Tatler Schools Guide
When the head of a school 60 miles away said that ‘Dauntsey’s does a lot of things very well and in the right way’, head Mark Lascelles must have glowed. On his watch, the school has mushroomed from 763 pupils to full capacity at 832, and ships in children from Andover to Salisbury and beyond with 13 dedicated bus routes. Now that nearby Marlborough has all but stopped taking day pupils, Dauntsey’s is the day option in these parts (around 45 percent of pupils full-board).
Most pupils pitch up at 11+, with a smaller boarding entry at 13+. There’s Saturday-morning school for all. A-level-results are solid (78 per cents A*-B) and last uear’s GCSE results were the best ever. They’re looking for pupils with a GSOH and adventurous outlook (there’s a dedicated ‘head of adventure’). Last year saw a pop-up production of Billy Elliot in the West End, Dauntsey’s fourth trip to Bhutan since becoming the first school ever to visit the kingdom, the opening of the Olive Building for maths and sciences, fundraising for and a visit to an orphanage in Romania, a new pavilion and new dance studio. Phew. Dance is big and features on the mainstream curriculum, and the sailing is positively epic: last year pupils guided their very own ship, the Jolie Brise, to victory in the Tall Ships Races for the second year running.
How refreshing to hear that head Mark Lascelles hunts our the ‘spirited kids over and above the academic ones’. And a new ‘head of adventure’ has been appointed to reinforce the school’s have-a-go ethos. Dauntsey’s joined forces with Marlborough in the summer to climb Kilimanjaro – next stop Bhutan. Meanwhile their very own tall ship, the Jolie Brise, won the Tall Ships Races 2015, venturing within 60 nautical miles of the Arctic Circle and battling gale-force winds and 15-foot waves. Academically, results are faring jolly well – 82 percent A* ̶ B last year, with six off to Oxbridge and a decent batch to Imperial and LSE.
The main intake is at 11+ (much to the dismay of the local preps), and demand is sky-high thanks to those very reasonable fees, with the admissions office regularly turning disappointed parents away. Toes are twinkling here like never before: a two-night-run dance adaptation of Moulin Rouge was a sellout, and the all-boys’ group GNI (Girls Not Invited) blew the audience away at the annual dance show ̶ ‘dance for boys has now become cool,’ says head. The slick new eco-pavilion is a stunning space for sport (as well as lectures and dinners), and the construction of a new teaching block is up next. Around 40 percent board and Friends on Friday gives day chums the option to sleep over.
One savvy insider describes Dauntsey’s as ‘a very unpretentious country school that confidently stands among the grander options’. Another tells us it’s very much a hidden gem – low-key locals and landed types leave fashionable alternatives nearby to the Londoners. Dauntsey’s is a Guide newcomer, and it’s come on leaps and bounds from its agricultural roots: we are mightily impressed. They scored a very competitive 80 per cent A*-B at A level last year, with seven Oxbridge offers. Highbrow malarkey, like the performance of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies by an all-boy dance troupe, occurs alongside the first-ever amateur production of Mamma Mia! The 1st XV rugby team reached the quarter finals of the NatWest Cup, and the cheerleading team, the Dauntsey’s Dynamites, won the school’s division in the southern regionals.
They appointed a head of ‘adventure education’ last year, who introduced climbing, canoeing, rifle shooting and outdoor cooking to help build life skills and resilience. For almost 45 years, pupils have taken to the high seas in the Jolie Brise, the school’s 56ft gaff cutter (built in Le Havre in 1913); she won the Cowes Small Ships Race in 2014. Head Mark Lascelles say the school asks pupils to do three things; give their best, look after one another and have a spirit of adventure. Mr Lascelles was lower master at King’s Canterbury, so he knows what he is doing. Watch this space – Dauntsey’s might just become one of those fashionable places itself.