Welcome to Downside

Founded in 1606, Downside is one of England’s oldest and most distinguished Catholic schools with a thriving community of 340 pupils aged between 11 and 18 years.

We are a diverse and inclusive school with around 40% of our pupils coming from overseas, representing 33 different nationalities. With the majority of pupils boarding, our community is a strong and 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.

Click here to email our Admissions Team.

The School is set in 500 acres of glorious English countryside. The famous World Heritage City of Bath is a mere 25 minutes away and has direct train links to London. Bristol Airport is only 40 minutes away and we are also close to the M4, M5 and A303 road links. At the start and end of each term and half term breaks there are shuttle buses to London Heathrow (2½ hours) and Richmond in South West London.

All pupils benefit from our boarding ethos whether they are boarders, as 76% are, or day pupils, with all that means in terms of friendships, independence and life skills. Whilst Catholic, we welcome pupils and parents of all faiths who set store by emphasising the importance of moral courage, integrity and service to others.

The boarding Houses are at the very heart of the School, providing warm and inviting environments for pupils to relax, grow and learn in. Each House has a House Mistress or Master, as well as House Parents who look after the day-to-day needs of each child. Socially, our boarders have that incredibly important opportunity to relax with their friends. Enjoying time outside of classes together is fundamental for healthy friendships to be forged. Add spending weekends together on top of this and Downside School nurtures friendships that last a lifetime. Boarding life also coaxes independence to blossom within all of our pupils, which is only encouraged by our excellent pastoral care.

‘Downside has such an accepting and welcoming atmosphere.’ Downside Boarder, Hong Kong

Downside has extensive facilities including an indoor swimming pool; a Mac Suite dedicated to music; a 24/7 Health Centre; vast outdoor sports pitches and courts, an indoor fitness suite, sports hall and squash courts; a 3D printer for design, and a print screen studio for art; modern practice rooms for music; and a Performing Arts Centre housing a 400-seat Theatre and a Recording Studio. Pupils have Mass and perform musical events in the magnificent Downside Abbey Church, one of only four minor basilicas in the UK.

We are uncompromising in the pursuit of academic excellence. Pupils achieve impressively in the Sciences, Maths, Sport and the Arts, and the vast majority of our pupils gain entry to their first choice of University, and a gratifying number of them achieve First Class Honours at their chosen place of study. Typical destinations include Oxford, Cambridge, Exeter, Durham, Warwick and Edinburgh. 

‘Being at a boarding school is a different experience. You learn to look after yourself on a day-to-day basis; you adapt very quickly. Whilst there is a level of independence we still have our meals cooked and our clothes washed…it’s a good first move ahead of university life!’ Downside Boarder

We aim for the highest standards in our extensive and exciting co-curricular programme with over 100 activities, and we provide plentiful and varied opportunities for service and leadership. We celebrate the achievements and successes of our pupils, but do not allow these to define them.

Weekends are busy and purposeful, where pupils are engaged in a wide variety of activity options: clubs, games, sporting fixtures, socials, trips out and Sunday Mass. With all this on offer, there is never ‘nothing to do’! Quite the opposite.

‘I am interested in a career in neuroscience. Downside is giving me the opportunity to prepare for that through flexible curriculum choices and support from my inspiring teachers.’ Current Sixth Former, Aspiring Medic

Admissions Process
Downside’s admissions procedure aims to ensure that boys and girls who join the School are able to be happy, successful and secure within its academic, cultural, pastoral and spiritual environment. 

Admission for boys and girls to Downside is normally at 11+ into the First Form (Year 7), at 13+ into the Third Form (Year 9), or at 16+ into the Lower Sixth Form (Year 12). Places occasionally become available for boys and girls for admission at 12+ into the Second Form (Year 8) or at 14+ into the Fourth Form (Year 10).

The first step is to book a private Virtual Visit. You will meet the Head Master, Director of Admissions and current pupils. The Virtual Visit also includes a virtual tour of our wonderful campus. 

Following your visit, if you wish to apply for a place at the School we would ask that you register your child for entry by completing our registration form. Following registration, we invite all candidates to complete entrance assessments and attend an interview.

To find out more about the admissions process, please contact our Admissions Team who will be pleased to answer your questions and tell you more about Downside. +44 (0)1761 235103 or click here to email the team.

We look forward to welcoming you to Downside.

Click here for more information about the Admissions Process.
Click here for information about pupils requiring support for English as an Additional Language.

‘Studying at Downside was simply an amazing period in my life. Friendships forged are still maintained today. The School is all round in nature: for academics, sports, socials and most importantly, spirituality.’ Alphonsus Oladele Olagbaju, Old Gregorian

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