to see in their child.

We teach our pupils to be welcoming, to be thoughtful and active listeners, to be reverent and dignified, to appreciate both teaching and learning, to develop personal discipline and pride, to have a love of communion building and finally to be able to see the beauty and wisdom in both people and the natural world.

These lessons are cemented via our support networks. At Downside we are extremely proud of the “outstanding” level of pastoral care we provide. Among our competitors, we are well-known for our uniquely strong sense of community and the wonderfully supporting nature of the relationships that are present between age groups. One reason for this is Downside’s pastoral structure that is based on a traditional six-house system. This system provides the best support possible for both our boarding and day pupils. It allows our students to develop true Christian values from which they are ready to view the world and take on any challenges that may come their way.How to Choose a Catholic Boarding School: What to Look for

How to Choose a Catholic Boarding School: What to Look for

As with choosing any school, choosing a Catholic boarding school can often be a challenging, confusing albeit an exciting time. However, we have pulled out a few things that you should be looking for to help make the whole process that bit easier.

As with choosing any school, choosing a Catholic boarding school can often be a challenging, confusing albeit an exciting time. However, we have pulled out a few things that you should be looking for to help make the whole process that bit easier.

Happy Pupils. This is obviously key to selecting any school. It is important that when you visit any Catholic boarding school, you take the time to talk to the current pupils. It is only they who will be able to give you a real-life perspective of what life at a particular school is like. In most cases, their overview of a school will be honest and real, and thus what they have to say about their own school is often the most important.

Great Facilities (and food!). Again, this is obvious. The chosen school will, after all, become your child’s second home. Ensuring that their house, dormitory, classrooms, sports facilities and of course food is of a good quality and comfort will be essential to their happiness and success.

A Sense of Community. Embedded by the Catholicism that runs throughout, a leading Catholic boarding school should be easily identifiable by its strong community and an organic general regard in each pupil for those around them.

Personal Ambition. Central to any school is success, whether academic or extra-curricular – or indeed both. As a result, one distinguishable sign of a strong boarding school is a quiet confidence and sense of self-direction in its pupils. Success comes from within and by helping to nurture strengths and improve weaknesses, a school can truly motivate a child to succeed.

Respect. Essential to Catholicism is respect. Subsequently, all pupils and staff members who are part of a Catholic school should show, practice and celebrate a dignified respect for themselves, for others, their environment and above all for learning.

Why Downside School ticks all the boxes

Catholic Boarding School


Being a part of a historic monastic community, Downside School’s pastoral care takes up a strong residence in the spiritual and physical worlds.

We have a full-time Chaplaincy team on hand to lead and nurture our pupils’ understanding and spirituality, and the monks strongly support school life. The support of the Monastic Community allows our pupils a special sort of flexibility and deeper spirituality that they can choose. The monks certainly play a key part in Downside’s functioning and serve the wellbeing of our Catholic boarding school.

As a traditional school, Downside benefits from breathtaking surroundings. Our on-site monastery is in fact only one of four Minor Basilicas in the UK. Such an architecturally significant backdrop gives our pupils the room to breathe and space to inspire. In the same way, twinning these with wonderfully modern facilities allows our students the opportunities to partake in all activities. The overall effect is a refreshing balance between functionality and tradition, one that nurtures, supports and encourages all aspects of academic, sporting and spiritual life.

Additionally, our traditional house system encourages a natural sense of community. Indeed it has been carefully developed to care for both boys and girls at each stage of their school life. As a result, Downside School provides it’s pupils with the opportunity to form life-long friendships and to grow in self-confidence and pride. These friendships often span year groups which are less commonly found in other leading (Catholic) boarding schools.

As you can see, Downside is a truly special example of a Catholic boarding school for many reasons. If after reading this, you feel like we could tick all the boxes for you and your child, then please come and visit us and allow us to show you just how special Downside School really is.

Contact Us

If you think that your child would like to try boarding at Downside School or you would more information, please visit our website or contact us today.  We would love to arrange a trial night, open day visit or a taster day to help you with your decision.