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22 April 2024
by Ferdinand Steinbeis

Our Top 5 English Boarding Schools for Rowing

Hello from Richmond!
As many readers of this article will be are aware, the English are a sports-obsessed people. Sport is an integral part of their culture with a long tradition. And sports is not only lived in football stadiums or on the racecourse but also in English boarding schools. In this article, we'll share some facts about rowing in England. Then, we'll introduce you to our top five rowing boarding schools and what makes them so special.
Ready? Steady? Row!
Pupils at Monkton Combe School on the river

Sporting England: Many sports, long traditions

Various sports such as football, rugby, cricket, polo, boxing, billiards, and golf were invented in Great Britain. Football was primarily played by the working class, while rugby, cricket, and polo were favored by the upper class. While England did not invent rowing, it is considered one of the founding countries of modern rowing. Amateur rowing began in 1815 at the University of Oxford. Shortly thereafter, the University of Cambridge formed its first team. From then on, students from both universities regularly meet for rowing competitions like the Boat Race on the Thames. This almost legendary competition has been dominated by Cambridge for almost 10 years. So, it was only a matter of time before English boarding schools followed suit and offered rowing in their schools.

Rowing at English boarding schools

Rowing is a fixed part of the British school calendar, with special annual highlights like the Henley Regatta. Rowing is not just about top performances, but also about developing a strong sense of community and fostering rivalries. But in the best English manner, because rowing has always been and still is a 'gentleman's sport'. That doesn't mean that ladies haven't also established themselves. On the contrary, the sport is equally open to girls and boys. And they all train hard to be part of it. Training requires a lot of discipline and commitment. From technique exercises on the river to endurance training in the gym to strength training, the comprehensive rowing program offered at schools here covers it all. Often, rowers get up very early in the morning before school starts. Or they use their afternoons after classes for training on the water or in the gym to prepare for upcoming competitions – all with great passion.

Advantages of rowing boarding schools in England

Rowing boarding schools are English boarding schools that focus, among other things, on rowing. They offer all the advantages such as excellent academic education, diverse extracurricular activities, and the best possible rowing training. While our mixed boarding schools offer all the benefits, rowing boarding schools offer even more: - Excellent rowing programs and facilities that enable students to develop their athletic skills - Rowing achievements and the opportunity to regularly participate in national and international competitions - Promotion of teamwork, discipline, and physical activity by integrating rowing into the curriculum - A supportive environment provided by dedicated house parents and teachers to promote the well-being of students - Experienced medical staff on-site - Holistic development of students through the combination of academic excellence and athletic development

Bülow Education's Top 5 English Boarding Schools with outstanding rowing programs

Our five rowing favorites are characterized by particularly dedicated coaches and students. They have all participated in national and international competitions.
A top setup: Radley College with its own water tank!

1. Radley College: Rowing at world-class level on the Thames

Radley College is located less than 10 minutes by car from the Thames and offers optimal training conditions for sports such as rowing. So, it's only logical that the college has its own rowing club: the Radley College Boat Club, known for its participation in prestigious competitions such as the Henley Royal Regatta and boasting around 165 members in eight rowing teams. Those who are members of the club know what they have achieved when training is over. To allow students to train in peace, Radley College has secured exclusive use of a picturesque section of the Thames.
Training sessions vary depending on the team and start at five sessions per week for the youngest participants, rising to up to eleven sessions for the most competitive teams. The coaches, including experienced teachers and external experts, help students improve their skills and achieve their athletic goals. The club's philosophy is to support students throughout their school years. In the first two years, the focus is on acquiring basic skills. From the age of 16, there is a more serious preparation for competitions. The aim is for students to realize their full potential and, if possible, to be successful at an international level.
If sports on the Thames are not on the agenda or are not possible due to bad weather, students have excellent facilities available at the boarding school. These include a well-equipped sports hall with rowing machines and even a water tank for training.
A peek into Shrewsbury School's boat house

2. Shrewsbury School: Tradition and triumphs in rowing

Located on the picturesque banks of the River Severn, Shrewsbury School is nationally recognized as a leading rowing school and offers its rowers optimal training opportunities. A private boathouse allows athletes to train on the river as early as 5 a.m. This is gladly utilized by the over 200 members of the Royal Shrewsbury School Boat Club (RSSBC), founded in 1866. Even though they have to get up very early for this, they appreciate the opportunity, grab the oars, and row. The school's track record is accordingly impressive: Many former students have shone as members of the English rowing team at Olympic Games and other international competitions. With no fewer than 14 victories at the Henley Royal Regatta, the school has built up an impressive rowing tradition. The introduction of coeducation allowed the RSSBC's girls' teams to quickly establish themselves as well. In 2019, three of the school's teams were the only ones able to qualify for the Henley Royal Regatta. The Senior Girls' Four even reached the semi-finals of the Diamond Jubilee Challenge Cup. And at the 2021 regatta, Shrewsbury's Junior Women's Eight made history by winning the first race in this competition. In 2023, two students from Shrewsbury School were selected to represent Britain at the U19 World Rowing Championships and returned with gold medals. The successes speak for themselves, don't they?
Working hard: the very successful Wycliffe College girls rowing team

3. Wycliffe College: Impressive rowing dynamics

With a boathouse in Saul Junction on a 32-kilometer stretch of the Gloucester-Sharpness Canal, ideal conditions for rowing training are already provided. Rowing is a firm fixture at Wycliffe College and part of a wide range of sports offerings. Of course, the sports staff also contributes to the school's rowing success: Qualified coaches supervise the students intensively with up to 15 training sessions per week, making the rowing program one of the country's leading sculling programs in the last 8 years. And whoever thought rowing was more of a gentleman's sport is mistaken: The girls' rowing team also impresses on the water or during dry exercises on the rowing machines. The synchronicity and harmony among the students are palpable. And the results speak for themselves. Wycliffe College has impressive achievements to its name, including qualification for the Diamond Jubilee Challenge Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta, undefeated head race seasons, and victories at the National Schools Regatta. Naturally, dedicated athletes also have access to high-quality equipment: The school has a top-of-the-line, modern fleet, including the Hudson USP Four and the double scull. Particularly talented students also have the opportunity to attend training camps at renowned locations such as Dorney Lake or the Leander Club in Henley on Thames.
Bedford's up and coming boys team

4. Bedford School: Tradition-rich rowing on the River Ouse

Bedford School has a long rowing tradition dating back to 1861. The Bedford School Boat Club (BSBC) is even the sixth oldest school rowing club in the country. The successes range from victories at the Henley Royal Regatta to gold medals at the National Schools Regatta. Former students like Jack Beresford and Phelan Hill even represented the British rowing team and won Olympic gold medals. The school offers rowing as a major subject and places great importance on its sports facilities, including a boathouse on the River Ouse. Hard-training students naturally need excellent equipment, and Bedford School provides that. The school fleet is one of the best-equipped in the country. For land training, there are modern changing rooms and rowing machines available. Particularly talented athletes are also offered the opportunity to participate in training camps. These are usually held domestically, but training camps abroad are also regularly offered, for example, in Switzerland.
For students aged 10 to 14, the school offers action-packed rowing courses for all skill levels during the holidays. From basic safety to further development of rowing technique, everything is covered. Participants have two training sessions on the water every day and can demonstrate their skills in an entertaining competition on the last day.
Additionally, we know that Bedford offers generous rowing scholarships. Thanks to a very generous alumnus who wants to turn Bedford into a real rowing powerhouse, this is now possible.
A little more relaxed but in no way less successful: Monktons Rowing Club

5. Monkton Combe School: Unbeaten in Bath

Also among our top 5 favorites is Monkton Combe School due to its outstanding achievements in rowing. It has produced more rowers at the international level than other schools of its size. The boarding school is one of the few in Bath to offer rowing as a major sport, and more than a third of students aged 13 to 18 regularly row.
With its two boathouses and the renowned Monkton Combe School Boat Club (MCSBC), located just three minutes' drive from the boarding school on the banks of the River Avon, the school offers its rowers first-class training opportunities. Successful participation in national and international regattas such as the National School Regatta and the Henley Regatta shows that they achieve excellent results. In 2023, the rowers from Monkton Senior School participated in the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup on the Thames. The performance of the girls' team is particularly noteworthy, as the fourth-best school team in the country took first place in the eight – passion and discipline have definitely paid off.
Those who want to be active during the holidays can attend a multi-week rowing camp for students in grades 7 to 13 at the Saltford Rowing Centre every summer. Through rowing, students learn discipline, understand the importance of teamwork, gain confidence, and become more mature and sensitive. These core values of Monkton are an integral part of what the school wants to convey to each individual student and are reflected in its successes at the local, regional, and national levels.
Radley College's rowing tank once more

Do you have any questions about boarding schools with excellent rowing in England?

The five boarding schools we have presented offer exceptionally high standards not only in rowing but also in all other areas. You can find a profile and introduction of each boarding school on our website. We are happy to help you find the right boarding school for your child.

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