This small day and boarding school in North Yorkshire is friendly and outdoorsy. Its well-rounded GCSE and IB education is enriched by a Yorkshire Grit programme that takes learning far beyond the classroom walls – and an excellent reputation for cricket.
The school offers the outdoor lifestyle that comes with being close to both the Yorkshire coast and the North York Moors (come rain or shine, we’re told!). And its non-selective entry means students do not have to cope with the pressures of a more academically-focused setting. Instead, Scarborough is well suited to the all-rounder, the student who wants to get involved in sport, the arts and the broad enrichment and outdoor education programme on offer. As the school says, “We don’t think there’s a type of person at our school, but we do know that we all need a chance to perform.”
Scarborough is also one of the UK’s more affordable independent schools with annual boarding fees of £24,528 for Senior School.
Founded in 1896, Scarborough has a 120-year history of offering a boarding education, first to boys only and then moving to co-ed in 1972. It’s home to just 420 students, including around 90 boarders, many of whom come from overseas (many from South East Asia, Africa and the West Indies). Most day students live within a 30 miles radius of the school. Class sizes are kept small with a teacher-to-student ratio of 1:8.
Scarborough is an IB-only school in the Sixth Form, and results place it just inside the top 40 IB schools in the UK. It comes across as an unpretentious and go-getting school where joining its boarding community “means waking up with sand in between your toes and Yorkshire grit coursing through your veins”. A mention must also go to the school’s Yorkshire Grit programme which puts outdoor and adventure education right at the heart of school life.
Headmaster Guy Emmett joined the school in 2018 (his daughter attends the school). He was formerly Deputy Boarding Housemaster, Housemaster and Head of History at Rossall School, Teacher of History at Millfield School, and Deputy Head of Ackworth School. He talks of “the incredible warmth, exceptional friendliness and family ethos of this great school”, and he is passionate about the Scarborough family that he has helped to grow over the past three years. He’s a self-confessed “cricket-mad” headteacher, and while he actively encourages his students to take up sport, he always puts academia first.
Life at Scarborough starts in the little Owls pre-school where the weekly timetable includes swimming, Zumba, French, music lessons, PE, off-site visits, cooking lessons with the school chef and other activities. If you’re looking for a pre-school education that branches out from the standard early years’ curriculum in different and unique ways, then this is it. The school’s youngest students have access to the specialist teachers and facilities that standalone pre-schools are typically unable to deliver.
Days are filled with blackberry picking, muddy walks, ice creams on the beach (and obviously a timetabled lessons in all the core subjects). As one parent says, “Every day is an adventure for the children”.
Students join the Prep aged three to 11 (Reception to Year 6); from Year 3, all subjects are taught by subject specialists, many coming from the Senior School, and students have access to Senior School facilities in the arts, D&T, music school and science labs.
With class sizes of around 13 students, the children here really are a name rather than a number. The focus at Scarborough here is very much on turning out well-rounded students, and the prep school certainly lays the foundations for this with its focus on sport, the arts, outdoor learning and technology (in Years 5-6 students are issued with their own school Chromebook).
In the Senior School, (Years 7-11), students work towards GCSEs; they take six mandatory subjects (English, maths, a modern foreign language and the sciences). For a small school, there’s an interesting range of 12-plus GCSE options on offer including geography, history, German, French, Spanish, ICT, business studies, art, design & technology, drama, philosophy and ethics, music, and PE.
The school moved to the IB Diploma Programme in 2007, and it’s one of around 100 schools in the UK to offer this alternative to A Levels. Entry requirements for students into the Sixth Form are five GCSE passes at Grades 9 to 4. The IBDP continues the broad and balanced learning approach to subjects found in the school curriculum up to the age of 16 here; students looking to specialise and focus on three or four subject areas may want to consider a different school that offers A Levels.
To receive the full award of the IB Diploma (IBDP) students need to successfully complete six subjects, three at higher level and three at standard level. Students study two modern languages, a humanities or social science subject, an experimental science, mathematics or computer science, and another subject including the arts. In addition, they complete a two-year course called Theory of Knowledge (TOK), write an Extended Essay, and take part in Creativity, Action, Service (CAS). To further prepare these students for university life and the world of work, Scarborough gives them various privileges including their own Filey Road café and Sixth Form Study Centre.
Sport is a big deal at the school and becomes part of any student’s daily life from very early on. There’s weekly swimming from pre-school, and both daily games lessons and competitive sport from Year 3. The school may have limited sports facilities on campus (there are Astro turf pitches that are well used for hockey and football and cricket pitches) but this does not hold the school back. PE lessons, after school lessons and fixtures are held daily at facilities at the nearby Bramcote Sports Complex, a local swimming pool, the Deepdale playing fields. The school is also next door to a great golf course, and the school runs a Golf Centre of Excellence for its most talented players.
The main team sports here are rugby, cricket, hockey, netball and rounders, as well as athletics, swimming and tennis. It’s one of the top hockey schools in the North of England, and its boys’ rugby teams do well in the national cups. It’s cricket and golf where the school really shines, though.
The school set up the Cricket Centre of Excellence in partnership with Vitae Sports and Scarborough Cricket Club to offer dedicated coaching and facilities to its most promising young cricketers; girls have the same access to the school's coaching team and play in a competitive fixtures list. It's hardly surprising to see Scarborough widely rated as one of the best UK schools for cricket. It’s located in a town (and county) that’s well-known for cricket, students have access to a first-class country cricket ground, and Headmaster Guy Emmett is a very keen (and talented) cricketer too.
As a small school, Scarborough cannot try to be the best at every sport, but by focusing on cricket and golf it really has made its mark.
The arts is also strong. Once again, students start young with specialist art, music and drama lessons from pre-school; these stay part of the curriculum until Year 9 and can be studied at GCSE and IB level. Scarborough offers a full LAMDA programme and private music tuition; around 150 students are signed up for individual music and singing lessons. There’s a high number of students taking part in the annual full school production, whether it’s behind the scenes or in the leading roles.
Scarborough really understands the importance of enrichment and outdoor education, and it is really brought to the fore in Years 7-9 through the school’s bespoke Yorkshire Grit programme. We love the name and everything it stands for – isn’t learning about determination towards a toward long-term achievement one of life’s best lessons?
This off-timetable programme is designed to take students out of the comfort zone of the classroom once a week and into activities as varied as surfing, mindfulness, raft-building, boot camps, rock climbing, expedition training, public speaking training, and dealing with stress. Hugely popular, this programme is all about getting students to have a go and being challenged to “test their own resilience in environments that may seem quite alien to them.” Many students move on to the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in Year 10 afterwards – perhaps something they may not have done without a taste of Yorkshire Grit.
Throughout the school there’s also an extensive and varied enrichment programme for students in Reception through to Sixth Form, with activities, clubs and societies offered during lunch time and after-school. Every student belongs to an academic house, with house badges now part of the school uniform; there are chances to compete for house points in everything from sporting fixtures to lip sync battles!
Scarborough has consistently strong IB results and in 2021 the average score was 35 points; this places the school just inside the top 40 IB schools in the UK, which is excellent considering entry isn’t selective.
Students can board from Year 7, and there are three boarding houses, all historical buildings located off-campus just outside Scarborough town centre. There’s a junior boys’ house (20 boys), a junior girls’ house (32 girls) and Sixth Form house for around 60 boarders, and the school has invested in making these modern, well-equipped houses in the past few years.
There’s no Saturday school here (many students fill the day playing sport for the school), but instead a varied programme of activities and frequent Sunday excursions – think day trips to York, cinema trips and outdoor activities. Boarders are looked after by dedicated house parents who live with their families in each house, as well as academic visiting tutors.
Scarborough College stands on one site on the Yorkshire coast and is just a 10-minute walk from the beach and the town centre. Classes are held in traditional Victorian buildings which have been modernised over time, and the facilities for music and science really stand out.
Looking ahead, the school plans to build a full athletics track and facilities, as well as an upgraded sports hall and new tennis and netball courts.
Families interested in visiting the school can attend one of its open days; we'd recommend opting for the Friday’s For You when you can see the “school in action”.
Applications are welcome at any time, subject to places being available. Students do not need to sit an Entrance Exam for Prep or Senior years; the school asks for two years’ school reports for all children joining the Senior School and they will be invited for an interview with Headmaster Guy Emmett.
Annual day fees range from £8,022 for Reception and £9,816 for Years 1-2 up to £14,121 for Years 7-11 and £15,741 for Years 12-13. Full boarding fees for Years 7-11 are £24,528 and £27,600 for Years 12-13.
Scholarships can be applied for under the following categories: Academic, Sport, Performing Arts and All Rounder.
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