Learn Differently

Milton Abbey is a small, mainstream, independent, co-educational boarding and day school that offers students the opportunity to ‘learn differently’.

2022 Student Intake

We understand that ‘one size’ in education does not ‘fit all’ and that teaching needs to be tailored to fit the learning profile and personality of each student.

If your child’s GCSE results were disappointing, our team of experts is on hand to help you understand what went wrong, what your child could do next and why retaking Maths or English or any GCSE doesn’t mean they have to delay starting Sixth Form.

What’s more, our small class sizes and extensive portfolio of courses – the biggest selection of BTECs in the independent sector alongside traditional A levels – mean we can offer students a wide variety of vocational and academic options to suit their learning needs, while studying in the heart of the beautiful Dorset countryside.

My child’s GCSE results are not as good as we had hoped, what do we do now?

If your child has failed Maths or English or their 2022 GCSE results day has not gone according to plan, the most important thing is not to panic. Acknowledge the disappointment but make it clear that this needs to be kept in perspective. Your child needs to know that results don’t define them: this is a setback from which they can and will recover with the right support; it’s not a catastrophe.

It’s vital to understand what went wrong if an effective recovery plan is to be put in place – and our team of experts at Milton Abbey can help you do just that.

Are retakes the best option if GCSE results are disappointing?

Retakes are not always necessary – and if they are, they can be done at Milton Abbey without repeating the year. It’s important to understand what motivates the student. Is more of the same the answer or is a different approach needed? If the GCSE year was hard, it’s unlikely to be easier a second time round.

At Milton Abbey, many students have moved on to Sixth Form courses while retaking Maths and/or English Language GCSE. This allows the student to study for A levels, BTECs or a combination of both and stay in step with their year group – without extending their education for an unnecessary year.

What does ‘learning differently’ mean?

Learning differently means we acknowledge that ‘one size’ in education does not ‘fit all’ and that teaching needs to be tailored to fit the learning profile and personality of each student.

In English, one student might be listening to audio while another is reading the text; a third might be preparing to give a talk for homework instead of writing an essay: all are in the same class and achieving the same objectives, but all are learning differently.

Learning differently also recognises that neurodiverse students require sensitive teaching, and that a good education doesn’t focus disproportionately on the ‘top set’ but strives to bring out the ‘personal best’ in every student.

What can I do if my child is not coping well at school?

It is a perfectly reasonable ambition for a parent that their child not only copes but flourishes at school – it’s just a matter of finding the right fit between child and school.

Sometimes it’s possible to fix the problem. Your SENCO can be a great support. But if the best result is merely to enable your child to ‘manage’, it’s probably not good enough and a change of environment to a different school may be necessary.

At Milton Abbey, we firmly believe that happy children learn best and that if your child is to reach their full potential, they should be enjoying, not just enduring, school.

Can children with learning differences thrive at boarding school?

Absolutely! The structure and routines of boarding life can be a supportive framework for neurodiverse students, including those with dyslexia, dyscalculia, attention challenges and those on the autism spectrum. The managed independence of boarding house life can also be an excellent preparation for college and work. Our House team monitors students’ social connections to ensure they are involved in activities that will build their confidence and keep them engaged in community life.

However, boarding is not right for everyone. Our expert admissions team can give you guidance on whether boarding is right for your child.

What kinds of learning differences does Milton Abbey deal with?

First, we need to understand how and why a student learns the way he or she does. Our admissions process is thorough and includes analysis of a child’s learning profile and preferences.

Small class sizes and teaching tailored to the needs of each learner enable us to deal with a wide variety of learning differences and empower students to understand how they learn best. Some of our students have dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia or issues with language processing speed. A number have ADHD and Asperger’s, and others have no diagnosed learning difference but benefit from our individual approach and nurturing environment.

We are selective – we only take students who demonstrate capacity to benefit from the opportunities school life presents. All students need to commit to playing a positive part in community life and meeting behaviour expectations.

What do you say to a student who thinks they are ‘a failure’?

No child is a failure, but we can all learn from failures. There is no ceiling on achievement. Too often children who learn differently are removed from challenging subjects. Our approach is the opposite: we work with students to find a way around any block in their learning.

Immersion in community life is key: in a small school you end up doing activities that in a bigger school, you might only be watching. Opportunities develop competence, which in turn builds confidence.

When a child has a learning difference, the focus inevitably is on the challenges, but we want to know what a student excels at and enjoys. We then find ways of extending that excellence and passion.

How do you support a student’s learning needs?

Clear instructions and expectations. Putting a student in the driver’s seat of their education. Boundless support and encouragement. Follow up when expectations are not met. Celebration of the smallest progress – and setting a new goal for the next achievement.

We treat every student as an individual, build trust in us and faith in themselves. We set small aspirational but achievable goals, so a student can experience success – and be hungry for more.

Education at Milton Abbey is not like being on a bus but a bicycle. We will equip you, cheer you on, coach you in technique – but you will steer and pedal.

Can BTECs really be as good as A-Levels?

For some students, even better! Qualities employers are looking for – such as communication, project management skills and teamwork – are built into BTECs, though many students also combine them with A Levels.

BTEC assignment working can motivate some students far better than theoretical study and success doesn’t depend on all-or-nothing final exams.

99% of UK universities accept BTEC qualifications and Milton Abbey is a BTEC specialist. Not only do we have the widest selection of BTECs in the UK – and a 100% pass rate – but we are also a BTEC School of the Year award winner.

What *shouldn’t* students do if their GCSE results are disappointing?

Panic or despair. They also shouldn’t pretend failure hasn’t happened – if the root causes aren’t addressed, the problem will likely repeat.

Nor should students bottle it all up. They may not want to discuss this with their parents, but what’s important is that they are talking things through with a trusted adult.

They certainly shouldn’t feel pressured to settle for a ‘second best’ Sixth Form experience, missing out on the subjects they have dreamed of doing. It’s perfectly possible to expect an enjoyable and transformational Sixth Form. Our team of experts at Milton Abbey are on hand to help you and your child make the right, informed choice.

Is financial assistance available at Milton Abbey?

Yes: we deal with each application for assistance on a case-by-case basis. Please contact us to learn more.

Meet our class of 2022