Royal Russell is a school that truly believes in the virtues of nature and its positive impact on learning. The campus’s plentiful green spaces leave pupils feeling revitalised, invigorated, and inspired – a perfect mindset for a full day of learning. Royal Russell is lucky to have 110 acres of beautiful woodland just 25 minutes from the centre of London.
Nature creates a calmer, quieter, and safer setting for learning. Leafy surroundings like Royal Russell’s undoubtedly have a hugely positive impact on the learning experience of pupils – and, most importantly, their mental health. A recent University of Minnesota study found that learning surrounded by nature fosters warmer, more cooperative relations among students and affords more creative, more exploratory forms of work. Further, the study found that nature has a rejuvenating effect on attention; relieves stress; boosts self-discipline; increases physical activity and fitness; and promotes student self-motivation, enjoyment, and engagement.
The success of graduate Yasmin Akhmedova exemplifies the impact of this dynamic relationship between nature and learning. When she joined Royal Russell in Year 12 to prepare for A Level, she was transported from Kazakhstan to an entirely new setting. It wasn’t long before she felt at home, surrounded by family. The school’s verdant setting contributed to this positive transition. Yasmin describes her time here as “truly rewarding.”
“I scored high marks in all my subjects (Maths, Further Maths and Economics) thanks to the professionalism and day-to-day support from my teachers,” she shares. “I received offers from LSE and UCL, universities of my dreams.”
The ideal setting for boarding and academic excellence
There’s an overarching sense of space on the university-style campus, with an impressive mix of 19th and 20th-century and contemporary architecture. The woodland campus is home to an array of wildlife including families of deer and the boarding community can make numerous sightings of them in the quieter moments of the day. These are interactions which pupils really value and are even included within art and media projects and enrichment activities as part of their learning.
Respect for the environment is a key consideration at this school. Royal Russell redeveloped the boarding houses for boys and girls to ensure that they were using the very latest sustainable building materials and technologies to keep their carbon footprint to a minimum. The student council and the boarding community were involved in every step of the development of their new accommodation and stressed the importance of positive eco credentials. The new boarding houses were completed in 2020 and include solar panels, energy turbines, energy-efficient windows and doors, and furniture made from sustainable materials.
“When you ask me what makes boarding so special, I would say Oxford House has become a big extended family of mine,” enthuses graduate Lucas Tan.
The school community makes use of the estate at every opportunity – from dog walking to cross-country runs and meditation. The surroundings are an important part of the boarding experience. Everyone is encouraged to engage with them from day one. The campus boasts great facilities including an indoor pool, several floodlit pitches, tennis courts and a smart astro pitch for hockey.
All students can make use of the space to excel in their co-curricular endeavours. Not only do co-curricular interests and hobbies benefit a university application, they also help to develop the whole student so that they are well-equipped for life after study. After Sixth Form, students go on to study at Oxbridge, Russell Group universities, or directly enter employment in their chosen career fields. Whichever they choose, they know that their peers from boarding, Model United Nations or Combined Cadet Force are just a phone call away for support. “I have made lifelong friends from all walks of life, cultures and backgrounds,” shares graduate Bibienne Yeoh.
Good wellbeing and positive mental health are widely believed to increase academic performance and Royal Russell’s supportive environment and community nurture academic excellence. Students have the space to think and the sympathetic staff to talk to about their emotions. The woodland trails on the estate are often the perfect setting for those conversations and students find it cathartic to either pour out how they are feeling or to simply enjoy the walk in silence to the soundtrack of birdsong.