Knighton House is an Independent school for girls aged 3 to 13 and boys aged 3 to 7. The school is set in the heart of Dorset and is renowned for being an exceptionally happy school. In the recent ISI Inspection report many areas of school life received the assessment of "excellent" or "outstanding" and it was noted that "The pupils participate in lessons with enthusiasm". Parents give "unstinted praise" to all aspects of the school.
About the school
Surrounded by thirty acres of beautiful countryside, Knighton House is a unique school with exceptional qualities. The single sex prep school for girls aged 7 to 13 offers day education and a variety of boarding packages, whilst boys and girls from 3 to 7 are nurtured in the cosy surroundings of the Orchard Pre-prep and a thriving toddler group meets at Knighton House every Thursday morning. Knighton House is renowned for the traditional, happy atmosphere which flows throughout the school. The individual strength of each child is encouraged to shine through. Children are inspired to imagine and explore in their daily learning. This, together with the important building blocks of reading writing and arithmetic, ensures that the girls leave Knighton well prepared for their senior school at the end of year eight. The excellent standard of music at Knighton House is rarely found in a small prep school and the girls are encouraged to perform with confidence. Speech and Drama is a strong part of life at Knighton and girls work eagerly towards their LAMDA exams. As well as the traditional team sports, Knighton House offers riding. Girls eager to bring their own ponies can do so and for many a real passion develops. There is room for smaller pets too and many of the boarders bring their guinea pigs to school too! Knighton is unique country school, where the natural, happy spirit is so evident the moment you step through the front door!
Knighton House School is launching two new 100% bursary awards to local children in Reception and Year 1. The Orchard Awards – named after the School’s pre-prep – will give local boys and girls the full benefit of an Orchard education in Years 1 and 2.
26th November 2019 — Knighton House School is launching two new 100% bursary awards to local children in Reception and Year 1. The Orchard Awards – named after the School’s pre-prep – will give local boys and girls the full benefit of an Orchard education in Years 1 and 2.
The Orchard at Knighton House is looking to offer awards to boys and girls showing enthusiasm and potential in their learning. The awards are fully funded and will be awarded to boys and girls in Reception and/or in Year 1 and will cover the entirety of their Orchard fees.
The awards will be made after an assessment made through play and structured activities as well as areas such as engagement and communication/language skills.
With schools under ever-increasing pressure to fit a growing number of elements into already full schedules and to put children second to curriculum demands, the reverse is true in The Orchard; the children guide their learning, engage with reality and the outdoors, drive their own achievement and thrive as a consequence.
Knighton House is based in 30 acres of glorious Dorset countryside which provides us with a fabulous canvas for learning. Our children receive an education which far exceeds a world of worksheets; they are able to interact and engage with the world first hand and most importantly have fun learning.
The family atmosphere of The Orchard enables the children to feel comfortable and secure. With our small class sizes, it is possible to tailor the learning experience to each child; they are nurtured to become independent learners who are confident to explore, investigate and succeed.
Robin Gainher, Headmaster at Knighton House, commented: “Knighton House is about the very best education we can provide in a nurturing supportive environment. These fully funded awards are true to Knighton’s charitable mission and are a fantastic way to broaden our contribution to the local community”.
'We have long embraced the concept of Outrospection, and what we lack in size is more than compensated for by the benefits of our shared community experience...'
An article written by our Assistant Head, Charlotte Weatherley
30th October 2019 — Outrospection in Small Schools
‘Outrospection’, which refers to looking outside and beyond ourselves to discover ‘who we are and what it is that we want to do with our lives’, is a term I had never heard used before until I read it in philosopher Roman Krznaric’s book ‘Empathy – Why it Matters, and How to Get It’. Krznaric believes that the less we look inwards (in the manner of outrospection’s navel-gazing twin) the more likely we are to engage with and be engaged by both local and global communities and to empathise with what drives and concerns them.
Schools and outrospection are very distant relations; happy to look outwards to find packaged solutions to pedagogical problems (the Accelerated Reader is a good example) but otherwise, like Sartre’s famous gaze, for them, the act of seeing and the act of being seen is focused intensely inward. And if transparency is a concept with which teachers are completely familiar, the reality is they grow the future – the values of learners and the cast of the adults they become – quite privately, ruling freely in the classroom with a freedom (in planning and delivery of lessons, reporting and target setting) not seen in many other professions. Deeply engaged with every moment in pupils’ journey to mastery, everything done in classrooms is done for the benefit of learners, and those who teach, teach for every reason that has nothing to do with the global exchange or the ten principles of economics. No ‘incentives’ make us try harder to embed a love of learning in our pupils and no market principle will ever replace sheer passion for our subjects, but the values of society and how it regards the mission of schools has changed and the values of parents have changed along with it. No longer able to look inwards, to succeed, parents want schools to think of everything – someone to teach meta-effective awareness to the Year 4s, plans in the event of a no-deal Brexit and a scheme to expand the brand overseas.
Adjusting budgets to address this shift in thinking, the big-hitters in education have created an entirely new strata of jobs: Bid Writing and Sub-Contracting Officer, Marketing, Design and Communications Co-Ordinator and Director of Overseas Schools; in the large school environment these ‘support’ roles now outnumber that of teacher; but what about education’s ‘tiny house’ equivalent, the village primary or the small rural prep school? How have we entered the conversation? Well, we have long embraced the concept of Outrospection, and what we lack in size (and opportunities for recruitment) is more than compensated for by the benefits of our shared community experience and the speed with which we can respond to circumstance.
Small schools, like the artisan workshop of medieval times, take their hand-crafted or bespoke service directly to the user; much as in the 10th century, medieval illuminators began to go freelance, travelling to the work, actively seeking commissions and loosening the monopoly of the scriptorium to lay their incredible talents before royal patrons. Small schools are similarly dynamic. Believing in the flexibility of our new (out of Common Entrance) curriculum to accommodate the requirements of children being educated at home, we took our thinking to the market, offering our teaching expertise, the opportunity to attend sessions in our enrichment programme and a buy-in to the Extras already on offer to our own pupils – riding, music tuition, ballet and drama. The result was a confident collaboration to produce the Home Education initiative.
Anticipating what is needed before anyone thinks to ask for it means bold steps and a great deal of shouting, and inviting the community to shout with us. We cried, ‘goodbye outdated testing regimes and hello Knighton House’s very own curriculum’ – a curriculum to develop our pupils’ ‘human’ talents. Subjects of which you might never have heard now appear on our timetable; thus S-Maths (as named by pupils), that important gutter space where Science and Maths overlap, was an opportunity for learning which anticipated the education 4.0 skills which are a must in the workplaces of the future. Fantasy Friday (as named by teachers) brings together all the best bits of our curriculum in an intellectual mash-up. A sustainable arts enterprise married up DT, Science, Geography, Art and Outdoor Ed, and what we will call ‘History fusion’ brought together Art History (‘Pilgrims in Art’) and Archaeology (an enjoyable session of ‘What’ Does Poo Tell us About the Past?’).
Small schools know that self-knowledge and self-regulation are the congruence from which comes all great thinking and we have the luxury to linger over both, building the intellectual and emotional mindset gradually and according to the needs of individual pupils. Understanding conflict is equally vital for knowing oneself properly and a small school sees when one member of the family is at odds with the rest; and the information from that heightened ‘emotional temperature’ signals we have further work to teach how to regulate it. Small groups have the physical and intellectual space to talk openly, about disharmony for example, in their learning and their relationships, but as strongly in their relationship to the wider ‘conflicts’ of the age; and we endorse solution-seeking as the skill which will support the management of difficult experiences all their life long. Try expressing the immense power of being able to do this in your marketing literature, and you will see how small schools have sometimes struggled to convey their outward-facing spirit, when many enquiries are focused on the size of the Astroturf and the number of iPads available to Nursery pupils.
Social consciousness, the turning of the gaze to embrace ‘The Other’, has always been at the heart of the small school’s mission. Like the Japanese concept of ‘shokunin’, we prepare our pupils to regard as their responsibility, the welfare of all society, and that learning is about individual possibility, but more strongly, the collective good. Choosing a small school for your child means a vote for Outrospection, and a vote for Outrospection means you value for your children empathy, and empathy is very, very good for them: reducing stress and fostering resilience, it is a nourishing emotion and, according to the Empathy Lab, it is ‘a beacon of hope in a divided world.’
— Written by Miss Charlotte Weatherley, Assistant Head —
Empathy: Why It Matters, And How to Get It by Roman Krznaric
Hopeful Schools: Building Humane Communities by Mary Myatt
The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society by Frans De Waal
We often get asked about our red dungarees and why we have them as our school uniform. Charlotte Weatherly, our Assistant Head, has written an article about our fabulous dungarees and how they promote better learning.
10th July 2019 — What we Wear; How we Learn
Enclothed Cognition and The Dungaree
No mention is made of dungarees in John Carl Flugel’s 1930s article ‘The Psychology of Clothes’ published in issue 18 of International Psycho-analytical Library. Much is made of how particular items of clothing ‘serve the motives of decoration, modesty, and protection’, but nothing about the dungaree.
That we undergo profound psychological changes when we put on specific clothes has long been known, although it is only quite recently that the concept has been given its own name. ‘Enclothed Cognition’ (H Adam, AD Galinsky – Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 2012) was created to describe ‘the systematic influence that clothes have on the wearer’s psychological processes’, but with the caveat that the influence of clothes depends on wearing them and their symbolic meaning.
In the deep past (the 17th century to be precise) dungarees were squarely in the category of workwear; of a cheap, coarse, thick cotton, either blue or white, they were originally worn by the very poor in India. In the boom years of 19th century American expansion, they reappeared as the go-to attire of railroad and construction workers; savvy pioneers looking to get ahead and get rich. Not so in 2019; dungarees (and their cool sister the jump suit) feature in fashionable and celebrity wardrobes because they are so versatile and according to Love30 they are particularly great when you don’t know what the weather is going to do (a full-time job for the British) allowing for plenty of layering and showing off your marvellous knitwear. What the fashion blogs fail to mention is that dungarees are the go-to attire for modern girls totally focused on their learning; too busy being optimistic in the classroom and collaborating with their peers, dungarees are for girls who have no time for fussing about the length of their skirt.
Enclothed Cognition is not a new branch of psychoanalysis but revealed within it is our complex relationship with what we wear and how clothes influence our psychological processes; including how we learn. What we have known since the beginning of time (or since 1965 at least) is that when they are red and worn by girls at Knighton House school, wearing dungarees means great attitudes to learning and better learning altogether.
So why and how do dungarees promote better learning? You might as well ask how many ideas a girl in red dungarees can come up with for an international STEM challenge prize-winning idea (lots; and one winning one) for they are legion:
• Pond dipping and exploring habitats is easy (Science lessons)
• No fuss about changing when lessons move outside (The outdoor classroom)
• Accepting difference is commonplace; no-one else wears dungarees; we dare to be different (PSHEE)
• They have proper sized pockets; room for at least two good books (Reading for pleasure)
• Experiments for measuring and calculating speed are realistic (SMaths*)
• Musical instruments such as the cello are accessible (Music)
• No one is excited by the thought of writing ‘Ode to My Grey School Skirt’, but ‘Ode to My Red Dungarees’ that’s another story; just as an aside, in studies about the influence of colour on learning, red is said to encourage creativity (English)
• The Battle of Hastings (and other famous fights) can be re-enacted authentically (History)
• You get stress-free Biology – no problems being in messy locations identifying invertebrates (Science)
• Running up hills and generally yomping in fields to study microclimates is easy (Geography)
• Every type of chemistry experiment is possible: no fiddling with lab coats (Science)
• Games of 40-40 in dungarees develop our competitive edge (Sport)
• Girls are less self-critical and more confident (Attitudes to learning)
• Practising our jumping (a.k.a. pony jumps in the Greenwood) means we have some of the best scores in athletics competitions (Games)
Encompassing other philosophies about education, the list could go on. Rousseau for example, although not a documented advocate of dungarees (I do not think they get a mention in ‘Émile, Où de l’Éducation’) was very keen on children interacting with their environment to further their learning, rather than simply drawing knowledge from books; how better than in a pair of red dungarees. On the practical side, wearing dungarees in our countryside environment just makes sense; when you need to leap a fence to catch a runaway pony or you fancy picking a Russet apple from the orchard for your breaktime snack, dungarees make it a blush-free exercise, modesty guaranteed.
Nothing at Knighton House school ever happens without the solution-seeking mindset being applied; in the case of our iconic ‘everyday’ uniform, (we have a further uniform for out of school events) it was a simple choice based on the principle of how could girls be supported to get the most out of their learning; and lo, behold, the red dungaree.
*SMaths = Science and Maths combined
— Written by Miss Charlotte Weatherly, Assistant Head —
Success for Knighton House girl at 2 big equestrian events
Success for Knighton House girl Madeline & her pony Hippo
15th January 2019 — Success for Knighton House girl Madeline
12 year old Madeline from Knighton House, and her pony Hippo, have been travelling around England and Wales this year racing with the Shetland Pony Grand National. In November Madeline was told she had been selected to compete at Olympia Horse Show and at the Liverpool International Horse Show in the Shetland Grand National. Madeline and Hippo did incredibly well and won at both venues. Madeline has been competing to raise money for the Bob Champion Cancer Trust. Congratulations to both Madeline and Hippo, and to all those behind the scenes who made it possible.
Paralympic Athlete David Hill visits Knighton House School
Paralympic athlete David Hill visits Knighton House School
17th October 2018 — Paralympic athlete David Hill visits Knighton House
On Wednesday 17th October Knighton House had their ‘Sports for Schools’ sponsored circuit event with David Hill, Paralympic Triathlete. The Knighton pupils took part in a circuit which included spotty dogs, leg drives, press-ups and star jumps.
David was born without the lower part of his left arm and after 12 years of international swimming decided to change sports to British Para-triathlon. It was fascinating to hear from David and Knighton are very grateful that he spent the afternoon with us. Great fun for both pupils and staff!
Where Knighton leads, Westminster follows - Guest blog
Where Knighton leads, Westminster follows
Guest blog: Iain Weatherby Co-chair of Governors, Knighton House School
7th October 2018 — Where Knighton leads, Westminster follows
Guest blog: Iain Weatherby Co-chair of Governors, Knighton House School
Patrick Derham, now the Head Master of Westminster, taught me history at Radley in the 1980s. ‘Fiercely intelligent’ is a cliché but he was both of those things, prodding us teenage boys out of our complacency and laziness, provoking us, daring us to think for ourselves. He once dismantled an essay I had written in front of the class: a bracing experience that I have never forgotten. He was one of the best teachers I ever had.
So when I saw his name above a leader in The Times last week I read on and immediately heard again the rhythms of his voice and his thought. But beyond his style, the content of what he had to say is hugely significant for all of us here at Knighton House. Patrick used his Times column to announce that Westminster, along with Wellington and St Paul’s is abandoning Common Entrance, deeming it no longer ‘fit for purpose’.
Under the headline ‘Common Entrance Exam is a Burden Children Don’t Need’ he writes: “there is too much assessment and the atomisation of the curriculum in recent years has not helped. There are too many subject silos and not enough joined-up thinking across the curriculum, so too many young people do not see the beauty of learning and the interconnectedness of so many areas of academic study.”
He goes on “This exam heaps pressure on pupils, parents and teachers, fueling unnecessary anxiety and stress”. Moving away from Common Entrance is for Patrick “an act of liberation. We believe that our excellent feeder schools will use this freedom to develop their curriculums in ways that are even more rigorous and inspiring.”
Reading Patrick’s words I could have been listening to Robin Gainher, Helen Dominey or Charlotte Weatherly. That three of the country’s most prestigious and enlightened senior schools are now doing what Knighton House decided to do last year is a huge vindication for Robin, Helen and Charlotte — and our whole team of visionary educationalists.
It also means that parents of girls here in the South West have a very clear choice: between a bespoke modern curriculum designed to help them thrive at senior school and prepare them for the modern world — or two years of completely unnecessary pressure, grappling with a dusty Edwardian curriculum.
As a Governor I am proud that Knighton is leading on this: we want our new KED curriculum to be a model for the entire sector in promoting real Knowledge Enlightenment and Discovery. It is a central part of the distinctive Knighton House experience that helps girls become confident, enquiring young women.