Army&You has been exploring the ace amenities on offer at some of the UK’s top independent schools. Here, headmaster Mark Lascelles takes us for a closer look at Dauntsey’s in Wiltshire (dauntseys.org)…
Tell us about your school’s current facilities.
Dauntsey’s has all the sports facilities you would expect to find at a leading independent school. We have eight rugby/football pitches, seven all-weather netball/tennis courts, an athletics track, a newly refurbished sports hall, a fully equipped fitness suite, a heated indoor swimming pool, two squash courts and a new multi-purpose pavilion with extensive changing facilities and viewing galleries. We have also recently opened a new Dance studio. All this is supported by a wonderful team of coaching staff who help pupils make the most of these facilities.
Pupils are encouraged to develop a strong spirit of adventure here and, with almost 150 acres of grounds, we have plenty of space for pupils to get outside and explore. Our rural surroundings provide the perfect setting for many outdoor activities including orienteering, camping, wide games… the list is endless.
We are unusual in owning a Tall Ship, Jolie Brise, which is sailed and maintained by pupils under the leadership of our full-time Sailing Master. The sailing club is open to all pupils from the Fourth Form (Year 10) upwards and provides a wonderful opportunity to experience life at sea.
Drama, music, dance and art all flourish at Dauntsey’s. The Art Centre is made up of five studios offering facilities for fine art, sculpture, ceramics, textiles, photography and computer graphics. The Design Technology department offers a range of media for pupils to explore including Computer Aided Design and Manufacture. The Music department is extensive and more than half of all pupils learn at least one instrument.
Drama is very much part of the fabric of life at Dauntsey’s with several productions being staged during the year. These are held in either the Memorial Hall, a 730-seater venue with full lighting and sound systems or Annabel’s Studio, a flexible space used for teaching, workshops and smaller productions. We also have Venue 2 as an additional teaching and rehearsal space. Our most recent production in the Memorial Hall was a sell-out performance of “Billy Elliot” which made full use of our facilities to great acclaim.
The School’s library provides a focal point for learning and resources for both pupils and staff. They have access through the School computers to the library’s entire catalogue – more than 16,000 titles.
We have just completed an extensive building and redevelopment programme with the opening of a new teaching block and a state of the art pavilion which has proven to be a superb addition to our campus. We also added a first-floor extension to the Sports Centre which has provided a PE classroom, a focus for the Adventure Education department and the stunning new Dance Studio.
Do you have any plans for future investment?
We are thinking about the priorities for our next development plan and environmental impact will be a key consideration. We count Richard Sandbrook, co-founder of Friends of the Earth, as an old Dauntseian and respecting our environment has long been a consideration for our community.
Pupils created a society called The Big Green Thing back in 2008. It has been the driving force behind the installation of thermal solar panels, photovoltaic panels and biomass boilers. Significant pupil thought went into the planning of our new pavilion. Their vision was to integrate eco-friendly values into the fabric of the School. Heat and hot water are provided by a ground source heat pump and the sedum roof ensures that the building blends into the landscape.
It’s fair to say that pupils have been ahead of the game on environmental issues but the School is now very clear about the many benefits of a “green” agenda. We have recently appointed a Green Governor to ensure that pupils’ views are heard loud and clear and that their concerns are reflected in our policies.
What’s the jewel in your crown?
We are very proud of The Manor, our Lower School boarding house. It was built as a family home back in the 1860s by Sir Edward Pleydell-Bouverie MP and today some 70 pupils aged 11-to-14 live here, along with the House staff.
It is a stunning Elizabethan style building, located just five minutes’ walk from the main School site and is set in 65 acres of grounds and ancient woodland. We find the younger pupils love starting their boarding years at The Manor, away from the peer pressure of older pupils. Here, they are free to enjoy a proper childhood for that bit longer. It’s a co-educational house, boys and girls study, socialise and eat together, forming friendships that often last a lifetime. The boys’ and girls’ quarters are on separate floors and this gender separation prepares them for boarding in single-sex houses on the main School site.
What does having access to top-notch facilities mean to a child’s education?
We are very fortunate to have a large campus here with all the facilities you would expect from a leading independent school – and more besides. These facilities enable the pupils to try a wide range of sporting, adventure, musical, arts and performing arts activities.
Developing a spirit of adventure is a feature of life at Dauntsey’s. We believe that adventure education enables pupils to demonstrate and adopt behaviours that will help them lead a fruitful and interesting life, in which they are organised and flexible, willing to have a go and learn from their experiences.
But any school is about more than bricks and mortar. We have a strong community at Dauntsey’s, everyone is friendly and supportive. The School is known for its unpretentious atmosphere. Pupils are expected to look after each other and this culture of mutual respect leads to a real sense of belonging within a forgiving and productive community.
Why should parents pick your school based on your facilities?
We would not advise any parent to select a school just on the basis of the facilities they offer. It is easy to be seduced by state-of-the-art facilities but it’s more important to find a good fit for your child in terms of the culture and ethos of the school.
Dauntsey’s has extensive facilities which underpin the wide-ranging adventure education and extra-curricular programmes we offer. But this is just one aspect of life here. The School is lively, creative and caring, encouraging all pupils to develop social responsibility and high moral values. It is a happy place with a strong family atmosphere.
What are your top three most used facilities?
The Memorial Hall
The Memorial Hall, or ‘Mem Hall’ as it’s often called, with its sophisticated sound and lighting system can seat up to 730 people and is the chosen venue for major productions such as the December Musical and annual Lower School Production. This versatile space accommodates a wide range of styles and productions can be staged conventionally. It is also used for assembly, exams, parents’ meetings, lectures and school services.
The Tuck Shop
Open during break times, prep time and in the evenings, the Tuck Shop is a popular meeting place for pupils during the day. Here you can buy confectionery, snacks, soft drinks, and catch up with friends over a cup of hot chocolate, under the kindly and watchful eyes of Kym and Caz, the Tuck Shop ladies, whose motto “No Manners; No Service”, is strictly observed by all!
The New Pavilion
The pavilion is a wonderful addition to the existing facilities at Dauntsey’s and is used for sport, lectures, talks, concerts, dinners and so much more. It contains eight changing rooms and a triple aspect social space, capable of seating over two hundred people. Externally, there are sheltered spectator terraces, which afford parents the opportunity to watch a variety of sporting activities from an excellent vantage point, while sheltering from the winds whistling off Salisbury Plain.