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14 January 2019
by Ferdinand Steinbeis

English Boarding Schools in Profile - Ardingly College, a modern IB school teaching independent thought

Hello from chilly Oxfordshire!
Last week, we visited a school we've had the privilege of working with for over 20 years - we present Ardingly College!
Ardingly has all the accoutrements of a first-class English boarding school: excellent academic results, a beautiful, hogwarts-style campus and a wealth and depth of extracurricular activities including excellent sports and creative activities.
But that isn't it. Not even close!
Ardingly is also a thoroughly modern, tolerant and international boarding school. This has much to do with the school's inspiring headmaster Ben Figgis. But more about Ben later.
Ardingly College from the front...
A thoroughly international-minded school.
Befitting its location close to cosmopolitan London, Ardingly is a proper international boarding school. Over 30% of its pupils are from overseas. Many of the international families living in London send their children here.
Needless to say, the school offers the International Baccalaureate (IB), and does so very successfully - one third of 6th Formers take it and the school clocked up a very respectable 37-point average in 2018! All this is underscored by regular cultural, social and sporting trips abroad. If it's a football competition in Germany or building a school in Kenya. pupils get ample opportunity to see the world.
That said, Ardingly is and wants to be an English boarding school first and foremost. It succeeds admirably, however, at being truly British and international at the same time.
...and from the back
Fantastic arts!
Ardingly is well known for its art. Upon entry into its art department it immediately becomes clear why. The space is both atelier and showroom at the same time. Pupils sit at large tables, supervised by a professional artist-in-residence.
The stunning arts department
The results are simply beautiful. We saw sculptures of Medusa, dress-designs with intricate butterfly motives and oil paintings of burlesque nudes. Quite astoundingly good!
Long tables; art work all over...
More into sports? No problem.
Ardingly has a wealth of great sports on offer. Moreover, and especially relevant for our German families, Ardingly offers quality beyond the traditional sports cricket and rugby. Ardingly's football academy is feted and feared up and down the country. Hockey is huge for both boys and girls. Fringe sports like fencing and clay pigeon shooting are also on offer.
The view from the school into the glorious Essex countryside
A focus on independent learning.
We had the privilege of spending a whole hour with headmaster Ben Figgis. Ben, a smart, instantly likeable headmaster told us about his passion for independent learning. In a nutshell, Ben feels that beyond the regular school curriculum, pupils need to learn to think outside the box, and ask the right questions about the world.
Ben tells us about Ardingly's bespoke iMind programme, which all pupils take from Y9 onwards. It includes independent learning projects where pupils start with a question, do their own research and document their outcomes or produce prototypes. An example of a project is an innovative solar car that a group of pupils but and entered for the 3,000 km World Solar Challenge across Australia!
In today's world of ubiquitous fake news this seems more pertinent than ever!
...oh, did we mention the school does great art?
Our view:
We are big fans of Ardingly College. It is a school that beautifully straddles the traditions of a traditional English boarding school with the outlook of an openminded, international 21-st century school.
Some facts about Ardingly:
  • Currently 565 students; around 300 boarders (flexi and full), 250 Sixth Formers
  • Offer both A-Levels and the IB
  • 20mins from Gatwick, 40 mins from Central London
  • 87 activities incl. bee keeping, rabbit breeding club
  • Yes, amazing art!
  • Sports very big: NO rugby! The usual (like Hockey and Football) and minor sports like Fencing, Basketball, Golf, horse riding, rowing, sailing and the school has a lovely strength and cond. suite and an indoor pool
Want to read about other boarding schools? Have a look here:

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