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What says..

Old-fashioned virtues of shaking hands after matches and entertaining away teams are held in high regard (the school’s homemade Battenberg is much admired too). The rambling country house at the heart of the school is tucked away in 50 acres on the outskirts of Corfe Mullen and the site boasts everything a child could wish for – 17 acres of woodland to play in, two adventure playgrounds, a 17-ft tepee and a menagerie of guinea pigs...

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What the school says...

Set in a truly idyllic 60 acre setting between Poole and Wimborne, the school has a well established and enviable academic record, but complements this with a strong musical and artistic tradition and excellent contacts with national sportsmen and coaches. Castle Court is highly committed to its 'Forest School' programme, making full use of its unique and adventurous surroundings. With these opportunities, each child has a breadth of experience and opportunity. Our aim is to allow every child to be an individual and thrive. ...Read more

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What The Good Schools Guide says


Since January 2019, Luke Gollings, previously deputy and acting head. He worked as a gap student here in his early 20s, and later teaching roles included housemaster at the Old Malt House School and at Monkton Prep. After a year as sales director in Central and South America, he returned to teaching as deputy head here. His wife, Kate, is an Old Castellan.


Children visit with their parents prior to starting but no interviews or formal testing. The most common entry points are nursery, reception and year 3 (where there’s a three-form entry) but it’s worth trying in other years too. Some year groups are full so places further up the school may be harder to come by.


At 13, around a third head to Canford (just down the road), others to Bryanston, Clayesmore, Poole Grammar, Bournemouth Collegiate, Talbot Heath, Thomas Hardye, Winchester, St Edwards, Milton Abbey, Bournemouth School for Boys, Parkstone Grammar, Corfe Hills, Queen Elizabeth (Wimborne). Most to co-ed schools and a third choose boarding. An impressive array of scholarships and exhibitions (11 in 2020). Up to 10 pupils a year leave at 11 for the four local grammars. School runs grammar school preparation sessions for boys applying to Poole Grammar and Bournemouth School and for girls applying to Parkstone Grammar and Bournemouth School for Girls.

Our view

Delightfully rural, yet accessible too, just a few miles from the coastal towns of Bournemouth and Poole. Founded in 1948 and moved to its present site in 1968. The rambling country house at the heart of the school is tucked away in 60 acres on the outskirts of Corfe Mullen and the site boasts everything a child could wish for – 17 acres of woodland to play in, two adventure playgrounds, a 17-ft tepee and a menagerie of guinea pigs, chickens and four pigs. The place has a Famous Five feel to it (indeed Enid Blyton’s famous novels were inspired by her holidays at nearby Studland), with children encouraged to enjoy the great outdoors, pond-dipping, badger watching and making camps in the woods. Girls were admitted for the first time in the 1970s and a female teacher is ‘head of girls’.

Older pupils taught by subject specialists. Maths set by ability from year 1, English from year 3 and Latin, languages and science from year 6. French taught from reception, Spanish from year 3 and most do Latin from year 5. Teaching is exciting and forward thinking. Maximum class sizes of 16 in reception and 18 after that. Each child has a form tutor (who may or may not teach them) and tutor groups meet every morning. ‘The children know that their form tutor is the first person they go to if they’ve got a problem. We believe that if they are happy they will learn.’ Pupils’ progress carefully tracked, although director of studies points out that while data is important, it’s simply ‘a tool’. ‘We don’t reduce the children to a number,’ she says. Year 3 pupils and up are given iPads (no 3G though). Children take them to every lesson but aren’t allowed to use them at break-times or on the bus. Year 3 and 4 pupils leave them in smart red lockers at the end of the day but older children are allowed to take them home (not at half-term or in the holidays).

All pupils screened for dyslexia from year 2 onwards. Learning development department is housed in three rooms – 10 per cent of pupils receive support for dyslexia, dyspraxia and mild or moderate communication, emotional or behavioural needs, either one to one or in small groups. A healthy mix of experienced and more recently qualified teachers (during our visit we met a geography teacher who was about to celebrate his 100th term at the school). ‘We want people with experience and longevity and people with fresh ideas,’ says the school.

School is very sporty. Boys play football, rugby, cricket, tennis and athletics and girls do hockey, netball, rounders, cricket, tennis and athletics. Facilities are excellent, including a full-size Astroturf, eight games pitches, five tennis courts and a 22-metre swimming pool. New sports hall. Old-fashioned virtues of shaking hands after matches and entertaining away teams are held in high regard (the school’s homemade Battenberg is much admired too). Tennis and swimming academies are popular and older children get the chance to try other sports, like rowing, sailing and golf. ‘It’s about getting to know what suits them.' Year 3 children camp in the woods each summer, year 4 camps off-site, year 5 goes to Normandy and year 6 heads to the Dorset coast, where they try their hands at kayaking and coasteering.

Music is excellent, with 70 per cent taking instrument lessons, mostly from year 3. A plethora of music groups to join, including junior and senior orchestras, rock bands (‘an Ed Sheeran number had all the mums in tears,’ says the head), a guitar group, string ensemble, clarinet ensemble, even a samba group. Art and DT are impressive. The first thing visitors see when they walk into the school is a stunning sculpture of multicoloured birds in a papier-mâché tree. We admired the pop art skateboards created by year 8 pupils too. New design centre includes a pottery studio. Drama galore – ‘we get them up on stage as much as possible,’ say staff. Every pupil gets their moment in the spotlight – a year 3 performance of Alice in Wonderland featured 13 Alices. In the same vein, every child is invited on to the stage on speech day to receive a book.

Nursery and pre-prep children are housed in the main school so they’re very much part of things. Bright, welcoming classrooms buzzing with activity, plus a forest school. Nursery and pre-prep head says ‘small children like to be active and busy’ – and they certainly are here. They venture outside in all weathers, kitted out in wellies and jazzy red and blue splash-suits. When we visited we saw a reception class enjoying a ‘Smartie maths’ lesson, where the children were enthusiastically counting different coloured Smarties and recording them on a graph. No eating allowed – but teachers promised they could take the sweets home for half-term.

Food is cooked on-site and the whole school sits down to lunch together, younger children with their year groups, older ones with their houses. No cafeteria system – teachers sit at each table and serve out the lunch. Pupils stay on the same table for a term, then move round. Grace said at the start. When we visited the pupils happily tucked into homemade pizza, potatoes and salad, followed by Rice Krispie cakes and chocolate sauce. ‘The food’s good here,’ said one boy appreciatively. ‘Especially the Eton mess.’ They take it in turns to stack the plates and clear away.

Breakfast club opens from 7.45am for children from year 1 (younger ones by special arrangement) – a boon for working parents. School day finishes at 4.15pm but there’s a host of after-school activities, everything from film making and ‘pig patrol’ to cross-country and mountain biking. Children can do their homework at school but the school prefers them to take it home – so they learn to be organised and parents get an idea of what they are doing.

Year 7s and 8s get the opportunity to be prefects – ‘everyone has a chance' – but there’s no head boy or head girl. Pupils’ uniform looks very smart. Ties for boys and girls and chic stripy blazers that fashion-conscious parents reckon bear a distinct resemblance to a recent Mulberry collection. We heard a few quibbles about the price but apart from that everyone seems to love them.

Pupils are sparky and enthusiastic but ultra-polite, standing up when visitors enter the classroom. Good communication between school and parents – teachers’ email addresses available to all, plus parents’ evenings in the autumn and spring terms and a written report in the summer. Pre-prep children’s red diaries go back and forth between school and home each day, keeping parents up to date with pupils’ progress. School also provides a very civilised sitting room, where parents can sit and have a coffee. Pupils come from all over – lots from Poole, Bournemouth and Wimborne and others from Ringwood, Blandford, Swanage, Wareham, Dorchester and Weymouth. Fourteen minibuses ferry children to and from school in the mornings and afternoons. Parents include quite a few old Castellans and some who have relocated from London. No open days: ‘Every day is an open day here.’

Money matters

Scholarships offered, plus some means-tested bursaries.

The last word

Children seem to have a whale of a time here, while achieving impressive results.

Special Education Needs

Our hope is that all the children will be able to keep up with the general pace of academic life in the school, but we appreciate that, for some children to reach their full potential usually those with mild to moderate dyslexia or dyspraxia) a little extra support may be needed. An attractive purpose-built suite of rooms in a quiet part of the school provides a welcoming environment for those children with special needs. The department is well-equipped, including up-to-date computer software for pupils with mild learning difficulties. Four suitably qualified staff are able to deliver teaching programmes, generally on a one-to-one basis, tailored to meet the needs of the individual child. In the junior part of the school we also provide assistance in the classroom, either to individuals or to small groups, as the need arises.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
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

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