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Boarding in Belfast

Robert Robinson, Headmaster at Campbell College, explains why boarding in Northern Ireland is a hidden gem

Posted by Julian Owen | December 09, 2017 | School life

Established in 1894, Campbell College sits in a stunning 100-acre woodland campus on the edge of Belfast and is home to over 1,200 boys from age 3–18. An impressive redbrick Victorian building, coupled with 11 rugby pitches, four tennis courts, five cricket squares, a running track, a swimming pool, two Astroturf hockey pitches and a shooting range – it is a match for any equivalent in the UK. One of only five boarding schools in Northern Ireland, Campbell is the largest with 150 boarders hailing from all corners of the globe. The number of pupils boarding at the school has tripled in the last 15 years and continues to grow. Seven years ago Campbell College built state-of-the-art new boarding accommodation providing modern ensuite rooms and it is about to cut the turf to build again. Such is the confidence in the future of boarding in Belfast. Headmaster Mr. Robert Robinson MBE explains why there is such interest in this part of the UK…

When parents consider their options for boarding schools in the UK there are the obvious names that spring to mind, mostly, I have to say, located in England and Scotland. 

However, what if I told you that children could be educated in a region that consistently delivered higher academic results than the rest of the UK, in a college that has all the history, tradition and facilities of a top boarding school in England or Scotland, but at half the cost? 

For these very reasons, Campbell College in Belfast and the other four boarding schools in Northern Ireland are rapidly becoming the first choice for an increasing number of families from the UK and beyond. In fact, parents from all over the world are switching on to the alternative boarding destination that is Northern Ireland. 

Campbell College

The quality of our education system is our strongest message as economic development agency, Invest Northern Ireland, state in their newly launched education strategy, “Northern Ireland’s education system is considered one of the best in Europe and consistently outperforms all other UK regions at GCSE and A-level qualifications (high school leaving equivalent) with 77% of high school graduates going onto further and higher education.” 

A second key factor encouraging parents to consider Belfast and Northern Ireland centres around the inherently friendly and family orientated culture that exists here. We are a small country with a happy, relatively conservative and hospitable populous. Northern Ireland was noted as the most contented region in the UK by a 2016 Guardian survey and Belfast was voted as one of the safest cities in the world according to the UN. The rebirth of the city in the last decade has added to the charms of this corner of the UK as it becomes an increasingly popular choice for parents across the world. 

Thirdly, believe it or not, Northern Ireland is easier to get to than many parts of the UK. Only a one-hour flight from London and, with multiple daily flights, Belfast City Airport is easily accessible from anywhere in the world. As a small airport it is not overwhelming for international students making a first trip away from home and is only a five-minute drive from our campus. As one of our Dubai parents stated, “It is easier for my son to travel to Belfast than for him to navigate his way through London city and travel a two or three-hour train journey beyond. He makes a quick connecting flight without having to leave Heathrow and I feel happier that he is arriving in a small friendly airport so close to the school.”

Donegal Quay

The Good Schools Guide in 2017 picked up on our hidden gem status remarking that Campbell College was, “A highly successful all boys school with a strong sense of history where academic achievement and excellence on the rugby pitch are highly rated – but still a tolerant and inclusive community with strong pastoral care. A school which deserves to be better known by the wider community.”

One final factor to consider. Once parents see what Northern Ireland offers and what we can offer as a school they are always amazed at our value. Termly fees start from only £4,500 a term for full boarding and hence we believe that we offer something special for families at an affordable and accessible level. These fee levels are common across the five boarding schools in Northern Ireland.

Today, Northern Ireland is home to nearly 400 boarding pupils hailing from the Far East, Middle East, Australia, Americas, Russia, the Caribbean, Europe and an ever-increasing number from England and Scotland who are choosing to make the leap over the Irish Sea. 

The five boarding schools in Northern Ireland are working collaboratively alongside Invest Northern Ireland to grow the reputation and profile of boarding in Northern Ireland. Each offering something a bit different, these five schools are passionate and proud of what boarding in NI offers families: the academic opportunities coupled with a superb co-curricular offering in a safe and friendly environment and all at an affordable level. It is difficult to argue with. 

To learn more about Campbell College, please visit: 

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