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16 February 2023
by Ferdinand Steinbeis

Our Top 5 English Boarding Schools with Extracurricular Activities

Spring greetings from Richmond!
Although academic excellence is at the forefront of all the schools we work with at von Bülow Education, classroom-based learning is only one part of boarding school life in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Good schools offer a balanced programme of lessons, sports, artistic offers and extracurricular activities. Just as there are boarding schools with, for example, particularly good football training, a strong equestrian programme, outstanding music lessons or other specialisations, others will stand out through their amazing leisure activities.
In this blog post we’ll tell you our favourite boarding schools for particularly great leisure offers.
Fabulous art: Clayesmore School's art department
Leisure activities in British boarding schools: from A for Astronomy to Z for Zoo
Every boarding school in Great Britain has a big number and variety of extracurricular activities on offer for its students. These are generally sports activities which complement physical education, but also clubs for different interest groups such as maths whizzes and young beekeepers as well as music in all its facets or handicrafts.
Most boarding school students also have the option of various leisure activities at the weekend when the day students leave school, so that they never get bored and there’s a nice balance to studying for school.
Archery indoors and outdoors at Uppingham School
Custom-made free time: Boarding schools in England and the rest of the island offer more
Attending an English boarding school brings plenty of advantages for the students, which you can read about on our detailed overview page on mixed boarding schools
Attending one of our top 5 boarding schools for extracurricular activities adds even more benefits:
  • Depending on the location, the schools offer a variety of cultural or outdoor activities.
  • The pupils have the opportunity to try out a wide range of sports in excellent facilities.
  • There are great opportunities to perform for almost every musical inclination the students might have.
  • The artistic offerings include almost every musical preference of the pupils as well as art in the form of theatre, musicals, dance, painting, sculpture and modern design.
  • The teachers also support the students in all their ambitions outside of the classroom, making sure that there's no shortage of fun while ensuring appropriate safety.
Our Top 5 boarding schools with the best extracurricular offer in the UK
In our personal von Bülow Top 5 boarding schools with the best leisure activities on the island, you'll find schools which also excel on other levels. Some of our favourites are very well known, while one is still practically a hidden gem.
Amazing for everything outdoors: a storage cupboard at Gordonstoun
Gordonstoun: The great outdoors meets globetrotters!
Gordonstoun is surrounded by the beautiful Scottish countryside between Inverness and Aberdeen and so it's ideal for great outdoor activities. These are divided into three groups: expeditions, sailing on the school's own sailing yacht and adventure activities. For example, the students can go kayaking, mountain biking or snowboarding and skiing, surf on the beaches of the Moray coast or master survival training in the wild nature. There is also a very wide range of sports on offer, ranging from almost all conceivable ball sports, to swimming and horse riding, to karate and aerobics. The school even has its own golf course! All the sports and outdoor activities are accompanied by experienced and highly qualified teachers and trainers. Gordonstoun also has a lot to offer in terms of artistic leisure activities.
The music department allows students to learn numerous instruments and participate in concerts twice a week. There is also dancing and theatre. At least once a year the school holds a big performance in the school theatre, which can accommodate 200 spectators.
According to Gordonstoun's school motto "There is more in you", there are many other offerings which are primarily about personality development.
Internationality is an integral part of the school life of the sixth form. It covers intellectual development, health education, environmental concerns and viability in an international context. There is also the opportunity to participate in conferences or exchange programmes abroad or to get involved in aid projects.
A baby dragon at Bede's School - the school has it's very own zoo!
Bede's Senior School: Elite dance school, school zoo and product design
Bede's School, located not far from London in the county of Sussex, is one of the schools on the island with the broadest and also the most unusual range of extracurricular activities. Even though Bede's School is particularly well-known for the many sports which students can try out, it is a mecca especially for aspiring dancers. In the Legat School of Dance, professional dance teachers and dancers as well as first-class visiting coaches prepare the students for a later dance career and attendance at renowned dance high schools all over the world. The core areas are ballet, contemporary dance, jazz, tap dance and musical. In addition, there is training for endurance and creativity.
Other fantastic extracurricular activities are offered by the school's art and design technology departments, which range from photography, painting, fashion design and tailoring to furniture design and carpentry to product design and the construction of electric cars.
For ambitious musicians the school has its own fully equipped recording studio.
In the third area, which is different from other schools, is everything relating to nature, the garden and the animal world. Green landscape design is offered as well as a small school zoo, where every day the students take care of the more than 50 animal species, including exotic species such as lemurs and snakes. Here, students who are planning for a future career as veterinarians can also do animal care training, which is excellent for applying for a place in veterinary studies at prestigious universities.
Not just scrambled eggs either - Clayesmore has its own cookery school
Clayesmore School:The extraordinary Lex Programme
Clayesmore School in the county of Dorset is one of the English boarding schools where extracurricular activities are not only a strong pillar of the holistic school concept, but also especially innovative. Clayesmore has impressive art, design and music as well as a theatre department with its own theatre and a wide range of sports with plenty of men's sports and fitness courses.
But it's the Lex Programme, that we love especially here.
The Lex Programme takes place every Saturday – once with mandatory activities, once with a free choice for the students to try out. The Lex Programme consists of several pillars: outdoor activities; art, creativity and culture; services and leadership skills, employability and entrepreneurship, as well as wellbeing. The activities in these categories range from full-day trips to galleries in London, Bristol and other cities to white-water swimming, rock climbing and car repairs to clay pigeon shooting, nude drawing and horse riding. In the field of employment, students learn skills they’ll need for the modern world of work, with topics such as job interviews and digital portfolios being the focus. Services include, among other things, voluntary work in local nursing homes or as a reader in primary school.
Photography meets fashion design at Framlingham College
Framlingham College: Sport, creativity and entrepreneurship
Framlingham College is still one of the hidden gems when it comes to the English boarding schools with the best extracurricular activities. In any case, Framlingham College, which is only an hour's drive from London Stansted in the county of Suffolk, is one of the top 5 for us. The most popular leisure activities at Framlingham College are the many sporting activities such as hockey, rugby, golf, tennis, horse riding, swimming or cricket. In many sports, the Framlingham students compete at a high level in national competitions.
Among the many clubs and activities there's really something for everyone. There are e-sports for video games aficionados. Musicians will not only find all kinds of instruments, but also a state-of-the-art recording studio. Artists have the opportunity to fully develop themselves through a course they put together themselves. Tinkerers can let off steam in the design and technology department by building e-go- karts and robots. All the students are invited to try their hand at every club and activity – be it drone flying, Chinese calligraphy or computer science.
For the young entrepreneurs among the pupils, the school organises so-called Dragon's Den days. Here the students can present their business ideas or designs to former graduates, the Old Framlinghamians, who have made it big in the free market.
Skater art at Winchester College
Winchester College: Whatever's missing, the school is happy to organise!
It would be easier for us to list which leisure activities aren't available at Winchester College, because the list of clubs, societies and activities is almost endless. One reason for this is certainly that the students are supported and encouraged to start new clubs themselves. Most of the leisure activities are also primarily led by students, be it the school newspaper The Wykehamist, the MENA Society of the Middle East and North Africa, the Board Games Society or the Python Programming Club.
Golf in the school's own golf club is the sporting focus at Winchester. But football, swimming, squash, cricket and martial arts in the school dojo are also on offer. Other physically active clubs are, for example, the Fitness Society, diving, fishing or clay pigeon shooting. Music has been a high priority for students since the school was founded more than 600 years ago: there are 50 classrooms and teaching rooms alone and hardly any instrument which can't be learned here.
In addition, the school has excellent choirs, ensembles and orchestras. Although theatre isn't a subject at Winchester College, there are numerous theatre and acting clubs which help to prepare for the LAMDA exams, and an annual performance.
Wednesday afternoons are reserved for the activities of the Combined Cadet Forces (CCF) or social volunteer work. On all other days, the students are spoilt for choice: whether it's bookbinding, Model United Nations, young entrepreneurs, Make-Up Society or the club for solving physical problems – there's absolutely everything here.
Do you have any questions about British boarding schools with excellent extracurricular activities?
Please feel free to reach out to us any time via info@buloweducation.com. We look forward to hearing from you.

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von Bülow Education
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34 - 38 Hill Rise
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Email: info@buloweducation.com