March 2, 2013

Bryanston School, first Dalton school in the UK


Bryanston School was founded in 1928 by J.G. Jeffreys, a young, innovative Australian schoolmaster who used his confidence and enthusiasm to gain support and finance for the school during a period of severe economic instability. There were just seven teachers and 23 boys of various ages in the first term, including Michael Phillips, father of Nicholas Phillips, Old Bryanstonian and Chairman of the Governors for 27 years until July 2008. 


Jeffreys had paid £35,000 for Bryanston House and its 450 acres of immediate grounds, which he purchased from the 4th Lord Portman, son of the builder of the house, the 2nd Lord Portman. Modelled on the chateau at Menars in the Loire valley, the Norman Shaw-designed house – the biggest in Dorset and the last of the grand stately homes to be built in England – had been occupied by the Portman family for just 30 years at the time of its sale, death duties making it impossible for Lord Portman to hold on to his family estate.
Jeffreys was a natural innovator but one who respected good traditions, reflected in his choice of school motto, Et Nova Et Vetera. 

It was the first English school to adopt the Dalton Plan, its combination of the new and the old being of particular appeal. The system was flexible enough to offer a combination of lessons in the classroom and time for assignment work in subject rooms, which gave boys the freedom to decide which pieces of academic work should have their attention. Pupils were required to keep a daily record on a chart showing their use of working and leisure time, meeting with their tutors on a weekly basis to ensure effective monitoring of their progress. The principles of this system are still in place today and remain central to the School’s success (see Educational Philosophy).


Jeffreys resigned in 1932 and was replaced by Thorold Coade. Coade believed that the emphasis on freedom and self-development implied self-discipline and that the School should provide the framework within which this could be developed. He spent the next 27 years establishing this framework. The growth in numbers after the war favoured the development of several areas, notably Pioneering, which remains a key feature of School life to this day.

Thorold Coade resigned in 1959 and Robson Fisher was appointed in his place. A number of important changes took place under his headship, including the change from short to long trousers, and the arrival of the first girls in 1972, making Bryanston one of the country's most experienced co-educational boarding schools. The transition to co-education was completed under the subsequent head, the Reverend David Jones.

Photo and text from the website of the school

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