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18 December 2022
by Ferdinand Steinbeis

English Boarding Schools in Profile: Wycliffe College, Quintessentially British, yet Cosmopolitan and with a bit of Everything

Hello from Richmond,
It is the middle of December. Since yesterday night a thin layer of snow covers most of the UK. It’s stunningly beautiful. Somewhat less beautiful will be the inevitable collapse of the British public transport system. Trains don’t run or are severely delayed. Same goes for buses, which in turn means more cars on the road. Winter tyres are exotic articles that the fewest Brits will ever have heard of. Luckily, working from home is still a perfectly acceptable option here.
Lucky for us at von Bülow Education, we visited Wycliffe College before the snow came. Read all about this fabulous boarding school below and listen to our latest Tea With The Head-Podcast to find out more!
Stonehouse station - just five minutes on foot from the school!
The Setting
With most of our partner schools situated in rural locations, we tend to visit schools by car. Not this time. Wycliffe College is located in the small town Stonehouse in the beautiful Cotswolds, a straight 90-minute train ride on the Great Western Line from London Paddington Station. Then it’s only a 5-minute walk from Stonehouse station to Wycliffe College’s campus. Needless to say, this is very convenient for anyone traveling to the school via London or the London airports.
The school's wide open campus
Stonehouse itself is somewhat quaint but affords the essential amenities for boarding life, including a supermarket, a pizzeria and several take-away spots. Nearby Stroud, most certainly the more interesting point of attraction, is just a 15-minute bicycle ride down Bath Road. It is also one of the better known Cotswoldian towns, complete with the idiosyncratic limestone houses, small pubs and all-round charm that this part of the country is so well known and loved for.
More beautiful, green open spaces...
Wycliffe College’s buildings are arranged in horse-shoe form around the school’s beautiful cricket pitches. Cricket isn’t played in winter, so the pitches second as a beautiful large, open space for pupils to amble across. The school feels open and friendly. What it might lack in architectural consistency, Wycliffe College makes up for the quality of its facilities. We were especially taken with the state-of-the art sports center, the beautiful school library and the amazing, brand-new Wards-Ivy Boarding House.
Family feel - beautiful dogs included
What (we think!) Wycliffe College is all about
Wycliffe College’s school community feels like one big, happy family. With just over 400 pupils - that’s roughly 80 pupils per year group across years 9 to 13 - Wycliffe is a relatively small school. This helps not only with pupils finding friends quickly but also for the very approachable Headteacher Nick Gregory to remember every pupil’s name and know at least a little about them. This, as we know from interactions with many headmasters, is unusual.
A stunning, huge artwork outside the school's library
The ‘Wycliffe family feel’ is further strengthened by the school’s focus to make the over 120 international pupils feel at home quickly. The school’s boarding house system is crucial here: pupils live in seven cozy boarding houses where they bond over anything from inter house music competitions, fun week-end activities like zorbing or a quick game of billiards between lessons. This is where a sense of belonging is fostered and friendships for life are made!
Real breadth in subjects, including amazing film studies!
Wycliffe has a unique academic offer that is highly adaptable to the individual needs of each pupil. The small class sizes (never more than 14, most around 7!) as well as passionate, supportive teachers help of course. Wycliffe goes further, however: as a CResteD accredited school it can support pupils with ADHD, dyslexia and dyspraxia. Programmes like the Development Year for international pupils further underscore the school’s credentials in this area.
Lastly, we love Wycliffe’s extracurricular offer, especially the sports. Girls hockey and rowing are of an extremely high standard, as are squash, football, cricket and rugby for the boys.
A lovely place to work: Wycliffe's gorgeous library
The Academics
The success of Wycliffe College’s individual approach to learning increasingly shows in its academic results: In 2022, 35 per cent of GCSE results were 9-7; 43 per cent As at A level (64 per cent A-B). In 2019 (the last pre-pandemic results), 35 per cent 9-7 at GCSE and 34 per cent A/A at A level (63 per cent A-B). Given that the school is academically non-selective, these are very encouraging results!
In general, Wycliffe impresses us with the breadth of pupils it can support academically. At von Bülow we have had academic high-flyers who’ve benefited from the additional push they received, as well as pupils with considerable academic challenges that were thoroughly supported by expert SEN teachers and the school’s excellent pastoral care. The school is CReSTeD accredited and has five learning support staff that help pupils with individual challenges full-time.
Textures of Wycliffe: iron bridge in the main house
A special mention however, goes to Wycliffe’s Development Year for international pupils: pupils can come for one year into Y11, choose 5 to 8 subjects depending on their interests and academic prowess and enjoy lessons with very supportive teachers in very small classes. Our German tour-guide Sophia was full of praise:” I loved it! You get all the attention you need, the teachers really care and classes are really small for a really individual experience. My classes were never bigger than five pupils!” Sophia loved the experience so much that she stayed on at Wycliffe to do her A-Levels. Sophia is no academic slouch either. She does Maths, Further Maths, Computer Science and Economics. Needless to day, the Development Year programme prepared her well for these demanding subjects!
Great music is part of the school's extracurricular offer
The Extracurriculars
Wycliffe College is a true all-round British boarding school. This of course includes a broad and deep extracurricular offer of sports, music, theatre and lots and lots of activities to keep pupils busy. Fancy trying your hand at bee-keeping? Or is drone-flying more your thing? Never fret, Wycliffe has you covered.
Out of the top of their heads, our knowledgeable tour guides Sophia and Jakob could list the following clubs on offer:
Film-making, Fitness, Swimming, Jazz Band, Drama Club, Choir, Duke of Edinburgh, Scrabble, Green Car Racing, Girls’ Football, Badminton, Art, Young Dragons, Young Enterprise, Dry Slope Skiing, Science Club, Running Club, Youth Theatre, Model UN, Touch Rugby, String Group, Mandarin Chinese, Cookery Club, Brass Ensemble, Juggling, Chess Club, Dance Class, Athletics, CCF (Combined Cadet Force),Shooting, Kick-boxing, Fencing, Photography, Riding Club, Creative writing, Art, War Gaming, Bee Keeping, Golf and Yoga.
Fabulous Design and Technology!
Drama and music at Wycliffe have a deserved reputation for excellence. Chloe Scott, the Head of Drama told us about the two major school productions a year, one a theatre play, the other a musical. She tells us that drama” is a great opportunity for pupils to be somebody different, to be brave enough to be in front of an audience and - if drama isn’t for them - to develop their empathy, communication and leadership skills”. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Gemma Russell, the Head of Music, waxed lyrical about the school’s 18 specialist music teachers that come to school every week to teach a broad range of musical instruments. Moreover, pupils have lots of opportunity to perform: an orchestra, several rock, pop and jazz bands, two choirs, and brass ensemble.
Big in sports, especially the rowing
And yet, the sense we get is that it’s the sports where Wycliffe College truly excels. As you would expect of any British boarding school worth its salt, Wycliffe has great rugby, cricket and football for the boys - yet no hockey! Curiously, hockey is reserved exclusively for the girls here. “Our hockey girls get the facilities and my staff’s focus all for them! Like this we have create a highly competitive girls hockey team”, Mark Shopland, the affable Head of Hockey tells us.
Very successful in squash also!
Wycliffe College is also playing it smart by building real strength in some of the more niche sports, especially in squash and rowing. Touring through the amazing sports hall, we witnessed the first boys squash team in training under the focused guidance of Director of Squash Jonny Harford. It’s high-energy and fiercely competitive! The sporting highlight of our day, however, was attending a training session with the first and second girls rowing team. For this we drive 15 minutes to the school’s own boat house, which boarders a 40km long canal. Alas, the training didn’t happen on water that day, but seeing the girls on rowing machines in perfect synchrony was impressive in its own right.
Wycliffe's amazing new Wards-Ivy Boarding House
The Boarding
Boarding is very much at the heart of school life here. Of the roughly 400 pupils nearly half board and even the day pupils regularly stay at school to participate in early-morning rowing sessions, theatre rehearsals or simply to spend more time with their boarding friends.
The seven boarding houses house approximately 50 pupils each. Week-ends are filled with lazy brunches (anything from chicken drum-sticks to avocado and eggs on toast on offer!), fun activities like paintballing or trips to nearby Stroud or further-afield London. Our tour-guides Sophia and Jakob told us of the inter-house singing competition that had recently happened (Jakob’s house had won singing ‘I ain’t worried’ by OneRepublic!), as well as the yearly cross-country run that everyone participates in.
Common room
We got to visit brand-new Wards-Ivy boarding house for a first-hand impression of Wycliffe boarding life. No doubt, Wards-Ivy is state-of-the art with a huge common room, cozy new furniture and pool table; and single rooms with en-suite bathrooms for the Y13s. But it was the small things that we noticed especially - the friendly dog that greeted us at the door, the delicious smell of fresh toast, the friendly smile of the house matron. These are the things that make you feel at home.
And what about those needing a break? Our tour-guide Sophia put it well: “School life here is intense. But you take a time-out and stretch out with a good book under a tree. There’s time and space to do that, too!”
The school's main house
Our view on a student suited for Wycliffe
We imagine Wycliffe to be a very broad church: A place for the academically-minded like our tour-guides Sophia and Jakob; the super sporty like the squash players and rowers we met; the thespians and musicians that Chloe Scott and Gemma Russell told about; but also the pupils we’ve placed at Wycliffe that needed a bit more academic support.
What unites them all, however, is a willingness to muck in, to be open to new experiences and to partake as a grounded, helpful and enthusiastic member of the Wycliffe College Family.

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