Our spring in Canada was action packed last year. After the experience of a lifetime in Vancouver, where we attended two major education events – ILAC Partnership Forum and ICEF Workshop, we flew to Toronto for the second part of our Canadian education globetrotting. Prior to our visiting ILAC International College in Toronto and Niagara College in Welland, we were invited by the management of Ridley College, one of the best schools in Canada, to be their guest.
Ridley College is a member of the Canadian Accredited Independent Schools (CAIS) association which garners the best boarding schools in Canada. All CAIS Boarding Schools undergo a rigorous accreditation process and provide students with a middle and high school education that is recognized for its superior quality by the leading universities around the globe. Currently, there are 27 CAIS boarding schools. PRODIREKT already cooperates with some of the member schools, and we were excited to be able to spend two days at the beginning of May in getting to know Ridley, the most prestigious among them.
On the first day, we were privileged to have a private campus tour organized by Milana Schramm, Manager of Summer Programs, whose devotion and intimate knowledge of Ridley were reinforced by the fact that both her sons attended the school. The special treat was watching the Ridley College cadets on parade for annual inspection which was taking place during our visit. We were told that there were few school traditions as ceremonious and colorful as Ridley’s Cadet Program, and we couldn’t agree more. Experience here some of the event’s colors and great atmosphere with our photos and brief interview with Mark, a charming student from Russia.
On the second day, we met with the school management, Michele Bett, Head of Upper School, and Julie Cameron, Director of Admissions. While the lovely school tour and cadet parade were still lingering in our mind, we discussed with Julie the admission process, school culture and cooperation opportunities. The meetings were followed by a lunch with Alex Little, Admissions Officer for International Markets, and Milana Schramm, our kind guide. The two days we spent in Ridley helped us not only learn a lot about the school and to meet its staff and students, but more importantly we also had an opportunity to experience some of the life at Ridley.
Our school visit impressions
About the School
2 Ridley Road, St. Catharines, Ontario, L2R 7C3
The 100-acre campus is located near Lake Ontario, just an hour’s drive from Toronto and 20 minutes west of Niagara Falls. When we came through the gates, we immediately felt like we had arrived at a place that’s prestigious, yet welcoming and safe.
This school is the only co-ed independent boarding school in Canada and one of only three in North America authorized to offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) continuum program. The school was founded in 1889, making it one of the oldest schools in Canada. Although Ridley College was once a boys’ boarding school, today it offers a mixed-sex, liberal arts education to both day and boarding students.
About 700 boys and girls from across Canada and 60 countries worldwide are enrolled. Ridley is a certified International Baccalaureate Primary Years and Diploma Program School; therefore, students have the option to earn both the International Baccalaureate and the Ontario Secondary School Diploma. Ridley College is one of those boarding schools that are known for their high level of academic preparation. The science and arts programs are very strong, and Ridley has a new building that has the latest equipment and facilities. Almost 100% of the graduates from this educational institution enter prestigious universities and colleges in Canada and around the world.
The Lower School comprises Junior Kindergarten through Grade 8, and the Upper School comprises Grade 9 through a post-graduate year (after Grade 12). The student population is divided between the two schools, with the majority of students in the Upper School, and most of those within the boarding program. Class sizes are usually no bigger than 20, thus a student should feel very involved in classes.
Campus and students life
While being taken on a campus tour, we were impressed by its superior facilities, which include a 300-seat performing arts center, modern classrooms and labs, a beautiful gothic chapel, two gymnasia, swimming pool, squash and tennis courts, 10 playing fields, and dance and fitness studios. Apart from the numerous sport fields and terrains, the campus boasts Tiger hockey arena, with an NHL-sized ice surface for training and competition, as well as Field House with 20,000 square feet of synthetic surface, including a four-lane track.
Ridley was founded to reflect the Anglican tradition, and while the association remains apparent, there is no formal relationship with the church. Students meet twice a week and the chapel is seen mostly as an opportunity to bring the school together, to reaffirm its values and address the most important current issues and topics. The chapel and all of the buildings that comprise the campus are beautiful. It’s easily one of the most attractive campuses in Canada and that we have seen worldwide.
There are 11 residences on the campus, with on average 35 boarders. Every building has a kitchen and laundry facilities (with drying machines). Girls and boys live separately. There are mostly twin rooms, with each offering sleeping, study, and wardrobe furniture. Shower rooms are located on the floors of the residences. Free wireless Internet is available. The boarders are also provided with computer equipment so that they can do their homework and prepare projects.
The cafeteria and dining facilities are located in the striking “Harry Potter like” hall. Sense of community and tradition is apparent everywhere on campus but in the dining hall we were particularly moved by it. While eating, we were surrounded by paintings and beautiful tapestries. We also noticed that all the chairs have names of past students.
Ridley College has a rich history of athletic excellence. Ridley colors are orange and black and the school’s mascot is the Tiger. “Hank,” a statue in front of the School House, is a symbol of the Ridley spirit. Becoming a part of the Tiger spirit is what it means to be a Ridleian. Hence, Ridleians cheer: Go Tigers, go! That cheer has carried the school’s athletes for more than 125 years to deliver championship-wins in hockey, rowing, and basketball, and unforgettable moments in other sports. Basketball is a very strong program at Ridley, with both boys and girls teams winning numerous Canadian Independent Schools National Championships in the last few years. The rowing students have been competing for more than 50 years and participating in the Henley Royal Regatta (UK) and the Head of the Charles Regatta (Boston). The hockey program has an even longer tradition within school life. It is supported by the top coaching staff and attracts high-level athletes from across Canada and beyond.
Students also have the opportunity to be part of the Ridley Cadets program. Cadets has been a part of Ridley’s history for more than a century. Officially recognized in 1907, the Ridley College Cadet Corps is one of the largest and oldest Cadet Corps in Canada. It has been integral to the development of leaders both nationally and internationally. Read more about Ridley Cadets here.
Admission is rolling, meaning that students are able to enter the program in any year, however, the application process is protracted and admission criteria rather strict (Acceptance Rate is at about 60%). In our meeting, Julie Cameron, Director of Admissions, explained – Neither the school nor the parents should make quick decisions and everyone goes through a process; it is important that enrolled students share the outlook and values of the school. Taking the lengthy application process into account, it is advisable to start it as early as possible.
Ridley College is one of those boarding schools that are known for their high tuition fees. The international boarding students are expected to pay about 70,000 Canadian Dollars (@46,000 Euros) each school year.
To promote diversity within the student body and to ensure that all students who should attend are able to, Ridley directs in excess of 2.5 million Canadian Dollars into scholarships and tuition assistance every year. Thirty percent of the Ridley student body receives some form of tuition assistance, as distributed through bursaries and merit-based scholarships.
Ridley claims to focus on three pillars: the arts, academics and athletics. We could clearly see all three pillars present within the school even though we spent just two days there. Ridley also skillfully balances traditional and modern principles. This is a school with a strong community feel and that will definitely prepare students for entry to the best universities worldwide, albeit at a steep price.
Experience Ridley College through the eyes of Headmaster Ed Kidd