Sunningdale School

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Approaching its 150th year, Sunningdale is a unique family-owned boarding preparatory school for boys aged 7 to 13. It has been in the Dawson family for over 50 years and the current Headmaster, Tom Dawson, took over from his own father and uncle in 2005. His wife, Elisabeth, and his sister, Amy, are heavily involved in the day to day life of the school. With just 110 boys it is one of the last few family-run prep schools in the UK. Sunningdale sits in 25 acres of beautiful woodland, playing fields, mature gardens and grounds. The school is excellently situated just 45 minutes from London, 20 minutes from Heathrow and 15 minutes from the M3, M4 and M25 motorways.

The main building is an attractive red brick Victorian villa and has the feel of a family home for the very good reason that it is! Sunningdale can boast floodlit all weather pitches, an indoor heated swimming pool, outdoor tennis courts, a 7-hole golf course in the grounds, a large sports hall with cricket nets and three Eton fives courts. The characterful 1880 iron church that sits in the grounds, next to the vegetable garden is used daily for Chapel, Sunday services and concerts.

Sunningdale takes great pride in its excellent academic standards. There is a pervading ethos of hard work throughout the school and this combined with excellent teaching and a flexible form system leads to success. The Sunningdale way is to set academically rather than by age, but taking into account social factors. Progress is assessed weekly. By the time the boys leave, they will have reached a very high standard of work. The school achieves outstanding academic results with scholarships gained on a regular basis. Boys go on to the top public schools around the country, including Eton, Harrow, Winchester, Charterhouse, Sherborne, Tonbridge, Marlborough, Radley, Wellington, Oundle and Stowe.

There is plenty of sport (90 minutes of play every single day), with almost all boys representing the school at some level. This does wonders for their confidence. Aside from the major sports of football, rugby and cricket, there is the option to play Eton Fives (played at the school since 1892), tennis, squash, golf, table tennis, athletics, cross country, basketball, indoor hockey, polo, fencing, judo, clay pigeon shooting and swimming. There are also other activities including baking club, chess, LAMDA, Mandarin, Mtech, Polo and Reptile Club. 

Sunningdale has a thriving Music department. Every form has music as part of the curriculum. Around 80% of the boys learn at least one musical instrument. There is a wide range of instruments to learn thanks to our excellent peripatetic music staff. A whole-school musical is produced each year and the Art department also puts on a large exhibition annually.

We focus on developing six characteristics: courage, resilience, kindness, honesty, self-discipline and zest for life. The boys have the opportunity to participate in an astonishing number of different activities and find out what really inspires them. The level of individual care given to each boy really is unrivaled.

The school has a robust boarding ethos. Boys full board but have the option to enjoy a Saturday night at home. However the pull to stay in is strong with over 70% choosing to do so on a typical weekend. Sundays kick off with a full English breakfast followed by activities like laser tag, zorbing, fishing, mountain biking, climbing or just hanging out with their friends. The unique family atmosphere means that the boys feel happy and secure and as a result are able to achieve their full potential.

The School has its own house in France called La Vacquerie. It is situated in Normandy, about 20 minutes from Bayeux. The boys will go three times during their time at Sunningdale. During these trips they go to markets, museums, visit the D-Day Landing Beaches, the Bayeux Tapestry and many other outings. The trips to La Vacquerie are an outstanding opportunity for the boys to practice their spoken French and they are enormous fun.

There are roughly 22 boys in each year group and prospective pupils should be registered two years in advance. Sunningdale is not academically selective but we are looking for boys who will get fully involved in school life. In order to assess this, Mr Dawson meets each boy and we request a reference from their previous school. For pupils entering in Year 7, we request standardised scores to ensure that they will be able to keep up with our rigorous curriculum. Older boys sit computerised tests in maths, reading, NVR etc. Boarding fees are £9,610 per term. Please contact Susannah Knight, our Admissions Registrar for more information and to register. 

Final Word

Mr Tom Dawson: 'I’m looking at what makes a boy’s eyes light up… all I really want to see is that they’re a boy who will take part.’

11+ / 13+ Answers
Year Established:
Tom Dawson
Church of England
School Setting:
Number of Pupils:
Age Range:
Fee Range (Termly):
£9,610 (UK), £11,110 (International)
Exit exams:
13+ Common Entrance & Scholarship


Attending Events


May 2025

Independent Schools Show, Summer Fair
09:30 AM - 03:30 PM
Sunningdale School

Tom Dawson

Sunningdale, Berkshire, SL5 9PY

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The flagship, the original, where it all began 17 years ago. Friday 8 November and Saturday 9 November 2024 at the London Evolution in Battersea Park, London.


Nov 2024

09:30 AM - 02:30 PM
Taking place at The Intercontinental Hotel, Geneva the show provides families with unparalleled access to leading boarding schools. This November we return to this spectacular venue with 20 leading Boarding Schools.


Nov 2024

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Taking place at the Fairmont Monte Carlo, the show provides families with unparalleled access to leading boarding schools. This Thursday we return to this spectacular venue with 20 leading Boarding Schools.