Spoon-feeding doesn’t exist at Bryanston, and much of Year 9 is spent teaching pupils the ‘Bryanston Method’, which empowers them to take independent control of their learning and manage their time and assignments effectively. Pupils are carefully matched with a dedicated tutor who sticks with them right through from Years 9 to 13, becoming their life coach and mentor as well as their academic guide. Free periods (of which there are more than average) can be spent in the pupil’s choice of study area – impressively, each subject has its own library with a teacher on hand to help. This, as well as long lead times on assignments, helps to encourage self-motivation while also offering support and mentoring if needed.
Despite the very creative environment and the overriding sense of freedom, there is still a great deal of academic rigour and structure, and expectations are high: pupils are graded weekly on eCharts (which parents can look at via an app). The result: brilliantly robust academics – as long as your child is prepared to push themselves.
Pupils take a minimum of nine GCSEs, with many doing 11, and Greek and Latin are part of the subjects on offer. Sixth-formers choose between A-levels, CTECs and the IB. The latter is becoming ever more popular; 15 per cent now choose it over A-levels. Mr Jones is a passionate advocate for the breadth it offers – languages, of course, but also quirkier subjects such as eSports. Weekly one-to-one meetings with every subject teacher (slackers beware: there’s nowhere to hide) mean pupils can get advice on everything from UCAS applications to pastoral niggles. Results are good, but value-added is even better: Bryanston’s score puts it in the top 15 per cent nationally. But alongside academic results, which are undoubtedly important, the school also places a great deal of emphasis on what each pupil will gain from their time here.
Pupils head on to anywhere from Oxbridge to music conservatoires, catering college, art foundation courses, apprenticeships or even straight into work – a delightfully individual range of destinations of which Mr Jones is very proud. There is no set trodden path for Bryanston pupils, he says – from degree apprenticeships with JP Morgan to studying fashion in Paris, the opportunities are endless.
Most pupils opt for full boarding (around 80 per cent), and those who sign up for flexi-boarding also get a bed. Weekends are fairly flexible – many live within an hour or so away and head home every other weekend after Saturday lessons and matches, but all are obliged to stay in for regular whole-school weekends, dedicated to community work or school-wide projects. Importantly, day pupils are fully integrated into the boarding houses, so each and every pupil feels fully part of this wonderfully close-knit community.
The house system is slightly different for boys and girls. The former spend their first year in a junior house, acclimatising and settling in before moving up to a senior house, and girls stick with one house throughout their Bryanston career (the school has found that the older girls naturally look after the Year 9s). Some boarding houses are up in the main building, while others are dotted around the estate (no more than a four-minute walk away), and although pupils and parents can express a preference, the final decision comes down to the head.
We had a look inside one of the girls’ boarding houses which was immaculate – gorgeous views with separate work rooms rather than bed/desks creating a healthy separation between work and sleep. Each three- or four-bed dorm has its own ensuite and sixth-formers have their own rooms. There are five girls’ and seven boys’ boarding houses, with about 15 pupils per year group across each house. Day pupils are integrated with boarders, with each allocated a work area. The boarding houses are a popular base during the day, with pupils popping back to work, relax or get a bite to eat.
Pupil development is at the heart of everything at Bryanston. Deputy head of pupil development Dr Preetpal Bachra, who has been here for 22 years, is passionate about one-to-one tuition. Tutors are matched individually and staff visit Year 8s at the prep to get to know them. Special training is given to all the staff to ensure their mentoring skills are exemplary. And there’s no resting on laurels – Mr Jones feels the provision can get even better. Though it’s hard to see how, as already the bonds between tutors and tutees are beyond impressive, often surviving beyond school.
Families are spread far and wide – children come from 90 different prep schools – though the local crowd is increasing since the merger with Bryanston Prep. About 14 per cent are from overseas, with the US, Germany and Thailand being just some of the countries represented by international pupils.
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