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Weymouth Harbour, Dorset

Living in Dorset

Just over 100 miles from London and around two hours away by train, Dorset is renowned for its stunning coastline, rolling countryside and pretty market towns.

It’s long been a favourite holiday destination and now attracts relocating city dwellers who are drawn by the beautiful landscape, the relatively mild climate, seaside resorts such as Bournemouth, Weymouth and Lyme Regis and quaintly named villages like Piddletrenthide, Piddlehinton and Gussage St Michael.

The county’s idyllic landscape has inspired many of our greatest writers, Thomas Hardy and John Fowles among them, and has featured in scores of films over the years. Movie buffs will spot famous Dorset landmarks in a host of blockbuster movies – from Far from the Madding Crowd, shot in Sherborne and at Mapperton House near Beaminster, to the epic Dunkirk, which featured scenes at Weymouth Harbour and Swanage Railway.

Dorset is also remarkably unspoilt, perhaps because it’s one of only eight counties in England without a motorway. If you like the idea of catching a boat to school or work, don’t miss the Sandbanks Ferry, which shuttles back and forth between Studland and Sandbanks every 20 minutes; children who live in Studland, Worth Matravers and Swanage but go to school in Bournemouth and Poole have the bonus of a sea ride to classes every morning. 

Education scene in Dorset

Local Education Authorities in Dorset
Dorset Council
Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole Council

Dorset offers a plethora of good schools, from sought-after state schools to notable private day and boarding schools. With that in mind, we have focused on four areas of the county that are popular with families – Bournemouth and Poole, Blandford, Sherborne and Dorchester.  

Two local authorities have responsibility for state schools in Dorset: Dorset Council, which covers most of the county, and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, known as BCP. Most of the Dorset Council area operates a two-tier comprehensive system, where pupils attend a primary school before progressing to secondary school – but Corfe Mullen, Dorchester, Ferndown and West Moors have a three-tier system of first, middle and secondary schools. In Dorset’s three-tier areas pupils move to middle school in year 5 and to secondary school in year 9. There are four grammar schools in Dorset – for girls, Bournemouth School for Girls and Parkstone Grammar School, and for boys, Bournemouth School, and Poole Grammar School – and competition for places is high.  

Given its relatively small geographical area, Dorset has an impressive number of distinguished private day and boarding schools, including Bryanston School, Canford School, Clayesmore School, Milton Abbey, Sherborne Girls and Sherborne School.  

The Good Schools Guide publishes essential information on all Dorset schools and currently reviews 19 of the best in the independent and state maintained sectors, as well as many more in neighbouring counties. Get instant online access to the reviews now.   

Looking for the best schools in Dorset? Our education consultants can help

Throughout the year The Good Schools Guide consultants successfully help parents from all over the world to find the best schools for their children. Our UK team is spread out across the country and each expert has their own specialist area of knowledge. If you would like us to help you find a school place or are keen to know more about your family’s education options in Dorset, we are ready to help. Read about our education consultancy services or get in touch at [email protected] 

Your experience of education in Dorset

Do you have experience of education in Dorset, or indeed elsewhere, that you would like to share with us? We depend on our large network of parents and teachers to make sure the advice, guidance and information we publish is accurate, helpful and up to date. Please write to us at [email protected]

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