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Aysgarth School
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Aysgarth School Bedale, North Yorkshire Visit
Aysgarth School
210 pupils, ages 3-13
Day and Boarding

Aysgarth School

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Our View on Aysgarth School

Sequestered in acres of North Yorkshire countryside, this traditional boys prep is an ideal environment for energetic boys who like to get stuck in, working hard but playing hard too. On our visit, we were struck by how happy, well-mannered and charming all the boys were, testament to the holistic education they’re receiving, with excellent pastoral care instilling values that will see them through life.

Aysgarth's pre-prep has been co-ed for over 30 years, but there's big change afoot: from September 2024, the school will become fully co-educational, admitting girls all the way through to Year 8. It's an exciting moment of transition for the school, and we're looking forward to this next chapter for Aysgarth.

Where is Aysgarth School?

Located at the foot of the Yorkshire Dales, Aysgarth is right in the heart of farming, shooting and fishing country. This is a rural prep – the nearest train stations are Northallerton (20 minutes) and Darlington (30 minutes), and with no shop or amenities in the local village, it does feel very out of the way. But that’s exactly what makes it a nirvana for children who thrive on good old-fashioned fun and fresh air. There is plenty of transport laid on by the school for boarders and day boys, and while most families live within a couple of hours of the school, there are pupils from far and wide, spanning the country from Scotland to Hampshire. Forces children and a smattering of overseas pupils also make up the numbers. There are always regular boarders from Spain and the new head is considering upping overseas pupils to around 10 (there are currently six).

Purpose-built in 1890, the main school building is handsome with airy classrooms and a stunning chapel. It presides over 50 acres of sports fields, bike routes, woodland and a gorgeous walled garden, all encircled by farmland with views of the Yorkshire Dales. Yes, it’s idyllic.

Headteacher at Aysgarth School

New head Jonathon Anderson has just taken up the role, arriving from Clayesmore Prep School where he was also head. His teaching background is maths – he studied economics at Exeter and is currently working towards a Masters in educational leadership and management. He tells us that he and his wife Hester have completely fallen in love with the school. Its ‘intangibles’, he says, makes it ‘very precious’ – the boys have ‘a certain grace and way of behaving’. He’s throwing a protective veil over Aysgarth’s unique nature but is keen for more people to get to know about it and not rule it out as being inaccessible. With London only a two-hour train journey away, it’s definitely a school that families in the south should have on their shortlists. Hester has already exceeded her role as headmaster’s wife, taking up a key pastoral position as house parent to the boys in Year 4 (called Form 1 here), one of whom is the Anderson’s son William (they also have a daughter Annabel who has stayed at Clayesmore). She’s also involved at the pre-prep, supporting phonics and taking assemblies there. She’s been a head herself, as head of the junior school at both Westbourne House and Swanbourne House, so they’re a real power team.

Admissions to Aysgarth School

Aysgarth is not academically selective; there is no entrance exam, although children do take an assessment test to establish both ability and potential. Places are offered to those whom staff feel will benefit most from the rounded education on offer. The main intake is at 8+ (at which point the school becomes boys only), although Aysgarth School will take children in other year groups if there’s space. This is a popular school, and our advice is to register as early as possible.

Academics and senior school destinations

Gentle streaming in English and maths kicks in when the boys start in Form 1, and there’s great one-on-one provision for anyone who might need extra support. Every boy has both an academic and a pastoral plan (pupils sit a STEER assessment twice a year, which is designed to pick up on any areas of pastoral difficulty so they can be addressed swiftly), and it is this sort of attention to detail that sets Aysgarth apart.

Classes are small, with a maximum of 16 boys per class (the average is 12), and the school provides each pupil with a laptop – they use Google Apps for Education. Everyone learns Latin, and academic subjects taught for CE are English, maths, science, French, Latin, history and geography. Religious education and wellbeing, music, art, craft and design technology, ICT, PE, drama and PSHCE also feature on the timetable but aren’t examined. A varied Enrichment Programme includes lunchtime lectures on a range of topics, which is great preparation for Year 6 assessments, Common Entrance and interviews.

With its remote location, Aysgarth doesn’t have an obvious exit route, but top-flight public schools, including Harrow, Uppingham and Eton, are common destinations. Scholarships are plentiful – this year pupils have won them to Shrewsbury, Rugby and Oundle, among others, for disciplines including academics, sport, drama and music.

Co-curricular at Aysgarth School

Almost every pupil learns an instrument, from piano to bagpipes (there’s a waiting list for the latter), with time dedicated to music practice every day before lunch; the few who don’t play an instrument read during this time. It’s ‘cool’ to get a spot in the choir and pupils are often invited to perform at Ripon and Durham cathedrals, as well as stately homes and Old Aysgarthian weddings – on our visit they were preparing for an OA memorial service in London. The impressive art block is decked out with power tools, laser cutters and a dedicated exhibition space, while over in the theatre, anyone who doesn’t want to act can get stuck in with set, costume and lighting design instead.

Sport is varied and inclusive, with swimming lessons once a week in the indoor heated pool, hockey, pop lacrosse and cricket, as well as dance athletics and gymnastics. Ball skills are taught throughout, and pre-preppers have full use of the sports hall and facilities, which is a brilliant bonus for these younger pupils. Sports-wise, Aysgarth definitely punches above its weight for a school of this size, and in addition to a host of boys playing at county standard, the quality of rugby and cricket in particular is very high indeed. The head of sport (formerly at Bromsgrove) has added a raft of new fixtures to the calendar (including water polo and sailing), and boys have reached national swimming finals and cross-country qualifiers. His ‘have a go’ and ‘all inclusive’ philosophy has led to greater opportunities for boys to compete in more sports at a wider variety of levels.

As well as the usual Astros, pitches and tennis courts, Aysgarth School also has an indoor climbing wall, a running track, a newly refurbished rifle range and Sir Matthew Pinsent as an old boy. Team spirit is more valuable than silverware here, and word has it that the match teas are genuinely epic.

When they’re not in the classroom, boys are most likely to be careering around the valley and woods that make up the extensive campus. Mucking in and mucking around are strongly encouraged, and at weekends pupils build dens, fly down makeshift waterslides doused in Fairy Liquid and play Spotlight, trying to avoid being caught by teachers-turned-sleuths brandishing torches.

Scooters and RipStiks are brought in by the boys, and the school has recently invested in skate furniture, including grind rails and quarter pipes to make break times even more fun.

Clubs range from the conventional (cooking, Lego, Airfix) to the downright quirky: build your own remote control car and – our favourite – the Meat Appreciation Society. Regular socials are held with the girls from Queen Mary’s Thirsk, about 20 miles down the road. Quizzes are popular; boys listen to Radio 4 twice a week during breakfast after which they have a news quiz, and there are always quizzes posted up on the notice board that are attended with enthusiastic competitiveness. Hester is planning a gardening club in the walled garden where there are already polytunnels.

The school council is important and influential – it’s run by Form 5 boys (Year 8) with representatives from every year – and serves as a wonderful space for teaching the boys how to make decisions and behave in a meeting environment.


Aside from the handful of day pupils and 'regular boarders' (who stay for two or three nights a week), everyone full- or weekly-boards, and there are usually at least 100 boys knocking around at weekends. Hester has made boarding even more homely than it was – more parenting, less teaching, with Hester and Jonathon stand-in ‘mum and dad’. All the boys sleep in the main house – a homely, colourful space, with Hypnos mattresses and cuddly toys. The dorms have all undergone a major spruce in recent years, but corridor cricket still remains a firm fixture on the evening timetable.

Saturdays begin with morning lessons, followed by games and activities, while Sundays are more chilled – we love the tradition of breakfast in PJs before chapel. Each term is bookended with an ‘all-in’ weekend where all the full and weekly boarders are expected to stay in school. For exeat weekends and holidays, boys can be escorted on the train to London or Edinburgh, and Spanish boarders have the option of being escorted all the way to Madrid.

School community at Aysgarth School

Jonathon and Hester’s parenting role isn’t for boarders only and pastoral care is a particular strength of the school’s. They, along with the three matrons and two nurses, take a very individual approach, continuing home routines and making new ones, such as peppermint tea or hot chocolate before bed. Asking for help and showing emotion is normalised. There’s a school counsellor, weekly hot chocolate catch ups with the school nurses and the wonderful termly ‘Chip Chat’, where the boys have fish and chips from the local chippy and hang out with the matrons after school. Staff bring their dogs to school and it’s not unusual to see one curled up in the corner of a classroom. All in all, the school is very much a home from home.

Parents are very much part of the school community; despite the strong boarding ethos, over half of families are local and enjoy socialising with other parents. As well as creating more links with the local community, the new head of brand and outreach has the job of continuing to ensure that parents feel part of the school. With this in mind, alongside coffee mornings and the like, there are plans afoot for a big party in September to mark the pre-prep's 30th birthday, and another in a few years' time to mark Aysgarth's 150th anniversary. Attendance is always high at sporting fixtures (did we mention the match teas?) and the 'father and son Clay Day' is one of the most popular events on the calendar.  

And finally...

It is clear that the school places a huge amount of emphasis on pastoral care and has put in place thoughtful and secure provision to ensure that children here are challenged, courageous, enthusiastic and very well cared for. Boys leave as thoughtful and ambitious young people with an understated confidence and good manners. Aysgarth is a place for go-getters not gamers, for conker fights and muddy trainers. It’s a rural haven of learning and larking about where boys can truly enjoy their childhood. 


Boys playing outside all wearing blue shirts and jumpers
Boys doing archery standing on green grass with pink blossom in the foreground
  • Senior school destinations

    Senior school destinations

    Ampleforth - 2, Eton - 2, Fettes - 2, Giggleswick - 1, Harrow - 3, Marlborough - 1, Oundle - 1, Repton -1, Rugby -2, Sherborne - 1, Sedbergh -1, Shrewsbury - 8, St Peter's York - 2, Stowe - 1

  • Scholarships for senior schools


    Academic2Fettes, Shrewsbury
    Music2 Shrewsbury and Oundle
    Drama2 Shrewsbury and Stowe
    Sport3 Rugby, Gigglewick and Sedbergh
    Art2 Shrewsbury

  • Fees and bursaries

    Day fees per term

    Year 1£3,760
    Year 2£3,860
    Year 3£4,525
    Year 4£8,370
    Year 5£8,370
    Year 6£8,370
    Year 7£8,370
    Year 8 £8,370
    Boarding fees per term

    Year 1-
    Year 2-
    Year 3 -
    Year 4 £10,890
    Year 5 £10,890
    Year 6£10,890
    Year 7£10,890
    Year 8 £10,890

    With the support of the Aysgarth School Foundation, the school is able to offer help with the payment of fees for families who would not otherwise be able to afford them. This financial support may be in the form of an award of up to 100% of fees. Awards are subject to an assessment of the financial, compassionate or other pertinent circumstances of applicants. All information is provided and received in strict confidence.

    Bursary contact:
    Admissions and Marketing Manager Niki Pargeter
  • SEND

    This school currently supports the following kinds of learning needs, health needs and physical disabilities:
    Dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, ASD, slow processing, weak working memory. Health: a range of allergies, diabetes, Physical: visually impaired.

    This school currently delivers the following interventions to pupils in class and outside class to support their learning, health and/or physical needs:
    Toe by toe, Power of 2, reciprocal reading, Alpha to Omega, Trugs, Talisman reading intervention programme, TA in the class to support in English and maths. School councillor to support mental health. N Yorks VI team to support visually impaired.

    This school currently provides the following support for pupils' mental health needs
    The school has the benefit of spending a great deal of time with the boys and the boys feel comfortable in turning to any member of staff. Form Tutors and House Parents are formally the first point of contact, but the boys are free to approach any member staff who they would feel comfortable talking to. They have an excellent team of matrons and Lottie, in her role as Headmaster’s Wife and ‘Mummy’ to all the boys is often a favoured point of contact. For those who may need additional help, they have a super school counsellor and they work closely with ‘Teenagers Translated‘to ensure that the staff are well trained and that the boys are well prepared for the many challenges that come their way.'

    Co-ordinator: Susanna Ogden
  • Transport links

    School Transport
    Escorted train service to/from London

    Public Transport
    Nearest mainline train station: Northallerton
    Journey time to London by train: 145 minutes
    Nearest international airport: Newcastle International / Teeside International / Leeds Airport (33 miles)

  • FAQs

    Does Aysgarth School have a motto?
    Yes – the school motto is 'Of Oak, Not Willow'.

    Are there any notable alumni from Aysgarth School?
    Aysgarth School alumni include four-time gold medal-winning Olympic rower Sir Matthew Pinsent and adventurer Robert Swan, the first person to walk both the North and South Pole.

    Will my child follow a nutritious health plan at Aysgarth?
    Most definitely. Aysgarth School’s meals are all homemade using fresh, local produce. They cater for all dietary requirements and monitor the use of additives very carefully.

Aysgarth School is
linked with:


Newton-le-willows, Bedale, North Yorkshire DL8 1TF

01677 450240


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