Logo of Canford

Pupils Info

Gender – Co-Ed School
Age range – Age 13 - 18
Number of pupils on roll – 632 Pupils


Average Class Size: 10
Day and Boarding school
Oxbridge Entrance Percentage: 11%
Day: £22,275 – Boarding: £28,500
A* to B at A-Level Percentage: 88%

A gem of a school in a setting of unparalleled loveliness in rural Dorset, Canford has been somewhat overlooked in favour of more fashionable co-eds, such as Marlborough and Stowe. Foolish is the person who expects this to last, such is Canford’s charm, but for now unstuffy headmaster John Lever is happy for his school to remain below the radar. Canford is totally unpretentious, despite its many advantages. A properly mixed school, with girls and boys joining in nearly equal numbers at age 13, Canford benefits from being a full two hours by train from London and tends to draw down-to-earth country families more than urbanites with most students hailing from within two hours of the school and only a smattering of internationals. The main school building is a Grade I-listed manor house that was re-designed by Sir Charles Barry, architect of the Houses of Parliament, in the 19th century. Surrounding it are 250 acres of Capability Brown parkland, with the River Stour running alongside. The picturesque church in which some school services are still held dates from Norman times. It’s all pretty hard to compete with Canford aesthetically and modern additions seem to blend in seamlessly to ensure that Canford pupils want for nothing in the way of facilities.

Background and Reputation

Canford was founded in 1923 in the village of Canford Magna near the market town of Wimborne Minster. It was founded in what was originally a country house, Canford Manor, which dates from Saxon times and was purchased from Lord Wimborne. Author Alan Hollinghurst and racehorse trainer Sir Henry Cecil are among Canford’s notable old boys. The school suffered a bit of a setback in 2005 when it was named as one of the schools involved in a price-fixing cartel exposed by The Times; and in 2006, there was an outbreak of Legionnaire’s Disease, but thankfully, only two pupils were affected. Other than these two blips, its reputation is unblemished.

Academic and Exit Results

Canford is no slouch academically. Last year, 88% of A levels and 94% of GCSEs were A*-B and a respectable 11% of leavers secured places at Oxbridge. But headmaster John Lever is not one to focus excessively on exam results, preferring to educate pupils “in the broadest sense of the word”. In other words he instils a genuine passion for learning, as opposed to a rote ability to do well in exams. The intellectual stimulation and students’ joy in achieving can be felt the moment you step onto the campus. New boys and girls try every subject on offer before narrowing down their selection. There is also an excellent relationship between the students and staff, who are young, bubbly and inspired. Students benefit from regular talks by visiting authors, scientists and politicians. The quality of teaching in the sciences has been particularly singled out for praise.

Social and Pastoral

There is a very popular house system at Canford, with seven boarding and three day houses, each with a married housemaster or mistress, three tutors (one resident in each house) and a house matron. Of the seven boarding houses, there are four boys’ houses and three girls’ houses, each with 10-15 pupils from each year group. Bullying is extremely rare and when it does occur, an official counsellor and listening service are available to help the bullied pupil. Day pupils travel to and from school by bus and are well integrated into the school community, with occasional overnight accommodation available to them. For boarders, this is very much full boarding, with a whole roster of activities on offer at weekends and ten weekends of the year when it is compulsory to stay in.

Sport, Music and Drama

Rowing and hockey are two of the sports in which Canford pupils have truly shined. Last year, a girl rower was selected for the Great Britain junior squad and a boy sculled across the channel, missing the world record by just ten minutes. The hockey team made county champions and west of England champions. Rugby and cricket are both terrifically popular with boys here. Facilities are superb, as you’d expect with 250 acres of grounds: there are squash courts, a real tennis court, two AstroTurf pitches, an indoor heated swimming pools and a nine-hole golf course. Music is one of the school’s strongest areas and always has been, with regular concerts and everyone encouraged to play an instrument. Drama is also strong with the purpose-built Layard Theatre one of the highlights of the campus and home to various visiting thespians and travelling performances.


Community service is a massive thing at Canford, and the school’s strong record on this front is something of which Headmaster Lever is justifiably proud. Through the Canford Partnership, students spend time helping disadvantaged communities in Argentina, India and Tanzania. Other extracurricular pursuits run the gamut from bird watching and real tennis (very rarely found in schools) to dressmaking, fishing, riding, canoeing… you name it. Sixth-formers are instilled with a sense of responsibility and, in some cases, entrusted to take charge of running these extracurricular activities for the younger students.

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