Searching for the ideal school for your children? 

Education is one of the most crucial parts of a child's life, and choosing the right school is essential. A selection of headteachers from Dorset's finest schools speak with us about their respective school's ethos, achievements and academic approaches.

Dorset Echo: Christian Saenger, Headteacher at Dumpton School

Dumpton School

It's hard to believe that I am entering my fifth year at Dumpton - and what a privilege it has been to lead this wonderful community. On my first visit to Dumpton, it was immediately clear that there was something special in the air - a warmth and sense of joy amongst the pupils and staff, but also a real sense of purpose and ambition. My vision for Dumpton has revolved around harnessing the nurturing yet aspirational culture and ethos 'be kind, aim high' - which underpins all we do at Dumpton.   

It has been a real pleasure working together with an incredible staff on various initiatives over the past four years. I'm delighted by our ongoing strong academic record, but the launch of 'The Dumpton Way', an approach to character education, has allowed us to focus on the importance of children's personal development, alongside an already exceptional offering in sport, performing arts and outdoor learning. We have also won plaudits for our research based 'RULER' programme, a toolkit to support emotional literacy in young children.

Deans Grove House, Wimborne, Dorset BH21 7AF

Tel: 01202 883818


Dorset Echo: David Newberry, Headteacher at Sunninghill Preparatory School

Sunninghill Prep School

It is a privilege to be the head of Sunninghill Prep, a beautiful school in the heart of Dorchester. I have been here for a year now, having come from Bede's Prep in Eastbourne, where I was first housemaster, then deputy head. Sunninghill is a very special place, which was confirmed in our recent ISI inspection report which found us to be excellent in all areas.

Our school core values are embedded into everything that we do. These are courage, commitment, creativity and compassion. Academic rigour is crucial, but we also make time for the children to be creative in all their learning. Creativity helps them to get a balance with their mental health, a sense of fun and camaraderie, and the ability to apply their learning in creative ways so that they are ready for the future world of work. Children show compassion for their peers within school and in our community. They show courage and commitment through our extensive extra-curricular activities and outstanding outdoor education programmes.

Sunninghill provides individualised learning where each child has the opportunity to shine and develop independent skills, build confidence and be able to fulfil their potential. If a pupil feels happy and secure and can gain confidence in one area, it extends out into others, and ultimately, they leave Sunninghill as the best versions of themselves.

South Walks Road, Dorchester, Dorset DT1 1EB

Tel: 01305 262306


Dorset Echo: Andy Pilkington, Headteacher at Castle Court Preparatory School

Castle Court School

I joined Castle Court School in September 2023, having moved from Elstree School in Berkshire where I was the director of learning and teaching. Prior to that, I had worked at both senior independent and state schools, as well as multiple prep schools.

My degree is in Geography, and I am excited to be able to combine this passion with my broad teaching experience and my deeply held belief and commitment to outdoor education to build on the excellent reputation held by Castle Court.

The school is a proud custodian of 60 acres, allowing children the space to be children, whilst thriving on a broad inspiring PSB curriculum. Being a PSB school enables us to focus our teaching on creating self-regulated, creative learners who have high levels of curiosity.

Leadership and collaboration are a part of everyday life, and kindness permeates through our incredible community. We are a school that looks up and out in our service to others; something that is integral to creating global citizens of the future. I look forward to welcoming you to Castle Court to show you all that life here offers.

Knoll Lane, Wimborne, Dorset, BH21 3RF

Tel: 01202 694438


Dorset Echo: Richard May, headteacher at Durlston School

Durlston Prep and Senior School

I am incredibly proud to be the head of Durlston - a happy and successful independent school. Each day, the children enter into a positive, nurturing atmosphere and are genuinely excited about the learning, the opportunities and the challenges that each day brings. We do have wonderful facilities and grounds, but it is our dedicated staff that is the key to the school's success. All members of the team ensure that the children make exceptional progress in all aspects of their school life in our 'family' environment. We are committed to remaining at a size where everyone in the pupil body has the chance to be someone.

I am delighted that we can now offer children the opportunity to continue their education at Durlston through to Year 11 and to GCSE examinations. It has been an exciting time preparing for our expansion and it has been wonderful to see how our first new Year 9 have settled so quickly into their school life, enjoying the perks of being a senior pupil while remaining very much as part of the Durlston family.

I have had the good fortune to teach in a number of fantastic schools in my career, but there is something truly magical about life at Durlston. It is a warm, wonderful environment where children can grow and flourish.

Becton Lane, Barton on Sea, New Milton, BH25 7AQ

Tel: 01425 610010


Dorset Echo: Kerri Male, Headteacher at St Martin's School

St Martin’s School

St Martin’s is a magical place – from the moment you step through the front door of our little schoolhouse, this vibrant community welcomes you like a warm embrace.

That was how it felt to join as a teacher eight years ago, and I felt that way again as I became Headteacher this year. Leading this school is a privilege and a joy every day.

We might be one of the smallest schools in the county, but we deliver big results! Small classes, a high pupil-staff ratio and personalised learning are the bedrock of our success. We have an enviable reputation for academic attainment, especially in the 11+ grammar school entrance test, but more than anything, it is our family atmosphere which sets us apart.

St Martin’s is a school where children are valued as individuals. We believe in helping children develop the confidence they need to seize opportunities, develop their interests, and push themselves to achieve their best. Our pupils are given responsibilities, encouraged to use their initiative, and expected to be role models for younger children.

As we look ahead to our 110th anniversary next year, I am excited to build upon our foundational values of kindness, respect and hard work, driving the school forward to ensure our pupils continue to have everything they need to succeed and thrive.

15 Stokewood Road, Bournemouth, BH3 7NA

Tel: 01202 292011


Dorset Echo: Tracy Harris, Headteacher at Talbot Heath

Talbot Heath School

I joined Talbot Heath in September 2023 with a background in the leadership of high performing girls' grammar schools, having previously been head of Parkstone Grammar School and senior deputy head of South Wilts Grammar School. I was raised and educated in the south west, reading history at the University of Exeter, where I also studied for my PGCE. Currently, I am completing an MSc in psychology to explore cognition and learning, along with child development. 

Having taught at three girls' grammar schools in the area, I bring a wealth of experience to Talbot Heath and I specialise in teaching history and politics. Also, I have been an Ofsted inspector for eight years and inspected both secondary and all-through schools. In addition, I have acted as a school improvement advisor for two secondary schools, including a selective school, where I worked with senior leaders and governors on school improvement priorities. As a keen amateur musician, I play in a brass band and enjoy performing in concerts and contests.

Furthermore, I have a track record of leading and delivering academic excellence in schools, coupled with outstanding pastoral care and experience of developing a productive vision. Therefore, I am very excited to be leading the team at Talbot Heath towards the next phase of its rich and exciting journey.

Talbot Woods, Rothesay Road, Bournemouth

Tel: 01202 761881