The word character is derived from the Greek “charaktēr,” which means “mark, distinctive quality.” This itself comes from the verb “charassein,” meaning “to sharpen, cut in furrows, or engrave.” The former can be said of the graduates from some of the finest schools in the world today; the latter of the curricula, co-curricular activities and support that take place in them.
A good school builds character. Yet, ask 10 different educators what makes a “good school,” and you’ll get 10 different answers. There are, however, common themes. Firstly, they are the ones that care about more than just test results. The number of As in A Levels matter to a certain degree, but they are never the sole stick of measure. Instead, there is more focus on yielding better-than-anticipated results, bringing the best out of every student regardless of background. It’s a small, but significant, difference.
They also teach pupils how to and why they learn. They offer targeted support — such as individual tutoring, homework help, a wide offering of co-curricular activities — within and outside the school day to help pupils see themselves as capable and driven learners.
With all the above, success — according to each pupil’s definition — usually follows. Graduates forge character and progress to realise their dreams in university and beyond.
Below we take a look at how four top schools achieve this:
Reenacting historical battles. Launching rockets. Floating philosophical arguments and debates. These are just a sampling of the dynamic activities that take place at Taunton School in its enviably spacious, green and secure 56-acre campus on the edge of Taunton in enchanting Somerset. Here, young people are challenged, nurtured and inspired to succeed in a global community.
A Taunton education is innovative, forward-thinking, and global. Every pupil at this IB World School receives a meaningful and authentic educational experience, powered by a shared vision based on five pillars: Academic, Pastoral, Co-Curricular, Global Outlook and Community. As the review for Good Schools Guide — the number one trusted guide to schools in the UK — goes, Taunton School is “a terrific all-rounder.”
The school’s faculty members are experts in their disciplines and translate that expertise into rich learning experiences for their students. From nursery up to Senior School, they shape pupils into lifelong learners with inquiring minds and a thirst for knowledge. Whether it’s A Levels, the IB Diploma or BTEC qualifications, Taunton School offers each pupil a personalised plan tailored to their individual abilities and ambitions.
Another offering is the Business Foundation Programme, which guarantees access to NCUK universities across the world. Fusing academic modules, study skills and English language training, pupils have a fast-track pathway — the programme can be completed in just 10 months — to undergraduate degree courses at leading universities in the UK and around the world.
The Taunton experience is augmented by robust co-curricular opportunities through the many clubs, activities, teams and pursuits offered, encouraging students to explore life on campus to the fullest extent. Exceptional pastoral care, provided by professionals working in partnership with parents, enables each pupil to feel comfortable both in themselves and as part of a new and wider family. To learn more about the holistic education Taunton School offers, click here.
TASIS The American School in England
If you want the best of both sides of the Atlantic, TASIS The American School in England is the place to be. This is where students can benefit from an American education in the UK, with multiple academic pathways open to them: the American high school diploma, Advanced Placement (AP) courses, or the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme.
The TASIS approach combines personalised learning, a diverse campus with 60 nationalities represented, and a four-year College Counselling programme. The result? An admirable 96% of graduates receive offers from their first- or second-choice universities. In a typical year, 40% join US universities, 40% UK universities, and the rest are spread around the world — they can be found at over 50 of the Times Higher Education Top 100 universities worldwide.
Life at TASIS England is a rich tapestry of ideas and opportunities. At this stunning 46-acre campus, just 35 minutes from central London and 15 minutes from Heathrow airport, pupils form friendships and connections with peers from around the world as well as the local community. The School’s Academic Travel Programme also enables students to extend their learning beyond the classroom with staff-supervised trips around the UK and to European destinations such as Portugal, Spain, Germany, Austria, Croatia, Romania, Italy, and Greece, as well as to simply have fun skiing together in Switzerland.
TASIS England has developed a three-year “Flourishing Plan” to promote student well-being. The wide range of initiatives and services provided for day and boarding students includes a Wellness Centre (a space for reflection, prayer, meditation, or quiet time); the Student Voice (an online platform where students can share information, make suggestions, seek support, and engage with their peers); mindfulness courses; mental health first aid training for House Parents and Upper School students; a Health Centre team of five fully-qualified nurses who provide medical services 24/7; a holistic nutrition and exercise scheme; and many more.
Encouraged to participate in an impressive selection of athletics, arts, and activities as well as leadership and service opportunities, TASIS students develop confidence, resilience, and empathy. These attributes, as well as their academic achievements, will serve as foundations for their future success in the ever-changing landscape of the world.
Royal High School Bath
The Royal High School Bath is a leader and an innovator in education for girls aged three to 18 in the beautiful city of Bath. Engaged girls, supportive staff and challenging learning environment — RHSB understands how to create an environment for girls to thrive today and lead the environment of tomorrow.
Academic excellence starts with expert faculty. Teachers at Royal High encourage students to think, question, ponder, and to use these skills to come to conclusions. The school’s curriculum encourages active student engagement, collaboration, and experiential problem solving.
Students in sixth form can choose between the IB or A Levels. In 2017 and 2019, the school achieved the highest GCSE scores across Bath.
RHSB’s rigorous academic programme encourages intellectual growth, creative development, and personal responsibility in every student. One of the ways in which girls learn best is through collaboration. At Royal High, girls collaborate all of the time — in and out of class. A supportive community of fellow students rounds out the inclusive environment of the school.
Royal High’s extensive arts selection and competitive athletics activities provide students with the opportunities to explore their interests more deeply. Whether a beginner or experienced artist, students are encouraged to explore their inner aspirations through dance, theatre, music, and visual arts.
Barnard Castle School
Through creating an inspirational, compassionate learning environment, the Barnard Castle School aims to develop young adults with character. Grounded in Christian values, the school is a leading independent day and boarding school for boys and girls aged four to 18 in the North East of England.
Standards are high, academics are challenging, and teachers are talented. Here, learning means doing. The guidance of trusted teachers and mentors is not confined to four walls of a classroom.
Teaching at Barnard Castle combines traditional and modern methods. With an innovative curriculum, BCS lets students dig deep as they discover new interests in and out of the classroom.
The academic advancement of each individual student is of utmost importance, as is the development of character in each young woman at the school. The school provides outstanding facilities such as playing fields, tennis courts, a sports hall, indoor heated swimming pool, and a newly built fitness suite with a dance studio. Students get to choose from a wide selection of sporting activities including rugby, hockey, swimming, netball, cross country, squash, cricket and football.
*Some of the schools featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International