Bryanston Prep is a small co-ed rural Prep school in Dorset which offers a bespoke curriculum that focuses on the individual and offers a learning journey that’s filled with plenty of fun and hands-on, outdoor experiences.
Set within over 30 acres of Dorset countryside, this Pre-prep and Prep school enrols just 100 boys and girls aged three to 13 years (Nursery to Year 8). Previously an all-girls’ school, Bryanston Prep has only recently become fully co-ed so there is still a higher numbers of girls across the year groups. The school offers boarding to a small number of around 20 students. Typical of a small prep, there’s a close-knit community with a friendly and nurturing environment that will appeal to many families with young children.
Founded in 1950, the school has seen several key changes. In 2020, it decided to make the move towards co-education, welcoming back boys to the school for the first time in over 60 years. Then in 2021 the school, previously named Knighton House Prep School, merged with Bryanston and was named Bryanston Knighton House (BKH); in September 2022 it was officially renamed Bryanston Prep, which makes it an all-through school for three to 18-year-olds. Historically the majority of Bryanston Prep students have moved onto Bryanston, but there are also many accepting places at Sherborne Girls, St Mary’s Shaftesbury, Canford and Leweston School.
Outdoor learning is part of daily life here. The school takes full advantage of its beautiful rural setting (also home to several horses and farm animals) by taking learning outdoors, whether story-making, art, den building, orienteering or investigating a maths problem. It’s very much a school that wants ‘children to be children’, and there are regular Out and About and Forest School sessions.
Headmaster Will Lockett joined at the time of the merger in 2021. A former housemaster at Bryanston, he has experience of running a Prep school as head of Abberley Hall School.
At Bryanston Prep it’s about how children learn, not just what they learn – and it’s this mantra that informs the school’s bespoke and curriculum. The KED – Knowledge, Enlightenment and Discovery – curriculum at Bryanston Prep focuses on certain behaviours that are important for life-long learning; this ranges from Observation and Imagination in Nursery to Self-knowledge and Evaluation in Year 8.
Through KED, students are taught how a ‘good learner’ behaves. It prepares students well for their move into the secondary education at Bryanston, if they choose to do so. Bryanston has really taken advantage of its ‘independent’ status by developing an approach to education that is very much focused on the individual and independent learning from Year 9 upwards – and an education at Bryanston Prep supports this.
While Bryanston Prep has named its curriculum (and added in another acronym for parents to get their head around) it is not radically different in terms of content. The school still teaches the same subjects as most other Prep schools, and subjects including IT, art and music are taught by specialist teachers very early on (from Year 1). Students learn French and add on Latin or Spanish in Year 6. What’s different though is how students and teachers interact. It’s all about letting students ‘try, tinker, and make mistakes’.
Thanks to having such small class sizes (12 students is the maximum here), students also receive enough individual attention to really give them an advantage. Bryanston Prep says:
“Teachers at Knighton genuinely know every child they teach; their strengths, their weaknesses and their action plan to improve. We think this is invaluable.”
Bryanston Prep is currently trialling one-to-one tutorials for students in Years 7-9 based on the well-established programme at Bryanston. In the Senior school, every student is given one-to-one support by a tutor who stays with them throughout their five-year journey at the school. This focus on personalised care and support – with tutors almost taking on a parental role – covers the academic progress and wellbeing of every child.
As one teacher says, if you compared the tutor system at Bryanston to other schools it’s like “chalk and cheese”. Some students may prefer the more traditional tutor group system, but Bryanston believes that by “carefully matching” every student to a tutor (and this is a very well-considered process), they can offer the best individualised education. It’s a five-year commitment for the tutors that often becomes a lifelong relationship.
This one-to-one support increases as students move up the school, and sixth formers have weekly one-to-one ‘correction’ or review sessions with every subject teacher. It’s one of Bryanston’s many strengths. If you’re looking for school to offer a high level of academic support, encouragement and care, then Bryanston ticks the box.
Bryanston Prep does plenty to nurture the sporting and creative talents of its students; as part of the Bryanston family, the Prep school now has access to some impressive facilities for music, drama, D&T and sport which it takes full advantage of.
As you’d expect from a school with lots of lovely outdoor space, Bryanston Prep delivers a strong and varied sports programme as part of its diverse curriculum. There’s hockey, netball and rounders, athletics, cross-country running and swimming, as well as dance (ballet, modern, jazz and tap), riding and fitness. There’s also plenty of opportunity to try new sports: orienteering, climbing, windsurfing, paddleboarding and lacrosse are just some.
There's a strong tradition for horse riding here, and around 70% of students take lessons (the majority have their own horse). Students use the well-established equestrian centre on the Bryanston campus with 25 stables, an outdoor arena, indoor school, cross country schooling fields and show jumping facilities. Students with all levels of horse-riding experience are encouraged to take part in riding lessons, and students with their own horses can opt to ride as their main sport in games lessons. Keen riders are offered extra training by the school’s BHS qualified coaches in its Performance Sport Programme.
Children are taught by specialist teachers for art, drama and music; there are weekly singing lessons; and opportunities to take private instrument lessons (78% of pupils learn a musical instrument, and 25% study two or more). Students showcase their talents in assemblies, music recitals and large-scale performances – and a special mention must go to the very talented Chapel Choir.
Extra-curricular activities are offered as part of the school’s Personal Enrichment Programme, where students can choose anything from plogging and spy skills to pebble painting and Defibrillator training. It’s full of fun, discovery and surprises, and really encourages students to ‘have a go’ at something new.
Students can join Bryanston Prep from three years when they join the Pre-prep, known as The Orchard; the main point of entry is Year 3 (aged seven); students stay at Bryanston Prep until Year 8.
Bryanston Prep is a non-selective school but all students still take part in an assessment to help highlight their strengths and weaknesses to their future teachers.
Annual fees for Reception to Year 8 range from £8,679 to £15,900 for day students, and £18,660 to £24,420 for boarders (Years 3-8).
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