Skip To Main Content

Academic Programme

Our Academic Philosophy: a school that does things differently 

St Dunstan’s College has championed a forward-thinking approach to education for over a century, with the opening vision of our Catford school in 1888 being to provide a curriculum “in advance of the present time.” Translating as ‘Adorn the White’, our College motto, Albam Exorna, is as relevant today as it was at the time of our Lewisham foundation, in 1888. The white shield that serves as three quarters of our College crest is a blank canvas onto which is emblazoned the as-yet-unwritten story of each St Dunstan’s pupil.

Our first Headmaster, Charles Maddock Stuart, was a pioneer in heuristic (hands-on) education, designing the College to have science laboratories for students to discover learning themselves, the first school in the country to do so, and to devote significant time to hands-on scientific practical experiments for students to innovate and “do”, rather than passively observe.

St Dunstan’s continued to champion student-led learning before the 20th century, with fieldwork in geography, mathematical applications, and conversation classes in modern foreign languages, so that a St Dunstan’s education would empower students to be active participants in the world.

Subsequent Headmasters diversified our curriculum further; Frank Forder introduced outdoor activities and sport into the curriculum, and John Usherwood took great efforts to update the College’s wider facilities to prepare pupils for whatever challenges lay ahead, through a care of students as individuals. William Hecker’s belief in resilience and creativity saw the College thrive during various evacuations of the Second World War.

Our modern Senior School curriculum and academic philosophy builds on the legacy of these four founding headmasters.

Students entering the College embark on an educational journey of curiosity, studying a wide range of subjects, enhancing their study skills, and committing to a variety of co-curricular activities, before any specialism. We believe that this wide-ranging, ambitious, and forward-thinking approach to education sets up a life- time of inquisitive independence, allowing our students to approach new and challenging concepts with courage and conviction.

As a College, we do not rush to make judgment on individual destinations or talents, but help individuals discover them through their time with us.

From Year 7, our students are encouraged to explore and progress in all subjects, skills sets, and co-curricular areas, not just in those they arrive more confident in. We know that this liberal approach to education promotes individual self-awareness, and ultimately stronger outcomes in wherever a child’s journey takes them.

Fundamentally, we recognise the importance of teaching the child as an individual; only in this way will students develop the confidence to make positive choices about their futures, drawing on well-developed and wide-ranging knowledge, skills and interests. Above all, we teach our students to think, problem-solve, and be active partners in their learning.

Our Academic Programme

Known as the Hecker Curriculum, our core academic programme teaches a broad range of subjects from Year 7 onwards, with students engaging with subject specialists who are passionate about learning and teaching throughout their time in the Senior School. Our Hecker curriculum maintains breadth for the entire Lower School journey, with students learning the full-range of subjects throughout Years 7-9, before students choose GCSE options from Year 10.  

We want students to be taught through their academic subjects how to learn as individuals, and to become the thinkers and problem-solvers of tomorrow. Our innovative culture of Learning Scores, where students are rewarded for their approach to learning and able to influence their termly grades through their own choices, demonstrates our belief that firm foundations of values and attitude, lead to later success.

The 17 subjects taught are: English, Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Computing, Classics (including Latin), Geography, History, Religion, Philosophy and Ethics, Art, Design and Technology, Drama, Music, Physical Education and Games, and two Modern Foreign languages (from a choice of Spanish, French and German).



Our Stuart Additional Curriculum

Our independence as a school allows us great opportunities to go beyond a traditional academic education.

Named in honour of our founding Headmaster, Charles Stuart, our Additional Curriculum pioneers a forward-thinking approach to teaching vital skills for wherever the future might take our individual students, and prepares young people for adult life in a rapidly changing and changeable world.

Our Stuart Additional Curriculum covers three key strands of Relationships (including Sex Education), Skills for the Future (including Careers guidance) and Critical Thinking and Rhetoric (including Public Speaking and Debating).

Lessons are taught by trained Stuart teachers to small class sizes, and students study a wide range of topics across the three Stuart strands each year, including: 

  • Debating current affairs and political developments in the United Kingdom and globally
  • Critiquing forms of media, and how 'fake news' can be used to manipulate public opinion
  • Studying the history of protest
  • Studying the biological, sociological, and psychological impact of kindness
  • Equipping students with the skills and courage to challenge microaggressions, and confidence in applying the Equality Act to their lives
  • Conflict resolution, including self-defence
  • Understanding addiction, looking at current forms of substance abuse and forms of media targeting young people
  • Pornography and its impact onto identity, sexual perception, and relationships
  • First aid and crisis management skills
  • Understanding personal finance - from what deductions are made from pay and how to budget, to learning about different types of loans and interest on debt and savings
  • Considering how to prepare for the varied and entirely new careers that might exist in the future through a transferable skills-based approach to employment
  • Knowing how to build flat-pack furniture, cook a family meal, wire a plug, and change a tyre, and even how to iron a shirt and sew on a button!


Discover more about life at St Dunstan's College in our Senior School Prospectus

Find out more about our Lower School Academic Scholarship Journey