United Kingdom / South West England / Dorset / Sherborne School

Sherborne School Review

This full-boarding and day school offers a traditional single-sex education for boys in Dorset which includes a full programme of academic study, music, art, drama, sport and extra-curricular activities.
At a glance
School type
Private
School phase
Secondary
Inspection rating
Excellent
Availability 2020/21
No data
Availability 2021/22
No data
Annual fee average
GBP 31,500
Annual fees
GBP 31,425 - 31,425
Price band help
Premium
Status
Open
Gender
Opening year
1550
School year
Sep to Jul
Main teacher nationality
United Kingdom
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Sherborne School
School type
Private
School phase
Secondary
Inspection rating
Excellent
Availability 2020/21
No data
Availability 2021/22
No data
Annual fee average
GBP 31,500
Annual fees
GBP 31,425 - 31,425
Price band help
Premium
Status
Open
Gender
Opening year
1550
School year
Sep to Jul
Main teacher nationality
United Kingdom
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This full-boarding and day school offers a traditional single-sex education for boys in Dorset which includes a full programme of academic study, music, art, drama, sport and extra-curricular activities.

Originally founded as a Cathedral School by Adhelm, King of Wessex, this is one of the oldest schools in the UK and was re-founded by King Edward V1 in 1550. Sherborne is an independent school providing an all-boys boarding (and day as a minority), education for about 570 pupils, from ages 13 to eighteen.

It is a very traditional school, based on Christian values and there are two chapel services per week, plus house services, where pupils of all faiths and none are welcome. A mid-sized school, it is set in rural Dorset in a truly beautiful location, with access to trains to London. Sherborne has a solid reputation for producing kind, polite, well -rounded young men and everyone says that you never meet an unpleasant past pupil. The boys are really happy here.

The golden stone buildings and the next door Sherborne Abbey are breathtakingly beautiful and the school has a calm, peaceful air to it, yet it is always bustling with activity. Sherborne offers IGCSEs/GCSEs and A Levels.

The Head since 2016, Dr Dominic Luckett, read history at Leicester and then Oxford, where he achieved a DPhil in early Tudor history. He taught at Harrow, Worth and then became Head of Mill Hill in London. He is proud of Sherborne being a “proper boarding school” with students coming from mainly professional and military families, and from a wide variety of Preparatory schools across the South of England. He is delighted, rightfully so, with being awarded an “Excellent” in every category in the school’s latest ISI inspection in 2015; under his leadership, Sherborne’s academic grades have gone up over the last few years.

Its unique partnership with Sherborne Girls, exemplified in their “Separate Yet Together” campaign, offers a different kind of single sex education. The classrooms and the boarding houses remain single sex but everything else is shared, from drama and music to meeting for coffee in Sherborne town. The schools are next to each other and have a very close relationship, with countless siblings attending the respective schools. Sherborne firmly believes that a single-sex education provides focus “without distraction.”

Like several UK independent schools, Sherborne has branched out internationally; it launched Sherborne Qatar in Doha in 2012.

The curriculum

Upon arrival, mathematics, English and science are the main focus and, alongside these, boys study three humanity subjects, two or three Modern Foreign Languages, Greek or Latin, and creative pursuits. By Fourth Form they can choose four GCSE subjects in addition to the core disciplines.

Modern Foreign Languages are really excellent here and in addition to French, Spanish and German – one of which is compulsory in Third Form – a host of languages are offered off-curriculum including Arabic, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Mandarin and Russian. The utmost effort is taken to make timetables as flexible as possible, so if a boy wishes to study one of these languages for GCSE or A Level, Sherborne will do its best to accommodate this.

Sherborne offers a wide choice of A Levels (25+), and three BTECs, but on top of these there is an Academic Enrichment programme. Students can take a “long-thin” AS or GCSE, which culminates in a public examination and takes two years. There are six subjects on offer, such as geology, or a Modern Foreign Language, but this option is not available to students who take further mathematics.

Alternatively, students can take a year-long skills-based course, which is not examined but teaches them invaluable life skills from a choice including coding, Photoshop, cookery, sculpture and critical thinking. The Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) is also on offer. The EPQ gives students complete autonomy over what they study for an artefact or a 5,000 word essay.

The three BTECs offered here are Creative Digital Media, Sport and Enterprise, and Entrepreneurship.

Sport and the arts

Sports at Sherborne are excellent and everything is on offer, from basketball, squash, fencing and fives to shooting and fly fishing, as well as athletics, rugby, sailing, football and more. The list is long and everyone is kept very busy.

Art is popular with the boys and a huge percentage take both GCSE and A Level, where a variety of media can be studied. History of Art is also taught here and it is popular.

Beyond the classroom

Music has a high status at Sherborne and more than two thirds of the boys play at least one instrument. Music is “woven into the fabric of daily life” and it is a thriving department. The choir sings twice a week in whole-school services held in the Abbey; there are choirs, ensembles, orchestras and more.

Drama is also extremely strong and students stage performances regularly with Sherborne Girls. With Hugh Bonneville, Jeremy Irons and Richard Eyre among their alumni the school has a reputation to keep up! Boys have also participated in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. They have a purpose built 240-seat theatre which has the latest sound and lighting technology.

There are numerous co-curricular outdoor activities such as canoeing, caving and climbing and, of course, the Duke of Edinburgh award. One that particularly stands out for its physical and mental demanding nature is the Ten Tors, a gruelling hike over Dartmoor. The teams navigate their way, carrying all the equipment they need for 36 hours, and must complete the 35 miles (or 45 miles for Sixth Form) without adult assistance, and camping at night.

The Combined Cadet Force is also extremely strong and well attended, comprising of Royal Marines, Royal Navy and Army sections. There is a host of clubs, including radio broadcasting and the school strongly encourages the boys to partake in charity work and volunteering.

Boarding

There are eight boarding houses, each housing around 70 boys from across all year groups, which the boys like. It is proud to be a traditional all-boys, full boarding school and the weekend programmes are extremely busy. Saturday mornings begin with lessons, followed by the weekly whole-school lecture. An external speaker usually delivers this and recently the school has welcomed explorers, mountaineers, athletes, entrepreneurs and high-profile academics. Saturday afternoons are for sport; Sundays are for work and trips, often combined with Sherborne Girls.

It must be mentioned that whilst Sherborne is a full-boarding school, day boys who live locally are admitted, but they are in a minority. They are assigned a house and often choose to stay late, but flexi-boarding is not an option.

Academic results

In 2020, 24% of A Level grades were A*, over 60% were A*-A, and over 86% were graded A*-B.

Over 19% of GCSE results were at Grade 9 and 38% at Grades 9 and 8. More than 60% of entries were graded 9 to 7. Over 80% were awarded Grades 9 to 6 and the overall pass rate (Grades 9 to 4) is 100%. More than a quarter of the boys achieved at least 10 Grades 9 to 7 and five secured ten or more Grade 9s.

Admissions and fees

This is a selective school and boys wishing to enter, in either Year 9 or Sixth Form, must sit Sherborne’s own entrance examination. There are online tests and boys must also complete a piece of creative writing, followed by an interview. The Common Entrance exam, taken later, is used for in-school setting purposes.

Prospective Sixth Formers are given offers conditional upon their GCSE results. The school offers Super Sundays, Assessment Days, New Boys’ Days and more, so that by the time your son arrives he will be very familiar with the school. This is a delightful touch.

Annual tuition fees are £31,425 for day students and £38,775 for boarders.

Best for
Full boarding, weekly is not an option
English countryside schooling
Traditional English education

Not for
IB is not an option
Fully Co-Educational schooling
Proximity to major airports/easy access to London. The fast train takes 2.5 hours to Waterloo.
City based education

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