Recently, Matthew Jamieson, Deputy Head of Sherborne School which is a British independent boys' school and also one of the founding 12 members of HMC, took an interview with us. In the interview he mentioned Sherborne School's unique standing as "the best music school in the country" reported by The Week. Let's go and check what else he's got to say.
Click the link below to watch the interview video
BE: Would you like to introduce yourself and the school first?
Matthew Jamieson (Matthew): My name is Matthew Jamieson. I'm the Deputy Head at Sherborne School, which is an all-boy school in the Southwest of England. The school is in the Southwest, about 2 hours southwest of London on the train, very quick journey really from major airports. Dorset is where we are, a very beautiful country part of England. So there's a lot of green rolling hills. But we're based in a small town.
So the school is actually a part of the town as opposed to having an enclosed campus. So the boys might live in boarding house, which means they walk through the town itself. The abbey which is in Sherborne was founded in 705, which is very old, and from a long time ago boys were educated there. But the school was founded in 1550 by Edward VI. So it's a very old school for 467 years old.
And in 1869 the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference was founded, which is a body where all of the top independent schools, public schools in England are invited to join if they're seen to be able to have a certain standard. Sherborne was one of the founding 12 members in 1869. So it's a very traditional but also a very forward thinking school.
As I mentioned just now, it's an all-boy school. Almost every single boy boards full time, including weekends. The sons of the teachers over there who might not live in the school the same way as others. So we're an all-boarding school. That's really important for international pupils. Because that means at the weekend, the school does not empty. All their friends will be with them at the weekend for activities.
BE: How many international pupils are there at your school?
Matthew: Not many at all actually. It's one of the first times we've been to China. For me it was the first time, in fact. We've never really actively recruited international pupils in this way, and that's because we recognize that there're so few and we'd like to open up the horizons of some of the boys at the school.
So there are very few international boarders at Sherborne. I think that's a really positive thing. We're not over here desperate to take boys into our school. We want to find the right fit of high quality boys who will get involved with the really full curriculum we can provide at Sherborne. And also it means that they will be forced, in a good way, to learn English quickly, to integrate with other boys, and to really take on the English culture, by being part of the school.
BE: What type of students are you looking for?
Matthew: I think the first thing we're looking for, almost more than anything else, is the boy is going to stuck in, really involve himself in all of the activities of the school. So in terms of the character that takes an openness, confidence, not arrogance of course but confidence. It means that he wants to get involved and doesn't mind making mistakes and wants to try things out. I think that's almost the most important thing.
Of course there are high academic standards at the school that we look for, and which we will assess for, so that's important. But a big part of what will allow boys to really get involved is the level of English. Because boys are living in school the whole time, they need to have strong English skills as well. So confident, high academic standards and good English are what we're after.
BE: What's the ethos of Sherborne?
Matthew: That's a very good question, because that's what we're most concerned about. There are a few things. One would be that once the boys are there together within the school environment they have to respect one another, they have to get on with other another, they live with one another 24 hours a day. And that takes a degree of kindness. Kindness is something we talk about a lot. If you're nasty to the boys around you, you won't make friends and it will nasty the environment for anyone else. So we really promote kindness, and that's something in my role I'm very careful to ensure that we have with boys.
Of course we want them to learn the skills that prepare them for later life, but they're not going to have them straight away. You can't expect a 13-year-old boy to be ready to go to university in one day, so we develop that as they're at the school. So we want boys that will listen to the tuition and get involved as I said before.
Sherborne School is not just about the academics, but also got a huge co-curricular programme. So we need boys, as I said, who'll be involved, who might be self-starters, who will go along to clubs and really adds some value to what goes on at the school. Because they're very lucky to go to a school like Sherborne. And I think the other main thing that we have in terms of ethos is that……We don't want the boys to feel guilty that they have the privilege of going to a school like Sherborne. They should feel a sense of the privilege that they have and want to give something back to- in essence it sounds a little bit cheesy - but to make the world a better place, because of the benefits of their education later in life.
BE: What co-curricular activities are on offer at your school?
Matthew: Again because it's full boarding, it means that we can fill those times – you can't work all the time. At lunch time there's a period called "Q time" which is protected for music. Music is a very big part of our school.
So if your son is good at say at cello or singing, then he can go practice that in the music school, or as part of the orchestra, or band he's in, and nothing else will get in the way. He's not going to miss out on other activities because of that music as a result. At our school it's an exceptional strength. And in fact a famous magazine in England called The Week reported that we're the best music school in the country. It's something we're very proud of.
And we want all the boys to be able to do that. So just because they're great at sports, or strong in academics, doesn’t mean they can't do music. So that's a huge part of our co-curricular provision. The fact when it's the abbey as well has the choral tradition, the music, the singing as another part of that.
Our Art department, and drama give huge amount of opportunities to boys to explore creative activities beyond the curriculum as well. On the Sunday they will be at rehearsal place, or the boys will be at the art department to practice or to paint, to sculpt, which is a lovely thing for them to do as well. But in the evenings, because members of the staff stay in so late, there're all sorts of things going on.
I run, e.g., a Cheese society where we learn about cheese, and the boys taste new types of cheese. Other people are involved in robotics societies, or in general knowledge society, or debating clubs. There's huge amounts going on. The most important thing I always talk to boys about is that if there's something that they want to do and we're not providing, then find a member a staff and make it happen. We'll support them to do that.
BE: How do Sherborne's teachers or staff help pupils get into their dream colleges?
Matthew: Well it starts with how we support them academically to ensure that they fulfill or surpass their expectations in standards in the academic arena. So there's a big programme of support that goes alongside our academic teaching to enable that. For example, I teach history. For a boy who struggles in a piece of work and he needs to work over again. There are periods of time each day within the history department, that he can go there go find teachers outside of lessons.
They will support him, and structuring that essay and improving it for next time. And that's same for every single subject in the school. Again it sits in the lunchtime period or after school. So in the space between lessons they're able to do that. When they're moving to the sixth form, there's a very well-supported programme for the UCAS application, the university admissions procedure we have in England. The head of sixth form leads a team of people who remain on top of connections with universities to understand their requirements, to understand each degree course, and to prepare the boys for the applications they make to universities both in Britain and abroad, like in America, or into other career path they may choose.
We have a very well-structured programme, something we're very proud of. We start with interviews based on the boys' interests, asking them what they want to do, because not all teenage boys know what they want to do in university. So that time is taken to structure their thought process, to guide them in their application, and to help them to write it and to fill it out properly.
We have a whole team of staff that is especially trained in that as well, who are academic staff, but given a special training to support the process to assist. So it's a very well-resourced and supportive area of the school. Our university first choices applicants which is successful are exceptionally high.
BE: Could you talk about the destinations of your pupils?
Matthew: We have Oxbridge every year. In fact this year we're particularly pleased and show the strength in our music programme. One of the boys has won the Choral scholarship to a college of Oxford University, which is a particular prestigious position to pick up. Then we have the Redbrick universities. Bristol is very popular, Durham, Edinburgh. Then you got Manchester, Birmingham, lots of big civic universities, LSE, University College London, and King's College London.
But equally it's also very competitive to get into dentistry, medicine, veterinary programmes. And we have specialist support for those and a lot of pupils are going to those courses as well, indeed evenings also assisting the girls' school which sets in the town. We have specialist interview trainings take place for Oxbridge and for courses like medicine.
BE: Does Sherborne Boys share any academic, co-curricular or social activities with Sherborne Girls?
Matthew: As I just mentioned actually, Sherborne Girls is about half a mile away. It's a massive school also full boarding in the town. And actually there're quite a few boys whose sisters go there in the town because of where they're located. We work very closely with them, in order to facilitate the abilities of boys to meet with the girls, not too often but enough, so they have a normal life.
On the Saturday evening, for example, we have a big social programme. The boys might host a dinner party in their boarding house for one of the girls' houses, or it might be a disco, or different parties or balls. So it's the social aspect of the weekends. There's also the opportunity to be involved in musical productions, drama productions where we work with the girls' school. The fact that they can also socialize at the weekends together is positive.
BE: What would be your advices to Chinese applicants to your school?
Matthew: I would ask candidates from China to thoroughly understand what it means to be a full boarding environment, to recognize what it is they want to explore, to achieve outside of the classroom as well as within it, to show me that enthusiasm for it, and as I said, to work on their English academic studies as well. But show me the passion, what it is that you bring to Sherborne School, because we have lots of individuals that really want to get stuck in, involved in what's going on, and I love to see pupil like that come to the school.
BE: What sets Sherborne School apart from other boys' school in the UK?
Matthew: Radley, Winchester, Eton, Harrow. There're geographically big reasons why those schools differ. But for me the main thing is a focus on the individual holistically, on every part of the boys at the school, the pastoral emphasis, the academic emphasis, the strength of our sport.
It really is a school where we allow boys to achieve in every area without being a cost to any other. Boy can be really talented in lots of different things. And if I force him to push hard on his academics, then he's not be able to enjoy other elements to his life, same with all the other aspects as well. So I think the way that we manage to protect and develop the entire boy is really important.