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Ardingly College Review: What Makes This School Stand Out?

For those who want to take advantage of the British countryside but want to be close to amenities and transport links, Ardingly College is the perfect mix of the two, making it a highly appealing prospect for local, London and international pupils. Discover the secrets behind Ardingly College's outstanding education and pastoral care in this comprehensive Ardingly College School Review.

Ariel view Ardingly College campus in the Sussex countryside
Ardingly College expansive campus set in the Sussex countryside

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Nearest Airport

Train time to London

Entry points

Examinations offered


45 mins

Age 2-18. Boarding from years 7-13

GCSE, A level and IB in Sixth Form

Ardingly College School Review

Set on a stunning large and rural campus just outside Haywards Heath, Ardingly College has a safe, countryside feels, while being only a short distance to airports and to London by train.

The school was one of the original founding schools of the Woodard schools’ group and the beautiful H-shaped main building gives the school an impressive look as you draw up to the main entrance. When you walk through the arch in the middle of the H, the view from the terrace over the surrounding countryside is spectacular. The school has a wide range of facilities for different activities, such as sport, music and the arts. There is also a reservoir where students can practice sailing and rowing. The main sports that the school offers are football, hockey and cricket. Rugby is not one of the sports that they play.

Stunning and Convenient Location

If you are looking for a school that combines 230 acres of beautiful rural landscape with the convenience of urban facilities, Ardingly College in Sussex might be the ideal choice for you. The school is situated in a scenic area outside London just a few miles from Haywards Heath and East Grinstead with easy access to airports and railways. You can reach Gatwick airport in just 30 minutes, and London in about an hour by train or car.

Entry Points

Ardingly is spread across a campus style village, with more than 1000 pupils from nursery to sixth form. They have different areas for each year group and facilities for specialist subject. The senior school (years 7-13) has 800 pupils, and half of them are boarders which creates a wonderful sense of belonging and community. Many children join the school in year 7 from local primary schools. For this reason, they have lots of applicants via the 11 plus as well as via the ISEB pre-test process which starts in year 6.

The pupils are mainly British from across the counties south of London. Pupils also come from Europe, due to easy transport links and the appeal of the IB in sixth form, as well as from international locations. Due to the strong academic pace of the school, children must have a high level of English to join year 9 – the expectation is for at least a B2 in the OPT, as well as a CAT4 score of at least 115. International children mainly join from British international schools overseas and hence have a good level of English. The number of children from Asia is very limited for this reason.

Sixth Form At Ardingly

There is a large sixth form with a big cohort of new joiners in year 12 to start the IB course. They also offer a pre-sixth form year for those who need some time to improve their English or to settle into a British boarding school environment in year 11.

Pupils running in uniform at ardingly college
Pupils at Ardingly College enjoying school life

Help with English for International Students

Quite unusually the school also offers a one-year preparation course to join in year 8 for those who need time to improve their English, before starting year 9. This course focusses on EAL support via the same curriculum as the other year 8 pupils, as well as joining year 8 for sports, music, art and other curriculum subjects and getting used to life in a British boarding school in general.

The Creative Arts

The standard of the art is impressive with painting, sculpture and photography all popular subjects. They no longer offer CCF, and the old shooting range has been converted into a light bright modern dance studio. The expert dance teacher is RADA trained and offers both GCSE and A level dance, as well as clubs in contemporary modern, as well as ballet. The only dance that is not offered is tap. They also offer drama and theatre studies out both GCSE and A level, and there are both small and large theatre spaces for performances and exam pieces. The music department has many peripatetic teachers who deliver almost 400 individual music lessons per week. The choir tours to other countries to perform. There are also small groups such as string quartet with plenty of opportunities for each child to perform. The creative subjects have a real emphasis, and many pupils are involved in music theatre or dance.

Boarding at Ardingly College

Boarding accommodation is in light airy and comfortable boys or girls’ houses. Sleeping accommodation is in rooms of between 2 and 4 pupils, getting smaller as children go up through the school. Each boarding house has a brew room for making hot drinks on each bedroom corridor, as well as a kitchen and plenty of common room space with comfy sofas and places to watch TV and gather with friends. Each boarding house accommodates pupils up to and including year 12. Day pupils also have their own room in the day houses, which is shared with between 2 and 4 and pupils. This is where they study during free periods and do their homework as well as shower and change for sports etc.

For year 13 there is a large purpose-built boarding house which is co-educational in the socialising spaces with a wing for boys’ accommodation on one side and for girls on the other. The intention is that the feel for this boarding house is to be a step towards university and a little more independent. That is a bar which is open on a Saturday night with each pupil being allowed one or two drinks in line with parents’ wishes and how well their academic workweek in school has gone. Every year 13 pupil has a single room with an ensuite shower and toilet wet room. Day pupils in year 13 are also accommodated in the same house, and they have their own study with ensuite.

The Cafe, Ardingly College School Review

The café is central to the school and is a lovely space for children to meet for a chat with friends or to have a change of scene for their work time. It looks and feels like you have walked into a Starbucks with fresh cakes and well as lovey coffee.

Ardingly College
Ardingly College

I absolutely loved my visit to Ardingly and the warm welcome I received from everyone who I met and would not hesitate to recommend it to any family who are looking for a British boarding school full of diverse and wide-ranging opportunities to develop their child’s potential in both academics and co-curricular areas. The location, British-feel, creative subjects, sport, sciences, and the boarding facilities and pastoral care, were highlights for me.

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