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26 November 2019
by Ferdinand Steinbeis

English Boarding School in Profile: Malvern College, the most well-balanced of the top IB schools

Hello from deliciously autumnal Oxfordshire,
Last week we visited Malvern College, a school we have had the privilege to work with for over 25 years.
For some of our school visits the stars align. The weather is perfect in all its blue-skied, autumnal crispness, so you don’t want the school tour to end. The teachers and house parents you meet are helpful, friendly and seem genuinely grateful for your visit. The food served for lunch is so delicious we’d have come from Oxford solely to taste it. ‘Our’ pupils currently at the school sing Malvern’s praises. And you even bump into one of ‘your’ families visiting the school, mouth-agape in awe.
Visiting Malvern College was exactly that.
Malvern College in all its autumnal glory
The Setting
Malvern College has a deserved reputation for being one of the most beautiful boarding schools in Britain in one of the loveliest natural settings imaginable.
Rather than describing this, here are a few pictures for your pleasure:
Crystal blue skies!
...and even the moon made an appearance
Malvern College from the front
Colours of autumn in Malvern
The school’s majestic 19th century Main College sits at the bottom of the beautiful Malvern Hills, surrounded by the schools excellent facilities, departments and 11 boarding houses.
A brisk five-minute walk takes visitors to the friendly, safe spa town Malvern. Pupils come here for coffee and pizza and to take a breather from school life.
Malvern has a direct train connection to London Paddington Station, which takes 3hrs 20 minutes. Also it is one hour by car from Birmingham Airport.
Inside view - autumn in Malvern
What (we think) Malvern is about.
Malvern is about many things. For us, it’s three big things that stand out.
Firstly, its strong boarding school roots; secondly its unique mix of national and international pupils and thirdly the school’s focus on developing specific character traits, the so-called ‘Malvern Qualities’.
Let’s take these in turn.
Malvern College is very much a British boarding school in the traditional sense. Most pupils board full-time and thus receive excellent pastoral care. A key component to this is Malvern’s in-house dining, where pupils receive all meals in their boarding houses. Spending 24 hours, 7 days at school allows pupils to receive both an excellent academic education and partake in a stunning wealth of exciting extracurricular activities. Pupils learn inside and outside the classroom. They try things out, realise their potential and grow into responsible and curious young adults.
House ties - every boarding house has its own colours
Next, the Malvern’s mix of local and international pupils makes it an interesting hybrid of both very English and very cosmopolitan. 70% of pupils are from within a 100-mile radius of the school. The remaining 30% are from over 45 nationalities. Here, kids from successful Worcestershire farming families rub shoulders with kids from German aristocratic families. This blend is unique and fosters an atmosphere of open-mindedness and tolerance
Malvern Qualities - traits to aspire to!
Lastly, the school helps pupils to develop the so-called ‘Malvern Qualities’ – essential personality traits to be successful in life. These are resilience, self-awareness, open-mindedness, kindness, collaboration, risk-taking, curiosity, ambition, independence, integrity and humility. Malvern’s teachers, tutors, house parents and sports coaches help create opportunities for pupils to develop them.
Outside the Design Department - a pupil's design project
The Academics
Malvern is doing very well academically. In 2018, 60% of GCSE grades were at A-A/9-7 and A-Levels at 25% A/A. The IB average was at a fantastic 37 point, 7 points above world average. This puts Malvern firmly in the top 10% of UK IB schools.
The amazing thing is that Malvern achieves these results without pushing pupils too much. This is not a hot-house. Yes, pupils are smart, ambitious and hard-working, but they really get involved in the amazing co-curricular programme that Malvern offers – and the school encourages them at every turn!
Malvern's amazing science block
At 6th Form, approximately 50% of pupils do A-Levels and 50% do the IB. Like this, both degrees receive the love and attention they deserve with equal excellent support for all pupils.
Malvern is renowned for its excellent modern language teaching. Moreover, our pupils rave about the phenomenal level of individual support everyone receives here. “Teachers take the time and show huge amounts of patience”, Anna, one of our pupils tells us.
Malvern's new sports hall - pool, gym, dance studio...
The Extracurriculars
Every British boarding school worth its salt has a wealth of great extracurricular activities – especially sports, music, drama, art and many, many activities.
Malvern does not disappoint in this arena.
Let’s start with the school’s excellent sports. A lot of our pupils choose Malvern because of the breadth and quality in this area.
Malvern has a great reputation for boys and girls football, hockey, golf and tennis. But that’s only the beginning. Whether it’s cricket, swimming, sailing, kayak polo (!), fencing, scuba diving, or clay-pigeon shooting, Malvern will have something exciting for every taste and experience level.
Look at that pool!
Thanks to the school’s amazing rural setting, cross-country running, kayaking, canoeing and horse-back riding are huge here.
The new sports centre offers an Olympic-sized pool, a state-of-the-art gym and a climbing wall (three climbers recently climbed the height of Mount Everest on it, apparently!).
And then there are the outdoors pursuits. The above sports are only a start. Anything from a leisurely Sunday stroll up the Malvern Hills to an intensive 3-day-orienteering expedition with the Duke of Edinburgh, pupils are truly spoilt for the Great Outdoors here.
Rogers Theatre - any budding thespian's dream
You prefer the arts to sports? No problem, Malvern has you covered. For starters, the school offers amazing performing arts opportunities. Whether it’s highly ambitious theatre with ‘Wolf Hall’ at the school’s own Rogers Theatre, hip hop dance in the school’s dance studio, choir music, the orchestra or the many, many jazz and rock bands in Malvern’s lovely music centre, this is a school that guarantees every performing artist her time in the lime light.
Malvern's amazing arts department - also popular after school's out
Still looking for more? Then take your pick of Malvern large range of exciting afternoon activities. Here’s a selection of our favourites: Combined Cadet Force (CCF), the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, First Aid, Orienteering, Outdoor Pursuits, Photography, Practical Engineering, Skiing, Ballet/Dance, Ceramics, Chess, Climbing, Community Service, Current Affairs, Dancing, Debating/Public Speaking, Design/Technology, Drama/Theatre Studies, Life Saving, First Aid, Photography, Practical Engineering, Textiles, and Young Enterprise.
View from the Rogers Theatre onto Main College
For us it is this wealth of amazing activities that make Malvern one of the most exciting boarding schools in the UK.
The Boarding
As mentioned above, Malvern is a boarding school through and through. Out of the 650 pupils, 500 are full boarders. No flexi boarding here.
“It’s not always easy!” responds our affable tour guide Tom Newman, senior admissions advisor, when we ask how Malvern achieves this in times of declining domestic demand for full boarding. “We sometimes have to turn down amazing pupils because their parents want them home every week-end. Full boarding is our DNA though, and we are not prepared to compromise on this!”
This is music to our ears, of course.
The House 3 common room - cozy!
Malvern has 11 boarding houses, six for boys and five for girls. We get to visit House 3, one of the girl’s houses. House 3 is due for a comprehensive renovation in a few months and yet seems in perfect working condition. The rooms are cozy, clean single, 2- and 3-bed rooms. The common rooms are kitted out with sofas, beanbags and walls adorned by the girls’ paintings. This feels very much like a home from home.
We are greeted by the impressive housemistress Mrs Packham, who gives us a comprehensive tour complete with vivid anecdotes about boarding life here. She tells us about the ‘pooled’ birthday dinners she hosts in her private quarters for all girls with birthdays every month. She talks very candidly and with a great sense of humour about her daily challenges – from suspicious Amazon-parcels to breathalysing all 6th-Formers before being allowed to attend the yearly ball.
The House 3 dining room - every house its own!
A special feature of Malvern boarding is the in-house dining. Pupils take all their meals in their boarding houses. This creates an even stronger sense of community within the houses. Also, it allows house parents like the Packhams to keep an extra close eye on every girl. “Sharing every meal and chatting to everyone at least once a week allows us to pick up on any clues. If anyone seems down, we have a proper chat”, Mrs Packham tells us.
Main College tower
Applying to Malvern College
Malvern College is not massively selective, yet expects decent grades. In German-grade terms that would be a report average of 2.
The school has a limited intake for Y11. The lion-share of new pupils get recruited for 6th Form, however.
Applications consist of a visit to the college including an interview, and the CAT4 test.
Please get in touch with us if you want to learn more about the application procedure. We’d be glad to assist.
View from Rogers Theatre across the campus
Our view
For us, Malvern College is the epitome of what a British boarding school is – an academically challenging, extracurricularly exciting full boarding school complete with a beautiful hogwartian campus in one of the most stunning parts of the UK.
We love this school!

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