Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

At The Swanage School we have a clear vision: to be an outstanding school that improves life opportunities for all students. Just as important is our ethos - our beliefs and ideas - the way we do things. We have a strong ethos where academic excellence and good relationships underpin everything we do.

You can find out more about our vision and ethos, be introduced to The Swanage School and read our Headteacher's welcome to give you a flavour of things.

Below are the answers to some questions you may have about The Swanage School.

What are the benefits of a small school?

We are a small secondary school, currently with around 350 students. Being small means we can have a big impact, by knowing every child really well.

What does 'human scale' mean?

Put simply, the principle of human scale education is simply that strong and genuine relationships are at the heart of everything we do. This means your child will be well known by the headteacher, by the teaching staff, by our office staff, and by other students. Their abilities and needs will be understood. Your child reaching their potential, academically and personally, will matter to us because as an individual your child will matter to us.

What are your facilities like?

The Swanage School boasts light, bright facilities and learning spaces with state-of-the-art technology, a multi-use atrium, drama studio, and a modern sports hall. We particularly love our art studio with its floor to ceiling windows making the most of the panoramic view of the Purbeck hills. Unlike most schools, we are blessed with a new, modern school building which dates only from 2014. Please book a time to visit us to see for yourself!

Do you follow the National Curriculum?

Yes, but as an academy we have flexibility to be innovative. Please see our curriculum pages for more information.


Pupils learn from an innovative curriculum [which is] ambitious and carefully planned. [Ofsted Report, 2023]


My child is academic / not academic: how will you challenge and support them?

The academic success of every child is a top priority, and this means something different for each student. Striving for educational excellence permeates everything we do. Differentiation is used to challenge students who excel academically, as well as support those who are less academically able. If we feel a child is not going to reach their potential, we put interventions in place. This is another benefit of being a small school: we can tailor our approach for each student - stretching, encouraging and supporting them to do their very best academically whilst fostering personal growth, confidence and resilience along the way. We want each student to leave The Swanage School having gained a wealth of positive experiences and to be able to progress to the next stage of their education with great results and an aspirational mindset.


Teachers question pupils is suitably demanding for pupils. [Ofsted Report, 2023]


We aim to inspire our students to embrace and enjoy learning and not only through our teaching. There are opportunities to engage in educational competitions, to hear speakers on a wide variety of subjects, to learn through extracurricular activities and, with the Jurassic Coast on our doorstep, we can take advantage of learning from the wonderful natural environment here, as well as offering visits further afield to put learning into real-world context and to broaden horizons.


The school has many local, national and international links, providing pupils with an exceptional range of opportunities. Pupils value the large number of opportunities to develop their talents and interests. [Ofsted Report, 2023]


We may be a small school, but we make a big difference.

Do you use sets?

Most subjects are taught in mixed ability groups, but we group by academic ability in Maths, English and Science where this will benefit the students in the cohort.

What about students with SEND?

Students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are additionally supported by our Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo) and Higher Level Teaching Assistants and have a base in our dedicated "hub" space. Read more about our support for students here.

How large are classes?

Class sizes range from 12 for options and half-groups and usually up to 24 for full groups.

What are your GCSE results like?

On the key measure of progress between the end of primary school and the end of secondary school we topped the Dorset league table with our first set of results in 2016, and have celebrated good results each year.  As Ofsted recognised, our performance in core subjects has always been strong. Each year we celebrate success with individual students so whilst we are proud of the number of Grade 8 and 9s achieved overall, we are equally proud of the student who achieved 5 grades above expected and the one who gained 5 GCSEs when predicted to get none. Students do well with us.

"I'm overjoyed with my results! I couldn't have done it without all the support and encouragement from the teachers at The Swanage School. I've really enjoyed my time here and will miss it" [Alfie, Year 11]

What is behaviour like?

It's pretty good! We like to think The Swanage School is a happy place. With the odd exception (of course!) our students are well behaved and embody "The Swanage School Way", being kind, supportive and respectful (read more about The Swanage School Way here). Bullying is very rare. One benefit of being a small school with positive relationships is that we know about any issues quickly and can then step in to address them, wherever possible with a restorative approach.


Positive relationships underpin life at the school....Bullying is extremely rare because there is a culture of tolerance and kindness. [Ofsted Report, 2023]

What do Ofsted say?

On both Ofsted visits we have been graded a 'good' school and Ofsted inspectors have been complimentary about our leadership, approach to teaching and about our well-behaved and reflective students. In 2023 they judged the school to be 'oustanding' for personal development. They have also noted that students' well-being is very thoroughly monitored and that we have high expectations and set interesting challenges for students. The inspectors recognised that we have never been complacent (and we never will be).  You can read more and download the full report here.

"Pupils are encouraged to reflect on and use their skills as they move through the school". [Ofsted report, 2023]

What sporting opportunities are there?

A wide range of sports can be enjoyed during PE lessons and at after-school clubs, with individual students and teams participating in sporting fixtures throughout the year. Sports include football, netball, cricket, rugby, hand-ball, dodgeball, basketball, athletics and badminton. Water-sports are a key focus for us with our fantastic location and these are taught as part of the curriculum.


There are opportunities to be inspired by expert coaches and individuals can be supported to specialise in their chosen discipline for their PE GCSE: we've had students specialise in golf, skiing and equestrian skills. You will find more information about sport here.

I've heard about your shows - what about performing arts?

Our Director of Performing Arts is passionate about encouraging children of all ages to perform and there's a good chance children will meet him running a theatre workshop at their primary school.


The Swanage School's annual musical at The Mowlem Theatre has become a staple of the town's cultural calendar, with sell-out shows each year! From the Rock of Ages, Grease, Hairspray and Fame to the Little Shop of Horrors and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, our productions are loud and exciting and attract a huge number of students to throw off their inhibitions and don their showbiz shoes. It's a source of great pride that so many students are involved onstage and backstage and it's wonderful to see their confidence bloom.

Students also have opportunities to be involved in productions such as our Year 9 pantomime and talent shows. We also take part in National Connections, a programme run by the National Theatre where students and other drama companies for youngsters perform plays by new writers, competing for a chance to perform at The National Theatre in London.  In 2020 we performed Chris Thompson's 'Dungeness' and in 2022 perform Tim Crouch's 'Superglue'.

See more on performing arts here.

What extra-curricular activities do you offer?

Our after-school clubs change termly but always include sports and a selection of other clubs to foster a range of skills and interests. From craft to chemistry, cake-making to chess, cacti to creative-writing, there should be something for everyone. You can read more about extra-curricular clubs here.


Many other opportunities for learning and growth beyond the classroom are offered, through trips, Challenge Days (see more below) and competitions, both sporting and otherwise. Over the last few years we've had students compete successfully in the National Tenner Challenge, The Swanage School Junior Maths Challenge, The UKMT Maths Challenge, Young Enterprise, the Rotary Technology Tournaments, Ten Tors, the ESU Schools' Mace Debating Competition and much more...we've even spawned a local rock band!


We are also proud of the links with have with the local community and the opportunities this affords our students - for example, we work with the National Trust on their Dunescapes Project, have close links with Sustainable Swanage, The Mowlem Theatre, The Burngate Centre and the The Rotary, and host an annual tea-party for elderly residents of the town.


All students in Year 9 participate in the Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award

What careers support do you offer?

Opportunities for employer encounters are provided as often as possible, with speakers coming into schools and visits out. We have a dedicated 'Careers Lead' and an external careers advisor who provides 1-to-1 sessions for Year 10 and 11 students, helping them to build an action plan for their next steps. Crew time is also devoted to careers research and planning from the start, building as students move through the school. In Year 9, all students have the opportunity to participate in the Duke of Edinburgh Award and to gain certificates in practical skills such as Food Hygiene and First Aid, building a portfolio of competencies. 


In 2022, our Careers Education Programme was recognised with the highest honour presented by the Dorset Careers Hub in their annual awards, winning the award for 'Achievements in the Attainment of the Gatsby Benchmarks and for an Outstanding Careers Education Programme'. For more information on our careers programme please visit this page.

What student leadership opportunities are there?

We have a range of student leadership roles from School Buddy to Principal Student, with something for students in all year groups and covering a range of interests. Leadership roles enable students to develop their confidence and be part of the decision-making processes in school. You'll find information on student leader roles here and the Student Council here.

What are Challenge Days and Challenge Week all about?

Events designed to team-build, investigate a topic in more depth, take visits or help the community are the stuff of our unique Challenge Days, which take place termly.

Challenge Week is at the end of the academic year and every student takes part in an exciting week of activities, either locally or further afield. Students have surfed in Cornwall, hiked in Derbyshire, sailed in France and adventured on the Isle of Wight. Other trips have seen students behind the scenes at the football stadium in Liverpool, taking in West End shows in London and touring Barcelona. Closer to home, students have honed their cooking skills in our MasterChef challenge, crafted eco-art or made the most of the Jurassic Coast for day-trips whilst camping on the school field. Something for everyone, and something for all budgets.

More information about Challenge Days and Challenge Week are here.

I have more questions - who do I ask?

We'll be happy to help! You might find the answers in our Prospectus, here on the website or just give us a call on 01929 500599 or email our office.