Ardingly College Review

A forward-thinking senior day and boarding school in the Sussex countryside with a strong academic focus, excellent student support and a global outlook.
At a glance
School type
Private
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Excellent
Availability 2020/21
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Availability 2021/22
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Annual fee average
GBP 24,000
Annual fees
GBP 23,985 - 23,985
Price band help
Mid-range
Status
Open
Opening year
1858
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Mr Ben Figgis
Main teacher nationality
United Kingdom
Main student nationality
A mix of nationalities
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Ardingly College
School type
Private
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Excellent
Availability 2020/21
close
Availability 2021/22
close
Annual fee average
GBP 24,000
Annual fees
GBP 23,985 - 23,985
Price band help
Mid-range
Status
Open
Opening year
1858
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Mr Ben Figgis
Main teacher nationality
United Kingdom
Main student nationality
A mix of nationalities
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A forward-thinking senior day and boarding school in the Sussex countryside with a strong academic focus, excellent student support and a global outlook.

Ardingly College sits in 230 acres of outstanding natural beauty. It offers the best of all worlds; the stunning Sussex countryside, close proximity to London and, for international students, it is just 13 miles away from Gatwick Airport. It is a fully co-educational independent boarding and day school, offering IGCSEs/GCSEs, A levels, BTECs and the International Baccalaureate. This mid-sized school with over 1,000 students offers a seamless education from the age of two up to eighteen with a Pre-Prep, Prep, Senior school and Sixth Form on one single campus.

Ardingly was founded in 1858 by Nathaniel Woodward, priest and educationally visionary who established some 30 other schools, with education of the middle classes in mind. Woodard’s aim was to provide education "based on sound principle and sound knowledge, firmly grounded in the Christian faith.”

Ben Figgis has been headmaster since September 2014. After graduating in Modern History from Cambridge University in 1990, his early career was spent in advertising and television news. Aged 30 he decided to follow his passion for history, and took up his first teaching job at Abingdon School in Oxfordshire. After four years he was appointed to run a boarding house, a role he describes as ‘the best and most demanding in education.’ In 2004, Ben moved to Oakham School as the deputy head, and became a strong advocate of learning beyond the classroom, co-education and the IB Diploma as an alternative to A Levels.

Ardingly College believes that education is an exploration of how the world works and it believes all students should be ‘World Ready’.

“The wider our horizons, the further we can travel… engaging with the wider world is essential”.

Ardingly believes that schools should evolve and grow as the world continues to change. Its mantra is “Nobody excels at everything, but everyone can excel at something,” and the school's reported purpose is to find and develop “that something” for all students. Its aim is to provide an excellent 21st Century education by being a forward-thinking and high-achieving co-educational school with a strong academic focus, excellent student support and a global outlook.

The College is proud of its Excellent Independent Schools Inspection (ISI) rating awarded in 2018. “The quality of the pupils’ academic and other achievements is excellent, and pupils’ experiences and knowledge are expanded from being part of an international community, especially in the Sixth Form and in boarding,” said inspectors.

Ardingly College was rated Excellent in its most recently available ISI Educational Quality report (2018).

The curriculum

Teaching follows the UK National Curriculum from Year 9 (Shell) with all students studying English Language, Mathematics and Science, and there are 15 further subject choices. Ardingly offers A Levels, the IB and BTECs. A Level choice includes additional subjects such as photography and politics. A Pre IB programme is offered to international students with accelerated GCSEs.

The curriculum also offers research and creative thinking lessons that prepare Year 9 students to complete an independent research project

About 60 new students enter sixth form, and all Upper Sixth formers are matched with tutors based upon their expertise and the subject choice and career interest of the student. One of the highlights of Upper Sixth is the co-educational boarding/day house. One student says,

"It produces a sense of community, cements our past together and helps us set our eyes on the future, because in Woodard House we are all at the same point in our life journey."

This feeling, common throughout everyone in the house, turns this year into “something special.”

There are plenty of add ons to the curriculum, for example, Solar Car Club, Shakespeare Society, Greek Club, Creative Writing Society, Economics Society, Model United Nations, Debating and a Politics Society. There are “Challenge Weeks” and an impressive number of outside lectures. And the College has an extremely strong Gifted and Talented curriculum, with academic links to the world’s top universities, such as Stanford, Oxford and CERN.

Sport and the arts

Ardingly has six tennis courts, two all-weather pitches, three cricket squares, nine football pitches, a swimming pool and they also offer rowing and sailing. The students here really love sport.

There is also an excellent art department with students being accepted into top art colleges such as Central St Martins and the London College of Fashion.

Beyond the classroom

Ardingly is truly co-educational and in its Sanrio school, 20% of students are international. Each student is allocated a house and pastoral care is taken very seriously here. There are several layers of support so that everyone has professional adult support from their housemaster or housemistress as well as having a personal tutor.

Ardingly offers an excellent programme in music and drama and whether it be a musical, or a classical concert, a jazz performance, or a Shakespeare play there is always something happening that the students can get involved with. There are two “major” musicals put on per year as well as drama clubs and house plays. The College's ISI Report says, “Exceptional standards of drama, dance and music are brought together in full school productions.”

Students are encouraged to engage in charity and voluntary activities, as part of the World Ready programme. Community service projects are integral to the ethos of Ardingly, and the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme is also offered

Ardingly has its own impressive observatory which is equipped with a powerful telescope capable of seeing Jupiter. It was the first school to build a solar car and race across Australia. Two students were awarded places to represent the EU team at the final of the UK Space Design Awards, held at NASA’s HQ in Houston

Academic results

In 2020, 69% of A Level grades were A*-A and the average IB result was 39.4. Most of the students go on to study at top Russell Group universities and 4% of students took up places at Oxbridge.

A total of 80% of GCSE students were awarded Grades 9-7.

Most international students choose the IB whereas British students tend to choose to take A Levels. BTECs are offered in business, sport, and psychology, providing there is sufficient demand for this vocational, applied approach to learning, which has less focus on examinations.

Campus and facilities

A total of 50% of students are full boarders and remain in school at weekends. There are eight single sex houses for day and boarding pupils up to the upper sixth. Three of the girls’ houses have recently been totally refurbished and they have expanded their intake of day girls, so a new day house has been built accordingly.

Admission and fees

For the senior school (13+), Ardingly requires a pre-test to be taken in English, Mathematics, Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning. Every student must visit the College to meet the Headmaster and to sit an entrance examination. For students wishing to enter in other years, if there are available places, such as year 10 or Fifth Form, admission is via Ardingly’s own written examinations in English, Mathematics and Science, plus a current school report and references. There is a compulsory assessment and activity day for potential students before places are offered.

For students wishing to enter at the 11+ stage there are preliminary visits, current school references, and Ardingly’s 11+ entrance examination (English, Maths, Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning), followed by team-building and orientation activities. This forms the key part of the assessment process and is mandatory to attend. Academic scholarships can be applied for at this stage as well as for sport, art, music, and drama and if awarded, means tested bursaries can be awarded on top of the scholarship.

The Common Entrance examination is not taken for entrance to Ardingly College.

The fees are £12,600 per term for boarding, and £7,995 for day pupils.

Best for

All round academic success
Co-educational schooling
A busy school life
Integrated schooling on the grounds from 2-18

Not for

Those seeking a city-based education
Those seeking a single sex education

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