Meet the head: Jo Thomson at Clayesmore

Jo Thomson talking to some of her pupils at Clayesmore School (James McMillan Photographer)

Jo Thomson talking to some of her pupils at Clayesmore School (James McMillan Photographer) - Credit: Archant

As Head of Clayesmore, Jo Thomson wants pupils to embrace challenge as this will help them discover that they can achieve more than they ever dreamt

Having been in post as Head of Clayesmore for a year, Jo Thomson is enjoying the blend of challenge, adventure and fun that the school is famous for. She is also keen to build on its friendly family ethos so that children can develop freely in an atmosphere of kindness and trust at this co-ed school in the heart of the rolling Dorset countryside at Iwerne Minster.

What is the ‘Clayesmore spirit’

It’s the feeling that develops from being able to learn and grow in an environment of trust and kindness. We encourage everyone to believe in themselves and ‘have a go’ without fear of failure or judgement. This means that pupils can discover their talents and passions, which in turn instils confidence. Being willing to embrace challenge and risk means that our pupils discover that they can achieve more than they ever thought possible: both in and out of the classroom. To me, that’s the Clayesmore spirit and that’s what the business of education is all about.

Tell me about Lex Devine who founded the school in 1896

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He was an educator and visionary who held true to his belief in the transformative power of education to provide redemption and hope for boys for whom previous educational experiences had often resulted in failure. A man ahead of his time, he understood fully that a ‘good education’ was about far more than the process of filling empty vessels with knowledge, and that ethos remains true today.

You describe your education as holistic in its approach?

We work hard to instil the values and attitudes which will transfer across intellectual, moral, physical and spiritual boundaries. Whether it’s in the classroom, on the sports field, in the dining hall or in the theatre, we teach our pupils to be ambitious, optimistic, intellectually curious and responsible. We don’t just pay lip service to the idea of ‘developing the whole person’: at Clayesmore, it’s in the DNA!

How do you create that home away from home for boarders?

Boarding life closely resembles the atmosphere of a busy, happy family. 60% of pupils board in one of our five houses, each of which is run by a team of House Staff, Matrons and Tutors. Pupils are guided, supported and protected with care appropriate to their age, which means they can get on with the business of learning, doing and simply being. Full boarding means that pupils can take part in a vast range of extra curricular activities. This might be playing the bagpipes, photography or astronomy, or the opportunity to spend some additional time playing sport: everyone’s passion is different so we endeavour to keep the opportunities and options flowing.

How do you balance work and home life?

The 24/7 nature of the job means that work and homelife are closely interwoven and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It helps having a husband who’s also a teacher, and children in the system, too! Having said all that, the generous holidays are when we tend to collapse, catch our breath and regenerate.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

The privilege that comes from watching children develop into mature, sensible and thoughtful young adults who will go on to make a contribution and a difference to the world around them. I can’t think of anything more fulfilling than that.

Find out more at or call 01747 812122


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