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Bournemouth Collegiate Senior School, Bournemouth

The only co-ed independent school in the Bournemouth and Poole area is inclusive, diverse and dynamic – and a stone's throw away from the beach


One of Bournemouth’s best kept secrets, this independent day and boarding school for boys and girls aged 11 to 18 years is hidden away on an eight-acre site amongst the leafy residential streets of Southbourne – one of Bournemouth’s coolest areas – and just two minutes away (yes, you did read that right), from seven miles of golden beaches.

The school started life in 1899 as the Bournemouth Collegiate School in Poole, a non-denominational school for ‘young ladies’ with a strong Christian ethos and links to the United Reform Church (the school retains a Christian ethos today). After a somewhat convoluted history of name changes, mergers and moves, the school, based around Wentworth Lodge (summer residence of one Lord Portman and today home to some of the school’s boarders), is now part of CATS Global Schools, and has a Prep School six miles away in Poole. It is the only co-ed independent school in the Bournemouth and Poole area.

The school is highly regarded for its Sport and Performing Arts.

There are currently 404 pupils on the roll.


The leafy campus may be compact but everything needed is right here.

The main entrance is via the historic Wentworth Lodge, complete with grand staircase, tall windows, high ceilings and pendant lights – quite traditional. The classrooms above benefit from those same features too, being light and airy – ideal for the art department which takes up much of the first floor and is known as the ‘Art Corridor’.

They’ve a theatre space/studio for Performing Arts (for which the school is renowned) but for big shows performers take to the professional stage at the Bournemouth Pavilion. Summer productions are more informal, taking place in the school grounds. The annual Creative Arts Festival, bringing together arts across the school, with live performances, food and drink sounds good.

Sister Act

The music department isn’t huge but is dynamic, with a production studio for Music Tech and assorted choirs and ensembles. Free instrumental lessons for half a term for all Year 7s are designed to inspire a passion for music when children first join the school.

A couple of classrooms are devoted to Computer Science. This is growing in the school, with a big push on robotics (Years 7, 8 & 9 enjoy robotic programming) and they’re looking to develop artificial intelligence (AI) and geographic information systems (GIS) that create, manage, analyse and map data.

Don’t let the fact that there’s just one playing field fool you into thinking that they aren’t serious – or successful – in the sporting arena. Sports is BIG and truly celebrated here (they were ranked 21st in the UK by School Sports Magazine and recently won the Independent School’s Association Award for Outstanding Sport in a Large School). In terms of facilities, as well as the playing field, there are all weather Astro pitches, a sports hall (with cricket nets, badminton courts, Olympic-sized basketball court, netball and volleyball courts and indoor football pitches), a high performance gym and an indoor 25m swimming pool (used by national level swimmers).

Whilst the emphasis is on promoting a healthy active lifestyle for all – the aim is for everyone to have a minimum of two hours of PE/Games every week – pupils can take GCSE/A Level PE and Sports Science and the school’s eight Sports Academies push sporty pupils to the max. These pupils have tailor-made timetables combining their academic studies with elite coaching in badminton, basketball, football, rowing, rugby, swimming, tennis and triathlon from professionals like badminton champ Helen Troke MBE and coaches from Bath Rugby, AFC Bournemouth and West Hants Tennis.

The canteen has great home cooked food (tried, tested and given the Muddy seal of approval).


There are currently around 100 pupils across the Sixth Form: small enough to receive individual care and attention; large enough for good social interaction. It certainly results in pupils exceeding expectations as the Sixth Form is in the top 2.5% in the UK for Value Added (the amount of progress pupils make) at A Level.


Prospective students have a taster day, meet the headmaster and sit entrance papers in Maths, English and verbal/non-verbal reasoning, similar to the 11+. There’s no pass or fail as such but the results are used to determine whether the school can meet the needs of an individual, assessing for academic scholarships (there are also sports, performing arts, music and visual arts scholarships), and provide baselines for pupils joining the school. So, despite it being ‘selective’ there are a range of abilities at the school.

There’s a good choice of subjects at GCSE, with Business, Graphical Communication and a Performing Arts: BTECs sitting alongside the standard English, Maths, Combined and Triple Science., Geography and History. The same goes for A levels; with BTEC Sport, Music Technology, Product Design and more as well as the usual traditional subjects.

Pupils can be offered specialist assessments if they are having difficulties and there’s good support from the three specialist teachers on the Learning Plus team.

Results in 2021. GCSEs 50% 9-7. A Levels: 60% A* or A, with an impressive 95% A*-C. 45% of BTEC results were either Distinction or Distinction.

University destinations include Imperial College London, King’s College London, Courtauld Institute of Art, University of Bath, University of Exeter and Arts University Bournemouth.


Small class sizes, with tutors, a school counsellor, school nurses, ‘silent listeners’ in the boarding houses, a new Deputy Head who’s also Head of Pastoral and a new mental health and wellbeing nurse, all go to create a network of support, which means that nothing slips through the net. Any concerns are logged and acted on. The pupils’ voice is very important here; the new Head of Pastoral has set up working groups with pupils to explore pastoral care in the school. He’s also forging links with organisations like Dorset Mind.


About a third of the pupils board, with the majority from overseas, with full, weekly and flexi options from Year 7 upwards.

Boys boarding is – very handily – right next door to the Sports Hall, to which they have access every evening and weekends. Accommodation is in double and single rooms with Sixth Formers having the top floor to themselves. Boys can make drinks and snacks in the kitchen.

Girls boarding is on the top floor of the main building (former Wentworth Lodge), with dorms for the younger girls and en-suite doubles and singles for Sixth Formers, plus a kitchen and large common room with atrium. Nice.

There are plenty of activities in the evenings and weekends – go karting, paint-balling, cultural trips – and there are always those golden beaches.


Head teacher Russell Slatford gained a degree in Geology from Durham and a Master’s in Education from Cambridge before taking up teaching posts at Abingdon School and Reading Blue Coat School and taking the helm here in 2015.

Perhaps because of his own experience working as a geologist/engineer prior to entering the teaching profession, he’s no ivory tower academic. He’s got his eye on the real world, and is focused not only on helping pupils take responsibility for their learning and achieving academic success in traditional areas (evidenced by the school’s impressive Value Added status) but also in ensuring that pupils of all abilities are equipped to get out there and thrive in a constantly evolving world.

Hence the breadth of the subjects on the curriculum, offering practically-based BTECs as well as A Levels and moving forward with apprenticeships; developing the computer science programme; forging links with local businesses (eg Conker Spirit and Jimmy’s Iced Coffee) and international businesses (like JP Morgan); and expanding the co-curricular, for example by introducing media courses in collaboration with the Arts University Bournemouth.

The school makes a lot of effort to provide an all-round, inclusive education for each pupil, with four key values described as The 4 Cs: A Curiosity to explore new ideas and find out why; a Creative desire to turn imagination into reality​; A Commitment to strive for success in all areas; and a Community feel, encouraging an all-inclusive and culturally diverse school


On the last day of the summer term there’s an inter-house sandcastle building competition on the beach, with ice creams all round.

The Performing Arts department hold an annual awards ceremony, the BOSCAS, celebrating effort as well as achievement with performances and a formal dinner.


The school day runs from 8.30am-5pm (there’s no Saturday school). The co-curricular programme, running before school, at lunchtimes and at the end of the day, is impressive. Based around the school’s 4Cs of Creativity, Curiosity, Commitment and Community, there’s absolutely masses of stuff to choose from, grouped into different categories: Sport, Performing Arts, Houses, Charity, Community, Academic Clinics & Prep, Clubs, Stretch & Challenge. Sign us up for The Big Questions of Life and the Surfing Club please!


In the latest report from the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI), equivalent to Ofsted in the state sector, pupils’ personal development was ‘excellent’. See the latest reports here.


The school operates a ‘gate to gate’ policy, whereby pupils can bring mobiles into school but they can’t be used, seen or heard at any time of the school day including at lunch and after school activities – or they’ll be whipped away.


Currently eight bus routes bring in pupils from around Bournemouth as well as from Wimborne, Lymington, Ringwood and Sandbanks.


2021/22 per year: day pupil £15,240; weekly boarder £28,740; full time boarder £32,090.


Pupils say they love the balance of seriousness and fun at the school. This is echoed by parents who appreciate the combination of academic, sporting and creative education, which results in pupils ‘soaring’ in terms of confidence, independence as well as academically. Teachers are said to be engaging, interactive, to bring lessons to life and, importantly, get to know all the pupils on a personal level. There’s a real sense of community – right across the age ranges – which is relished by pupils. It’s a very happy school. Small teaching groups, excellent pastoral support and the Sports Academy come in for special praise from parents.


Good for: If you want a diverse, inclusive and dynamic – but not hothouse – education in a co-ed setting you won’t go far wrong here. With a broad curriculum encompassing BTECs, a wide range of GCSE/A Levels and a rich co-curricular, there are opportunities for all children to flourish, whatever their interests and abilities. The boarding provision is good. The proximity to those beaches is a bonus!

Not for: Those wanting to focus only on the traditional subjects and qualifications.

Don’t take our word for it: Contact the school’s Admissions Registrar via email to arrange a visit or book yourself onto one of their upcoming Open Days and see for yourself. Open Days in 2022: Weds 16 March.

Bournemouth Collegiate School, College Road, Southbourne, Bournemouth, Dorset BH5 2DY. 01202 436550.

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