What it’s like
Founded in 1606 at Douai for English Catholics in exile because of the penal
laws. At the time of the French Revolution the monks fled to England and in 1814
the school moved to Downside, where the English Benedictine community of St
Gregory settled. It lies on the Mendip Hills in splendid Somerset country, 12
miles from Bath. Handsome buildings and excellent modern facilities make a
compact campus of which the monastery and its Abbey Church are a part. Superb
playing fields, gardens and grounds surround it. The aim of the school is to
help each pupil to become fully Christian and adult. The monastic influence is
strong. The Head Master is a monk and the houses are served by a team of
monastic chaplains. The staff:pupil ratio is 1:7. A good general education is
provided and examination results are very good. The music and art departments
are active, and much use is made of the purpose-built theatre for a wide range
of dramatic productions. The school is strong in sports and games (about 20 are
available). A large number of societies and clubs cater for extra-curricular
Pupils & entrance
Pupils: Age range 9–18; 320 boys (57 day, 263 boarding). Senior
department 13–18, 259 boys. Approx 25% are children of former pupils.
Entrance: Main entry ages 9, 11, 13 and 16. Common Entrance and own exam
used; for sixth-form entry, GCSE grade B in sixth-form subjects, usually
interview. No special skills required. Senior intake largely from own junior
house (St Oliver’s House), as well as a number of prep schools, both Catholic
Scholarships, bursaries & extras 15–19 pa scholarships, value 5%–50%
fees: 90% academic, others for art, music, all-rounder, sport (most awarded at
13, some at 11 and 16). Variable number of bursaries for deserving cases, at
discretion of Head Master. Parents not expected to buy textbooks but are charged
a hiring fee.
Parents Up to 10% live within 30 miles; 20+% live overseas.
Head & staff
Head Master: Dom Leo Maidlow Davis, appointed in 2003. Educated at
Downside and at the universities of Cambridge, London and Rome. Previously House
Master and teacher at the school.
Teaching staff: 46 full time, 9 part time.
GCSE: In 2003, 61 pupils in fifth: 98% gained grade C or above in 5+
subjects. Average GCSE score 59 (56 over 5 years).
A-levels: 47 in upper sixth: 17% passed in 4+ subjects; 77% in 3; 4% in
2; and 2% in 1 subject. Average final point score achieved by upper sixth
University & college entrance 92% of 2003 sixth-form leavers went on
to a degree course (many after a gap year), 4% to Oxbridge. 2% took courses in
medicine, dentistry & veterinary science, 27% in science & engineering, 55% in
humanities & social sciences, 13% in art & design, 2% in other subjects. Others
typically go on to a non-degree course eg land management, into the services or
to art college.
Curriculum GCSE, AS and A-levels. 21 AS/A-level subjects.
Sixth form: Most sixth formers take 4 subjects at AS-level, 3 at A-level;
in addition, general studies taught but not examined. 14% take
science/engineering A-levels; 44% take arts/humanities; 42% take a mixture.
Vocational: Work experience available.
Special provision: for EAL, dyslexia, mild visual, aural or physical
handicap and special dietary needs.
Languages: French, German, Italian and Spanish offered to GCSE, AS and
A-level. European library; special committee fosters European links. Several
members of staff (beside linguists) have family links and/or have studied at
ICT: Taught both as a discrete subject (Years 7–9) and across the
curriculum, eg graphical work in geography and science. 50 computers for pupil
use (13 hours a day), all networked and majority with email and internet access.
Pupils encouraged to bring own lap/desk tops for use in own rooms.
Music: Over 50% of pupils learn a musical instrument; instrumental exams
can be taken. Many musical groups including 3 orchestras, 4 choral, 5 bands,
various small ensembles, groups, concert band, 4 jazz bands. Jazz trio runner-up
in Daily Telegraph National Jazz Competition; flautist in recent Young Musician
of the Year.
Drama: Drama offered. Majority of pupils are involved in house/other
productions. First amateur production of Shadowlands (playwright is an old boy).
Art & design: On average, 17 take GCSE, 12 A-level. 3D design, pottery
and ceramics also offered.
Sport & activities
Sport: Rugby (Michaelmas), hockey and soccer (Lent) and cricket (summer
term) are major sports; all pupils encouraged to play. Optional sports:
cross-country, orienteering, tennis, swimming, fencing, athletics, archery,
squash, golf, basketball; also badminton, volleyball, table tennis, short
tennis, and indoor hockey. Number of county and regional representatives;
national representatives at eg rugby, squash, sabre. Special relationship with
London Irish RFC.
Activities: Pupils take bronze, silver and gold Duke of Edinburgh’s
Award. CCF optional. Charity links and exchanges with Belgium, Germany. Over 30
clubs, eg debating, jazz, various music, judo, golf, fencing, orienteering,
Hispanic, chess, Young Enterprise, drama.
Uniform: School uniform worn.
Houses & prefects: Houses. Prefects, head boy, head of house and house
prefects, appointed by the Head Master.
Religion: Roman Catholic Mass on Sunday; house service once a week;
morning and evening prayers, all compulsory.
Social: School dances and choral society production with local girls’
schools. Occasional theatrical productions and debates with local comprehensive
schools. Organised trips abroad for skiing, various sports tours, exchanges with
schools in Europe. Pupils allowed to bring own bike to school. Meals
self-service. School shop and tailor’s shop. No tobacco allowed.
Discipline Pupils falling behind with work may have some weekend
privileges withdrawn; those caught with drugs will be expelled; rustication for
bringing alcohol into the school; gating for breaking bounds; bullying leads to
Boarding Fifth and sixth form have own study bedroom, others in
dormitories. Houses of approximately 60. Resident qualified nursing staff on
site 24 hrs a day, local doctor visits. Central dining rooms. 2 voluntary
weekend exeats each term. Saturday visits to the local town allowed for sixth
Alumni association (St Gregory’s Society) is run by Dom Daniel Rees,
c/o the School.
Former pupils Richard Stokes (Privy Seal); Lord Rawlinson (former
Attorney General); Simon Halliday (rugby international); Maurice Couve-de-Murville
(Archbishop of Birmingham); Auberon Waugh; Lord Hunt (former cabinet secretary);
General Arthur Denaro; Jonathan Warrender, Michael Noakes (artists); William
Nicholson (playwright); Sir Rocco Forte; Philip Fowke (pianist); Martin Newland
(Editor, The Daily Telegraph); Sir John Pope-Hennessy (Curator of the British