Canford School

About Canford School

Ranked the top co-educational senior school in the South West for A Level results 2022 in The Sunday Times Parent Power 2023 report, Canford has a fine reputation for excellence in its teaching and learning, both inside and beyond the classroom.   As one of the few remaining co-educational full boarding schools in the UK (there is no flexi or weekly boarding), pupils have the time and space to grow and develop through dynamic subject teaching, an enrichment programme of intellectual talks, debates and events and a very broad range of co-curricular opportunities across sports, creative arts and activities which can take place not only through the school day but also in the evenings and at weekends.  The school was rated among the top 10 most beautiful schools by The Daily Telegraph and the landscaped parkland setting of over 250 acres is an inspirational place to live and work.   Added to this is the proximity to the south coast with its award winning beaches, the New Forest and many geographical and historical areas of interest in Dorset which offer opportunities for outdoor study and fun boarding trips.

Over 95% of pupils at Canford move on to university, 80%+ each year to the top UK Russell Group/Sunday Times Top 12 institutions and an increasing number taking up degree apprenticeships with prestigious corporates such as Goldman Sachs, Accenture and PwC.   As an international SAT testing centre, pupils can apply to universities across the globe and most recently scholarships have been awarded for sport and academic subjects to top colleges in the US including Columbia.

Making a difference to the lives of others is part of the school’s mission statement, and over 8,000 hours of Community Service work are given by pupils every week to local and regional charities and organisations in need of support.  As Headmaster Ben Vessey writes:

“We seek to instil a deep understanding of the wider moral and social responsibilities that arise from living and working with others. This is embodied in the vision, aims and ethos of the school where we want all our pupils to have the opportunity to explore, to express and to excel in all aspects of school life as part of our Canford community.  Our values of courageous attitude, purposeful engagement, humble ambition and gracious leadership underpin everything we do and help to forge the strong bonds between staff, pupils and parents which are a fundamental feature of Canford life.  Education is and has to be a partnership driven by mutual respect, trust and a willingness to work together for a better future.”

Boarding at Canford

Canford has a 21st century boarding model, which commits to genuine 24/7 full boarding rather than weekly or flexi boarding options, but also allows pupils to spend a proportion of Saturday nights at home each year if they want to. Yet with a packed programme including Sunday trips to the beach and water parks, weekly Saturday night Sixth Form socials, film nights in the Layard Theatre and fun Sunday activities such as juggling lessons, pizza making and boarding ‘Bake offs’, alongside full use of the school’s facilities such as the boat club, indoor 25m pool, gym, dance studio and 9 hole golf course, it is perhaps not surprising that at least 70% of boarders choose to stay in on any given weekend. There are 10 boarding houses – 4 boy boarding, 3 girl boarding, and 3 mixed day houses. 


Type of School Co-educational
Number of Pupils 663
Pupils Boys 55%
Pupils Girls 45%
Number of Boarders 410
International Boarders 10%
Age Range 13-18
Religious Tradition Church of England
Distance from Airports

Bournemouth International Airport – 20 minutes

Southampton Airport – 45 minutes

London Heathrow Airport – 1 hour 40 minutes

London Gatwick Airport– 2 hours

Distance from London

2 hours by train or car from central London (coach services available to Richmond and SW1 on exeat weekends and half terms)


Educational Programmes
  • A Levels and GCSEs
  • Extended Project Qualifications (EPQ) worth 50% of an A Level
  • SAT testing centre for international university admissions

Canford has a fine reputation for academic excellence, leading the way in the South West region.  Pupils study for GCSEs and A Levels and over 95% of pupils move on to top universities at home and in the US, plus to top Art colleges and Music conservatoires.  A number of pupils also consider degree apprenticeships, with recent success including with Goldman Sachs and PwC.

However, we see external exams simply as tickets to the next stage of education, and want our pupils to develop a love of learning in the broadest terms.  As Deputy Head Academic Ieuan Weir writes:  “It is a privilege for us as teachers to be catalysts for our pupils’ learning. Teachers and pupils work collaboratively in the pursuit of academic excellence, motivated by intellectual curiosity and a shared passion for knowledge.”

There is a whole range of academic and intellectual extension enrichment programmes and events from Year 9 through to Year 13, designed to allow pupils to question and to challenge.  An annual Festival of Ideas brings to Canford a wealth of speakers from all walks of life, and a cross-curricular programme allows pupils to make connections between different subjects.

Co-Curricular Programmes

Examples of co-curricular programmes offered:

  • A wide range of sports for boys and girls, competing in school, regional and national fixtures and competitions.
  • CCF – Army, Marines and Navy
  • Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme – Bronze and Gold options
  • A wide variety of activities making full use of the proximity to the South Coast location, New Forest and historical and geographical sites of the South West region.

We believe that young people need a range of varied and challenging choices at all stages of their education.  The so-called ‘soft skills’ developed by our co-curricular programme are as important as the academic skills when it comes to life beyond formal education.

Pupils at Canford are fortunate to benefit from excellent sporting and arts facilities and a broad choice of activities.   Learn Real Tennis on one of the few original school courts in the country, ascend Mont Blanc with the CCF Army corps, leap from great heights on the school climbing tower, take to the stage in dramatic or musical roles, or even indulge a passion for beekeeping. The lively cultural enrichment programme includes visiting lecturers and inspirational trips designed to encourage pupils to debate and challenge perceived wisdom and broaden their intellectual and cultural horizons.

While we do much at Canford to foster a love for subjects within the classroom and local environs, there is something exciting about a trip further afield. The benefits are not just subject specific, but develop a much wider range of skills of collaboration, team work, organisation and leadership. A school trip can be a very memorable part of a pupil’s school days – and great fun!