School merger will create a “compelling and distinctive educational experience”

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Bryanston and Knighton House pre-prep and prep school have confirmed arrangements to complete a formal merger of the two Dorset schools with effect from 1 September 2021.  The move will increase the agility, strength in depth and operational efficiencies of both schools and follows Bryanston’s acquisition of the land and buildings of the neighbouring Knighton House campus last year. The merger will help to ensure both schools are well placed to rise to the new challenges and constantly evolving priorities within the world of education with confidence. In advance of the new academic year, a new headmaster has been appointed at Knighton House and arrangements are being made for an experienced figure from the prep school sector to join the governing body of Bryanston.

“This is an exciting and significant development for both schools,” says Julian Greenhill, Chair of Bryanston Governors.  “As next door neighbours, Bryanston and Knighton House have enjoyed a close and productive relationship over many decades.  The decision to proceed with a merger is a logical and forward-looking step that will enrich the experience and deliver significant benefits for all pupils.  It will also enable both schools to build on their respective strengths and to capitalise fully on shared resources, facilities and expertise to provide a complete, distinctive and compelling educational offering for children from 3 to 18 years old.”

From September, Knighton House will be renamed Bryanston Knighton House, and all existing teaching and support staff at the school will be TUPE-transferred to Bryanston.  Will Lockett, a former housemaster at Bryanston, has returned to Dorset and been appointed as the new Headmaster of Bryanston Knighton House.  For the past six years he was Headmaster of Abberley Hall co-educational prep school in Worcestershire where he played an instrumental role in forging a new strategic relationship with Malvern College.

“Will’s knowledge and experience of running a highly regarded prep school and his deep familiarity with Bryanston will provide Bryanston Knighton House with exactly the right insight and leadership as it enters an exciting new era,” says Iain Weatherby, the current co-Chair of Governors at Knighton House.

“The merger with Bryanston will give added impetus to the school’s move to a co-education structure and provide the level of agility and resource that a progressive prep school requires in an increasingly demanding education environment.  On behalf of all the school Governors, I wish Will and every member of staff at Knighton House every success in the future and I have absolutely no doubt that both current and future pupils at the school will benefit from a first class and truly inspiring educational experience.”

Knighton House has recently celebrated its 70th anniversary and its 30-acre site in Durweston lies directly adjacent to Bryanston’s 400-acre campus.  The school’s unique ‘Knowledge, Enlightenment and Discovery’ curriculum has been developed to prepare pupils for learning at all stages of their lives with a clear focus on personal fulfilment and key qualities such as optimism, curiosity, creativity, independence and self-awareness.  Such an approach closely reflects the key values embodied within Bryanston’s education model and the merger between the two schools will extend the opportunities available to pupils.

Iain Weatherby and Paul Slight, the current co-chairs of the Knighton House governing body, will continue to be involved as part of the Transition Team to support the new merger.  In due course, Bryanston’s governors will assume responsibility for the school and a new governor will be appointed to ensure the specific requirements of a pre-prep and prep school are taken into full account.  Day-to-day management of the prep school will then be the responsibility of Will Lockett and his senior staff who will report to Bryanston Headmaster, Mark Mortimer.

“We’re delighted with the merger as it will help to diversify and strengthen our educational offer and to expand the reach and visibility of Bryanston’s operations and profile through innovative partnerships, community engagement and new commercial initiatives,” says Mortimer.  “It is entirely in keeping with Bryanston’s strategic development plans to broaden its educational and enterprise platforms and will also provide prospective parents with a proposition that is unlike anything else currently available in the local prep school market.  That said, we are equally determined to consolidate our close and long-standing relationships with other prep schools across the region as part of a supportive and mutually beneficial network of private and state schools.

“I’m particularly looking forward to working with the new Headmaster at Bryanston Knighton House and seeing the two schools working in tandem to deliver an exceptional education and learning environment for children of all ages.  The scope for joint workshops, events, masterclasses and other activities that make full use of our extensive and first class facilities is considerable. Announcing such a positive and exciting development at the end of a year that has been really challenging for everyone in the world of education gives both schools a real boost. We’re really excited about the possibilities and the potential provided by the merger and we can’t wait for the new school year to start and to put our ideas and plans into practice.”

Will Lockett says he is delighted to be taking the reins at Bryanston Knighton House at such an exciting time for the school.  “The merger presents a wonderful mix of new opportunities and wider horizons for our pupils while very much retaining the warm, family ethos in the heart of the Dorset countryside.  The merger with Bryanston will accelerate our move to full coeducation and the development of a truly innovative curriculum. The collective resources and expertise within the merged schools will mean an experience for our pupils that is distinctive and modern, and a rich environment for real creativity and growth.”

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