Bryanston

Logo of Bryanston

Pupils Info

Gender – Co-Ed School
Age range – Age 13 - 18
Number of pupils on roll – 690 Pupils

Characteristics

Average Class Size: 14
Day and Boarding school
Oxbridge Entrance Percentage: 10%
Day: £25,521 – Boarding: £31,125
A* to B at A-Level Percentage: 80%

Designed by Norman Shaw, Bryanston is an exceptionally beautiful red brick country house that stands in 400 acres of magnificent North Dorset countryside at the end of a long leafy drive. The house remains the heart of the school; the old dining room, drawing room and ballroom were transformed into palatial working rooms. Playing fields, gardens and more modern, purpose-built subject buildings make up the rest of this vibrant, something-for-everyone school.

Background and Reputation

Bryanston is a school that promises to value creativity, individuality and variety, combining high academic standards with outstanding pastoral care. The majority of its pupils hail from the south-east, with a surprising amount of Londoners for a boarding school in verdant Dorset. Founded in 1928, it is known for its liberal, laidback atmosphere. In recent years, Bryanston has worked hard to shrug off its reputation of a less-than-subtle hint at lax discipline and out of control consumption of illicit substances and has morphed into a positive place of education that still upholds liberalism but without too much too soon. Girl A sums up the school as, “Really quite like uni, except with a few more rules,” – high praise indeed.

Academic and Exit Results

Where some schools might rejoice in a reputation for academia, sports or the arts, today Bryanston excels at all three with an understated pride and a focus on individual pupils achieving individual goals. Here you will find a truly balanced education on offer. The school makes a superhuman effort to know and understand each and every one of its pupils: individual academic results and use of time are recorded on the ‘eChart’ app, an online resource unique to Bryanston and to which parents also have remote access. Pupils are guided throughout their school years by the same tutor, the result being a learning experience tailored to individual needs in which few pupils’ grievances, however minor, remain unaired. As of this year, pupils choose between A Levels and the IB Diploma at sixth form. In terms of academic results, this system seems to work admirably. 97% of Bryanstonians go on to higher education, with a respectable 10% to Oxbridge, and in spite of its inclusive lower entry requirements pupils achieve similar results to other local independents. Even so, Boy A describes the academic atmosphere as “very relaxed – more about end results in relation to what comes in as opposed to just a quest for top grades.” Bryanston likes to prepare its pupils for university education by encouraging them to work for themselves, given the right tools. While this is a system that works wonderfully for many, Boy A suggests that it can result in “the clever getting cleverer,” leaving those of mid-level intelligence by the wayside, when “all they really need is to be pinned down a bit.” The award-winning Sanger Centre for Science and Mathematics (named for the double laureate biochemist and Old Bryanstonian) opened in September 2007. Designed by Hopkins Associates (of Olympic velodrome fame), it houses, amongst other things, 15 state-of-the-art laboratories and a 120-seat lecture theatre, and is just one example of a number of impressive purpose-built centres inspiring Bryanston pupils. With such an “incredible” block, the Sciences are particular strong and well-taught.

Social and Pastoral

Bryanston prides itself on a housing system that does not divide up the school, leaving pupils with firm friendships from a mixture of houses. The number of pupils in the combined study/bedrooms grows smaller as you grow older, with Upper Sixth Formers all housed in their own rooms. Bryanston’s housing system is carefully thought out; boys go into one of two first year only houses (“where you get a chance to meet everyone in an environment with no intimidating older boys”, says Boy A) before being split into different houses with boys’ housemate preferences taken into account in the second year. Girls, on the other hand, are split up from the word go but are given an older ‘mentor’ within their house. Bedrooms are perfectly adequate, and Boy A highly recommends a house within the main building “because then you don’t have to go outside before breakfast”. All eat in the newly refurbished School Dining Hall (designed by OB Terence Conran), which provides “awesome” food – numerous hot options, a salad bar, a deli bar, etc. As if this weren’t enough, the school café sells snacks from smoothies to pizza throughout the day and evenings. The liberal ethos of the school extends as far as uniform – in that there isn’t one. In its place is a dress code, and despite being a popular system it does seem to be begging pupils to push the rules, and “girls’ skirts definitely get shorter as you get older in order to impress the boys,” confirms Girl A. There was also talk of “very bitchy cool-girl cliques” in the lower years, but Girl A maintains that this type of “silliness” dies down by Sixth Form. “Generally, there is a place for everyone,” agrees Boy A. In the past, parents expressed concern regarding a lenient disciplinary system that made room for high levels of drinking, smoking and drug-taking. Pupils agree that there is lots of drinking and smoking – “mostly in the woods and in rooms before socials, and a lot smoked in my last year, by which point you weren’t really punished if caught,” says Girl A. As for drugs, it appears that while not endemic, the school has its cliques “just like at all schools, and these can include the odd very druggy groups” (Boy A). However, head Sarah Thomas has made steps to change this and along with some of the other more liberal Bryanston traditions.

Sport, Art, Music and Drama

Sport jostles alongside academics, the arts and the extra-curricular for a place in pupils’ preferences and timetables. With no less than 56 acres of playing fields, bordered by the river Stour for those interested in rowing or kayaking (complete with brand new boathouse), and with its own riding stables and cross-country course, the facilities are certainly not lacking. Rugby is the main sport for boys (the 1st coach has England Rugby roots) and for girls, hockey is particularly strong. Nevertheless, “it was a shame that Bryanston is one of the few schools where being sporty isn’t cool,” laments Boy A, who suggested that it was the “more alternative types” who were thought of as “cooler”. Bryanston places much emphasis on creativity and accordingly art is of incredibly high standards. There are regular photography competitions; highlights include a recent exhibition in Cork Street, London (the second one so far), at which pieces of art by current pupils were showcased alongside the likes of Lucian Freud and Howard Hodgkin (both OBs). The school’s reputation for creativity is well deserved – pupils excel not just in art but in music and drama too. Coade Hall is a particularly high standard school theatre, and a new music facility is destined to open in 2014.

Extracurricular

In their first two years, Bryanstonians must choose at least four out of a list of more than 100 extra-curricular activities – an extensive range that spans Bee-Keeping, Guitar Making, Learn to DJ and Street Dance. “You could do literally anything,” enthuses Boy A, “there wasn’t a Clay Pigeon Shooting club – so I just started one”. Plus all pupils must learn at least one instrument in their first two years, and every pupil at one point in their school career has to take part in a community project. Meanwhile, Bryanston’s Sixth Form Academic Enrichment Programme is a further symbol of the school’s commitment to producing well-rounded students, suitably prepared for the less structured university life ahead of them. This varied programme of optional extra- curricular projects, discussion groups and talks is designed to broaden horizons, develop skills and, essentially, pad out the academic CV. Weekends are full of activities and the Social Club (known as “The Soc”), a bar open to Sixth Formers, is hugely popular. As are Saturday night pub trips, sanctioned as long as you’re accompanied by a trusted school Prefect. How many exeats you’re allowed is up to your head of house, but “weekends were so packed that I usually wanted to stay in school,” says Boy A.

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