Guide to Independent Schools

School details


Downside School, Stratton-on-the-Fosse, Radstock, Bath BA3 4RJ

Enquiries & application

The Registrar

T:  01761 235103

Co-ed, 11-18, Day and Boarding
Pupils: 420, Upper sixth 65
Fees: 4515−5023 (Day), 7259−9138 (Boarding) per term
Affiliation: HMC


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School details


What it's like

Founded in 1606 at Douai for English Catholics in exile because of the penal laws. At the time of the French Revolution the monks fled to England and in 1814 the school moved to Downside, where the English Benedictine community of St Gregory settled. It lies on the Mendip Hills in splendid Somerset country, 12 miles from Bath. Handsome buildings and excellent modern facilities make a compact campus of which the monastery and its Abbey Church are a part. Superb playing fields, gardens and grounds surround it. A boys' school until 2005, it is now co-educational at all levels. The aim of the school is to help each pupil to become fully Christian and adult. The monastic influence is strong. The Head Master is a monk and the houses are served by a team of monastic chaplains. A good general education is provided and examination results are very good. The music and art departments are active, and much use is made of the purpose-built theatre for a wide range of dramatic productions. The school is strong in sports and games (about 20 are available). A large number of societies and clubs cater for extra-curricular activities.

Pupils & entrance

Pupils: Age range 11-18; 420 pupils, 100 day (60 boys, 40 girls), 320 boarding (225 boys, 95 girls). Senior department 13-18, 315 pupils. Approx 25% are children of former pupils. Entrance: Main entry ages 11, 13 and 16. Common Entrance and own exam used. For sixth-form entry, assessment papers in chosen A-level subjects and interview. No special skills required. Intake from a wide variety of prep schools, both Catholic and non-Catholic.

Scholarships & bursaries

Scholarships awarded at 11, 13 and 16: academic, art, choral, music, sports, all-rounder; the number and value is at the Head Master's discretion. Variable number of bursaries for those in financial need (including to supplement scholarships). Fee discount for siblings and children of former pupils.

Head & staff

Head Master: Dom Leo Maidlow Davis, appointed in 2003. Educated at Downside and at the universities of Cambridge, London and Rome. Previously House Master and teacher at the school.

Exam results

GCSE: 68 pupils in fifth, 96% gaining grade C or above in 5+ subjects. A-levels: 79 in Upper Six, passing an average of 3.4 subjects with a final points score of 365.

Pupils' destinations

98% of sixth form leavers go on to a degree course (many after a gap year), 7% to Oxbridge. 2% take courses in medicine, dentistry and veterinary science, 27% in science and engineering, 55% in humanities and social sciences, 13% in art and design, 2% in other subjects. Others typically go on to a non-degree course eg land management, into the army or to art college.


GCSE, AS and A-levels, plus Extended Project Qualification. 21 AS/A-level subjects. Sixth form: Most sixth formers take 4 subjects at AS-level, 3-4 at A-level (some take up to 6 A-levels); in addition, general studies taught but not examined. Vocational: Work experience available. Special provision: for EAL, dyslexia, mild visual, aural or physical handicap and special dietary needs. Languages: French, German, Italian and Spanish offered to GCSE, AS and A-level. European library; special committee fosters European links. Several members of staff (beside linguists) have family links and/or have studied at European universities. ICT: Taught across the curriculum, eg graphical work in geography and science. Computers for pupil use, all networked and with email and internet access. Pupils encouraged to bring their own computers for use in their rooms; wi-fi across the school.

The arts

Music: Over 50% of pupils learn a musical instrument; instrumental exams can be taken. Many musical groups including orchestras, choral groups, bands, concert band, jazz bands, various small ensembles and groups. Drama: Drama offered. Whole school musical and drama productions annually. Majority of pupils are involved in house/other productions. First amateur production of Shadowlands (playwright is an old boy); in 2012, a production of Country Air (written by a Lower Six pupil) transferred to the Edinburgh Fringe. Art and design: On average, 15 take GCSE, 10 A-level. 3D design, pottery and ceramics also offered.

Sports & activities

Major sports are rugby, hockey, soccer, cricket for boys; hockey, netball, tennis for girls; all pupils encouraged to play. Some 15 further options including orienteering, archery, athletics, golf, volleyball, indoor hockey. National representatives at eg rugby, squash, sabre; number of county and regional representatives. Special relationship with London Irish RFC. Bronze, silver and gold Duke of Edinburgh's Award; CCF (optional); Ten Tors competition. Over 30 clubs, eg debating, jazz, various music, judo, golf, fencing, orienteering, Hispanic, chess, Young Enterprise, drama.

School life

Uniform: School uniform worn by all. Houses and prefects: Competitive houses. Prefects, head boy and head girl, head of house and house prefects, appointed by the Head Master. Religion: Roman Catholic school. Mass on Sunday; house service once a week; morning and evening prayers, all compulsory. Social: School dances and choral society production with local girls' schools. Occasional concerts, theatrical productions and debates with local comprehensive schools. Organised trips abroad for skiing, various sports tours, exchanges with schools in Europe. Meals self-service - pupils and staff together in Refectory. School shop for uniform and stationery.


Pupils falling behind with work may have some weekend privileges withdrawn; those caught with drugs will be expelled; rustication for bringing alcohol into the school; bullying leads to expulsion.


Fifth and sixth form have own study bedroom, others in dormitories (of 2-4), fourth form with their own cubicle. Single-sex houses of approximately 60 pupils. 2 voluntary weekend exeats each term. Saturday visits to Bath allowed for sixth form.

Association of former pupils

OG Society and St Gregory's Society is run c/o the School.

Former pupils

Richard Stokes (Privy Seal); Lord Rawlinson (former Attorney General); Simon Halliday (rugby international); Maurice Couve-de-Murville (Archbishop of Birmingham); Auberon Waugh (writer); Lord (John) Hunt (former cabinet secretary); Michael Noakes (artist); William Nicholson (playwright); Sir Rocco Forte (hotelier); Philip Fowke (pianist); Martin Newland (Editor, The Daily Telegraph); Sir John Pope-Hennessy (Curator of the British Museum).