Milton Abbey

Logo of Milton Abbey

Pupils Info

Gender – Co-Ed School
Age range – Age 13-18
Number of pupils on roll – 225 Pupils


Average Class Size: 4-14
Day and Boarding School
Oxbridge Entrance Percentage: Occasional
Day: £7,800 – Boarding: £10,400
A* to B at A-Level Percentage: 60

Within the idyllic surroundings of the Dorset countryside, Milton Abbey could not be more rural. Though the Abbey is still owned by the diocese of Salisbury, the school has full access to it; the classrooms and two of the boarding houses occupy the converted monastery buildings and the pupils certainly appreciate how lucky they are to be in this beautiful place.

Background and Reputation

‘Confidence without arrogance’ is a phrase often overused in the context of private education; yet at Milton Abbey, it seems that the young, dynamic and enthusiastic headmaster, Gareth Doodes, might be at least partially on the road to achieving this. Speaking to the boys and girls, one cannot fail to notice a down to earth sense of humour, an engaging charm and a real enthusiasm for life (and the countryside) that is contagious and refreshing. They speak fondly of the school, the teachers and each other. On the school’s website, they talk of a driving philosophy to develop their pupils into ‘fully rounded people academically, culturally, spiritually, and within a caring, supportive environment’. Though we saw little evidence of a religious spirituality, there was certainly a lively spirit among the pupils, and if parents are primarily searching for a Christian education, there are more suitable options.

Academic and Exit Results

Milton Abbey has not, so far, been defined by its academic results; and despite improvements in last years’ grades, it remains a school that it celebrated for its more rounded approach to education and this, to our mind, is not something to be shunned. Refreshingly un-fussed by league tables, the teachers are encouraging and supportive of the students to achieve personal academic ambitions and there certainly seems to be a genuine celebration of individualism both in and outside the classroom. With the recent introduction of ‘challenge grades’ to help raise the pupils aspirations and a diagnostic reporting system to keep parents better informed, this is not an area they are ignoring. Milton Abbey remains an excellent choice for pupils with learning difficulties; around a third of their pupils have dyslexia. The Learning Support department was rated as ‘Outstanding’ in the school’s most recent ISI inspection. There is an ‘open door’ approach to the department and the pupils feel not an iota of embarrassment to use it.

Social and Pastoral

Since 2010, with Gareth Doodes at the helm, there has been a considerable shake-up in this area. With the building of two new boarding houses and the refurbishment of the remaining three, almost all of the house staff are resident. There has been a marked decline in bullying and a real crackdown on any dorm initiation rites and mischievous pranks, which we hear were more customary in the pre-Doodes era. With girls very recently introduced throughout the school (before September 2012 they were only in the sixth form), the jury’s out on how well that integration will go. However, if we can judge on previous successes, we suspect it will go rather well. The decision was made on the basis of a real belief that girls and boys learn better together and, aside from some very minor (and expected) teething problems, it seems to have been a success. Indeed, there is a distinctive family feel to the place with a nice interaction between the boys and girls that seems more based around friendship and common interests than what one might reasonably expect from a recently-established coeducational environment.

Sport, Music and Drama

With polo players and point-to-point riders among its students, as well as its stables, paddocks, ferret huts, dog kennels and a school shoot (in which the students beat and the parents are the guns), it would be natural to assume that this were a school in which equine and country sports dominated. Not so; with a course in the grounds golf has become a much-loved pastime for the boys as well as some of the girls. They also take the more mainstream sports seriously, punching above their weight in inter-school competitions and with so few girls in each year, most get the chance to represent the school in at least one sport. Music and drama are expanding departments, a musical and junior play being put on most years. Gareth Doodes has appointed a new Head of Drama as well as a new, inspirational head for the Music department.


Pupils are positively encouraged to take part in as many extracurricular activities as they wish. Though it wouldn’t be unfair to accuse them of having a focus around countryside activities, it is not in the toffish riding, shooting, fishing way that one might expect. Indeed, they pride themselves on the fact that all pupils leave with a working knowledge of vegetable and stock cycles. A lovely bunch who don’t mind getting their hands dirty.

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