Guide to Independent Schools

School details


Durham School, Durham City DH1 4SZ

Enquiries & application

the Admissions Office

T:  0191 386 4783

Co-ed, 3-18 Day, 11-18 Boarding (Full and Weekly)
Pupils: 600, Upper sixth 72
Fees: £2176–£5150 (Day), £6695–£7930 (Boarding), £5895–£7205 (Weekly); £7005–£8340 (Overseas boarding) per term
Affiliation: HMC


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School details


What it's like

One of the oldest schools in England, it has been closely associated with the Dean and Chapter of Durham Cathedral for 450 years. It was re-endowed by Cardinal Langley in 1414 and re-founded in 1541 by Henry VIII. It has occupied its present site since 1844 and enjoys a magnificent position below the west towers of the cathedral. First-class facilities have been added over the years, including a new girls' day house, an all-weather sports pitch, ceramics room and enhanced ICT facilities. It is physically compact with playing fields nearby and it makes full use of the advantages of an ancient cathedral and university city. The prep department (Bow, Durham School) is half a mile away, also in a beautiful, compact location within sight of the cathedral. It is now fully co-educational: girls have been admitted to the sixth form since 1985 and throughout the school since 2006. The Anglican tradition prevails with regular services in the school chapel. A high standard of education is provided (staff:pupil ratio of about 1:10) and examination results are very good. The emphasis is on an all-round education, which encourages all pupils to achieve their full potential. The school is strong in music, drama and sport, with many players at county and national level.

Pupils & entrance

Pupils: Age range 3-18; 600 pupils, 490 day (343 boys, 147 girls), 110 boarding (70 boys, 40 girls). Prep department (Bow) 3-11, 127 pupils (88 boys, 39 girls). Senior department 11-18, 473 pupils (325 boys, 148 girls). Entrance: Main entry ages 3, 7, 11, 13 and 16. Own entrance exam used. For sixth-form entry, 5 GCSEs at least grade B (preferably grade A in sixth-form subjects). No special skills or religious requirements but school is C of E foundation.

Scholarships & bursaries

Scholarships awarded at age 7, 11, 13 and 16 (to the value of £1000 pa): academic, music, drama, art, design and technology, sport. Means-tested bursaries are also available.

Head & staff

Headmaster: E Martin George, in post from 2009. Educated at Durham School and Manchester University (politics & modern history). Previously Deputy Headmaster at The King’s School, Tynemouth. Teaching staff: 100 full time, 27 part time.

Exam results

GCSE: 89 pupils in Year 11, 87% gaining at least grade C in 5+ subjects (58% of pupils included English, maths, a science, a humanity and a modern language). A-levels: 61 in upper sixth, 44% passing in 4+ subjects, 49% in 3 subjects - with an average final tariff score of 303.

Pupils' destinations

Almost all sixth-form leavers go on to a degree course (5% after a gap year), 2% to Oxbridge. Students take courses in medicine, humanities and social sciences, teaching, agriculture, journalism, leisure management. A few typically go on to foundation art courses or work in family business.


GCSE, AS and A-levels. 26 AS/A-level subjects. Sixth form: Most sixth formers take 4 subjects at AS-level, 3 at A-level; in addition, some take AS and A-level general studies and the Extended Project Qualification. Special provision: Dyslexia and EFL teaching available. Languages: French, German and Spanish offered to GCSE, AS and A-level; also Italian and Chinese. Annual visit to France. ICT: Taught both as a discrete subject and across the curriculum. Computers for pupil use, all networked and with email and internet access.

The arts

Music: Over 30% of pupils learn a musical instrument; instrumental exams can be taken. Some 8 musical groups including orchestra, choral society, chapel choir, big band, concert band. National Chamber Music Competition finalists recently. Drama: Many pupils are involved in school productions and majority in house/other productions. 3 productions annually ranging from Shakespeare to musicals, often staged in school's own Luce Theatre. Art and design: On average, 40 take GCSE, 10 A-level in art and design or design technology.

Sports & activities

Some 10+ sport available including rugby, athletics, tennis, rowing, shooting, cross-country. GCSE and A-level PE may be taken. Many international representatives in recent years in rugby (12), cricket, cross-country, chess, fencing, rowing, hockey. Also bronze, silver and gold Duke of Edinburgh's Award; World Challenge expeditions; CCF (optional). Clubs include media, debating, chess, school newspaper, fitness and various academic societies.

School life

Uniform: School uniform worn, except suits in sixth form. Houses and prefects: Competitive houses. Prefects (called monitors), head boy/girl, head of house appointed by the Headmaster through an application process. Religion: Church of England school. Social: Many organised trips abroad eg language trips to France, skiing trips, Word Challenge expeditions. Meals self-service. Uniform shop on site.


All sixth formers in single or double study bedrooms; others in rooms of 2+. Single-sex houses. Pupils can provide and cook own food. Occasional and weekly boarding available. Visits to local town allowed according to age.

Association of former pupils

is run by Rod Hepple-Wilson, President of the OD Society,, 07785 556329 or c/o the school.

Former pupils

Granville Sharp (involved in the abolition of the American slave trade); Sir Peter Vardy (chairman of the Vardy Group plc); Mike Weston, Michael Stephenson (rugby players); Charles Spedding (Olympic athlete); Alexander Armstrong (actor); Jamie Atkinson (show jumper); William Todd (composer); Sir John Laws (Law Lord).