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Our Review of Ampleforth College

We regularly review the UK’s leading independent schools, as part of our Education Consultancy service. In this article, we review Ampleforth College, a Catholic co-educational boarding school in North Yorkshire. If you would like more information about the school, or want to discuss school options for your child please contact one of our education consultants today.

Ampleforth College is a Catholic, Benedictine boarding and day school situated in a beautiful valley below the North York Moors. The 2000 acre college campus encompasses many traditional buildings, with the abbey and church being the spiritual core, alongside some more modern architecture, most recently St Alban’s Sports Centre. It is the aesthetics combined with the energy of the students and staff that give it a unique sense of charm and belonging. 

Image – Ampleforth College

Although the school is not academically selective, it is selective in other ways. The admissions team works hard getting to know the prospective students and parents, ensuring they will be the right fit for the school. As a result the student body is made up of like-minded individuals who care for their own needs and the needs of others around them in an open and positive way.  In the words of Headmaster Robin Dyer, “the community as a collective, and as individuals, has integrity and a sense of happy equilibrium.”

 Robin, ​​previously second master and operational head at Wellington College, has been Head since 2019. Using his wealth of experience and Ampleforth’s clear set of values, he is committed to embracing change, guiding the school onto a new exciting future, while maintaining the wonderful college traditions. Robin’s focus is that, “each student is able to fulfil their academic potential, to explore to the full the extraordinary co-curricular opportunities of this boarding environment, and to acquire through excellent pastoral support and spiritual guidance, greater self-awareness, confidence, resilience and empathy for others.” He is a strong believer that students should work hard in the classroom, but also have an interest in extracurricular activities and not be afraid of trying new things. 

Image – Ampleforth College

The beautiful and vast campus facilitates the wide array of extracurricular activities on offer throughout the school year, ranging from hockey, to choir singing and equestrian. Living up to their traditional reputation they also offer a range of country pursuits including hunting, fishing and shooting that all take place in the surrounding countryside. Arts and Music are also central to life at Ampleforth, with the choir regularly singing during mass but also in various cathedrals throughout the year. There is also a symphony orchestra, big band, string and jazz groups, ceilidh band and the Ampleforth Highlanders’ Pipe Band. If Drama is more of a passion then there are regular all-school or inter house theatre productions throughout the year. Art, Drama and Music are all part of the school curriculum.

Other facilities include a performing arts centre, a fully-furnished library, modern science labs, a natural lit art studio, a cookery school, astroturfs, tennis courts, a firing range and a well-equipped infirmary with two twin rooms, a single room, a 7 bay boy’s ward, a 7 bay girl’s ward, a consulting room, treatment room and a quiet/counselling room. 

There are nine boarding Houses at Ampleforth, three for girls, five for boys and a dedicated Junior House for Years 7 & 8. On arrival, all students join a House, which will become a central focus and important base for them during their time at the school. Each House is home to up to 70 students of all ages who live in a friendly and supportive atmosphere, run by a Housemaster or Housemistress. There is also a House Matron on hand to help with pastoral care and the general well being of the children in their house. Day students are fully integrated into the life of the House and are allocated their own study space. They are able to stay overnight on an occasional basis if a bed is available.

Every House is named after a Saint, and each has their own crest and school colours, nurturing students in a strong spirit of solidarity and loyalty. The house system also allows students a chance to be competitive via interhouse challenges. Many students may not make a school team but they will definitely have the opportunity to compete in house competitions, which offer fun and engaging afternoons and encourage students to try new things. The team element binds and consolidates friendships within the boarding house regardless of age and year group. 

The Benedictine values are fundamental to spiritual life at Ampleforth. Students are encouraged to be independent individuals but are all rooted in their common set of moral values that are liked and supported by parents. The opportunities for co-curricular activities are endless, and supported by the impressive list of facilities present on campus. Learning new skills and a passion for hobbies is very much encouraged at Ampleforth. If you are looking to send your child to a school with Catholic values, where they are free to develop emotional intelligence as well as academic intelligence then Ampleforth is a fantastic option.

Ampleforth have been subject to several safeguarding issues, and have responded with a dedicated team to ensure that the required safeguarding improvements are implemented – you can read about their progress in the latest Ofsted report here.

Listen to our podcast with Headmaster, Robin Dyer, below. We discuss the benefits of a Catholic education, lifelong independent learning, and why we should look beyond league tables.

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