Our History

The Marchant-Holliday School was originally known as Whatcombe House School, a large, rented country house located near Blandford in Dorset.  It was the vision of Mr Cyril Marchant Holliday and his wife Marjorie, a nurse who he met whilst in India where he had been a tea planter before the outbreak of the Second World War.  Upon returning to England in 1950 they decided to follow a long held ambition in establishing an independent school for boys who were identified as having ‘failed’ in education, some at a very young age.

In April 1954 Mr and Mrs Marchant-Holliday purchased the present property in North Cheriton, Somerset and converted the assorted buildings for use as a school which continued to be known as Whatcombe House School. In April 1963 when Mr Marchant-Holliday died, the School and Company names were changed to The Marchant-Holliday School to commemorate the name and inspiration of its founder. 

The distinguishing feature of the school since its inception has been the retention of its core values, namely to provide excellent opportunities for education and care that help children to develop their full potential for social, emotional, intellectual and physical growth. The vision of Mr Marchant-Holliday was that all children could and should thrive in a caring, tolerant, understanding and supportive environment, enabling them to overcome life’s difficulties and challenges.  This undertaking still stands firm today in our strategic vision for the school and is at the very heart of all that we do.

Our founder’s philosophy, vision and fervent belief, that all children given a safe, supportive and consistent environment, could thrive academically and emotionally are as relevant today as they were when first conceived back in the 1950s.  Mr Marchant-Holliday was indeed a pioneer of nurture based education which now, in the 21st century, we acknowledge as being fundamental to children’s health and wellbeing.  Every child has the right to feel safe in order to thrive and build their self-esteem whilst developing a lifelong love of learning.  This is the essence of The Marchant-Holliday School in providing a nurturing environment for children who experience difficulties accessing mainstream education.

The school continues to operate as a not for profit Independent Special School and is a registered charity with a Board of Governors who are also the Trustees.  The 2000's heralded developments in the form of significant building and renovation projects, resulting in the upgrading of the residential accommodation, a bespoke additional classroom block with six new classrooms, two separate classrooms for younger pupils, food technology room, art room, new ICT suite, a covered swimming pool, two outdoor classrooms, school gardens and a new outdoor learning area, including the MHS chickens!  In the school’s recent Ofsted reports, both education and care, have rated the school as ‘Good’, which we are immensely proud of. Work continues and currently the school is exploring an exciting development programme aimed at further improving facilities to embrace 21st century demands. 

The school operates as a day and weekly boarding provision for boys aged 5 to 13 who are unable to access mainstream education for a variety of reasons.  The school currently has capacity for up to 53 boys and referrals come from local authorities across the South and South West of England. After spending time with us, our aim is to enable our pupils to transition successfully and to lead happy, fulfilling lives.  Small class groups with high staff ratios, coupled with innovative approaches to delivering the national curriculum, as well as outstanding facilities all support a vibrant, exciting learning community.  The school enjoys strong, pro-active support from parents and carers.

The school invests in a comprehensive programme of activities as they develop key life skills and bring the curriculum to life. The school also engages with all our primary partners as part of the local school sports partnership.

As much as our school is about our boys, it is equally about the people who work for us.  The staff at The Marchant-Holliday School are all deeply committed and passionate about giving the children the very best opportunities available.  They hold high expectations, in order that the boys referred to us, develop their self-esteem and self-worth in order to progress as confident, independent learners.

Working within a special school environment poses its own unique challenges and we are all continually learning, however the rewards are immense.  To change a child’s expectation from one of exclusion to inclusion, is a profound experience and a privilege to be part of.  It is affirming to hear of past pupils who contact us to let us know of their successes and the fact that they feel the school played a significant part in their development and success.

Important Information

If you have a safeguarding or child protection concern, please contact the Designated Safeguarding Lead, Dr Neil Fortune, n.fortune@marchant-holliday.co.uk or 01963 33234