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  • Why do some British boarding schools run Saturday school? | Dickinson School Consulting
  • Why do some British boarding schools run Saturday school? | Dickinson School Consulting

Why do some British boarding schools run Saturday school?

While it is increasingly rare, a six-day week of lessons and activities/sports is still to be found in the UK independent education sector, so why do some British boarding schools run Saturday school?

Recognising the demands of exam courses, for these schools Saturday morning lessons represent important curriculum time. Also, much of the value of a boarding school education comes through the weekend extra-curricular programme. Here are some examples.

Lancing College

At Lancing College, the six-day week creates a sense of spaciousness and extends scope for the enrichment that the school values. The shape of the week, and how it best fits the learning and the pastoral care of pupils, is regularly reviewed but the atmosphere of Saturday school is always a little different to the rest of the academic week. It starts later than weekday mornings with a tutor period in Houses, allowing children to review their week and speak freely with their peers. This is followed by four teaching periods. For example, Fifth and Sixth Formers have a double period of bespoke PSHE (personal, social, health and economic education), which looks at life skills, careers, discussions, learning strategies and university preparation, delivered by college staff and a prestigious range of visiting speakers and external organisations. The longer week provides time to give a more well-rounded experience to all pupils.

St Edward’s School 

Pupils at Teddies, as it is affectionately known, benefit from a wide range of activities on Saturdays. During the morning, academic lessons progress their studies towards GCSEs, A Levels and International Baccalaureate. After lunch, everyone takes part in sports matches as part of the school’s commitment to developing teamwork as well as individual skills. Sports include rugby, hockey, netball, cricket, rowing and racket sports, with expert coaches to support players of all abilities. Then there are opportunities to take part in co-curricular activities, such as drama rehearsals; to enjoy being part of the wider school community, for example by attending a music concert in The Olivier Hall; simply to relax in the boarding house, or one of the many benefits of being in the city of Oxford is that pupils can visit the local shops and cafés, as well as the world-class museums and galleries which are right on the doorstep.

Glenalmond College 

A Glenalmond Saturday feels just like a Tuesday; in addition to the academic provision and competitive sports fixtures, there are outdoor expeditions, social engagements, Chapel service, and a rolling programme of activities steered by the pupils themselves. Spreading the academic curriculum over six days rather than five creates the opportunity to distribute evenly across the week time for a full co-curricular offering. Time for music and drama, for choirs, orchestras, smaller ensembles and the cast and crew of each term’s major production to come together at moments during the week. Time to take advantage of all the onsite outdoor learning opportunities, including a mountain bike track, fly-fishing on the River Almond, archery range and clay pigeon shooting, kayaking, sailing, mountaineering, hiking and rock climbing – making the most of the 300-acre campus and its Scottish highland location. As Warden Mark Mortimer says, “The benefit of Saturday school is truly felt throughout the entire week.”


School on Saturday is an important part of Haileybury life, providing significant benefits for pupils. Four academic lessons in the morning are followed by sports fixtures, either home or away, with pupils saying how much they love the competitive nature of Saturday afternoon sports against other schools. In the evening, boarding pupils participate in fun activities, which are optional but always popular, including trips to London or Cambridge museums and theatres. The numerous full boarding pupils from around the world and the Saturday morning lessons and afternoon sport work well to ensure the boarders are happy, busy and making the most of their time at the school. Another key advantage of Saturday school is that the morning lessons increase the weekly academic contact time whilst also ensuring the rest of the week is well balanced. This, in turn, enables pupils to enjoy a wider range of extension, enrichment and co-curricular opportunities.

Oakham School

Here is what makes Saturday school so special for Oakham School’s pupils, parents and staff according to the Headmaster, Henry Price. “Saturday school adds a richness to our weekly timetable that benefits everyone. Boarders and day pupils gain more teaching, academic support, and enrichment time. As a cornerstone of boarding life, Saturday school gives us time to get to know our pupils through tutorial support and one-to-one contact. It allows us greater flexibility in how we timetable our co-curricular programmes and gives children more time together. Saturday school also offers parents the chance to form a deeper connection with school. On Saturday mornings they can regroup after the working week before coming to school to support their child in a sports fixture and socialise with fellow parents and staff. Saturday is the best day of the week in a boarding school.”

The Royal Hospital School (RHS)

RHS provides a comprehensive educational experience spanning six days, with Saturdays featuring an exciting programme of activities for Year 7 pupils, while Years 8-13 have three morning lessons. Afternoon activities for all consist of either a games lesson or a match for those playing as part of a team, and parents are warmly encouraged to attend and support their children at matches. The six-day timetable provides extra time for supervised homework completion as well as activities such as a full CCF programme, covering Royal Navy, Army, RAF and Royal Marines sections, Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme, academic challenges, networking events, tutoring for academic and wellbeing support, life skill sessions, sporting events, and evening activities for boarders and day pupils alike. Hear from the Second Master, Steve Dixon, in this video: 

RHS Saturday School from Royal Hospital School on Vimeo.

He quotes one parent and another has said, “At first, I didn’t understand the benefits of my daughter attending Saturday school, but now I appreciate the extra opportunities it has given her and it is all included in the fees! It makes RHS good value and my daughter is thriving.”

If you’d like more information about which British boarding schools run Saturday school and which might suit your child, please get in touch.