Milton Abbey School


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  • Category: Senior / Sixth Form
  • Pupils: Co-Education
  • Type: Day & Boarding
  • Religious Affiliation: Church of England
  • Roll: 180 (Boys) 50 (Girls)
  • Age Range: 13 – 18 years
  • Founded: 1953

General Information

Milton Abbey is a traditional yet modern, forward looking boarding school that celebrates excellence, hard work, industry and endeavour. Our environment is inclusive, caring and ambitious for every pupil. Our small size allows for a level of care that is unsurpassed in bigger schools. We want pupils to have big achievements, big ambitions and big hearts.


The School is a Church of England school with a full-time chaplain and the abbey church is the dominant architectural and spiritual feature. We have excellent Art and Design Technology departments with facilities for textile design, sculpture, ceramics, printmaking, photography and computer graphics and a purpose-built DT workshop. Drama and Music play an important part in school life and there is a 370-seat, purpose-built theatre and music technology studio. There are 2 choirs, a variety of informal chamber groups, jazz and rock bands. Over a quarter of students learn a musical instrument.

Entrance Requirements

Lower School: Common Entrance or the School’s own entry papers in English, Maths and Science. Sixth Form: assessment day of interviews and team-building exercises and a good GCSE pass in each of the subjects chosen for A Level.


13+ and 16+: Academic, art, DT, sailing, drama, sport and music. At 16+ an equine scholarship is also available. Some bursaries are awarded, please contact the school for details.

Open Days

For details of Open Days please contact Diana Morant on +44 (0)1258 882182 or alternatively email


2016/2017. Full Boarding: £11,780 per term. Day: £5,965 per term.


ISI Inspection 2015

School Contact Details

Headteacher: Mr Magnus Bashaarat

Contact for enquiries: Mrs Diana Morant, Registrar

Milton Abbey School
Blanford Forum
DT11 0BZ

[t]: 01258 880484
[f]: 01258 880484

Location Description

Set amongst beautiful rolling hills in the heart of Dorset, eight miles southwest of Blandford Forum.

To send an email to the school please fill in your details below and add a short message. If you are requesting a prospectus to be sent to you please include your postal address.

School News

Milton Abbey School Independent Berkshire

On Friday 12th May pupils and staff at Milton Abbey School had a ‘Hunger Lunch’ to support the Oxfam East Africa Famine Appeal and

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the upcoming World Hunger Day on 28th May.   Instead of the normal Friday lunch, the ever popular weekly fish and chips or a range of salads which are enjoyed in the school’s medieval Abbot’s Hall, our chefs made a simple lunch of soup and a bread roll.

The aim was to raise awareness of global famine; the previous day at our Chapel service the prayers, hymns and readings were all themed around ‘hunger’.  The school community spent time reflecting on the truly staggering scale of global hunger, where hunger kills more people than AIDs, malaria and tuberculosis combined, and the relative comfort of Milton Abbey school life.  Staff and pupils were asked to consider if they had really ever experienced hunger, and what real hunger might feel like.

The savings made from this modest lunch will be donated to the Oxfam appeal along with additional donations from staff and pupils.   We hope that in some small way this will help the 795 million people experiencing hunger around the world and remind pupils that food is something that many people cannot take for granted.

Milton Abbey School Independent Berkshire

Once again this year Milton Abbey entered two teams for the Ten Tors competition – a junior team who took on the 35 mile

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challenge and a senior team who took on the 45 mile challenge.  There are many challenging walks in Britain today, but the Ten Tors is alone in catering solely for young people and is said by many to be the largest and most challenging event held nationally.

Over the weekend of 6th/7th May, the Milton Abbey pupils competed against four hundred teams each made up of six teenagers.   They hiked over the rough terrain of Dartmoor, visiting ten nominated tors / check points in under two days. The teams had to be self-sufficient, carrying all that they needed to complete their route and stay out over night safely. The weather can be very changeable and at times quite extreme, and success or failure can depend very much on the extent to which a team has been trained for all eventualities. Fortunately with Milton Abbey’s Trevor Law at the helm, our pupils were extremely well prepared for all eventualities.

Trevor said of the teams, “They all worked really hard throughout the Ten Tors Event and did Milton Abbey proud. They put exceptional effort into their training which started back in October last year which really paid off. The 35 mile team smashed the course so quickly that some of the parents and staff who came down missed them coming into the finish.  They were second in their group by only 14 minutes despite having decided to go up Chat Tor two times, so in fact they did the Eleven Tor Challenge!  Both teams navigated excellently and displayed amazing team work.”

A special mention must go to Fran for being the first girl at Milton Abbey to complete both the junior and senior Ten Tors challenges and to Tom, Alec and Charlie who have also completed both challenges.  Next year, to keep challenging ourselves,  we are planning to have a 55 miles team.”

The Ten Tors Challenge is organised by the Army, specifically Headquarters 1st Artillery Brigade & South West, from its Moor Group Headquarters at Okehampton Camp. It is assisted by the Royal Navy (with manpower and helicopters), the Royal Air Force and the Dartmoor Rescue Group.

Milton Abbey School Independent Berkshire

Last week Milton Abbey pupils were lucky enough to spend time picking the brains of one of the top magazine editors in the country

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– Kate Reardon. Editor of Tatler.

Kate spent the morning with pupils studying Enterprise and Entrepreneurship in the sixth form and those who are entering the annual Milton Abbey Entrepreneur in Residence competition which this year is being led by Nick Wheeler, founder of the Charles Tyrwhitt shirt company.   Kate gave the group an excellent insight into the magazine and publishing industry and how traditional and new media can best be used to help promote businesses.   The discussion moved on to some of the challenges the magazine industry faces, in  particular how the ever increasing use of social media was impacting on advertising, revenue and the future of print and web based publications and how traditional methods need to adapt to keep up with the market changes.

Kate inspired the pupils to challenge themselves, both now during their school years and in their future careers, and to accept that failure is a part of life; it is how you respond to failure by not giving up that is important. Kate stressed that hard work and passion are the key ingredients to a successful career and life and that young people should always choose a career that they are passionate about as then they will be more driven to succeed.

After lunch with some of our pilots, Kate led a discussion with girls from across the year groups on ‘Women and Leadership’.   In a world where  girls’ perception of women can often be skewed by the media or social stereotypes the pupils  wanted to ask Kate how they can empowered and believe that as females in society they can do anything – run a business, be successful, have a family…in short, they wanted to find out how they could have it all!

Kate discussed the realities of being a woman in the world of business and the realities of what this has meant for her.  She successfully challenged the girls to consider their mind-set and attitude telling them that to be successful attitude really is everything – ‘if you want it, decide you want it and go get it.’  She encouraged the girls to make the most of all opportunities when they arise and give them their all.  The group discussed the inevitable future considerations the girls would need to weigh up and likely challenges that they would face, including the need to be as qualified as the person next to them regardless of gender and discussed issues around starting a family whilst building a career.

Kate’s final advice was that the girls should be motivated, focused and hard working and to keep believing that any job is open and available to any person, not just because of their gender.

Kate said of her visit, “I was delighted to be invited to Milton Abbey, it is an extraordinarily beautiful school with an inspiring ethos. The pupils were a great pleasure to meet – impressive without appearing entitled and ambitious without being pretentious. Full marks!”

Magnus Bashaarat, Headmaster of Milton Abbey said, “We were delighted that Kate was able to visit us and give two really excellent workshops for some of our pupils.  They found her approachable, interesting and motivating and we hope that they’ll take her helpful advice on board as they think about future career options and business ideas.”

Milton Abbey School Independent Dorset

Head chefs from Franco Manca, the sourdough pizza restaurant chain with 34 pizzeria in London and southern England, descended en masse to Milton Abbey School

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on Wednesday 26th April, lured by tales of our delicious wild garlic.

A total of 48 head chefs journeyed down on a bus from London to forage for the wild garlic which they took back to their respective pizzeria to adorn their award winning sourdough pizzas with a seasonal twist. A total of 460kg was collected in total.

The first Franco Manca store was opened in Brixton Market in 2008 by founder and entrepreneur Giuseppe Mascoli. Franco Manca is built on the belief that to be truly enjoyed, food needs to be made with authentic, delicious ingredients. These are both organic and locally sourced where possible.

Milton Abbey School is set in a glorious Capability Brown landscape in the heart of Dorset; pupils looking for a vocational focus in the sixth form alongside, or instead of A levels, can opt to study courses such as hospitality, countryside management and enterprise and entrepreneurship – a natural fit for Franco Manca’s ethos on many levels.

Giuseppe Mascoli said, “For our new specials we are working with seasonal ingredients featuring spring and summer offerings, last week 48 of our pizzaioli descended upon Dorset to handpick 460kg of wild garlic. Thank you to Milton Abbey School for allowing Naples to invade Dorset!”

The wild garlic will be made in to a wild garlic pesto and some lucky Milton Abbey pupils have been invited to sample this and more at the opening of Franco Manca’s new restaurant in Bournemouth when it opens on 10th May.

In addition, Milton Abbey School is looking forward to welcoming Giuseppe Mascoli to Milton Abbey In November when he will meet our hospitality and enterprise and entrepreneurship pupils. He will also give a talk to all pupils about his inspirational business journey from economics lecturer at the London School of Economics to being the founder of Franca Manca. Giuseppe is sure to be inspirational, he was described as ‘sparking a food revolution in South London’ when his first store took off in Brixton Market in 2008.

Milton Abbey Independent Dorset

Milton Abbey Head Boy, Ralph, capped off a remarkable cross country season at Canford School on Thursday 16th March when he was presented with the

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trophy for the Dorset Independent Schools Cross Country Champion beating the best Athletes from local rivals including Bryanston, Sherborne, Clayesmore and Canford. With the pressure on, Ralph put in his best run of the season to record a brilliant time of 11mins 6 seconds for the 2 mile course. To put this into context, a time of 11minutes 30 seconds is considered excellent.

Members of the Milton Abbey cross country team enjoy training three times a week in some of England’s most beautiful countryside around the school. This year Ralph has also been part of Milton Abbey’s Elite Running Programme which is connected to Wimborne Athletics Club. The programme has given Ralph and our top athletes the opportunity to train with other aspiring county and national runners, and have access to top level coaching.

Of Ralph’s victory, Milton Abbey coach Will Fraser, pictured below, said, “It has been hugely rewarding to see Ralph’s hard work and determination pay off. He has always had tremendous potential but the work he has done with the Elite Running Programme has really paid dividends. We also have some very strong girls coming through the programme and I’m sure it won’t be long until Ella Chalmers, Ella Sykes and Alexandra Geldard are also winning trophies be it as a team or individually.”

Milton Abbey independent day and boarding school Dorset

Milton Abbey’s recent Taster Day was full to bursting with prospective pupils who arrived in glorious Spring sunshine ready for an action packed day.

After a welcome

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by Headmaster Magnus Bashaarat, who explained that the aim of the day was for the children to get a really good feel for what life is like at Milton Abbey, everyone chose a sports activity –either golf, hockey, netball or lacrosse led by our specialist sports coaches.

This was followed by a choice of spending time in the Art Department, the Design and Technology workshop or the Hospitality kitchen.   Amid lots of fun and laughter everyone produced either a work of art, an impressive electronic gadget or some delicious smelling mini quiches and bakewell tarts to take home.

Lunch in the Abbot’s Hall, our dining room dating back to medieval times, was followed by ‘woodland activities’ for some alongside Milton Abbey pupils from the CCF who helped with a range of games in the woods or Music and Drama in the New Barn Theatre.  Parents returned for tea in the Kings Room at the end of the day to find some happy, tired and quite messy children keen to tell them about their day.  We very much look forward to welcoming back all the families who visited today.

Isabella Hopps enjoyed her day so much she emailed to say, “…how much I enjoyed my taster day at Milton Abbey.  Now, thanks to that day, I have my heart set to try to get into Milton Abbey. I feel it is such a wonderfully welcoming and warm environment with so many amazing people. I enjoyed all the activities provided and would love to come and do some again.”

Headmaster Magnus Bashaarat said, “Days like this, organised by our Admissions team, are a great way for prospective pupils to test out what it would be like to be a pupil here at Milton Abbey.  The focus is on fun and activities are led by a mixture of older pupils as well as staff so children get a really good feel for the school.  It was lovely to see so many pupils takin part in the Taster Day from a wide variety of schools across the country and overseas.”

Milton Abbey School Independent Dorset

On Wednesday 1st February, we welcomed ten teams from a wide range of local schools who were taking part in the Milton Abbey Prep

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Schools’ Debating Competition, now in its third year.    A total of 30 young students took part in an afternoon which included a workshop on debating and public skills.  This was a great opportunity for the children to find out more about how debates are run – their structure and the terms commonly used in debating – and to consider the skills needed when presenting arguments in support and against a given motion.

The teams were then each assigned a motion so they could prepare their arguments in advance of the competition.  The motions included, ‘This house believes that teachers in classrooms should be replaced by skype lecturers’ and ‘This house believes that contact sports should be compulsory’.

After thirty minutes of intense preparation the teams took part in a competition in front of an audience in the New Barn Theatre and judged by Magnus Bashaarat, Milton Abbey’s Headmaster.   All teams performed extremely well and the winning team was from Sunninghill Prep School.

Magnus Bashaarat said, “The standard of debating was really high and I greatly enjoyed listening to the lively and entertaining arguments put forward by the different teams.   Debating is an excellent way of building confidence and sharpening thinking; as well as preparing their speeches, the children had to think on their feet when faced with counter arguments from their components.  The competition was a fun, friendly way to introduce these young people to debating and I hope they continue to develop their skills in this area at their senior schools.”

Certainly the visiting schools were very appreciative of the day. Sarah Adkin, Head of English at Sandroyd School said, ‘Our students greatly enjoyed themselves. It has inspired them to organise a permanent debate team!’

Schools taking part in the competition were: Castle Court School, Dumpton School, Farleigh School , Forres Sandle Manor School, Hanford School, Sandroyd School and Sunninghill Prep School.

Milton Abbey School Independent Dorset

Milton Abbey pupils held a Charity Cabaret evening last week to raise money for the two school charities – Julia’s House and SKRUM.    Parents

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and ‘Friends of Milton Abbey’ attended in large numbers and with over 14 individual acts performed during the evening, and a delicious three course dinner served by Hospitality pupils, the evening was a real show case of some of the school’s best musical and culinary talent.

Julia’s House is the only children’s hospice charity in Dorset dedicated to helping life-limited children and their families across the county. They run regular respite sessions at their hospice in Corfe Mullen and in families’ own homes. The charity also runs events for siblings and parents, thereby supporting the whole family.  SKRUM was founded by rugby-mad Michael Collinson and his wife Linda.   SKRUM works in Swaziland visiting schools, coaching rugby and most importantly, educating children about AIDS, which threatens to wipe out the population. 42% of the population in Swaziland has HIV/AIDS, the highest rate of infection in the world, SKRUM uses rugby to do life changing work in Swaziland and Southern Africa, introducing the game and its values to schools, and at the same time life-saving education on HIV / AIDS.

Magnus Bashaarat, Headmaster of Milton Abbey School, said, “This was a wonderful evening of music and entertainment all in support of two fantastic causes.  We have fundraised for Julia’s House for the past three years as we were keen to support this local charity that provides such crucial support to families at the most difficult of times.  We are also delighted to be supporting SKRUM this year which does such great work with children in Swaziland.” 

Milton Abbey is a Round Square school and as such pupils are encouraged to follow the six ideals espoused by educational philosopher Kurt Hahn, internationalism, service, democracy, leadership, adventure and environmentalism.

Milton Abbey Independent Dorset

Congratulations to Milton Abbey sixth former Tom who with his company T.O.M (Totally Original Merchandise) has won the Entrepreneur in Residence competition, resulting in a

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prize of £2,000. Many congratulations also go to Ed and Freddie, the runners up who are both in the sixth form, for getting so far in the competition.

Tom’s company start-up ‘Totally Original Merchandise’ manufactures and sells marble door stops that he has found and repurposed from architectural marble cut-offs. This really captured David Ross, our Entrepreneur in Residence’s imagination. Tom had done a huge amount of work to package and present his product cleverly, and David was able to give him advice on how to market and sell his doorstops, as well as putting in Tom’s first bulk order.

Our Entrepreneur in Residence scheme is now in its fourth year. It brings a successful business leader into the school to adjudicate in a ‘Dragons Den’ style competition, in which £250 of seed funding for a business idea has to be developed into a fully-fledged business proposition. Business surgeries with the entrepreneurs are a golden opportunity for the teams to get advice about strategic marketing, financing and pricing from a business leader well known on the high street. Perhaps the biggest dividend is the encouragement that the budding entrepreneurs receive; someone believes in their idea and in their ability, and they feel able to breathe life into their business.

David Ross qualified as a Chartered Accountant with Arthur Andersen & Co. He co-founded The Carphone Warehouse Group plc in 1991 and has also been involved in leading many other public and private companies. David is passionate about developing educational opportunities for young people and established the David Ross Foundation, which currently sponsors 33 academies in Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, North East Lincolnshire and the Humber Region. David is a Trustee of the National Portrait Gallery and on the Board of the British Olympic Association. Previous Entrepreneurs in Residence include Anya Hindmarch, Cath Kidston and Johnnie Boden.

Milton Abbey Headmaster, Magnus Bashaarat, said “We are very grateful to David Ross who has been an inspirational Entrepreneur in Residence for Milton Abbey School, providing our students with real insight into what makes a successful entrepreneur and enabling them to learn from one of the UK’s most successful self starting businessmen.”

Milton Abbey independent day and boardig school Dorset

Milton Abbey pupils are celebrating after winning the recent Millfield Shooting Competition – coming 1st to beat 26 other competing school teams.  This fantastic win

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was testament to the pupils’ skill and the excellent training they have received all term from Purbeck Shooting School, widely acknowledged to be one of the best shooting schools in the country.

The Milton Abbey Clay Pigeon Shooting Club meets three times a week when most of their friends are taking part in more conventional sports such as rugby, football or hockey; for pupils with an interest in this area there is also a target shooting club and opportunities exist to go deer stalking.  However three times a week the team sets off to Purbeck for their training accompanied by Milton Abbey teacher Jordan Williams.  There is a tangible sense of focus to the training they receive there as Graham Brown, the Managing Director at Purbeck Shooting School explains,  “Purbeck Shooting School prides itself on doing things correctly; the main thing is that when the students come to us we make sure the gun fit is right so they have the best opportunity to shoot correctly.  We also structure the teaching in such a way that it is staged from one week to the next, with each lesson following on logically from previous lesson so that the students can see their progress clearly.”

Many independent schools hold clay shooting competitions but Millfield is generally regarded as being the best in terms of the level of skill required to win and there is a healthy rivalry between the schools’ two teams with Milton Abbey knowing the stiffest competition is likely to come from Millfield.   The competition itself consists of two sections.  Firstly there is a 40 bird sporting shoot where each student shoots 40 times at a variety of different incoming targets coming from different directions and at different heights.   Secondly there is a team element in what is called a ‘flush’ – this is where a team stands in a line and various clays are fired above them either from the left, right or directly above them which means that the students have to communicate effectively with each other under considerable pressure and in an extremely fast moving environment.  The fact that this is done in front of all the other competing teams just adds to the pressure.

Milton Abbey teacher, Jordan Williams, explains “Clay Pigeon shooting is something of a hard sport to quantify as on one hand the students have to work as members of a team and yet when it really starts to count, and the clays start to fly, the students are completely on their own -there is nowhere to hide when they make a mistake.  It is no coincidence that all the successful shooters I have met have a certain air of quiet confidence and an unshakeable but modest belief in their own abilities.”

Milton Abbey is hoping to hold their own school shooting competition next year in conjunction with Purbeck Shooting School and is looking forward to seeing their team continue to grow in confidence.   Graham Brown continues, “I saw great potential in the Milton Abbey team from the start and it has been good to see their confidence grow as they started to believe in themselves.  It was a pleasure for me to be at the competition and to see the boys realise the fruits of their labour.  I know that with the right support they have even more potential and go on to greater successes ahead.”

Photo:  the winning Clay Pigeon Shooting A team: Zach, Will and George

Milton Abbey independent day and boarding school Dorset

Milton Abbey School is fortunate enough to be one of a small number of schools which runs its own pheasant shoot. The School hosts the

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shoot on five days during the season with the full cooperation of our neighbours, and is run by pupils studying Countryside Management BTEC in the sixth form with the help of staff and a gamekeeper.

Pupils not only study the following modules as part of the course – game bird production, Game Management, Shoot Management, Estate Skills, Fire Arms, woodland management, working dogs, pest and predator control – but all of these modules are taught practically throughout the season in real time along with the relevant class room theory work. The safety of all participants is paramount and the importance of maintaining shooting’s vital rules, codes of practice, traditions and etiquette is reinforced at every opportunity. From catching up birds for the laying pens, overseeing the laying process, rearing, husbandry, maintenance and everything in-between, right up to the shoot days, the pupils are very much hands on.

As the season approaches pupils plan the seasons shoot days, including all its logistics, staffing and catering requirements. Even the shoot invitations are sent directly from the pupils to the guns, with the first invitations being sent to their own parents. To date this season we have held one shoot day – on October 19th – when Milton Abbey parents were our guests and pupils made up the beating team. Gamekeeper and Countryside Management technician Kevin Hurst was delighted with how the day went, “It was unseasonably mild, with the trees still full of leaf and perhaps not the best weather for shooting, however the guns and beaters turned up full of smiles and eager to have an enjoyable day. The beating team were up against it all day, there was very little wind and sound was carrying a long way. It was the first day ever beating for most the team and they got around the first three drives really well. By the end of the day the beating lines were very slick and communication along the line was brief and accurate. The birds performed admirably, flushing high and fast challenging the guns to full effect.”

After some very long walks for the beating team in particular, lunch in the Princes Room in the Milton Abbey mansion was welcomed by all. Guns and beaters always dine together at Milton Abbey enjoying the warmth of the roaring fire. The catering team as always produced a truly hearty lunch during which talk was loud and smiles were broad, all the signs of a successful morning. Kevin continues, “After many hours in the class room our first shoot day is always a cascade of eureka moments for pupils when theory suddenly becomes reality before their eyes. The relevance of habitat management, release pen design and functionality, feeding regimes, predator control all becomes relevant. Education does not get any more interactive than this. The bag for the day was 24 pheasant for 86 shots which for our humble shoot is a very reasonable day.”

Lissy Carr, Director of Land Based Studies at Milton Abbey School summed up the day, “On days like this we see our pupils grow in knowledge, confidence and stature, I saw the birds that we reared in perfect condition flying high and fast over the guns with many making it through to battle another day. Above all it was a pleasure to see proud students and even prouder parents enjoy a day of shooting which was carried out extremely safely and with real respectfor our beautiful environment.”

Milton Abbey parent Charlie Coleman said of the day, “For me it was just wonderful to see so much enthusiasm from the girls and boys; it was totally clear that they were all 100% committed to making the day work as well as it possibly could. The combined effort of the pupils and the Milton Abbey staff resulted in a fantastic day of sport for us in glorious surroundings. The pupils rightly had such pride in what they achieved and can’t wait for their day in January. Many thanks for such an enjoyable day.”

Milton Abbey independent day and boarding school Dorset

Composer Francis Shaw, MAA (ex Hambro and Damer 1956-59) returned to Milton Abbey on Tuesday 18th October to give a  piano workshop for pupils and

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an evening recital in the King’s Room .

Francis was one of only sixty boys when he was at Milton Abbey school in the 1950s, one of the first cohort of pupils.  He remembers playing the organ in the Abbey at every opportunity, especially as a way to avoid having to play rugby which he hated.  This regular practice obviously paid off as he went on to study at the London College of Music and has gone on to enjoy an extremely successful career as a composer and musician.

We were delighted to welcome Francis, and his wife Annie, back to Milton Abbey on Tuesday 18th October.  He spent the afternoon giving some of our most talented pianists one-to-one help and advice in a piano workshop.   Leila and Rose, both in the fourth form, Laura and Enver in the fifth form and Chris in the Middle Sixth had an amazing afternoon and each played a piece as well as a composition of their own with the help of Francis.  Later in the evening Francis gave a recital to a wider group of pupils playing some of his favourite pieces of classical music before moving on to perform some of his own compositions.   One piece, inspired by Prokofiev, and written when Francis was a student, had only been performed once before in public, Ballade no.1 (1966); two pieces that Francis was commissioned to write for a film ‘Schubert’ and ‘Chopin’ were particular highlights.   Francis ended by improvising on a tune composed earlier by Laura and playing ‘Funky Fingers’, a piece he originally composed for the son of a friend who was learning the piano and has now become a firm family favourite with his children and grandchildren – it wasn’t hard to see why!

Director of Music, Shaun Pirttijarvi said, “The individual workshops with Francis were a wonderful experience for our young pianists; spending time with such a talented and successful composer was truly inspiring and Francis had a great rapport with all the pupils.”

Francis Shaw said, “It was a real pleasure to come back to Milton Abbey and spend time with these talented young pianists.  It was whilst I was a pupil here that my love of music really took off and I was able to spend the majority of my free time playing the organ in the beautiful Abbey.”    However Francis recalls falling  foul of the rather stricter standards of the time when: “I was forbidden to play the organ for a  week because I had played a popular tune of the time during an Abbey service, the theme music from a 1958 TV series called ‘The Killing Stones’.  I was firmly told that “this kind of music” was not appropriate in Abbey.”

Milton Abbey has a termly programme of musical recitals each term; these are held in the King’s Room in the heart of the mansion building and are a fantastic opportunity for pupils and guests, including the Friends of Milton Abbey, to listen to and meet talented professional musicians at close quarters.

On leaving the Royal College of Music Frances Shaw studied composition with Goffredo Petrassi in Rome, Lennox Berkeley in London and Alexander Goehr at Southampton University. Yehudi Menuhin commissioned Francis’s DIVERTIMENTO FOR STRINGS, first performed at the Windsor Festival in 1971, which started his professional composing life.  He has composed more than 80 documentary & factual TV scores and for films such as THE COUNTRY GIRLS (1983) and co-orchestrated the music for A ROOM WITH A VIEW (1985): SHACKLETON of the ANTARCTIC (1982): IRELAND, a TELEVISION HISTORY (1980)  In 2006 his anthem for the Queen’s 80th birthday, BIRTHDAY PRAYER, was performed in her presence at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor. His music for the Oscar nominated film EVIL won the best film score Ivor Novello Award in 2006. Francis’s 2 Piano Concertos were released on the Lyrita label in October 2016.

Milton Abbey independent day and boarding school Dorset

Milton Abbey School has been celebrating an important landmark: it is ten years since the school became co-educational. With girls originally joining Milton Abbey in

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the sixth form, this changed in 2012 when the school became fully co-educational and now girls are now very much at the centre of everyday life at the school.

Headmaster Magnus Bashaarat said, “It is hard to think of Milton Abbey as anything other than a coeducational school; girls flourish here and are contributing at the highest level to all aspects of school life whether that is in the classroom, on the sports field, in the music or art departments or in positions of responsibility. The transition was a smooth one and we are delighted that our girls’ house, Hodgekinsons or ‘Hughies’ as it is better known, holds its own in school competitions, winning quite a few of the most sought after prizes and that it is full. That in itself is testament to how successful the transition has been.”

As part of the celebrations, Milton Abbey held a ‘Girls Fun Day’ when many of our girls played host to younger girls who came along to take part in a variety of fun activities including a scavenger hunt, cupcake decorating class and drama workshop. A delicious lunch was enjoyed in the school’s Abbot’s Hall, which dates back to the 14th century, followed by tea in the Girls’ House later in the afternoon. The girls took home with them their beautiful individual collages created using treasures collected during the scavenger hunt, as a reminder of their day with us.

Since going fully co-educational in September 2012, approximately one third of each year group is made up of girls, with numbers rising every year. Assistant Head (Teaching and Learning), Natalie Perry, said “Milton Abbey’s size allows us to tailor the curriculum around our pupils’ interests and talents so girls can really focus on what they excel at which builds enormous confidence. We are proud that as a nonselective school every one of our pupils got into their first or second choice university this summer. We also develop transferable skills throughout a pupil’s five years at Milton Abbey; as well as the traditional academic subjects we offer more vocational options such as BTECs in Creative Media, Enterprise and Entrepreneurship, Hospitality, Countryside Management, Sport, Performing Arts, Music and Design- 3D and graphics. These subjects are more practical based and hands on and pupils can choose to study a mixture of traditional or more vocational subjects.”


Photo: some of our younger visitors to the Milton Abbey Girls Day with celebratory cake…

Milton Abbey independent school Dorset

It sounds like a headmaster’s nightmare – a famous visitor who gives a speech to the whole school telling them they should

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think about skipping university. But Magnus Bashaarat was delighted when the fashion designer Anya  Hindmarch came to Milton Abbey in Dorset and did exactly that.“We recognise that university is not the best destination for everyone,” he says. “We want to support those who are suited to a different pathway. Anya Hindmarch sent out a really strong message.”

Hindmarch was speaking as the school’s first Entrepreneur-in-Residence, encouraging and advising teenagers keen to launch into the world of business.

“I was persuaded to become an entrepreneur largely by an old girl returning to my school to talk about her career in fashion,” she says. “I’m a huge fan of what Milton Abbey is doing – it’s really ground-breaking.”

Johnnie Boden and Cath Kidston have followed her in the post, and next term the baton – or perhaps the floral tote bag – will pass to David Ross, the co-founder of Carphone Warehouse.

“Some of the best talent in the world is to be found in independent schools,” Ross says. “But while they have historically produced a lot of lawyers, doctors and accountants, in my day they were not very good at trying to convince us that entrepreneurship was worth aiming for in itself. I believe that if a young person is considering going it alone, he or she should be applauded and encouraged.”

Ross, whose charitable foundation sponsors 33 academies in the Midlands and northern England, has more enthusiasm for further education than Hindmarch.

“I went to university and loved it,” he says. “To me, it’s one of the key building blocks, I learnt a huge amount about self-reliance.”

But he feels that non-academic activities can provide a grounding for future life that a familiarity with Middle English grammar or the habits of quarks may not: “Sport, for example, teaches you about a lot of things that are valuable in the workplace, such as turning up at the right time with the right kit, being part of a team and feeling a responsibility to others.”

Ross’s duties at Milton Abbey will include judging the final of the school’s answer to Dragons’ Den. “The pupils start by forming teams and coming up with business ideas which they present to me, the bursar, and the head of Economics and Business Studies,” Bashaarat explains.

“We select five teams and give them each £250 in seed money. The Entrepreneur-in-Residence gets a list of their businesses and what they want to achieve, and then comes down and gives them advice – and on the basis of how they use that and how the business develops, he decides which team has the most potential.”

The prize is a further investment of £2,000. So far the winning businesses have included Next Big Label, a website through which new clothing companies can sell their products, and Cracking Spirits, which imports cachaca from Brazil – though not, one hopes, for sale in the school tuck shop.

Vinyl records from car-boot sales, dogs’ collars from China and belts from Kenya have also inspired dreams of stratospheric profit margins.

“I’ve always been interested in making money,” says Archie Kevill, who devised Next Big Label with his friend Patrick Blanshard. “But the competition taught me about the formal elements, such as how to draw up a business plan and prepare myself for interviews.”

Oliver Sykes, the founder of Cracking Spirits, describes the opportunity to talk his plans through with Boden as “an irreplaceable experience – it gave me a better understanding both of the direction I wanted to head in and of how to get there”.

Bashaarat, who was a housemaster at Eton and deputy headmaster of Stowe before moving to Milton Abbey, came up with the scheme to support the school’s Enterprise and Entrepreneurship BTEC course. He is a passionate champion of vocational qualifications.

“Our course is much more practical than Business Studies A-level, which tends to be about case studies from the Seventies and Eighties such as Betamax versus VHS. The BTEC provides lots of opportunities to come up with your own projects, which was why I felt that we needed regular visitors to the school who could teach from their own experience.

“The biggest dividend from having an Entrepreneur-in-Residence is the encouragement that the pupils receive – the fact that someone believes in their ideas and their ability is something that helps them breathe life into their business.”

BTECs are awarded on the basis of two years’ continual assessment – at levels one and two they are equivalent to GCSEs, and at level three to A-levels. Ninety-five per cent of universities and colleges now recognise them as entrance qualifications, and they are increasingly popular in schools, even if – as Bashaarat concedes – they continue to have something of an image problem (“They’re still the victim of intellectual and class snobbery”).

A third of Milton Abbey’s pupils take BTECs instead of A-levels, while another third do a mixture of the two – the courses on offer include 3D Design, Hospitality, Countryside Management, Music and Sport.

The school grounds – laid out by Capability Brown – include a farm where students can get to grips with such practical pursuits as bee-keeping and sausage-making.

“Traditionally, a lot of our pupils went on to agricultural colleges such as Cirencester,” Bashaarat says. “And because the school knew that A-levels were not particularly helpful to them, it started offering courses in countryside management and equine  studies a long time ago. Sothere was already a nucleus of vocational courses when I arrived here , but it seemed to me that we needed to identify more subjects.”

Milton Abbey now claims to offer a wider choice of sixth-form courses than any other independent school – Enterprise and Entrepreneurship has proved the most popular with its 250 students, appealing equally to girls and boys, followed by Creative Media Production. Performing Arts also has a strong following, attracting – as Bashaarat puts it – “creative people who don’t enjoy writing essays about acting techniques”.

Bashaarat is full of examples of pupils who have flourished by opting for BTECs. One, who studied IT, won a scholarship to study Forensic Computing and Security at Bournemouth University; another, though hampered by dyslexia in his written work, excelled at Hospitality and went on to a leading hotel-management school in Switzerland.

Less predictably, a girl who was attracted to Milton Abbey by its Equine Management course ended up developing an interest in law and being offered a place at Durham to study Criminology.

The Entrepreneur-in-Residence’s speech is now a key date in the school’s calendar, attended by parents as well as pupils.  “The level of engagement at Johnnie Boden’s lecture last year was extraordinary,” says Charlie Bigham, founder of the eponymous ready-meals company, who is a governor of Milton Abbey.

“My 12-year-old son told me on the way home, ‘I learnt more in the last hour than I did in all my lessons today’. I suspect that many entrepreneurs, like me, stumbled into what they do – so inspiring children at an early age can only be a good thing.”

Milton Abbey was delighted to welcome parents, journalists, schools and educational agents to the recent ‘Future of Vocational Learning’ conference. The conference, which was run

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in collaboration with Arts University Bournemouth and featured Vice Chancellor, Stuart Bartholomew CBE, as guest speaker, sought to introduce the concept of ‘new vocationalism’ to the audience.

Stuart began by summing up the extent to which career choices for independently educated pupils have become largely predictable, with many pupils following pre-carved pathways into law or medicine, for example, which often don’t suit their particular skills, talents or preferences but instead conform to the traditional notion of academia as superior to vocationalism. Whilst other countries attribute a high level of esteem to technical or vocational courses, he highlighted how in the UK a stigma of ‘doing’ as inferior to ‘thinking’ has proven harder to break down.

The emergence of ‘new vocationalism’, of developing powers of learning, transferable skills and a preparedness for the workplace, can help combat this ‘rear view mirror’ scenario, where young people are driving forward with their futures with their eyes firmly fixed on a past which has gone before them. Given that higher education choices are largely defined by qualifications gained at GCSE and A Level, the conference provided a platform for Milton Abbey to set out its comprehensive programme of nine BTEC courses to the audience, currently including Equine Management, Countryside Management, Hospitality, Music, Performing Arts, Sport, Business, Enterprise and Entrepreneurship and Creative Media Production, with plans for additional courses to be added in the near future.

Milton Abbey’s Headmaster, Magnus Bashaarat, comments, “With UCAS rebuilding their points tariff to incorporate BTEC qualifications and now just a handful of universities not recognising BTECs as entry qualifications, vocationalism is gaining ground and Milton Abbey is proud to be leading the way by offering the broadest range of BTEC courses in the independent sector.” He continues, “University is not the only option, however, and a vocational pathway equips those pupils choosing to proceed directly into the world of work with a toolkit of key employability skills which are so desirable to companies and organisations today.”

A recent survey conducted by The Daily Telegraph ranked Arts University Bournemouth number one in a list of universities whose students successfully progress into full time employment on completion of their studies, scoring an impressive 97.4%. Stuart Bartholomew credits this to the vocationalised nature of AUB’s offering, commenting, “Courses at AUB offer students the chance to work collaboratively on real projects, with real companies, and with real career destinations in view. Like Milton Abbey, we pride ourselves on being a specialist education provider, equipping young people with a portfolio of transferable skills enabling them to thrive in today’s workplace.”



Photo: Stuart Bartholomew CBE, Vice Chancellor of Arts University Bournemouth (left) with Magnus Bashaarat, Milton Abbey’s Headmaster


The Changing Shape of Post-16 Education – Quick Facts

 What are BTECs? BTECs are typically assignment-based qualifications, continually assessed over two years, teaching project management skills and collaborative work alongside individual research and development relating to a particular industry

 Recent IPPR (Institute of Public Policy Research) report reveals that many jobs expected to drive economic growth in the future will not necessarily require a traditional academic pathway

 Vocational qualifications – a developing market/area of growth

 A BTEC National Level 3 Subsidiary Diploma carries the equivalent weighting of an A Level

 Research commissioned by Pearson looking at data compiled between 1996 and 2011 found that 89.8% of graduates with BTEC qualifications were in employment, compared with 88.1% of graduates with A Levels  UCAS is rebuilding its points tariff to incorporate BTEC qualifications, and 95% of universities now accept BTECs on entry

 Attractive non-university options include: o School Leaver Programmes with firms including Tesco, National Audit Office and Baker Tilly o Higher Apprenticeships (accredited and salaried) with Rolls-Royce, BBC, GCHQ/MI5/MI6, GlaxoSmithKline

 Vocational learning incorporates key employability skills identified by Manchester University as including time management, communication, adaptability, initiative, problem solving and commercial awareness, for example In a recent ISI inspection, Milton Abbey, a co-educational day and boarding school for ages 13-18 situated midway between Blandford and Dorchester, was judged as being ‘highly successful in achieving its aim to enable each pupil to achieve their academic potential’. The report also praised the School’s ‘excellent’ teaching provision and highlighted its ‘carefully structured and broad curriculum’. Milton Abbey is proud to offer the broadest range of vocational subjects in the independent sector, alongside GCSEs and A Levels. F

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