UK schools that build character and nurture students for success beyond university

UK boarding schools
These schools combine challenging academics within a nurturing learning environment to bring out students' intellectual curiosity. Source: St. John's College Southsea

Many parents want their children to be armed with the skills and knowledge to prepare them to succeed in university. Equally important is an education that focuses on character development and nurtures students’ sense of self to help them realise their untapped potential.

While many private schools are mushrooming worldwide, one advantage that British schools have is their reputation for offering quality education that is held in high regard worldwide. They provide students with a holistic education that balances academic achievement while also enhancing students’ social, emotional and physical wellbeing. 

The British system often combines challenging academics within a nurturing learning environment to bring out students’ intellectual curiosity. Many schools also offer a plethora of activities outside the classroom for students to build new skills and find lifelong passions. These experiences are those that will stick with students for life.

For parents looking for schools with character-building education for their childrens’ well-rounded development, here are four in the UK worth considering:

Bootham School

If you’re looking for a school that helps students acquire the academic qualifications they need to go on to the next stage of education while simultaneously acquiring the wisdom needed to lead a good life, look no further than Bootham School.

Uk Boarding Schools

Bootham’s Quaker ethos sits happily with people from all backgrounds. Source: Bootham School

Bootham is located in the historic city of York and offers education for students between the ages of three and 18 through its Junior School and Senior School. Here, learning is not only confined to the classroom. Students can choose from a wide range of sports, after school activities and volunteering and social action opportunities to build new skills.

Quaker Schools like Bootham aim to develop a caring community that values the peaceful resolution of conflict and provides opportunities for service to others, especially the less fortunate. Students and staff of all faiths and none are welcome here, while its Quaker ethos sits happily with people from all backgrounds. Students will develop skills such as a strong sense of social understanding, the ability to deal with adversity, and a strong sense of self-worth.

Bootham’s Senior School headmaster Chris Jeffery said their knowledgeable and passionate teachers focus on offering students personalised, well resourced pastoral care and personal development. It is unsurprising why the majority of their students have secured places at their chosen university course. “I firmly believe that all parents ultimately want their children to be good people even more than they want them to be successful people; doing both is what we specialise in!”

St. John’s College Southsea

St John’s College Southsea (SJC) is a co-ed independent day and boarding school for children aged four to 18, located in the heart of Southsea, Portsmouth. The College prides itself on the academic success of its students, bolstered by their outstanding pastoral care.

Uk Boarding Schools

Students at St. John’s College Southsea receive plenty of support from staff. Source: St. John’s College Southsea

Here, students are poised to step up to academic challenges. Students can enjoy a seamless transition from Lower School to Middle School and Senior School and Sixth Form, thanks to the guidance and support of experienced educators. Preparation for public exams, for instance, begins early. SJC encourages students to start making subject choices during their passage from Year 8 to Year 9 as they start to chart their course towards their GCSE exams whilst keeping an eye open for their options in the Sixth Form.

Boarding here will prove to be a home away from home as students receive plenty of support from staff. Students live on SJC’s city-centre campus in Edwardian Boarding Houses, while the boarding community is a healthy mix of UK boarders, as well as those from nearly 20 different nations. Its strategic location means students are also a stone’s throw away from shops, cinemas and restaurants.

SJC is the only independent boarding school in Portsmouth and offers a truly international education experience that students will benefit from. Underpinning all of their endeavours are its Lasallian values that foster and celebrates the talents of students of all beliefs, preparing them to make a positive contribution to the community and wider society.

Apart from offering an enviable British seaside charm, SJC’s strategic location means it is a mere 90 minutes away from London, Heathrow and Gatwick airports. Its excellent public transport means the College is conveniently placed for international and UK families alike. SJC has been open throughout the pandemic, having reported zero COVID-19 cases, further bolstering its appeal as a safe environment for your child.

Downside School

Downside is a forward-thinking independent school for girls and boys located in rural Somerset, just outside of the UNESCO World Heritage City of Bath. It is one of England’s oldest and most distinguished Catholic schools. Set in 500 acres of glorious English countryside, the School’s campus has plenty of space for students to learn and grow.

UK boarding schools

All pupils participate in the co-curriculum programme which runs throughout the week and on weekends. Source: Downside School

Downside is home to 340 boarders and day pupils aged 11 to 18 and has nearly 30 nationalities represented. Here, students enjoy high-quality education, reflected in their excellent GCSE and A levels results and have ample opportunities to develop new skills and interests outside the classroom. The School offers over 100 co-curricular activities, clubs and societies.

Students benefit from tailored careers support and guidance throughout their time at Downside. A dedicated careers team works with the students to decide upon the right subjects to get them onto their chosen degree course, and realise their aspirations beyond the School. Downside also has an excellent STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subject provision and offers Computer Science from Year 7 to GCSE and A level.

Most students secure places at their first-choice university. Destinations include some of the UK’s top universities such as Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial College London.

Getting on the career ladder or taking the next step in professional development can be a daunting prospect. Downside ensures that all School leavers have professional network support including help about various career options, career pathways, mentoring and work experience.

To find out more about Downside School, to apply for a place and to find out about scholarships and bursaries, click here.

Sherborne Girls

Sherborne Girls (SG) is an independent boarding and day school for girls aged 11 to 18. It is located in Sherborne, Dorset and is one of only a handful of true “full-boarding” schools in the UK. The School prides itself on its excellent pastoral care, allowing every girl to find her niche, be happy, confident and comfortable within the boarding environment.

Uk boarding Schools

Students at Sherborne Girls are given a platform to reach their potential, both inside and outside the classroom. Source: Sherborne Girls

SG senior deputy head (academic) Louise Orton said the School offers a broad and innovative academic education with a strong emphasis on developing an enquiring mind, instilling a good work ethic and striving for excellence. “Our curriculum addresses the school values of academic excellence, community responsibility, leadership, and developing pupils as 21st-century women,” she explained.

Students at SG are poised to succeed, thanks to the School’s individualised learning approach. Dedicated staff are on hand to support gifted and talented pupils and those for whom English is a second language. International students have an International Coordinator to ensure they are well integrated.

Apart from providing its students with rigorous academic study, SG also offers an array of co-curricular activities and sports for everyone to ensure students have the opportunity to flourish outside the classroom. They have a great range of facilities for their girls to use throughout their day and within their clubs and additional activities. 

Its boarding houses offer students a warm, comfortable environment to retreat to after a busy day in lessons. Students can find plenty of study and communal areas for relaxation and socialising. 

*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International