Skip to main content
  • Bryanston School
    Blandford Forum
    DT11 0PX
  • Head: Richard Jones
  • T 01258 452411
  • F 01258 484657
  • E [email protected]
  • W
  • Bryanston School is an English independent day and boarding school for boys and girls, located next to the village of Bryanston in Dorset. It educates over 650 pupils and was founded in 1928.
  • Read about the best schools in Dorset
  • Boarding: Yes
  • Local authority: Dorset
  • Pupils: 799; sixth formers: 307
  • Religion: Church of England
  • Fees: Day £38,214; Boarding £46,602 pa
  • Open days: School offers individual visits and groups visits, as well as virtual visits for those who are unable to attend in person. Check school website
  • Review: View The Good Schools Guide Review
  • Ofsted report: View the Ofsted report
  • ISI report: View the ISI report
  • Linked schools: Bryanston Prep

What says..

Offers A levels and the IB in the sixth form (as well as the IB Career-Related Programme). Parents told us that the teachers are approachable, inclusive and easy to contact – ‘we have a lot more contact with teachers here than...The art we saw was stunning, from vast oils to giant, multi-coloured installations. ‘We’ll make the space for anything they want to do,’ said one of the art teachers. Not surprisingly...

Read review »

What the school says...

At Bryanston our aim is to develop well-balanced 18-year-olds, ready to go out into the wider world, to lead happy and fulfilling lives and to contribute, positively and generously.

We provide every pupil with individual attention and support. The school's tailored approach means that pupils benefit from extensive one-to-one time with their tutor providing the academic and pastoral encouragement they need to achieve their full potential as individuals.

We believe pupils do best when they learn to relish every opportunity and discover their own individual talents and interests, exploring them to the best of their abilities. Pupils are encouraged to experience a wide range of academic subjects and extra-curricular activities, all of which helps them to discover areas where they can flourish and excel.

Education is not about moulding, nor are children end products. We believe that education is an exciting process, organic and ongoing; that pupils learn better actively, growing up in secure surroundings, than if passively taught; that to lead successful lives, at school and beyond, each needs to be prepared to give of his or her own talents and to value those of others.
...Read more

Do you know this school?

The schools we choose, and what we say about them, are founded on parents’ views. If you know this school, please share your views with us.

Please login to post a comment.


International Baccalaureate: diploma - the diploma is the familiar A-level equivalent.


Equestrian centre or equestrian team - school has own equestrian centre or an equestrian team.




What The Good Schools Guide says


Since 2022, Richard Jones, previously acting head. Educated at Arnold School in Blackpool, the University of Nottingham, where he studied industrial economics, and the University of Buckingham, where he did a master’s in educational leadership. He originally planned a City career but changed his mind and worked in recruitment for a while, then went travelling. While he was in New Zealand he hit on the idea of buying second-hand camper vans and hiring them out to backpackers (very ahead of his time). On his return he worked in the energy sector before doing a speedy about-turn and deciding to teach. ‘One of my best friends was in teaching,’ he says. ‘I went along to his school for a few days and absolutely loved it.’ He did his teacher training at Cranbourne Business and Enterprise College, an 11-16 school in Basingstoke, then moved to St John’s, Leatherhead, where he taught economics and became a day housemaster. Next came Canford, where he spent four years as a boarding housemaster, and then Bryanston, where he was appointed as senior deputy head in 2020, acting head in 2021 and head a few months later.

He's passionate about his subject but these days it’s hard to shoehorn economics classes into his busy role. Instead, he teaches the D Method, introducing year 9 pupils to Bryanston’s philosophy of encouraging ‘independent, creative and unbounded’ thinking and getting them to work on a project they choose themselves. Recent choices include fast fashion, the pay in women’s cricket, the geography of Val d’Isère and the leadership style of Sir Alex Ferguson.

The head reckons the Bryanston ethos, with its focus on independence and creative thinking, is ‘unique’. ‘When Bryanston was founded it was highly innovative, and the school remains progressive and relevant,’ he says. ‘The one-to-one tutoring is a real USP of the school – the ability for every pupil to have a coach/mentor they see every week.’ He talks passionately about the four areas that he wants Bryanston to excel in (he calls these the ‘four key pillars’) – the creative and performing arts, sport and wellbeing, entrepreneurship and innovation and the digital world. ‘Our approach provides pupils with the skills that industry leaders are now demanding,’ he says.

Youthful and dynamic, he lives in a house on-site with his nutritionist wife Emily, their two sons, who are both pupils at Bryanston Prep, and a fox red Labrador called Jessie. Out of school he loves rugby, running and swimming – ‘it’s my thinking time,’ he says. He’s sporting enough to appear on Bry Radio, the pupils’ radio station, which broadcasts twice a week and for some reason has a loyal following in South America. His ‘Bry Island Discs’ included 1990s tracks by Oasis and N-Trance – ‘pretty cool choices,’ according to pupils. The parents we spoke to were overwhelmingly positive about him. ‘He understands the DNA of what makes Bryanston special and what makes the school tick,’ said one father, a former Bryanstonian himself. Another described him as ‘likeable and approachable’, adding: ‘He’s making things a bit stricter but keeping the character of the school’. ‘The kids really like him,’ said a third.


Bryanston joined forces with nearby Knighton House (now Bryanston Prep) in 2021 to form a 3-18 school. At 13, pupils arrive at the senior school from about 90 different preps, including Windlesham House, Walhampton, Port Regis, Dumpton and Bryanston Prep itself. Like many senior schools, admissions have changed in recent years, moving away from ISEB pre-tests and Common Entrance and using CAT4 tests to assess academic ability and potential. The school is planning to run activity experience days (usually six a year) to get to know prospective pupils individually. Places can be secured in years 6, 7 or 8. ‘We offer 130 to 135 places a year so the sooner they secure places the better,’ says the head of admissions.

Around 40 to 50 new pupils join the sixth form, including pupils from local state schools and girls’ schools and international students. Youngsters need 40 points at GCSE (the same as for current students), plus sit CAT4 tests and have an interview.


Around 10 per cent leave after GCSEs. At 18, most head to university, but growing numbers are interested in degree apprenticeships (one boy recently scooped a degree apprenticeship at JP Morgan) and some join the forces. Oxford Brookes, Manchester, Newcastle, Bristol and Exeter are among the most popular destinations. One to Oxbridge in 2022. Usually plenty overseas – in 2022 pupils progressed to NYU, École Hôtelière de Lausanne, Hult International Business School, Middlebury College, Rhode Island School of Design, ESCP, École Ducasse, TU Wien and Maastricht among others. ‘But we like the fact that it’s not all about university,’ a mother told us. ‘Different destinations are celebrated.’

Latest results

In 2022, 55 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 39 per cent A*/A at A level (72 per cent A*-B); IB average point score 37. In 2019 (the last pre-pandemic results), 48 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 23 per cent A*/A at A level (54 per cent A*-B).

Teaching and learning

Bryanston was one of the first schools to adopt the Dalton Plan, a combination of lessons in the classroom and time for individual assignment work. Right from its inception, pupils filled in a daily written chart showing how they used their working and leisure time and met with their tutors every week to discuss their progress. The chart is electronic today but the principle remains. ’We get very detailed feedback – and parents can access them whenever they want to as well,’ a pupil told us.

The school offers A levels and the IB in the sixth form (as well as the IB Career-Related Programme). Only 15 per cent take the IB at present but the head is a big fan of the qualification and predicts that it will build. ‘All of our A3 [year 12] scholars are doing the IB this year,’ he says. ‘I chose it because I’m considering going abroad to university,’ a sixth former told us. Virtually any combination of A levels is possible, with maths the most popular subject. Around a third do the EPQ. A teacher who arrived from an independent grammar school says that the pupils’ curiosity and eagerness to ask questions struck him from the start (as well as the fact that they don’t stand up when teachers arrive in the classroom). We spoke to a parent whose son had previously attended a state school where there was good teaching but pupils weren’t necessarily committed to learning. ‘My bright, bubbly boy exploded into life when he got to Bryanston,’ he said. ‘It encourages kids to do stuff, to explore and try new things.’

Other distinctive features at Bryanston include correction periods for sixth formers. Year 12s and 13s (and sometimes year 11s) are set an assignment for the week and then talk about their work with their teachers. The tutor system is an integral part of Bryanston life. Pupils meet their tutors one-to-one at least once a week to discuss their studies, extracurricular commitments, achievements and aspirations, as well as any challenges and concerns. Instead of a central library there are departmental ones with specialist teachers on hand to help. Parents told us that the teachers are approachable, inclusive and easy to contact – ‘we have a lot more contact with teachers here than at my daughter’s prep school,’ said one father approvingly.

Learning support and SEN

Individual tuition is available for those who need additional help with their learning and takes place at times when it won’t get in the way of pupils’ academic timetable. The department comprises six staff, including a learning support assistant who goes into class. Around a quarter of pupils have learning support for needs like dyslexia and working memory and processing speed issues. Maths support is also in high demand.

The arts and extracurricular

The vast number of arty alumni bears testimony to the school’s outstanding arts provision – in art, Lucian Freud and Howard Hodgkin, in music, Sir John Eliot Gardner, Sir Mark Elder and Mark Wigglesworth and in TV and film, Emilia Fox, Freddie Fox and Ben Fogle. Not to mention design supremos like Terence, Jasper and Sebastian Conran and Quinlan Terry.

Music is out of this world, with myriad opportunities at the stunning, three-floor music school, named after former Bryanston head Tom Wheare. It boasts a 300-seater concert hall of university standard, a recital room, lots of practice rooms and a recording studio that can record and livestream concerts to YouTube. The breadth of music is astonishing – everything from classical to African drumming plus any number of ensembles and choirs. There’s even a Bry Masked Singer (Teacher) singing competition with staff performing as Dapper Dog, Gingerbread Man et al. A parent recalled going to a Bryanston concert at Holy Trinity Church in London’s Sloane Square where one in seven pupils were performing. Along with the superb music from the orchestra, concert band, big band and show choir, ‘what was palpable was the support they gave each other.'

Art is housed in a separate, custom-built building, with eight studios kitted out for painting, sculpture, ceramics, textiles and more. The art we saw was stunning, from vast oils to giant, multi-coloured installations. ‘We’ll make the space for anything they want to do,’ said one of the art teachers. Not surprisingly, 80 to 90 a year take art GCSE, 30 study the subject at A level and around 15 head to art foundation courses. Drama is equally impressive. With the Coade Hall (a purpose-built theatre) and the Greek Theatre, where outdoor productions are staged, there are plenty of opportunities for budding thespians. The school stages up to 20 productions a year, including the annual house drama festival where boys and girls’ houses team up to stage plays together.

Thorold Coade, who led the school from 1932 to 1959, believed the purpose of education was ‘the widening and deepening of the experience of life’ and his philosophy holds true today. There’s an abundance of co-curricular activities, everything you can think of, from knitting squares for blankets for orphaned children in South Africa to DofE to ‘pioneering’, where pupils work as classroom assistants in local primary schools, maintain woodland and pathways, host senior citizens and help at Riding for the Disabled events. ‘I’m never bored here,’ a sixth former told us. ‘The weeks fly by.’


In keeping with the idea of Bryanston being a place where you can ‘discover who you are and what you want to be’, there’s high level coaching for pupils who love their sport as well as healthy fun for those who simply want to run around and keep fit. Lots of former pupils have made it into national teams, including rugby players Charlie Ewels and Ollie Devoto, who have both played for England in recent years. At the time of our visit the first XV was unbeaten all season while girls had notched up notable successes in hockey and netball. Masses of other sporting opportunities too – from basketball, badminton and football to girls’ only gym sessions, street dance, jazz, ballet and tap. One of our sixth form guides said she had taken up Eton Fives – ‘I thought I would do something different,’ she said.

The sports centre is an outstanding resource, with a gym (sports staff can create personalised programmes for pupils), 25-metre swimming pool, three sports halls, a dance studio, and an indoor bouldering room. The performance sport suite (complete with a 40-metre sprint track) has even been used by the likes of AFC Bournemouth, Southampton FC and Team Bath Netball.


Two-thirds of the school board, but day pupils all have a bed in their houses (day pupils can go home at 6pm or stay and do their prep till 9pm). Twelve houses in all – five for girls, five for boys and two for year 9 boys. ‘It allows the youngest boys to settle in before they join the older ones,’ says a parent. Youngest pupils are in rooms of four while sixth formers tend to be in ones and twos. Year 9s do homework in prep rooms in the boarding houses, with year 13s on duty to make sure they are working. The houses we saw were bright and wholesome, each headed by a houseparent and with a matron, live-in residents and a house team made up of teaching staff. Entrance to all the boarding houses is by facial recognition systems at the door.

Weekends are action-packed for boarders, with pupil-led events like plays, concerts, debates and charity days, house and year group activities (such as cinema trips, discos, bowling and Laser Tag) and on-site pursuits like quizzes and cooking sessions. Ninety per cent of boarders stay at school during whole school weekends but there are also open weekends, when a third to a half go home. Four exeats a year, when the school closes, although IB pupils are allowed to stay during the summer exeat if it’s close to their exams.

Ethos and heritage

The Bryanston estate runs to an impressive 400 acres in rural Dorset and is centred around a redbrick country mansion designed and built by Norman Shaw in the late 19th century. The school itself was founded in 1928 by JG Jeffreys, an innovative young Australian. At the time you could buy a country house for a song, start a school and do things very differently from the traditional public schools of old. He chose the school crest, a rising sun, and the school motto, ‘Et Nova Et Vetera’ (‘both new and old’), and brought in the Dalton Plan, which at the time was very novel.

In the 1970s and 80s the school was described as ‘progressive’ but many agree that this description was lazy stereotyping. Yes, there’s no school uniform but there are also no first names for teachers (one of the deputy heads told us that pupils who left 12 years ago still address him as ‘sir’ in their emails). A sixth former said that before joining the school friends heading elsewhere told him: ‘You’ll be able to do whatever you want there.’ ‘It’s not true,’ he insisted to us. ‘I wouldn’t say it’s strict, but it isn’t as liberal as outsiders suspect it is.’ Teachers and parents concur with his view. ‘The boundaries here are very clear and very fair,’ said a teacher. ‘Pupils know what the expectations are.’ ‘There is a real sense of purpose about the school,’ remarked a parent. ‘It’s very business-like when it needs to be but it’s laidback and comfortable in its own skin too.’

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

Parents agree that Bryanston’s pastoral care is key to its success. Every pupil-tutor meeting starts with tutors asking: ‘How are you? How are you feeling?’ A father described his son’s tutor as ‘superb’. ‘She understands him and she is very good at diplomatic nudges when it comes to dealing with workload, commitments and GCSE choices. She’ll say: “Have you thought about this or that?”’ Another described pastoral care as ‘off the chart amazing’. When their child had an issue she said that their tutor and housemistress were ‘outstanding’ and ‘so quickly on to it’. A mother who has sent four children to Bryanston reckons it goes the extra mile to support pupils, whatever their interests. ‘It’s a really warm, lovely, nurturing place,’ she said. ‘My daughter was about to start her A levels when she got an amazing opportunity in the fashion industry and Bryanston supported her the entire way. She wouldn’t be where she is now without them.’

Teachers are trained in mental health and all staff have received training in LGBTQ+ issues. Pupils told us that if they need help there are plenty of people to talk to, including tutors, houseparents, matrons, an independent listener (with whom they can make appointments by email or phone), a safeguarding officer and a mental health nurse at the medical centre. Year 12 pupils act as mentors to new year 9s. They receive training at the outset and help their charges to settle in. There’s also a strong focus on pupils’ quality of sleep, diet and exercise.

Years 9 to 11 pupils wear polo shirts and black trousers or skirts while sixth formers get more choice – ‘as long as they look smart and tidy’, we were told. The food is exceptional, eaten in a vast dining hall designed by former pupil Terence Conran. We were particularly impressed by posters signposting the ingredients of every single dish. Along the basement corridor there’s a popular café, serving panini, cakes, tea and coffee to pupils and staff. ‘The café staff know the pupils really well so if they spot that anyone is down, they’ll pass it on,’ a sixth former told us. Year 13 pupils can gather at the A2 social; they are allowed one drink on a Friday evening and two on a Saturday night.

Pupils and parents

The school is 50:50 boys and girls and around 15 to 20 per cent come from abroad – from places like Germany, Spain, China, Hong Kong, the US, Kenya, UAE, Mexico and the Caribbean. Bryanston prides itself on not having a particular ‘type’ of pupil and parents like the fact that the school suits brothers and sisters of differing personalities and talents. ‘Bryanston is an eclectic mix of kids,’ a teacher told us and that was our impression too. The pupils we met were a delight – charming, engaging and full of plans for the future. ‘My time at Bryanston means that I can talk to anyone,’ said a former pupil. ‘Nothing fazes me.’ Meanwhile a current pupil told us that the teens who thrive at Bryanston are those ‘who want to contribute and to embrace the opportunities here.’ Some are from wealthy families but it isn’t the school’s style to flash the cash or wear designer labels. It’s also a school that engenders huge loyalty – 8 out of the 14 governors are former pupils, five teachers previously attended the school and lots of old Bryanstonians send their children here.

Most boarders live up to 90 minutes or so away, but a good number come from London and further afield. Coaches from London, Oxford, Exeter, Lewes, Southampton and Heathrow ferry pupils to and from school at the start and end of term.

Money matters

Academic, music, art, DT, performing arts, sport and all-rounder scholarships offered at 13+ while at 16+ academic, music, art, performing arts and sport scholarships available. All scholarships are capped at 10 per cent of the fees but the school offers a range of bursaries of up to 100 per cent. Around 13 per cent of pupils receive a scholarship with fee remissions attached and 31 per cent receive some form of financial support.

The last word

Bryanston is a school that feels good about itself. Yes, the facilities and grounds are second to none, but it’s superbly staffed, safe, kind, rigorous and hugely likeable. It cleverly strikes exactly the right balance between giving teenagers a sensible amount of structure and allowing them the freedom to be themselves. It’s a winning combination.

Please note: Independent schools frequently offer IGCSEs or other qualifications alongside or as an alternative to GCSE. The DfE does not record performance data for these exams so independent school GCSE data is frequently misleading; parents should check the results with the schools.

Who came from where

Who goes where

Special Education Needs

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
English as an additional language (EAL)
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class Y
HI - Hearing Impairment
Hospital School
Mental health
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
PD - Physical Disability
PMLD - Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty
SEMH - Social, Emotional and Mental Health
SLCN - Speech, Language and Communication
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
VI - Visual Impairment

Who came from where

Subscribe for instant access to in-depth reviews:

☑ 30,000 Independent, state and special schools in our parent-friendly interactive directory
☑ Instant access to in-depth UK school reviews
☑ Honest, opinionated and fearless independent reviews of over 1,000 schools
☑ Independent tutor company reviews

Try before you buy - The Charter School Southwark

Buy Now

GSG Blog >

The Good Schools Guide newsletter

Educational insight in your inbox. Sign up for our popular newsletters.