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08 August 2019
by Ferdinand Steinbeis

English Boarding School in Profile: Shrewsbury School, the school that fosters a lifelong love of learning

Hello from sunny Oxfordshire,
Shrewsbury School was our last school visit before the summer holidays. We had not been there in over two years and with new headmaster Leo Winkley taking over in 2018, we were especially curious about how the school had changed.
So, was the trip to Westengland worth it? Absolutely! Shrewsbury School is gorgeous, with plenty of smart, quirky, happy pupils and a very friendly, refreshingly unpretentious feel to it.
A view onto the lawns from the new science blocks
The Setting
Shrewsbury School is located just outside the beautiful West-England town Shrewsbury in county Shropshire, a four-hour car ride from London and one hour from Birmingham Airport.
The school is set on a stunningly beautiful 100-acre campus high above the river Severn with great views over nearby market town Shrewsbury.
View over town from the school
The campus is a combination of elegant Edwardian houses and stylish modern buildings all clustered around the school's cricket pitch. The lawns, as you'd expect from an English boarding school of Shrewsbury's stature are immaculately kept.
We hugely enjoyed our walk across Shrewsbury's beautiful campus. Not for nothing did the writer Sir Neville Cardus describe Shrewsbury as having “the most beautiful playing fields in the world.”
The river Severn is a steep five-minute walk from campus proper. This is where the school's reknowned rowers make their way to the school's own boat-house every morning for training. Our own descent was greeted by a small herd of local cows lazing by the riverside!
Cows chilling - not to be found off all UK school campuses
The Ethos and Atmosphere
Allow us to paraphrase what the school writes on its website: Shrewsbury aims to give its pupils a holistic education that turns into a lifelong love of learning. Sounds like your usual boarding school hyperbole? Possibly. In honesty though, it sums up rather well what we read, heard from pupils and saw during our visit to Shrewsbury.
Just by walking across campus....
....we witnessed an animated discussion between two budding product designers about the aerodynamics of their electic vehicle in the beautiful Design and Technology Department...
...we chanced upon a group of 5th-graders hunched over the school's beetle collection in Shrewsbury's very own 'biology museum' (well, with Charles Darwin as alumn, what else would you expect!)...
...we heard a stunning performance of a Bach sonata by one of the music scolars at Shrewsbury's beautiful new music school.
These are only the most glaring examples of a school that takes its vision of a holistic education seriously!
Shrewsbury's amazing Design Technology department
We spent the best part of a day at Shrewsbury and noticed the friendly, down-to-earth atmosphere here. We spoke to several pupils, even had lunch with one of them, and found them all approachable, quirky, slightly geeky (in the best possibly way!) and happy.
Lastly, despite all its history and tradition (the school was founded in 1552 by Edward VI!), Shrewsbury feels really modern and exciting. No provincial stuffiness here!
The man himself! - Charles Darwin is Shrewsbury's most famous alumn
The Academics
Ethos, atmosphere, tradition, beauty - Shrewsbury has these in spades. But what of academic prowess? The school does not disappoint in this area either: in 2018, a considerable 57% of A-Level grades were As and a very good 66% of GCSE grades were As. Shrewsbury has a stand-out reputation for excellent mathematics and further mathematics teaching!
We really like the breadth of subjects on offer. Next to the usual ones, Shrewsbury offers more exotic subjects like ceramics, photography, design, and theatre studies. Again, very in line with Shrewsbury's vision of a holistic education!
The school's modern library
The academic offer does not stop there, however. Shrewsbury has a wealth of enrichment programmes, academic clubs and soft skills training initatives pupils can get their teeth into. From doing extended academic projects, learning how to debate and present to large audiences all the way to participating in the International Young Physicists tournament (Shrewsbury hosted this in 2018) and British Biology Olympiad, there is an abundance of exciting learning opportunities here!
Darwin's old school atlas on display in the Chained Library
Moreover, thanks to the school's heritage, there is an amazing array of books, including Newton's Principia and books and letters of Charles Darwin on display at the Chained Library.
How could any pupil with a love of learning NOT get excited about this, we wonder?
The Extracurriculars
First things first: Shrewsbury is big on sports and HUGE on rowing! The school has a long tradition of Salopians (that's what Shrewsbury's alumni are called) representing the UK at the Olympics and other major rowing competitions like the Henley regatta. We visited the school's impressive boathouse where pupils receive expert training.
Training Days - Rowing machines at the school's boat house
Of course rowing is but one of many great sports here. Shrewsbury has very strong cricket and rugby teams, the girl's hockey team is doing very well, football, tennis, lacrosse and athletics are on the up. Indidivual sports like cross-country, kayaking and canoeing are hugely popular.
Shrewsbury's outdoors activities are popular, too, especially on week-ends, where pupil's walk to Tally, the school's own cottage in Snowdonia. This is where resilience and team-spirit get tested and friendships for life truly get formed.
One of several performance spaces at Shrewbury's music school
Oh, and did we mention music? Shrewsbury's music provision is stellar. The orchestra, ensembles, choirs and bands are excellent and regularly perform up and down the UK, including at the Edinburgh Fringe or at London's finest the Royal Albert Hall and Wigmore Hall. We LOVE that pupils get free lessons on an instrument of their choice to gauge if they could enjoy it. Regular inter-house competitions ensure that the music talent stays fresh. Lastly, the school's Concert Party is a special coup: keen musicians perform at local care homes, hospitals, prisons and hospices to give back and hone their perfomance skills more generally.
The school's DT department - again!
Art and design and technology are also very impressive here.
As mentioned above, overhearing a passionate conversation about how to build the perfect electric car in the DT department was special. The facilities are truly great with modern equipment including 3D printers, lazer cutters, saws, welding equipment etc and passionate teachers full of enthusiasm for their pupils' design projects. The teachers run regular workshop projects where they introduce novices to concepts of product design and the use of the machines and tools.
The art department is no less impressive! The bright modern studio is full of excellent fine art, pottery and photography projects. We were lucky to meet one 6th Former finishing his A-Level photography project about fungi and bacteria - fascinating and beautiful!
The school's art department
Lastly on to the many, many clubs on offer here. At a school that fosters intellectual curiosity as Shrewsbury does, these clubs play a central part in school life. With over 100 clubs including coding, mindfulness, STEM, winetasting, beekeeping and the electric car racing team there will be something for everyone, no matter how geeky! Needless to say there's of course the Darwin Society!
The Boarding
Shrewsbury sports 11 boarding houses, seven for boys, four for girls.
With 80% of all pupils boarding, Shrewsbury is close to being a full boarding school.
We got to see both boys and girls boarding houses. The girls are lucky: their accomodation is much more recently built and hence nicer. Still, we felt that the boys' accomodation was perfectly adequate.
A boys room
Each boarding house comes with a set of houseparents, a matron and at least four tutors. We met one extremely affable housemaster, who went out of his way to show us everything we came to see.
With plenty of staff living on site, there are a lot of teachers available for help after the normal school day - a huge plus, we were told by the pupils we met!
Applying To Shrewsbury School
Shrewsbury welcomes application at least one year in advance of joining. For Y9 applications it is adivsable to apply two years in advance.
Shrewsbury is moderately selective. Pupils will have to pass an English and Maths test and visit the school for interviewing.
Please get in touch with us, if you require more specific information of help!
The school's pool
Some facts about Shrewsbury School
  • Number of pupils: 790
  • Percentage of boarders: 80%
  • Percentage of international pupils: 20%
  • Av. class size: senior school - 12 / 6th Form - 9
  • Closest international airport: Birmingham Airport, one hour by car.
  • Fees per term for 2019/20: £13,035

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