When it comes to world-class holistic education, one need not look further than the success stories of British boarding schools. Beyond the facade of arched hallways and lush school grounds, the key to a school’s enduring global popularity lies in its unparalleled teaching excellence, first-rate school facilities, and pastoral care.
Close to Portsmouth’s serene shores, St John’s College Southsea, has been a shining beacon of intellectual growth rooted in an unshakeable ethos valuing communal spirit. With less than 500 pupils in total, Portsmouth’s sole independent boarding school takes pride in its close-knit community. This allows for a more focused learning in small class sizes with a low student-to-teacher ratio, where attention can be given fully according to a pupil’s learning needs. No more has this student-teacher relationship been more critical than during lockdown periods due to COVID-19, and St John’s College not just rose to the occasion, but with flourish.
Online learning success
When physical classes were no longer possible, the college deftly progressed to online learning, thanks to its tech-savvy teaching staff. Being a Microsoft school clearly has its advantages, as it resumed teaching the full curriculum in all subjects at all levels virtually. Without compromising the quality of its pedagogy, students had uninterrupted education throughout the term, despite having to weather a tough year which saw plummeting academic performance in many countries.
The results speak for themselves. St John’s College had a 100% pass rate for all A Level and International A Level students in 2021, with 89.5% A*-B recorded, showing improved performance despite an arduous year of pandemic schooling. Meanwhile, the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) attained a 100% A*-B position, which is pivotal for admissions into Oxbridge and Russell Group universities. At the GCSE and IGCSE levels, the school achieved a 97% pass rate, with the new Global Perspectives IGCSE recording an impressive 100% at A*-B position.
Mary Maguire, the Head of College, credits the unceasing dedication displayed by teachers and students for this accomplishment. “Both students and staff worked very hard to achieve these grades, and they reflect the commitment of our staff to our students and our students to their work, as well as the teamwork between us,” she praises. “We are very proud of them.”
A launch pad for stellar global citizens
As learning becomes more borderless and expansive beyond the classroom, students have to be armed with the right tools to face an increasingly globalised world. The doors of St John’s College Southsea, are always welcoming to diverse students from all backgrounds and countries, enriching the student body with an international dimension to its community.
The college recognises that fostering academic success goes hand-in-hand with interpersonal development. Its solid bespoke Middle School curriculum incorporates the World Economic Forum Key Skills 2025, ensuring that students are always one step ahead to face future challenges in higher education and the workforce. St John’s College’s reputation as the first British school to join the International Schools Association is further icing on the cake. Students are truly well on their way to make their mark in the world through interactions with overseas pupils in initiatives such as Model United Nations, the coveted Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, and the college’s pen-pal scheme.
Among the students who thrived in this globalised approach was Erik Galsgaard, a boarder from the US. “My time at St John’s College has been, without a doubt, fantastic in every way. As an American student, I have been able to reap the benefits of a wonderful British education at a superior school for the past four years — learning about new cultures, different ways of life, and having fun, all the while improving my education,” he notes. “My time at Sixth Form has been amazing in building lifelong friendships, knowing a strong sense of community, and finding a course that I truly enjoy.”
Boarding, pastoral care and wellbeing
Sending a child abroad might evoke initial concerns for parents who are wondering whether their children have adequate support to cope with living independently in a new country. However, a glance into St John’s College devotion in designing learning conditions for students to prosper would dispel any fears over a student’s wellbeing.
Accommodated in large Edwardian houses secured within the campus, each house is limited to only 20 boarders so that every single student is truly cared for. Although single rooms are available, students typically share accommodations with others for a more seamless integration into the college’s community. Each house is staffed by a House Parent, with the aid of an assistant to ensure that boarders are well looked after in an educational space that allows them to grow, progress and make mistakes, yet feel supported as they confidently transition into adulthood.
Just ask Kaitlin Robertson, a Year 13 student who served as Head Girl for the 2020-21 academic year. “Being an international boarder, I was welcomed to the community by all,” she says. Living independently away from family can be daunting, but Katie blossomed under the college’s care. “Sixth Form offered support, guidance and a tight-knit community, particularly through the challenging times of COVID-19.”
Katie is one of many students who displayed exceptional capacity for leadership, owing to the college’s unequivocal nurture in all areas of student development. “St John’s College offered immense support through university applications and leadership roles, which enabled me to take on the responsibilities of being Head Girl. I also made lifelong memories from the house events, the Sixth Form balls, and friendships along the way.”
Katie’s mother, Mrs. Hogarth, echoes this sentiment: “We know that all the support and care she has received from the houseparents in her boarding house and the teaching staff at St John’s College has influenced Katie to become the confident, caring and outgoing young woman that she has become today.”
With British qualifications accepted into high-ranking universities worldwide, enrolling your child in a boarding school like St John’s College Southsea is the first step towards facilitating a one-of-a-kind lifelong development. With its dynamic curriculum, international network, excellent pastoral care and friendly community, students are given a space to explore their potential to the fullest, which will prepare them to tackle the future head-on.