United Kingdom / Wales / Cardiff / Westbourne School

Westbourne School Review

This all-through day and boarding school by the sea is a small, academic and UK-wide top ranking school for the IB Diploma Programme.
At a glance
School type
Private
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Excellent
Curricula taught
Availability 2020/21
No data
Availability 2021/22
No data
Annual fee average
GBP 13,000
Annual fees
GBP 8,520 - 14,790
Price band help
Value
Status
Open
Opening year
1896
School year
Sep to Jul
Community
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Westbourne School
School type
Private
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Excellent
Curricula taught
Availability 2020/21
No data
Availability 2021/22
No data
Annual fee average
GBP 13,000
Annual fees
GBP 8,520 - 14,790
Price band help
Value
Status
Open
Opening year
1896
School year
Sep to Jul
Community
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This all-through day and boarding school by the sea is a small, academic and UK-wide top ranking school for the IB Diploma Programme.

Westbourne School is a small co-educational boarding and day school for two to 18 year olds with a close-knit community of high achieving students. Located in the seaside town of Penarth, which is near Cardiff, Wales, this is a school with a great location and a reputation for excellence in the IB programme. The Senior School and Sixth Form are located on one campus, the Nursery and Prep on another – and it’s a three minute walk between the two.

It’s a school with a small international community (its pre-IB course is very popular, and it has a strong EAL programme); 72% of students are British, with the remainder coming from around 25 different countries (16% are from Europe and 12% from Asia). The majority are day students, who live locally and take full advantage of having one of Wales’ top ranked independent schools on their doorstep.

Founded in 1896, Westbourne is also a small school of around 300 students; it has a very low student-to-teacher ratio of 8:1, so there’s plenty of personalised attention and support from teachers. For international students living in the UK for the first time, there are plenty of advantages of moving into such a small school – a close-knit community where there’s plenty of one-to-one academic attention and pastoral care.

The school has one boarding house with a range of rooms, from singles to quads, and boarding is offered to all students aged 12 and above. Boarding life is focused on international students, with additional English lessons at the weekends, and there are no exeat weekends.

Principal Dr Gerard Griffiths joined the school in 2015, and he’s proved to be a popular and forward-thinking leader to date. For example, Dr Griffiths had the foresight to appoint a Director of Online Education before the UK went into lockdown, meaning that the school could move seamlessly to a full online model of teaching when nationwide school closures were announced.

The school was awarded Excellent in all five inspection categories by the National Inspectorate Estyn (the Welsh equivalent of Ofsted). For the past five years it has been at the top of The Daily Telegraph's smaller school league tables and was named International Baccalaureate School of the Year in The Sunday Times Schools Guide 2019.

Curriculum

Westbourne is one of the UK’s top schools for the IB Diploma Programme, which it has offered since 2008. It’s also one of the reasons why Westbourne has a growing international community of students.

The school prepares its students for this academically rigorous and broad post-16 programme with a balanced and challenging prep school curriculum.

French is taught from Year 1 and Spanish from Year 5. The Years 6-8 curriculum follows the Common Entrance (known for its academic rigour), covering a wide range of academic subjects including English, English Literature, mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, history, geography, French, computer science, Chinese, music and art.

The Prep School ends in Year 5 here, a year earlier than many primary settings; the transition is well managed, with students spending a full day each week at the Senior School from the start of Year 5. GCSE studies start in Year 9, which is also generally earlier than at other secondary schools “in order to give them a head start in their studies”. Many teachers here are GCSE examiners, so students can certainly get the benefit of their advice and experience.

Most international students join the school in Year 11 when they can enrol into a one-year Pre-IB Programme, which teaches the UK Year 11 curriculum with the additional support needed for the transition into a UK boarding school. It’s popular with overseas students who need that extra help adjusting to British culture and developing their English – and there’s the chance study one-year GCSEs too.

It’s not all work and no play at Westbourne, which makes full use of its seaside location. There’s plenty of outdoor learning in its FAB School (Forest and Beach), and initiatives such as The Daily Mile keep students active and out of the classroom before the first bell.

Beyond the classroom

There’s a wide range of after school clubs and activities as varied as young journalists, multi-sports, nature club, art club, dance, cheerleading, chess, makaton, mad science, German and Latin. Many clubs are offered to students across the different year groups. It’s good to see students of different ages but with the same interests working together; it helps to strengthen the school community and develop both teamwork and leadership skills.

Students can also play a variety of sports, including swimming, yoga, basketball, touch rugby, dodge ball, gymnastics, cross country, tennis, kwik cricket, golf, hockey and football. The school takes advantage of the facilities on its doorstep including tennis courts, a swimming pool, and the sea.

Academic results

If schools were based on grades alone – and while these are important, they are not the only indicator of a school’s success – then Westbourne is certainly one of the best in the country.

In the 2021 I/GCSE results, 100% of students were awarded A*-C (9-4) grades, with 86% attaining the highest grades, A*-A (9-7). In the same year, the average IB score was a very high 39. 50% of students achieved 40-plus points, and 75% achieved the bilingual IB Diploma

The results are delivering success as 90% of students graduate to Russell Group Universities (or global equivalents) and 80% achieve first choice university places.

Admission and fees

The main points of entry are Reception (age 4), Year 3 (age 7), Year 7 (age 11), Year 9 (age 13) and Year 12 (age 16). Students applying for the senior school or sixth form sit entrance exams in English, maths and non-verbal reasoning, followed by an interview.

Annual day fees range from £8,520 (Reception) to £14,790 (Years 12-13). Boarding fees are £37,950 per year for Years 7 and above.

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