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A school surrounded by stunning scenery – how lovely to sit in the library and stare out at the picture postcard view over the sea. The advantages of attending school on the island are clear – it is safe, secure and beautiful. The counter to this is perhaps an element of complacency born of isolation. But all agree the head has done a great job of ensuring pupils are not limited by the stretch of water. Parents range from fish and chip shop owners to medics. They come from all over the island, along with commuters (by ferry) from Portsmouth and a growing number (especially since lockdown) of DFLs (Down From London’s). Pupils we met were polite and…

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What the school says...

We are a family school providing exceptional opportunities for boys and girls throughout their education. We have consistency, tradition and plenty of character but we are also a dynamic community. We enjoy outstanding academic results and a wide ranging extra-curricular programme.

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International Baccalaureate: diploma - the diploma is the familiar A-level equivalent.

Other features

All-through school (for example 3-18 years). - An all-through school covers junior and senior education. It may start at 3 or 4, or later, and continue through to 16 or 18. Some all-through schools set exams at 11 or 13 that pupils must pass to move on.






What The Good Schools Guide says


Since September 2022, Will Turner, previously head of UWC Adriatic in Italy. After graduating from the University of Exeter in French and Italian, he began his teaching career at Sherborne School teaching languages and the IB. Moved to Harrow School in 2011 where he held positions as an assistant housemaster, head of universities and head of modern languages. Five years later, he joined St John's School, Leatherhead as deputy head (academic). He has been a school inspector and governor, and is a keen sportsman with a particular interest in cricket, having played for the MCC. Married with a young daughter.

Head of senior school since January 2020, Philip Moore, who joined Ryde School 2014 as deputy head (academic) before moving on to being head of junior school. Has been around the houses, having formerly been director of studies at Bilton Grange Prep School, Rugby and prior to that head of maths at Kimbolton in Cambridgeshire. Started his teaching career at St Columba's College, St Albans before taking up his first head of maths post in Norfolk. Studied maths at Hertfordshire and has a master’s in education management from King's College London. Set up DofE in two schools and is currently a gold award leader.

Head of prep since January 2020, Ed Marsden, who has been at Ryde since 2016 and was previously deputy head (pastoral). Before that, head of boys' sport and geography at St Michael's Prep in Sevenoaks, Kent for nine years, and head of sport at the British School of Vila-Real (Spain). Studied sports science and exercise at Greenwich and a PGCE. His wife Georgina works in the learning support department; together they have two young sons, both at Ryde.

Head of Fiveways (nursery and pre-prep) since 2017, Emily Willetts, previously at Llandaff Cathedral School, Cardiff and as head of lower school at Riverside International School, Prague. Married to Jim who is head of RS in the senior school and together they have two children in the prep with another new baby, born in 2020. Studied music at Durham, taking on the role of chapel warden for her college, Hild Bede, as well as earning a choral scholarship at the college during her three years there.


Non-selective (school prefers ‘all ability’). Main entry points are 4+, 11+, 13+ and 16+ though increasingly at other points too (the year before we visited, they’d had newbies join in every single year group). From year 5 upwards, there’s testing in English, maths and non-verbal reasoning – ‘a basic hurdle not to try and catch children out but to ensure we can offer a curriculum to suit them,’ says school. Interview with head for all; IQ test for those for whom English is not first language. Around 10-15 join at sixth form, choosing the IB Diploma, A Levels or IB Career-related Programme. Criteria are the same as for current pupils (at least five GCSEs, with 6s in the subjects to be studied).


Over 90 per cent go through from the prep to the senior school, the rest increasingly to Winchester and Millfield (usually on academic and sport scholarships respectively). Just over a third leave after GCSEs. The majority of sixth formers to university (a quarter to Russell Group). King’s College London, Royal Holloway, Oxford Brookes, Aberdeen, Exeter, Portsmouth, Plymouth and Cardiff all popular in 2023. Sometimes one or two to Oxbridge but none in 2023. A few to art colleges. Overseas universities increasingly popular – in 2023 destinations included Constructor University, Bremen, Malaga City University, Spain and Emory and Henry College in the US.

Latest results

In 2023, 41 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 37 per cent A*/A at A level (62 per cent A*-B); average IB score 32.18. In 2019 (the last pre-pandemic results), 41 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 25 per cent A*/A at A level; average IB score 33.

Teaching and learning

Good solid academic results for a non-selective school, which parents say gives a ‘degree of assurance’. Mix of GCSEs and IGCSEs, and they also run the vocational IB (IBCP) alongside the IB. It is in the privileged position of being virtually the only independent mainstream school on the island (the other is very small), and island state secondary schools do not rank highly in the league tables.

New nursery opened in 2023 – open 47 weeks a year in a
Victorian villa adjacent to the main school. Children up to year 2 are taught at Fiveways, a separate campus across the road. Mixed ability classes of 14-16, though teachers will hand out work of differing levels within classes. Pupils read with a teacher or teaching assistant every day. For all that, a surprisingly small library. Mandarin taught weekly. Parents couldn’t say enough about how great this part of the school is.

Prep school, covering years 3 to 6, is on the main site, though distinctly separate. Two or three classes a year, size 14-18. Spanish from year 3, Latin from year 5. Setting in maths and English from year 4. There was a huge basin of conkers in the science lab when we visited – year 3s were finding out whether size and shape have an impact on strength in a very joyful conkers experiment. STEM is a growing focus. A nice emphasis on creativity too - not always the case in through schools with an eye on the end results – year 4 write a story or poem every week, and after their trip to the Amazon World, wrote stories about the Amazon in geography. Plenty of monitoring and the school will do everything and anything to help children falling behind.

In senior school, maximum class sizes of 22 at GCSE and 8-14 at A level. As with prep, there is a strong work ethic – the classes we saw were almost universally heads down, working hard, the concentrated effort almost palpable. ‘It’s not something that you get teased for – it’s actually cool to be clever,’ said a pupil. Setting in French, maths, English and science from year 7. Maths and science are popular – due in part, says the head, to the large number of doctor parents; and illustrated by year 10 turning the whole periodic table into cupcakes in the school bake-off. From year 7, all learn French plus either German or Mandarin (in addition to the Spanish and Latin that are introduced in prep). Everyone takes at least one language at GCSE, with a quarter doing two or more. Italian and Dutch are available at 16+.

Alongside GCSEs pupils study one of global perspectives, arts award, science CREST award or informatics. This emphasis on enrichment and a global perspective is woven throughout the school. It is not unusual, for example, to see pupils collaborating with students across the world – during lockdown, year 9s had regular online seminars with home working boarders, swapping information about daily life. Teamwork, reflective learning, independent research and presentation skills are also biggies here. Particularly popular is the mini-EPQ in years 7 and 8 – one group of pupils had used theirs to work out how to renovate Ryde’s theatre for full use with the island, while older students had just presented their findings on how the (presumably very happy) bursar could save money on water bills. Up until exams hit, pupils are encouraged to take risks in their learning and you are left in no doubt that they leave armed with the kinds of skills employers genuinely want.

Nine or 10 I/GCSEs is the norm, with creative subjects attracting high numbers – around half take DT, a reflection perhaps of island industries. At A level (half the pupils take these; the rest do IB), three subjects plus an EPQ is the norm (or four minus the EPQ if they’re doing further maths), with all doing an elective IB standard level or enrichment subject such as sports leadership (‘to balance out the workload with the IB pupils,’ explains school).

Parents receive mini monthly report cards detailing effort and progress until GCSE, when this turns into attainment, and predicted and target grades – to flag up any problems with work. Focus on praising effort: merit badges worn on blazers, like awards for courage under fire, are awarded entirely for effort. When the school as a whole has achieved 2,000 efforts there's a mufti day.

Learning support and SEN

Shared SENCo for whole school ‘to ensure good continuity between prep and senior school’, with provision offered both inside and outside the classroom. Around 15 per cent of pupils here have special needs, all mild to moderate. Support for English and maths is available as separate curriculum subjects alongside GCSE options. All included in fees.

The arts and extracurricular

Music is super here – our tour guides, neither of whom were taking music A level, said their happiest hours at school were spent in the music block. The teaching inspires a real love of music, with a new music teacher from Manhattan having brought a more contemporary feel, while not losing sight of the classics. Around a third of pupils learn an instrument and there are all the usual choirs, orchestra, ensembles etc. A poignant moment for the school was the music concert in March 2020 as it was the final school event before lockdown. Everyone looks forward to the annual outdoor concert and there’s an annual music tour, most recently to Croatia and northern Italy.

Pupils relish the joys of the annual Global Rock – an international dance competition. They put together routines and costumes themselves; parents describe the results as ‘incredible’. Separate annual drama productions for senior (most recently Les Mis) and prep (most recently Bugsy Malone) are both highlights of the school year. Head of drama ensured productions continue during lockdown.

Grand DT and art rooms in the predominantly glass block. ‘If I get them in year 7, they stay,’ said the DT teacher with a smile; and indeed both our guides expressed huge enthusiasm for the subject, and remembered with affection their first task of designing an insect in year 7. Roof terrace with lovely view out over the sea – it’s made full use of for parties – and a few beds of weeds which apparently have an eco purpose.

Very high take-up for DofE – school proud to have continued bronze, silver and gold in the July of lockdown. CCF available. Full range of clubs – everything from the usual sport and music options to quirkier croquet (school made it to the national finals) and beekeeping. Growth in more intellectual clubs and societies such as diplomacy (which the head runs) and bridge. Model United Nations has become increasingly student led, with some lively mock elections. Trips include sports tours to eg South Africa, Malta and Argentina; annual ski trips for juniors (with parents – very popular); and senior and geography trips to Iceland. Round Square School status has led to lots of exciting exchange potential, with plans for Tanzania, Germany, Colombia and South Africa.


Emphasis is on participation. But while in the past this meant it was not an obvious choice for top sportsmen or women, there are now more elite pathways too. Sailing, as you’d expect, is huge – by year 7, everyone gets the chance to reach level 1/2 and the pupil body includes some international sailors from eg Germany and Thailand, as well as UK. Rugby, hockey, netball and cricket are the other main sports but although cricket for girls is on the up, everyone agrees there is some way to go with the girls’ rugby (at least it exists, though – more than can be said for many schools). Easier than it used to be to find schools to play against, eg Portsmouth and Gosport, and they play an annual cricket match against a school in Guernsey. Particular success in golf.


Nearly all boarding is now on site – a big change since our last visit. Millfield is a refurbished Victorian villa that opened in 2020. Home to around 30 boarders in years 7-10 (well, year 6 too, but hardly anyone does board from prep), there are two to three pupils to a room. Even newer (April 2021) is the purpose-built new boarding house (no name yet) for 60 year 11-13s, with Solent views and ensuites (upper sixths get single rooms, lower sixth and year 11s get twin rooms). There’s a third small house, Spinnaker, a pre-university Georgian townhouse in Ryde for 10-12 sixth formers who want a more independent light-touch boarding vibe, though they will need to get used to doing their own ironing and washing – ‘My son absolutely loved getting more freedom and it was great to see him encouraged to be more self-sufficient,’ a parent told us.

Lots of confidence from parents regarding the boarding set up. They told us their boarding offspring are happy and that any minor issues arising are dealt with successfully. There’s a very strong sense of community and good diversity too, with a carefully maintained split of a third Asian pupils, a third from UK and the final third a combination of European and north American.

There’s an informal feel to boarding – it’s run by a young cohort of staff, including a lovely Argentinian couple who whisk pupils off to sports events across the island. Boarders set up their own clubs – cheesy Tuesdays (the cheese on toast club) and the Coco Pops club – foodie clubs popular for obvious reasons. They make good use of the kitchen facilities, and can cook as they please – there’s plenty of fruit and cereal available at all times, and a Tesco run every Friday night (no energy drinks allowed).

Ethos and heritage

A school surrounded by stunning scenery – how lovely to sit in the library and stare out at the picture postcard view over the sea. Venerable main building with nondescript (but well cared-for) adjuncts. Lots of recent upgrading including new classrooms, gym, tennis and netball courts and a new coffee shop for parents. A new performing arts centre is due in 2022. The advantages of attending school on the island are clear – it is safe, secure and beautiful. The counter to this is perhaps an element of complacency born of isolation. But all agree the head has done a great job of ensuring pupils are not limited by the stretch of water.

The junior school is on the main school campus, a cluster of unremarkable buildings to one side - nicely kept and feels safe and secure; definitely separate from the senior part of things. Reasonable size library, where pupils can do prep after school. Not loads of room to run around at break time (year 6s look forward to using senior school playing fields), and the children would like a bit more interest in their playground. Fiveways is located over the road.

A traditional environment – although surprisingly pupils are allowed to use mobile phones in class for task-related research. CofE but with a light touch – close links with All Saints church, with vicar the school chaplain. Prayers at the end of assembly, because that’s just what happens; much like a full stop at the end of a sentence. Parents are happy with communication levels, and reaction to complaints (which are rare). Uniform is the usual fare.

Pupils are friendly and polite (although this is not a leap to your feet place) and clearly enjoy being at school – one who transferred to Ryde from a local school commented how good it is to be at a school where he actually wants to stay and do activities, just because it’s nice to be there.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

Parents view the pastoral care at Ryde as exceptional and describe the advantages of a small school where staff know all the pupils and their families. Community and family are important words here, with one parent from prep telling us how a teacher delivered a birthday cake to her daughter during lockdown and another called in to check a pupil was okay when her pet died. The health and wellbeing centre is well used and we love how most staff are trained coaches. ‘We used to be told we do a great job at putting people back on together when they fall apart, and the coaching is a pre-emptive pastoral measure to help stop them falling apart in the first place,’ explains school. In a nutshell, it means working with pupils to ensure they start from the heart, then get pragmatic and reflective in working towards their own solutions with guidance. Some of the staff are now qualified to train others in coaching, with the courses for parents on eg how to speak to your teenage child, having been a huge hit. There is a move to involve sixth formers more with younger years, and prefects now wear listener badges, so pupils have an obvious person to go to if they want to talk to someone other than a teacher. Any bullying occurs is dealt with properly – ‘sensitively and appropriately,’ said a parent. Mindfulness walks, bee hives, an outdoor yurt and a Victory Garden - where pupils grow vegetables for the school kitchen - recently introduced.

Light touch discipline, with a largely well-behaved pupil body that responds well to the relaxed feel of the school. Perhaps more tolerant than other schools with trying to work things out when they go wrong, though school has asked people to leave for eg bullying and drugs. The one student who was suspended during Covid was asked to come into school – ‘How else do you suspend a pupil during lockdown?’ he said. Well, quite.

Pupils and parents

Parents range from fish and chip shop owners to medics. Large numbers scrimp and save to send their children here. They come from all over the island, along with commuters (by ferry) from Portsmouth and a growing number (especially since lockdown) of DFLs (Down From London’s). The islanders in particular are a sociable bunch – school even ran an online cocktail party for them during lockdown. Two-thirds of boarders are international. Pupils we met were polite and articulate, although they didn’t quite have the polish you might encounter in some mainland independent schools – the relaxed vibe rubs off.

Money matters

School wants to keep fees affordable and provides support where possible. Scholarships open up means-tested bursaries. Academic scholarships are available for entry into years 5, 7, 9 and the sixth form with sailing, music and sports scholarships also available for entry into years 7, 9 and the sixth form. McIsaac scholarships also available and some HMC scholars are placed at Ryde.

The last word

A school distinguished by its strong community, set in beautiful surroundings with solid academic provision. Last time we visited, we said it was not somewhere you are likely to encounter unscheduled exuberance – no longer the case. ‘This is a place where everyone has a chance to be themselves – what more can you ask for?’ said a parent.

Please note: Independent schools frequently offer IGCSEs or other qualifications alongside or as an alternative to GCSE. The DfE does not record performance data for these exams so independent school GCSE data is frequently misleading; parents should check the results with the schools.

Who came from where

Who goes where

Special Education Needs

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyslexia Y
English as an additional language (EAL) Y
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class Y
HI - Hearing Impairment
Hospital School
Mental health
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
PD - Physical Disability
PMLD - Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty
SEMH - Social, Emotional and Mental Health
SLCN - Speech, Language and Communication
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
VI - Visual Impairment

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