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28 September 2020
by Ferdinand Steinbeis

English Boarding School in Profile: Uppingham School, a gem amongst the classic British boarding schools

Hello from sunny Oxfordshire,
Yes, it has finally happened. British boarding schools are back!
After five months of lock-down and summer holidays, all schools in the UK opened on Friday 3rd September. Over the summer months all boarding schools made substantial changes to their hygiene regime and are now as "corona-safe" as any school can possibly be.
Needless to say, we at von Bülow Education are over the moon that 'our' schools are back - and 'our' pupils even more so!
Unfortunately that does not mean that we can embark on our beloved school visits just yet. Most schools want to monitor the corona pandemic in the UK and abroad until at least the half-term holidays in October.
This won't deter us from continuing to write about the schools of course. Especially not from writing about Uppingham School. Uppingham is the epitome of a classic British high-quality, all-rounder boarding school. A truly amazing place!
Pupils on their way to class. // copyright Uppingham School
The Setting
Uppingham School is located at the heart of the picturesque, 5000-inhabitant medieval market town Uppingham in county Rutland, Middle England.
Take the train from London's Kings Cross Station and you are there within 90 minutes. Birmingham Airport is one hour by car from the school, Stansted Airport 90 minutes and London Heathrow Airport two hours.
The school's location in the town Uppingham is an important aspect of both Uppingham School's identity and boarding school life. As the school grew over the 400 years since its inception, it bought up more and more properties around town. Today, pupils walk through the town's ancient archways as they go about their daily business.
An array of small shops, cafes and restaurants allow for much needed respite when boarding life gets too intense. On week-ends, the local Chinese restaurant and Dominoe's Pizza outlet are popular take-away food options for the ever hungry teens.
Whenever we visit, we are awestruck by how beautiful Uppingham School is. Few other schools have managed to combine stunningly designed modern buildings with the town's original, medieval buildings. Especially the modern science building and Leonardo Center are gems of architecture and evidence that the UK boarding schools' reputed love for functional prefab buildings of questionable aesthetics is wildly exaggerated.
The beautiful inner courtyard. // copyright Uppingham School
What (we think!) Uppingham School is all about
Uppingham School is a classic English full-boarding school in a unique location with an outstanding academic and extracurricular offer.
As ever, let's unpack this a little bit.
Uppingham School has all the ingredients a classic English boarding school worth its salt ought to have: the stunning, 'harry-potter-esque' campus, the ancient traditions, the school uniform, the inspiring teachers and the amazing extracurricular offer of sports, music, drama and dozens of exciting activities. But Uppingham School has a decisive edge over most other schools: nearly all pupils are boarders and board full time! So, if you want to guarantee that your child will be surrounded by his/her friends all the time, Uppingham is the school for you.
Next, Uppingham School is part of a charming town. In fact, some of our pupils there would go so far as to say that during term-time Uppingham School IS the town. The reason for this is that a) Uppingham town with 5000 inhabitants is rather small and b) due to the school's expansion over the last 50 years, it grew, quite literally, into the town. Today, pupils walk Uppingham's ancient archways and cobble stone streets to get to class, music lesson or sports pitch. After class and on week-ends, pupils frequent the town's shops, cafes and restaurants. London this isn't, but perfectly sufficient to get a break from school life (and food!) every once in a while.
The stunning Leonardo Building -art and design! // copyright Uppingham School
Lastly, what Uppingham School offers in and outside the classroom is spectacular. All our Uppingham pupils rave about the knowledgeable, inspiring and friendly teachers. The consistently great exam results for GCSEs and A-Levels provide ample evidence that the teachers deliver, too! The school’s facilities are a big contributing factor also: Uppingham's science department, art and design department and music department are some of the best equipped and most beautifully designed we at von Bülow know. Beyond the classroom, pupils are spoilt for choice: the music department is one of the best in the country, sports is strong all round and the school's enrichment programme diverse and exciting.
This is a school for go-getters.
Smiles all around! // copyright Uppingham School
The Academics
There's no two ways about it. Uppingham School is doing very well academically. Let's look at exam results first. In 2019, 50 percent of A levels/Pre-U results were at A*/A. At GCSE 70 percent of pupils achieveed 9-7. Moreover, these results are not a blip. Uppingham has very consistently upped its results across both state exams over the years and is on a clear upward trajectory.
Of course, being relatively selective at admissions helps. Applicants need a good set of grades to be considered.
But there's also pressure from teachers. One of our current pupils at Uppingham School, Levi, told us that both class teachers and tutors watch their pupils' academic progress carefully. Woe those that start slacking too much - detention beckons! Also, the workload can be considerable. Especially at the beginning of his time at Uppingham, Levi often spent three hours doing homework prep a day. This school is not for the faint-hearted!
Class in full swing. // copyright Uppingham School
That said, pupils are not left to their own devices when they need help. Far from it! Levi raved about the teachers' willingness to help. He had to catch up in the natural sciences at the beginning and spent at least an hour every day in one-on-one sessions with his biology, physics and chemistry teachers in the first two weeks. On top, he was in constant email contact with teachers, giving him written instructions and helpful links to additional material. All very, very helpful.
Also, thanks to the small class sizes, learning is more efficient and fun. "Classes feel more like university tutorials. It's very interactive. You don't even have to raise your hand when you want to say something. We had super interesting discussions!", Levi told us.
No doubt the stunning environment helps, too. The modern science block and stunning art and design buildings are marvels of modern architecture and fitted with the very latest tools and gadgetry to make learning insightful and fun.
Uppingham School is keen to provide a broad education. Therefore, no subject field dominates. Whether maths and the natural sciences, the arts, the languages or social sciences, all subject groups are seen as equally worthy of attention. A stunning 29 A-Levels are on offer here.
Music galore - Uppingham's amazing orchestra. // copyright Uppingham School
The Extracurriculars
As you might expect from a school of Uppingham’s calibre, the breadth and depth of extracurricular activities on offer is amazing. Whether it’s playing top-flight rugby or relaxing with yoga analysing ancient poetry or building electric cars, honing your piano skills or strumming that electric guitar, Uppingham School caters to every passion and interest.
We have to start with the Uppingham’s music though – because we know few better schools with a comparatively amazing offer in this regard. Uppingham School’s music department employs over 40 full-time staff, including professional musicians that teach both normal music classes as well as one-on-one lessons. Whilst the piano teaching is reputed to be especially strong, most instruments are taught here: a few years ago we had a pupil intending to take alpine horn lessons. Uppingham had him covered!
Music galore - fantastic individual lessons. // copyright Uppingham School
The opportunities to get involved in music are broad here, too. The school’s orchestra is one of England’s finest and used to perform in venues like the Guildhall in London in pre-covid times. Chamber orchestras, jazz bands, choirs, rock bands – there’s a stage for everyone here. And if performing isn’t your thing, playing a grand piano in one of the music department’s may practice rooms will get you your musical fix. For the more tech-inclined, Uppingham School offers music technology in the school’s state-of-the-art recording studio. Levi told us of the school’s rock bands using the studio to record songs that “sound amazing, really professional!”.
Hockey is big here! // copyright Uppingham School
Uppingham’s sports offer is another big forte. Team sports like hockey, rugby, cricket and football are of excellent quality and popular enough to fill several teams. Like this absolute beginners and pros can play. Sports such as tennis, athletics, golf, badminton, lacrosse, sailing, fencing, archery, water polo, swimming, basketball and dance are also on offer. For those in need of regular relaxation pilates and yoga are attractive alternatives.
Uppingham School’s art and design activities also deserve a special mention here. Albeit on offer as school subjects, pupils spend a lot of their free time working on their own creative projects. The place to be for this is Uppingham’s amazing Leonardo Building, a state-of-the-art facility complete with 3D printers, lazer cutters, ceramic and sculpture studios, a fashion and textile studio and photography lab. Pupils spend days here, experimenting, crafting and painting – weekdays and weekends. They create anything from pieces of furniture and digital apps to architectural models and electric cars. Truly phenomenal!
Theatre! Uppingham's production of 'Oliver!' was a triumph! // copyright Uppingham School
However, no top English boarding school would be complete without a great theatre. Uppingham School’s very own 300-seat theatre is the stage for budding actors, directors, and light engineers. Most recent productions at Uppingham include Oliver!, Legally Blonde and The Crucible.
In the spirit of personal development and to cultivate new hobbies and passions, Uppingham School has an astonishing array of activities and clubs for pupils to get involved in. Here are our personal favourites: drone racing, memory skills, beekeeping, classical film society and bow and arrow shooting.
Theatre also behind the scence: young light technicians preparing the stage. // copyright Uppingham School
Amid these riches of opportunity, Uppingham School is keen to install a sense of gratitude and awareness of privilege in its pupils. That’s why the school initiated the ‘Make A Difference’ programme, where all pupils in the senior school volunteer in the community and support charities. At least one afternoon in the week is reserved for working in hospitals, supporting the elderly in retirement homes or raising funds for local charities.
The inner courtyard with view onto one of the boarding houses. // copyright Uppingham School
The Boarding
98% of pupils at Uppingham School are full boarders, meaning they stay at school seven days a week. Quite understandably, this is a key reason why international families choose this school over many others – especially with concerns about covid-19! The idea that the school does not empty out on Saturday afternoons is hugely appealing, of course.
There are six boarding houses for girls and nine for boys with and average of 60 pupils sharing a house. The houses are distributed across Uppingham town, but all are within a 10-minute walk from the school campus. The houses are vertically grouped, meaning that pupils of different year groups live under the same roof. Uppingham’s boarding houses are well known for their cozy family-like atmosphere with the older children looking out for the younger ones.
From boarding house to class in two minutes: pupils en route. // copyright Uppingham School
A rather wonderful feature of Uppingham boarding life, and increasingly rare at British boarding schools, is the in-house dining. Pupils take all meals in their boarding houses, which creates a strong sense of community within the houses. At lunches and dinners pupils sit at designated tables together in their year groups and teachers that get invited for meals. Very importantly, in-house dining allows house-parents and teachers to keep a close eye on every pupil: if anyone seems unhappy, it’s detected quickly!
Did we mention that Uppingham School has amazing science? // copyright Uppingham School
The Application Process
Uppingham School expects good grades from potential applicants. In German-grade terms that would be a report average of 1,8 at least.
Senior school intake years are Y9, Y10 and Y12. Y11 applications are not possible.
The application procedure consists of a visit to school with an interview, covid-19 permitting. Otherwise a video call suffices! Maths and English admissions tests are also required. Please get in touch with us if you want to learn more about the application procedure. We’d be glad to assist.
Did we mention that Uppingham School has amazing science? // copyright Uppingham School
Our View
We love Uppingham School and would wholeheartedly recommend the school to anyone wishing for an academically challenging school with a rich offer of exciting extracurricular possibility. Not a school for couch potatoes!

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