Downside is run by lay staff and the Benedictine monks of Downside Abbey.The Headmaster and several other monks work in the school as teachers and chaplains. Currently one Housemaster in the school is a monk. The school is controlled by trustees who are the Abbot and six monks from Downside Abbey. The school is divided into seven houses; five senior houses and two junior houses, with both day pupils and boarders in the same houses. Each house takes its name from the Community's martyrs or benefactors. The Independent Schools Inspectorate's most recent report, 2013, states: 'The arrangements for welfare, health and safety are excellent.
In the late 1990s, the release of a number of Gregorian chant records attracted much attention, with some controversy over the association with the Virgin brand. In 2002, Father Antony Sutch, then Head Master, featured heavily (including front page of The Daily Telegraph) when he attacked the 'geek culture' - the government-imposed educational bureaucracy - that in his view is overwhelming schools and teachers.His views on Catholicism and educational matters often attract attention in the media, and he has contributed to BBC Radio 4's Thought For the Day since 2003.
Admission at 13+ is normally via the Downside Assessment Test and/or the Common Entrance examinations (the average mark in recent Common Entrance candidates is 65% but 50% is the minimum requirement across all subjects) or the Common Scholarship Examinations. Pupils whose schools cannot prepare them for the Common Entrance Examination will sit Downside’s own examinations in English, Mathematics, Science and a modern language.