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26 April 2018
by Ferdinand Steinbeis

English Boarding Schools in Profile: Ashdown House, a lovely, quirky prep boarding school for the free-spirited
Good afternoon from Oxford,
we just returned from our usual, weekly visit to one of 'our' partner boarding schools. Today we visited renowned prep boarding school Ashdown House in West Sussex, about 2 1/2 hours from our office.
What a beautiful little school!
At education consultancy von Bülow Education we are increasingly getting requests for boarding school stays for younger children. Schools like Brambletye and Ashdown House are perfect 'homes away from home' for young kids!
This made us laugh!
A beautiful school surrounded by lush meadows and trees.
Ashdown House is nestled into 40 acres of pristine Sussex countryside. We swerved off the main road onto a side road leading into a little forest. This opens up into a lush expanse of green meadows. The school comes into view from afar.
Gorgeous green meadows as far as the eye can see.
Upon arrival, the beautiful 17th century main school house is perched prominently amid the 40 acres of land, complete with a cherry blossom tree in bloom - like straight out of a Jane Austen novel.
The main school house
The chapel
Haydon Moore, a headmaster with batman cufflinks.
We entered the main house and were immediately welcomed by headmaster Hayden Moore. No receptionist, no secretary, no waiting. No fuss.
It immediately becomes clear that Haydon is not your usual headmaster. He is instantly likeable, chats very openly about personal matters, including his obsession with coffee. He is a devout Christian, yet is fond of Buddhism. We talk about mindfulness mediation, world politics and the big challenges of tomorrow.
All this in the first 15 minutes
And he wears batman cufflinks along with his white shirt and suit, which just about sums Haydon up as a person and headmaster. Amazing!
The beautiful innards of Ashdown House.
The beautiful innards of Ashdown House.
Of course we also talk about Ashdown House. The fact that foreign secretary Boris Johnson was here (complete with the inevitable eye-roll as he mentions the name...).
But more importantly, Haydon talks at length about his pedagogical philosophy and passion for running the school. In short, he wants to offer an exciting, broad education to prepare tomorrow's global citizens for an uncertain world.
As a headmaster he wants to be approachable. Walking through school with him, seeing him talk to pupils and how fond they seem to be of him one cannot but conclude that he genuinely is.
Spot the infamous foreign minister!
A caring, nurturing place with lots of freedom.
One only has to spend 10 minutes at Ashdown to see that this is a happy, care-free place.
We chanced upon children in the library quietly reading the mighty Roald Dahl as part of their obligatory 30-minute daily reading.
We met a bunch of 3rd-graders returning from a treasury hunt down by the adventure playground - muddy, big smiles and a very light shade of sunburn.
We met a gaggle of 4th former girls in the dorm, animatedly discussing their imminent 6-week stay at Chateau de Sauveterre in France, the school's yearly language learning retreat.
We spot two boys - barefoot, no less! - climbing one of the big oak trees in the garden.
Wellies to brave the frequent muddy weather.
Everyone seemed genuinely happy and excited to be here.
We asked one 2nd former over a nice lunch of fried chicken, veg and plum cake, what her favourite thing about being at Ashdown School is. "The freedom!", she responded.
With only two hours spent at the school, we still knew exactly what she meant.
Cozy dorms.
Non-selective, yet very successful with placements in senior schools.
The combination of free-spirited ethos combined with Haydon Moore's rather eccentric leadership seems to be paying dividends: despite the school being non-selective, Ashdown manages to secure its pupils places in all the top English boarding schools. In 2018, pupils are going on to Eton, Wycombe Abbey, Sevenoaks, Uppingham, Worth and Shrewsbury among many other renowned schools.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit!
...And that gorgeous tree once more...
A few facts about Ashdown House:
  • 150 pupils aged 6 to 11
  • 100 boarders
  • 10 pupils per class
  • Located close to Forest Row, 1 hour south of London, 45 minutes from Gatwick Airport
  • Non-selective, but English needs to be good!
Von Bülow Education
Harwell Innovation Center
173 Curie Avenue, Harwell
Oxford, OX11 0QG

Tel: +44 (0) 1235 838540
Email: info@buloweducation.com