Brentwood College

Unique in the world

A modern approach on tradition

In late April, Brentwood College opened its campus to athletes and visitors from across the globe for its 41st annual regatta. The regatta, the single largest sporting event hosted by a high school in North America, with more than 5,000 people were in attendance, 1,700 athletes among them, turns the school campus into a mini Olympic village. The entire school participates: Brentwood bands and choirs perform, the entrepreneur class puts on displays in the plaza, dances performed in the evening. Races come down the 1,500 metre start every eight minutes.

Sound like your high school experience? Likely not. Brentwood College is anything but typical. The private boarding school, established in 1923 on 47 acres of the east coast of Vancouver Island is recognized internationally for graduating students with a well-rounded and exhaustive education concentrating equally on academics, arts and sports.

Located on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, students have drawn inspiration from the picturesque setting for generations. Brentwood takes full advantage of its ocean front location, with rowing, sailing, kayaking, and canoeing all on offer, even incorporating marine biology and oceanography into the curriculum.

Spotlight on rowing

It is this sports aspect of the Brentwood program, called the Tripartite program—that was recently on display for the regatta. The school’s rowing program has earned distinctive praise on an international level as one of the top high school rowing programs in the world consistently for 40 years and an Olympic legacy like no other. Brentwood has produced 23 Olympians, 21 for rowing.

On a recent visit to Brentwood for CBC’s This Hour has 22 Minutes, Rick Mercer exclaimed, “If this high school was a country, in terms of overall medal count, they would have placed 54th of 200 nations competing in at the Beijing Olympics. And all of those medals are in rowing.”

Tripartite Program

Brentwood’s unique Tripartite Program puts academics at the core of a challenging 21st century curriculum, while creating extensive opportunities for all students.

On a daily basis, students attend academic classes in the morning, and participate in athletics and arts on alternative afternoons. Brentwood College offers 16 Advanced placement courses, 28 Fine Art options and 24 Sports options. This unique approach to education is designed to give students the greatest exposure to a variety of disciplines, giving the student the opportunity to excel in his or her preferred area while also encouraging students to develop talents and skills that otherwise may never have been explored.

“The Tripartite program has academics at core, but it is a unique and successful program,” says Clayton Johnston, Director of Admissions. “It’s part of the culture that you involve yourself.”

This culminates, for example, in having about 10 members of the rugby team also on the school choir, and the drama students also on various other teams. Nationally-ranked high jumper Clifton Murray is now singing for world presidents with the Canadian Tenors after singing in the Brentwood choir. Kevin Mambo is currently performing on Broadway, to name but a few achieving alumni.

And not only do 100 per cent of Brentwood graduates go to university but every year between 75 and 80 per cent go to their first choice of university around the world—a statistic that is quite staggering.


One of the most distinctive aspects of Brentwood is that about 85 per cent of students board, being completely submersed in the school’s culture, taught responsibility and independence. “It’s a boarding culture,” says Johnston, rather than an afterthought. As can happen when the majority of students go home after classes, boarders are not left behind, but are the heart and soul of the school.

“We work really hard to make sure that everyone who comes here has a Canadian boarding experience and beyond that the classrooms have diversity to them. I work very hard in admissions to make sure of that.” Currently, about 70 per cent of students are Canadian, 10 per cent are American (the largest number of Americans of any Canadian boarding school) and 20 per cent are from 36 countries around the world.

Brentwood has surveyed the Canadian boarding schools and carved out a niche for itself. “We are very different from the other boarding schools in Canada in terms of programming and feel of our campus,” says Johnston.

Brentwood takes a modern approach to the tradition of boarding. The school, a university preparatory school, is purposely designed to look and feel like a small liberal arts college. “Our feeling is let’s get students to feel like what it’s like right here,” says Johnston. “To this effect, we’ve designed Brentwood to be high-tech, wireless, with a smart board tech in every class. Our compact campus is ultra-modern, which sets up a very different atmosphere, and I think that sets us up uniquely.”

This compact layout of Brentwood’s campus makes the buildings all easily accessible for quick and easy travel. With about a minute’s walk between most of the buildings, it is easy for students to return to their dorms between classes or visit the dining hall. Of course, safety and security is the highest priority, something which the size of the campus increases. And a consequence of the smaller campus creates a strong sense of community, allowing lifelong friendships and close bonds between students.

Thursday, April 14th, Brentwood’s Crooks Hall was the recipient of two prestigious awards at Brentwood College was named winner of the Judges Choice Award for best overall entry in the fourth annual Vancouver Island Real Estate Board’s (VIREB) Commercial Building Awards held April 14 at Crown Isle Resort in Courtenay.

Brentwood College’s building features their dining hall and student centre in Mill Bay and it also won the Excellence Award in the Institutional category, sharing honours with Nanaimo’s new East Wellington Fire Hall.

The campus is reflective of the diverse university campus, something Johnston and the schools works very hard to achieve to ensure the school delivers on its promise of a quintessential Canadian boarding experience.