A West Country school with incredible facilities spread across acres of land where students are stretched academically and encouraged to broaden through horizons.
It’s a school with plenty of wide-open space, which is used extensively to offer an holistic education that is delivered in the fresh air as much as in the classroom. There’s a huge outdoor classroom by the lake that is used increasingly for forest school, bushcraft, sport and outdoor lessons; break times have recently been extended to allow time for more outdoor play, and outdoor education is part of the curriculum more than ever.
Located just outside Blandford Forum, and with its stunning manor house, lake and 62-acre site the school feels rural but well-connected (and a train to London is only a couple of hours). It’s a school that stays true to the traditional values of its founder, and encourages students to be selfless, compassionate and generous. But Clayesmore is also a dynamic, forward-thinking school that keeps learning fresh and relevant. In the last few years, it has introduced a huge selection of BTECs and replaced the traditional Saturday school with an innovative LEX programme (named after the founder, Lex Devine) that focuses on five ‘pillars’ – the Great Outdoors; Arts, Creativity and Culture; Enterprise/Employability; Academic Extension; and Service/Leadership.
There’s a 50:50 split of day and boarding students, and the whole community comes together every day of the week including LEX activities and sports matches on Saturdays. Around 15% are international students, coming from Germany, Austria, Spain, China, Hong Kong, Turkey, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, France, Italy and the UAE.
The Prep school offers specialist teaching for music, French, games, PE, swimming, design technology and art. Years 7-8 follow the Common Entrance syllabus for English, maths and science. In Year 9, the first year of Senior School, students study subjects in more depth, and biology, physics and chemistry are taught as separate subjects. Languages offered right through to GCSE and A Level include German, French and Spanish; creative subjects at GCSE include art & design, design & technology, drama, food preparation & nutrition and music.
In the Sixth From students choose between A Levels or BTECs, offering them the freedom to follow their choice of an academic, creative or vocational pathway.
Far from being too prescriptive, the choice of A Level subjects is as varied as photography, psychology, economics, music and Spanish. There’s also a really impressive choice of BTECs – in Enterprise and Entrepreneurship, IT, Music Technology, Sport, Health and Social Care, Performing or Production Arts, and Hospitality.
Clayesmore is about so much more than grades; it’s about preparing students for life beyond Sixth Form. The best example of this is the new LEX programme where students may learn about personal finance or how to build a website in the Enterprise and Employability pillar, learn to sail in The Great Outdoors, or take part in a song writing workshop for in Arts, Creativity and Culture.
Another highlight is the LEAP programme for Sixth Formers, a well-considered programme that includes an employability day that equips students with practical career skills, as well as workshops on study skills, leadership, gap year programmes and EPQs.
Both music and sport are thriving at Clayesmore which has always had a focus as much outside the classroom as what goes on in it.
Students are encouraged to play in competitive matches as often as possible, and hockey and cricket are particularly strong. It’s been listed in Cricketer Magazine’s top 100 schools for cricket for the past six years, there is a very popular girls' cricket team, and it has frequent wins against neighbouring Bryanston and Canford schools. Students also compete at a high level in equestrian sports and skiing.
It’s not all about tournaments and trophies, though. Sport at Clayesmore is inclusive, it’s taught three times a week from Years 9-11, and students are encouraged to try new sports and develop a positive attitude towards fitness. There is no doubt that the more a pupil loves their sports, the more quickly they will find their place.
As well as timetabled lessons in football, rugby, hockey, tennis, athletics, swimming, cross country, and netball, sports including basketball, squash, rowing and sailing are offered as extra-curricular activities.
Clayesmore has excellent sporting facilities including a full size, all-weather hockey pitch and a mountain bike track. Its Sports Centre is a hub for sporting activity with its large hall, indoor cricket nets, badminton and squash courts, dance and gymnastics studio, fitness suite and indoor 25m swimming pool.
There’s also a love for the arts. In music, students learn every type of instrument including the violin in Year 4 and the ukulele in Year 5 – and there’s even the option of learning the bagpipes. Art and photography are another strength and Clayesmore send many talented students every year to leading art schools including Central St Martins, Falmouth, UCL and the London College of Communication.
Fine art, photography, fashion, textiles, sculpture, ceramics and pottery, dance, ballet and drama are all taught through to Sixth Form. Students have the freedom and facilities to explore these art forms beyond the classroom. It’s drama that really takes centre stage. A student-elected Theatre Committee runs the school theatre company; senior students write their own plays, pitch them and then direct them; and, during the pandemic, students even live streamed a production to an audience of family and friends. There’s also a wonderful 160-seat theatre for students to perform in.
There are 140 extra-curricular clubs to cover all interests and age groups, and there are LEX weekend clubs in activities as varied as Lego, survival skills, 3D printing, Japanese and dance. Sixth Formers develop skills for life, whether growing an idea in Young Enterprise, debating topical issues at Model United Nations events, teaching languages in a local primary school or tackling the challenges of the Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award.
As the school says,
“A Level and BTEC success does not always mean studying at a Russell Group university, although we have plenty who achieve that goal.”
The school has excellent grades at GCSE, A Level and BTEC, which is almost certainly a result of offering such a varied range of courses. Clayesmore says it identifies where students’ strengths are and then nurtures the individual to purse the pathway that’s right for them – and that includes conservatoires, specialist art and drama colleges, the military, and professional apprenticeships (not just top universities).
There’s no typical Clayesmore student. At BTEC, Enterprise and Entrepreneurship, Sport, and Hospitality are the most popular options; at A Level, the most popular subjects are geography, psychology, photography, business, art and design, and history.
2021 GCSE: 40.5% achieved an A*-A/9-7 grades.
2021 A Level: 33.3% of students achieved an A*-A grade; 64.6% an A*-B grade.
2021 BTEC: 68.3% achieved a Distinction* or Distinction.
Students can board from Year 3 at Clayesmore. The school has five single sex boarding houses; boys join Gate, Devine or Manor and girls join King’s or Wolverton, each run by houseparents with a team of matrons and tutors offering pastoral and academic support. The Prep boarding home for around 70 students in Years 3-8 has a strong focus on creating that home away from home atmosphere for the school’s youngest boarders; it’s run by houseparents with two children and their very popular black Labrador, Nancy Willow.
One boarding house is in the former village rectory where students enjoy a wonderful garden with a small football pitch. Another is a purpose-built boarding house by the lake where there’s a wonderful community spirit with 'family' groups of girls and regular Crumpet Frumpet Fridays.
For the Prep school, students attend a taster day. All prospective students applying to the Senior school take a short entrance test in both English and maths; children joining in Year 9 from Prep schools usually take the Common Entrance exams.
While Clayesmore is a mainstream school it has an excellent SEN department that offers excellent support to dyslexic students; teachers are experienced with, and supportive of, dyslexic students and are dyslexic-friendly in the way they teach.
Annual day fees range from £8,025 to £27,756, and boarding fees are £26,124 to £37,824.
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