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24 March 2024
by Ferdinand Steinbeis

English Boarding Schools in Profile: Lancing College - Traditional, Warm-hearted & Versatile

Hello from a rainy Richmond!
For us at von Bülow Education, Lancing College is a conundrum: with everything the school has to offer, this should be sitting comfortably near the top of our “most popular boarding schools” list. And yet, we place only one, maybe two pupils here every year. Very strange.
This prompted us to want to go visit and find out for ourselves. We hadn’t been there for at least two years, so were massively overdue a visit. So, one fine morning in early March, we bundled into our colleague Julia’s red Toyota and drove towards the Southern Coast. The weather that day seemed decidedly undecided about whether it wanted to be rainy, windy, sunny or cloudy. Ultimately, the sun won and we spent a breathtakingly beautiful day at a very hospitable Lancing College.
Lancing College seen from the motorway
The Setting
Founded in 1847 Lancing College is everything one would imagine a classic British boarding school to look like. Majestically perched up on a hill - with its stunning cathedral-like school chapel - it was unmissable from several miles away as we made our way down the M23 motorway towards Brighton. Absolutely beautiful.
Lancing College, as we walk up the hill
As we drove up the hill, Lancing College came into view in its full architectural glory. The school is arranged around two square courtyards surrounded by beautiful gray stone buildings. There is an almost monastic serenity to this place. We saw pupils purposefully walking across campus as they headed for their classes and boarding houses.
Lancing College Chapel is very much the architectural crown-jewel with its gigantic height of 28 meters and stunning interiors. And whilst this is a much overused comparison in our line of business - yes, it did remind us of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts.
A peek into one of the school's courtyards
Like any prestigious boarding school worth its salt, Lancing College sports a wide range of top-notch facilities, including vast sports fields and an impressive sports hall with an in-door swimming pool. A brand new cafe for 6th Formers is under construction. Two things that set Lancing apart, however, are its riding stable and school farm. So animal lovers and especially equestrian enthusiasts will be very happy here.
Lancing has its own school farm!
Our personal favorite, however, is Lancing College’s stunning modern art studio. This is a square concrete block with art studios across two floors. Floor-to-ceiling windows allow for breathtaking views across nearby Shoreham, Brighton and the sea. Few spaces will inspire creativity more than this!
Lancing Cathedral in all its glory!
As can happen with these boarding school visits, one sometimes notices corners around campus that are, shall we say, less in keeping with the overall architectural splendor. Same here at Lancing. Amid the beautiful grey-stone buildings lurks the odd only moderately attractive pre-fab building, no doubt erected to cope with the everyday space demands of a growing school. Whoever decided on these was less concerned about the overall aesthetic of the school. Bit of a shame, but in the grand scheme of things, irrelevant.
Architectually a little random:a pre-fab building
Lancing College is located near the seaside town Shoreham, a brisk 30-minute walk from the school. Shoreham is a charming little town with shops selling beach towels and vanilla ice-cream, little cafés, and historic buildings. So, perfect for a break from busy school life! For more action, pupils jump in a taxi to arrive 15 minutes later in bustling Brighton.
Gatwick Airport is half an hour away by car, Heathrow Airport one hour. London is one hour and 30 minutes away by train.
One of our favorites anywhere: Lancing's beautiful art studio
What (we think!) Lancing College is all about
Let’s talk academics first. Lancing College is one of the very few schools we know whose academic results have not suffered since the UK’s exam boards in 2023 decided to grade GCSE and A-Level exams in stricter fashion since Covid-19. Quite the opposite: results have markedly improved! “It’s thanks to our excellent teachers, who are always “on it” and our round-the-clock 1:1 tutoring system. This is maximizing our kids’ oomph!”, so Dominik Oliver, Lancing’s affable headmaster, told us over a cup of tea. All this without applying much pressure. Commendable!
Courtyard window
We love Lancing College’s creative offer. The school’s art studio is one of the best we know and comes complete with a stunning view over the coastline. The school’s design-engineering workshop is fabulous also. We saw some very impressive product prototypes, architectural models, and innovative experiments by students on display.The school's music offering is also excellent, a lot of which happens in the school’s stunning Cathedral.
Drying artwork
Lastly, Lancing College is a fantastic blend of traditional British boarding school exterior with a warm-hearted, open, supportive school culture. Not for nothing did Lancing get rated “significant strength” for its pastoral care at the latest Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI), something the school is unsurprisingly proud of. Our amazing tour-guides Jewel and Lucy, two Y10 girls, embodied this spirit rather wonderfully. .
Courtyard at an angle
The Academics
Let’s be honest, it’s unlikely that Lancing College will ever be quite as academically successful as its neighbor Brighton College down the road. But then that’s not the school’s aim. “Of course we want our kids to do well academically. That’s what we owe them - and their parents who spend a lot of money on this! But we want this to be a well-rounded experience that leaves space for all the amazing extracurricular activities we offer.”, Mr Oliver told us. Fair dues!
Lancing's fabulous Design Engineering department
That said, Lancing College is firmly on the up. This is especially evident in the outstanding results the school’s pupils achieved in 2023. At that time, 56% of the GCSE results were 9–7, and 54% A or A (overall 81% AB). Compare this to 2019, before the pandemic began, where only 46% of the GCSE results were 9–7, and 44% A* or A. This is counter to most results we’ve seen at other top boarding schools last year.
Views across Shoreham to the sea
So, what’s Lancing’s magic sauce? It’s the combination of very proactive, supportive teachers and weekly one-on-one tutoring. The tutoring is academic and pastoral combined and, pretty much, around the clock. And yet, this happens without exerting too much performance pressure. Rather “we show our pupils how they learn - or don’t learn! - currently and show them what they can do better - continuously!”, so headmaster Oliver. Success by ‘learning how to learn’? Doesn’t sound revolutionary, does it? Oliver laughs:”No, but you’d be surprised by the results, when it’s done properly!”.
With regards to GCSE and A-Level subjects on offer, Lancing keeps it fairly classic. Languages include Latin and Greek, Russian, German, Spanish, French and Mandarin. Drama A-Level is very popular here also. But what surprised us was how popular Maths Level is: An impressive 60% of students choose it. Boys and girls!
Art department once more....
We were fortunate to get a brief glimpse into a Y12 history lesson. In a small group of only six pupils, we witnessed in a lively discussion about the French Revolution under the empathetic guidance of an excellent teacher. It was impressive to see how engaged the students were and how they inspired each other to share their thoughts and ideas and explore different perspectives. Really nice!
Football pitches: football is a major sport here
The Extracurricular Offerings
As you’d expect from an all-rounder boarding school of Lancing College’s ilk, there’s a lot on offer here.
Let’s start with Lancing’s creative offer. The art department is simply stunning. Housed in a modern building akin to a huge cement cube, it has six large, quickly adaptable studios that can be used both as classrooms and project spaces. We saw amazing fine art paintings, photography projects, printmaking, pottery pieces, even fashion design pieces. The pupils we met were happy to show us around their space. We then had a very similar experience in Lancing’s Design Engineering workshop. The atmosphere in this light, roomy space was positively bustling with creative energy! We saw a team of five boys and girls working on an electric race car, all busy determination and good humor. At the same time an A-Level design pupil was getting a seriously impressive architectural model of an urban high-rise ready. “To be built in Paris or Amsterdam, one day”, said pupil explained with zero false modesty ;-)
Seen in the Design Department: an electric go-cart
On to sports. The major sports at Lancing College for girls are hockey, netball, football, and badminton. The boys’ major sports are football, hockey, cricket, and tennis. Lancing is competitive in all of these. The school has an excellent gym, as well as a 25 m indoor swimming pool. Niche sports on offer include golf, climbing, sailing, fencing and squash.
Students with a passion for the performing arts( read: dance, singing, and acting), will find their home in the school's Cherry Hall theater and the open-air theater, which was opened by none other than 20th century’s most famous crime writer Agatha Christie. The theater program in the Cherry Hall is noteworthy, with dance and theater performances, such as the play "The Addams Family," which was rehearsing during our visit. All pupils are offered dance lessons, with ballet to modern and contemporary, and street jazz featured.
The school's indoor swimming pool
Music is another key strength. There are orchestras, choirs, a Big Band, A Capella Club and a variety of string ensembles, pop, jazz and rock bands performing at regular concerts and competitions year-round. Choir rehearsals take place in the stunning Lancing College Chapel. We witnessed a brief rehearsal, which gave us goosebumps!
Right around the corner from the Chapel is Lancing College’s very own school farm. Because why not? On 70 hectares of land, we spotted hens, pigs and even cows! Pupils with an interest in agriculture, veterinary medicine or simply a love for animals and desire for regular breaks from school life, will love this place!
Then we headed five minutes down the hill to Lancing’s Equestrian Centre. The school has six of its own horses and can accommodate up to 15 more. Pupils regularly bring their own horse or care for a resident pony and ride on the all-weather arena or the riding trails in the South Downs National Park. Students can take group or private lessons and even prepare for national riding exams here.
None of these activities tickle your fancy? There are over two hundred clubs and activities on offer from Duke of Edinburgh to debating, from film club to knitting club, from coding to wine-tasting.
The school's beautiful dining hall
The Boarding
Lancing College is a proper boarding school. Of the 600 or so pupils, 60% board. One third of pupils are from abroad, so the lionshare of pupils are here 24/7.
Lancing College’s boarders stay in one of a total of 10 boarding houses: five for boys, four for girls, and one mixed house.
Seen from above: a three-bed in girls house Fields
We were allowed to visit girls boarding house Fields, run by the charming Emma Campbell and her team. During the school day Emma teaches maths. From 2pm onwards, she makes sure the girls in her care are well looked after and happy. 

At first glance, Field’s struck us as an incredibly cozy boarding house with a warm ‘big family’ atmosphere.
We’ve already mentioned Lancing’s phenomenal pastoral care as one of the reasons for its academic success. The pastoral care is also why the kids here thrive personally! All grown-ups, whether teachers or house- staff, get at least 30 hours of safeguarding training. They are adept at picking up the children’s daily mood swings and know how to support with a kind word, a mug of tea or, if need be, a proper intervention.
Exeat week-ends are compulsory here.
School tower
Our View of a Suitable Pupil
No doubt, Lancing College is for pupils that want to achieve both inside and outside of the class-room. That said, this is no hot-house! Rather, Lancing impressed us with its incredibly humane, intelligent and patient approach to raising youngsters. Lancing sets clear expectations but ensures that learning stress does not become overwhelming.
We especially love Lancing’s great breadth. Whether on the sports field, in the art studio, or down at the equestrian center, everyone will find something befitting their interest. And a space to relax and recharge after a busy school day. Wanting to get involved and give new things a try is obligatory here!

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