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Excellent results achieved alongside the kind of array of anything extracurricular that anyone could possibly want must be testament to the quality of teaching (‘amazing,’ according to one mother); not that we witnessed many lessons in progress during our visit, interestingly. Full (on) and unapologetic boarding here, with very few day boys (five per cent). Eight houses (soon to be nine, with the reopening of a house previously used by Sherborne International) each with its own distinctive building, character and amount of wisteria. Any unsavoury attitudes to girls are swiftly jumped on: our senior guides told us of a recent incident at CCF where a few boys suggesting that girls weren’t up to it were immediately called out. ‘It’s not all weird and woke, but…

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What the school says...

Founded by King Edward VI in 1550, we are one of just a few full-boarding, all-boys schools in the UK and this, together with our strong partnership with Sherborne Girls, is what makes Sherborne School special. Within this unique framework, Sherborne is an ideal location, giving the opportunity for all to develop in a secure environment whilst encouraging each boy to become self-reliant, confident and ready for the next stage of his education. Sherborne School was given the highest accolade of 'excellent' by the Independent Schools Inspectorate in 2023. Through inspiring teaching, we engage and guide each boy to pursue academic excellence and cultivate a lifelong love of opportunities outside the classroom and encouraging them to develop their sporting, artistic and creative talents. Sherborne lies in the beautiful Dorset countryside and has a direct train to and from Waterloo. ...Read more

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Other features

Choir school - substantial scholarships and bursaries usually available for choristers.

International Study Centre - school has a linked, international study centre for overseas students wishing to improve their English.

UK Independent Schools’ Entry Test


Unusual sports


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




What The Good Schools Guide says


Since 2016, Dr Dominic Luckett BA, DPhil, FRSA, FHA, FCCT. Not the product of the kind of school he now heads, as he freely admits, but with a distinguished academic as well as professional track record. Starting with a congratulatory first in history from the University of Leicester and a doctorate from Oxford, Dr Luckett’s career has taken him to Harrow, Worth School as deputy head and Mill Hill, where he cut his teeth on headship. He arrived at Sherborne at a period of trouble and instability at the top, but his unwavering focus on the most important part of the job – headmastering – is undoubtedly paying off. ‘He’s an educator, not an administrator,’ one mother observed approvingly. Since his arrival he has bolstered the links with Sherborne Girls – ‘so much more than joint activities, though the boys do learn how to treat girls by doing things together, eg CCF’ – and is now CEO of the Sherborne Schools Group, comprising the boys’, Sherborne International and Sherborne Prep, recently taken under that umbrella. It all sounds horribly corporate but doesn’t feel it – they are still three distinct schools.

We were told he was a very busy man with a diary that only worked in half-hour chunks, so we were heartened that our first sight of him was on the steps of Cheap Street Church at the start of an informal lunchtime musical recital, open to anyone and well attended by parents and locals – of that more anon – and then to chat expansively to him over tea in the hallowed drawing room of his private residence. Some of the chat was too hilariously indiscreet to appear in this review, but he did have some serious points to make about privilege, misogyny and the eye-watering expense of the kind of education Sherborne provides. The boys find him ‘attentive, involved, visible, friendly’ and appreciate that he knows them by name – he stopped to ask after the progress and recovery of an injured rugby player sporting a moon-boot when we were walking through the courts. Parents rave about him: ‘Everyone thinks he’s fantastic,’ according to one mother, ‘even the dads, who don’t care that he’s handsome and looks good in a suit’ (agreed). ‘Call me Dominic’ and they do – or Dom Luck behind his back. Strict enough though – ‘The boys are terrified of him,’ one parent told us, so he can clearly fix them with the eye of a basilisk when required.

Married to Cara, a clinical negligence barrister and ‘ferociously bright’, according to her ferociously loyal husband; they have two daughters, both at Sherborne Prep. Spare time might find him paragliding, hill-walking, skiing – or winding his collection of antique clocks, which temporarily deafened us as they struck the hour.


At year 9, but the process starts much earlier. School offers year 6 or year 7 testing for 13+ entry. Boys sit the ISEB Common Pre-Test and are invited to an assessment day for interview, creative writing task and group task. Common Entrance, sat at the usual time at the end of year 8, is used for school setting purposes. Allocation of a boarding house happens in year 8; parents can request up to three but requests from Old Shirburnians are given priority. The school has the final say. A few boys arrive at sixth form, having achieved an average of a grade 4 or above across all their GCSEs and a minimum of a 7 in all subjects to be studied at A level, plus online assessment and interview.


Very little fall-out after GCSE (boys are no longer invited to move on if they don’t get the required grades). Vast majority go on to university, two-thirds to Russell Group; a handful of medics and vets and to Oxbridge (one in 2023). Exeter, Bristol, Leeds, Cardiff, Imperial, Durham, UCL, Newcastle and Southampton the most popular choices, with degree courses tending towards the practical (various aspects of business, engineering, land management) rather than the fanciful. Growing interest in opportunities abroad (seven to overseas universities in 2023, including Boston, McGill, Stanford and Berklee College of Music).

Latest results

In 2023, 46 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 41 per cent A*/A at A level (78 per cent A*-B). In 2019 (the last pre-pandemic results), 52 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 47 per cent A*/A at A level (78 per cent A*-B).

Teaching and learning

Excellent results achieved alongside the kind of array of anything extracurricular that anyone could possibly want must be testament to the quality of teaching (‘amazing,’ according to one mother); not that we witnessed many lessons in progress during our visit, interestingly. Classrooms range from the wonderfully historic (and probably only now used for purposes which don’t require smartboards) such as the Old School Room where signatures scratched into the wood panelling date from 1698 (was it considered vandalism then, we wonder?) via the utilitarian 1950s languages/humanities block and Turing labs to the beautiful Pilkington labs with outstanding wet and dry work areas. The library is exceptional, with its hammer-beam roof and air of quiet scholarship, yet warm and welcoming.

Definitely not a hothouse, but ‘we wanted a school which catered for the super-bright and the medium bright,’ one parent told us. Another talked of the breadth of the academic range (all things are relative, of course) and remarked that that the school ‘knows when to push and when to encourage the boys to relax’. Academic support gets the thumbs-up from both parents and boys.

At GCSE, boys can choose up to four options alongside the core subjects; there is considerable discretion both over the number and choice of GCSEs (no compulsory language, for example): ‘The joy of a full boarding environment is that we can make almost any combination of subjects work,’ as the school says. The same goes for sixth form, where unusually for a school like Sherborne, three BTECs in sport, creative & digital media and enterprise & entrepreneurship are also offered alongside 24 A level choices.

These boys work hard and their prep (halls, in school parlance) is done at set times and places, mostly in boarding houses; younger boys are supervised. Top subjects in their view are sciences, music and art – their alluring facilities may help. Theology gets mixed reviews. Technology seems fully integrated: boys (or doubtless their parents) buy their own laptops equipped with MS Surface Pro, but this does not come at the expense of handwriting.

Learning support and SEN

The learning support department’s home on the edge of the school belies its importance. A staff of six cater mainly for SpLD, but the head of learning support told us that issues like focus and attention span had come to light during online learning. Referrals to the department can come from class teachers, parents or the boys themselves, who might turn up at the welcoming space with its open door policy saying ‘I can’t concentrate’ or ‘My tutor says I should talk to you about revision’. Support is offered either in small groups or one-to-one and links with class teachers are close; emphasis also placed on ‘dents or injuries to self-confidence alongside learning needs’, as the delightful head of SEN put it. As to attitudes – ‘It’s just another thing that boys go off to do,’ she reckons. ‘The boys are not judgy’ – a view borne out by the boys we spoke to. Parents seem pleased with the provision: ‘My dyslexic son thrives on pleasing his phenomenal English teacher,’ one mother reported. The help the department provides to boys in navigating social situations is well regarded. More detail on the website would be helpful, however.

The arts and extracurricular

Truly extensive, with excellent facilities and opportunities. Music probably top of the pops with a charismatic head of department and fabulous dedicated block with intimate concert hall, plus Sherborne Abbey where the school meets regularly for collective worship and lusty hymn-singing and which provides the setting for a rigorous grounding in the English choral tradition for the abbey choir. The chamber choir has just 22 auditioned members, who are well set up for choral scholarships to the UK’s most prestigious universities; the school also recruits its own gap year organ and choral scholars. We were thrilled to visit on a Friday and so able to pop into the weekly Cheap St recital, where musicians of all standards perform. The brass players were by no means perfect but all thoroughly committed to their performance of pieces ranging in difficulty and genre. Q time – an hour after lunch – is set aside specifically for music practice. It pays off: students regularly gain distinctions at grade 8 and some diplomas while still at school.

Drama takes places in the Powell Theatre, but there is a strong tradition of house drama too – Sherborne can list some notable names such as Hugh Bonneville, Charlie Cox, James Purefoy, Jeremy Irons, John Le Mesurier and director Richard Eyre among its old boys, plus Charles Collingwood, the infamous voice of that old patriarch of The Archers, Brian Aldridge, and ITV news anchor Tom Bradby. Many productions happen in conjunction with the girls’ school. Latest plays include The Turn of the Screw and Incident at Vichy.

Art takes place in its own dedicated light bright space, incorporating the Oliver Holt gallery. Work on the depiction of gender was in progress when we visited, and there is art displayed on the walls all over the school. Both the art school and DT workshop, fully equipped with any piece of kit or machinery you could wish for, are open during evenings and weekends and work closely together.

Trips to concerts, plays and exhibitions greatly bolster learning within school. CCF, Ten Tors and DofE provide masses of opportunity to toughen up outside; CCF particularly big here, though entirely voluntary and led by sixth formers: year 10 cadets must earn the right to wear a beret on Remembrance Sunday. Silence is observed all year round on the steps leading up to the chapel out of respect for the Old Shirburnians killed in action and named on the walls. Major General Patrick Cordingley, the distinguished army officer and author, is an OS and former governor.


As extensive as you would expect for a school of this prominence and location, with acres of pitches surrounding it, some running right up to the fence with the girls’ school. Most venerated of these is the Upper, where only the first XV generally get to muddy their boots. Rugby is huge here but not at the expense of everything else and, refreshingly, offered as part of a carousel of choice right from the start: the game plan (ha!) is to ensure that every boy finds a sport he will carry on enjoying once he leaves the school – not just all about compulsory team games and the trophy cabinet while he is there then, though that doesn’t go amiss either.

Hockey, football and cricket plus minority sports like golf, fives and clay pigeon shooting of course, but we picked up some gripes about tennis facilities: an imbalance of grass and hard courts and a low-profile tennis pro. The lack of athletics track to complement the rest of the facilities was also mentioned. Gorgeous indoor pool and slightly tired-looking sports hall shared with the town when the school are not using it; a new indoor sports amenity will rise again in the next year from the ‘very expensive hole in the ground’ we were shown on our tour. Some parents feel that sport plays second fiddle to music, however, and that more recognition could be given to sportsmen outside the first XV or XI for winning less prestigious matches against arch rivals Millfield and Marlborough, for example – a mention in dispatches would be welcome. Those who don’t enjoy ball games might try sailing (school has own boats at nearby reservoir), climbing (at the indoor climbing wall at the girls’ school) or any of the outdoor education on offer.


Full (on) and unapologetic boarding here, with very few day boys (five per cent). Eight houses (soon to be nine, with the reopening of a house previously used by Sherborne International), each with its own distinctive building, character and amount of wisteria, ranging from the historic and ancient School House right in the courts to Lyon, purpose-built 100 years ago and a ten-minute walk away, and the Digby, a former hotel. Large year 9 dorms gradually being subdivided and mixed-aged corridors in the boarding house we were shown; housemasters have considerable autonomy in the way they run their houses, but thankfully the rule of senior boys is a thing of the past; that said, we heard some parental disquiet about ‘ridiculous and old-fashioned hierarchy’ among boys which the school is addressing. Accommodation is cheery, well-maintained and homely – we were charmed by the tangle of bikes, scooters and toys belonging to the housemaster’s young family in the hall; upstairs, dorms were bright, functional and reasonably tidy, with that unmistakeable whiff of trainers thinly veiled with Lynx.

Houses engender fierce loyalty rather than tribalism and the school tries hard to achieve a balance of the brainy, the sporty and the arty in each. Parents can shortlist up to three houses at admission. Most are run by a housemaster and family but one has just appointed its first female housemaster (her chosen title). A team of matrons and tutors, some of whom live in, complete the staff. Boys eat in the central dining hall, a huge echoey space, now showing its age somewhat. A new catering contractor was still bedding down at the time of our visit and, we’d say, still has some work to do. The Friday offering of fish and chips, veggie/vegan gumbo or salad bar was okay, but not comparable with the food at other schools of Sherborne’s calibre. The boys did not comment, but the parents we spoke to certainly did: ‘The amount they spend on pizza is ridiculous’ and ‘We are paying a flipping fortune and they need to get it right.’

Ethos and heritage

Four laughing boys tumbling arm in arm into the street was our first sight of the school and those impressions were not dispelled during our visit. Time and time again we heard how happy the boys are, sometimes from impartial observers. Previous reviews remarked that Sherborne was a place for robust characters only, but this seems to have changed for the better, and more delicate, perhaps initially homesick, flowers can survive, nay thrive. Although it has always had the run of the town whose (bounded and safe) freedom boys and parents simply love, the much closer links with the girls’ school, trumpeted by a big new marketing push highlighting the best of both worlds for secondary education, makes the school feel a much more normal place than some of its traditional rivals. Uniform helps: no tailcoats or wing collars here, but a practical everyday uniform of blues – woolly jumper and shirt – and suits for sixth formers, plus an array of sports kit in house colours.

This despite great antiquity: founded in 1550 as part of the monastery and retaining many sumptuous golden buildings from the time, it has gone through a few iterations, reaching its present one in 1850 owing to the vision of its then headmaster and the arrival of the railway. But it remains true to its founding principles of all-boys education with a Christian ethos and its own chapel and the glorious abbey, sitting foursquare in the centre of this small prosperous Dorset market town, are central to school rhythms, even if some boys ‘struggle with the amount of chapel and abbey’, according to one mother. They will certainly be grounded in Christianity and, if the school gets it right, will leave with the virtues of compassion, kindness, integrity, leadership and service. As one mother put it, ‘I want my boys to come out of Sherborne as nice young men and to aim as high as they possibly can.’ It has often been said that you never meet a Shirburnian you don’t like – we certainly haven’t, past or present.

The Bow award, given to a boy who has made an outstanding contribution to the welfare of other boys, is the most prized accolade at Commem, the annual rather grand speech day. Any unsavoury attitudes to girls are swiftly jumped on: our senior guides told us of a recent incident at CCF where a few boys suggesting that girls weren’t up to it were immediately called out. ‘It’s not all weird and woke, but the head does create expectations of being nice,’ a parent reflected; but one boy said plaintively, ‘I felt I was being told off for being a boy – and I’m only 13!’ in the light of fall-out after the launch of Everyone’s Invited.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

The welfare of the boys in this busy environment is placed centre stage, and was particularly vital during lockdown and the return to school. We heard from both boys and parents that there was always someone to talk to, whether housemasters and motherly matrons whose cosy rooms piled with mending and ironing are a refuge, or tutors, generally swift to spot anyone engulfed by too much work, play or both. One mother of a very homesick boy greatly appreciated the daily phone call and photos and videos of him having fun with other boys, sent by the housemaster.

Gone, thankfully, are the days when being gay meant living out your schooldays in the closet. These days, not fitting the mould of a traditional English schoolboy is not an issue: ‘There is no mould!’ we were told by the boys we spoke to, who went on to tell us about the progressive atmosphere at the school and the active equalities group. We also unearthed a 13-page transgender policy. ‘The hope is for differences to be of no particular consequence,’ in the crisp words of the head. Such a far cry from the school days of Alan Turing, surely the school’s most eminent old boy (even counting Chris Martin) who, having changed the course of recent history, went on to commit suicide rather than submit to chemical castration. A fine bust now adorns a corner of the courts.

Discipline – more about carrot than stick – is implemented by a system of merits (awarded for effort as well as achievement) and issues, which can be removed if improvement (or remorse?) is forthcoming; the expectation of good behaviour and consequences of less than good are spelt out. Rules are enforced on the hoof: ‘Tuck your shirt in!’ and ‘Phone!’ (not allowed in public) barked a housemaster with a wink at two boys in the street. Academic support is offered for unsatisfactory work where appropriate. Matters such as vaping are being clamped down on – it now comes under the umbrella of drug paraphernalia. Enlightened attitudes to alcohol permit it for sixth form only (and nothing stronger than beer or cider) at specified school occasions and permission to visit local pubs for those over 18; everyone is breathalysed on return to his boarding house.

Pupils and parents

Mostly comparatively local: ‘This is not a place where you dump your son and drive off,’ we were told; many from traditional Dorset families, gentry of the south west, Shirburnian dynasties or London – but not exclusively: 76 boys count English as an additional language, the majority being Chinese; some first-time buyers. Seemingly less ostentatious than families from similar schools: ‘There aren’t thousands of helicopters or Bentleys,’ in the words of one mother. The boys we met were charming, open, friendly, candid and grateful for the friends and experiences they have at school.

Money matters

Boarding fees in line with comparable schools and day fees 75 per cent of those. Some extras such as art materials sneaked on to the bill, plus purchases from the school shops and barbers, bookshops and cobblers in town. Scholarships (academic, creative, musical and sporting) carry no more than a 10 per cent reduction; additional financial help can be applied for alongside or outside scholarship provision. Open bursaries exist for bright boys likely to be in the top third of entrance assessments, but amounts awarded depend on the competition in any given year. Scholarship assessments are held each January.

The last word

A traditional boys’ boarding school in an ancient golden setting busy embracing and marketing the best parts of single-sex and co-education with Sherborne Girls, without losing its identity or appeal: ‘Boys will be boys – and girls are welcome,’ as a previous head told us. A kinder place than it once was, with excellent teaching, a mass of opportunities, and a spectacular backdrop that instils a lifelong appreciation of beauty and history.

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

Boys with dyslexia, and other mild specific learning difficulties, are well supported by a team of three in newly refurbished accommodation

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

Who came from where

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