Wychwood School, Oxford

Into the centre of Oxford we go – literally a hop and skip from St Aldates – to Wychwood School, a day and boarding school for girls with a huge emphasis here pastoral care, nurture and personal development.

 

WYCHWOOD SCHOOL, OXFORD

What? Where?

Wychwood is a small day and boarding school for girls aged 11-18, now in its 120th year, with a teeny tiny 110 pupils. A mere 10 minute walk from the centre of Oxford, it’s based around two super-compact red brick mansions typical of the buildings up the Banbury Road on a 1.25 acre site.

 

Facilities:

Wychood is not a school blessed with space, so don’t expect expansive greenery and huge purpose built concert halls (there’s one of those called The Sheldonian down the road). The school has one grass hockey pitch and access to an astroturf; 7 netball courts, 4 tennis courts, and access to Oxford University pool.

What else?

Music provision includes a harp ensemble (not come across one of those before), woodwind and string groups, senior and junior choirs, guitar and ukalele bands and a sight-reading singing club. Orchestral players go to the Thames Vale Youth Orchestra. Art is well catered for here, with GSCEs possible in textiles or photography in addition to the normal Art GCSEs.

Academic results:

They’re good, as you’d hope from a school with the current average class size of 12 in Juniors and 6 in Seniors! Wychwood’s past reputation has never been wildly academic, and it’s seen as a nurturing, very friendly school, but results have been quietly on the rise since 2013 (the new head arrived in Sept 2012).

Photo: Clint Randall, pixelprphotography.co.uk

GSCE results for 2016 were 47% A and A* and for A Levels 64% A*AB grades with 11% gaining A*. In the current Y13 group, 2 out of 12 students applied to Oxbridge and one gained a place.  There are Academic scholarships at both 11+ and 16+ entry level in place to keep standards high, plus burseries in music and the creative arts.

Head teacher:

Photo: Clint Randall pixelprphotography.co.uk

Andrea Johnson is pretty much as I’d expect the head of a small, intimate boarding school for girls to be – approachable, friendly, bustling, and protective of her brood. Wychwood’s tiny space and lack of facilities creates obvious issues but she seems to enjoy the challenge – clearly having Oxford on the doorstep is a massive advantage for day girls and boarders alike in terms of cultural and community trips.

Boarding:

Roughly a third of children board, either in The main house (for the majority of senior students) and 2&4 (the postal address) used for the junior girls. In the senior years, common rooms and facilities are shared by boarders and day girls, and day girls can stay for prep during the week (in fact they can come in for Saturday prep too if they’re superkeen) and often sleepover at short notice. The boarding rooms are average – bright, large and with the usual pine/plyboard bedroom furniture. No reason to faint in horror or bring out the bunting either.

Unusually there are mixed-aged bedrooms at Wychwood, no doubt originally decided upon due to lack of space, though in many ways it makes sense for the girls to mix this way, with older ones supporting the younger like ‘big sisters’ and the children learning to make friends outside their peer groups.

Quirks:

The gym/assembly room

Often when I come to this question I scratch my head as many schools are still very traditional, but Wychwood is definitely quirky! The tiny size of the school makes catering to individuality at the core, so it’s no surprise that kids can do some very funky subjects. GSCES are possible in Astronomy, Photography and Pyschology – how cool is that? – and for A Levels they can offer almost any language. In recent years, Farsi, Hebrew, Latin, Greek and Manderin have all been taught. However, the most popular A level results at the all-girls’ Wychwood are actually… maths and chemistry! The set up is very unusual too, very higgledy piggledy and ‘vertical’ (I seemed to go up a lot of steps and floors!).

I also had a real sense that this is a school that picks up and dusts down the children that other schools haven’t quite understood. So there is a huge emphasis here on pastoral care, nurture and personal development.

Clint Randall pixelprphotography.co.uk


Word on the ground:

Parents don’t send their kids to Wychwood for sport and drama provision – one mum laughed when I asked about competitive sport! – though clearly there are kids who are talented across the board. But that’s not why children come to Wychwood – it’s a happiness thing.

THE MUDDY VERDICT:

Good for: Excellent for children who have fallen through the cracks in big beast schools and are looking for nurturing, positive alternative. Flexi-boarding provision makes it a particularly good option as children go up the school, with Oxford on the doorstep.

Not for: The claustrophobic! It’s a small, intimate site and with such a small cohort there’s not much privacy to be had. Extra curricular competitive teams will be hampered by the small year intakes.

Dare to disagree?! Don’t take my word for it! Have a look for yourself at the Open Day on Sat 25 March 17 , 10am-1pm.

Wychwood School, 74 Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 6JR. Tel: 01865 557 976. wychwoodschool.org


8 comments on “Wychwood School, Oxford”

  • Hannah Wessel April 26, 2017

    My daughter is at Wychwood and she is so happy! We feel so pleased that she is not in an academic hot house and the school really knows and values each child as an individual. That is not to say academics are not important, the teaching is excellent and the expectations are high. I would question the comment made about the drama provision in the school; I think the drama is outstanding, and there is a culture of encouraging girls of all abilities to take part and to have a go, with many opportunities to act and perform. There are Performing Arts Evenings, and the school takes part in the Shakespeare for Schools Festival.
    I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Wychwood to any parent. It is a very special school.

    Reply
    • muddystiletto April 26, 2017

      Hi Hannah, thanks for your honest comment about the drama. I’ve published it to let others see your point of view and I take your point about encouraging all the girls to take part. Hero x

      Reply
  • sl April 26, 2017

    Pretty accurate… if you want an individual school with a quirky edge that gets results and a daughter who has her own mind then this is for you !
    No sausages here , all wholly organic and different talented pupils who are happy and look out for each other like one big family.

    Reply
    • muddystiletto April 26, 2017

      Parents feel very strongly about this school, thanks so much for your response x

      Reply
  • Amy April 26, 2017

    Wychwood is an amazing school. You are right it is caring, positive and very much working with the individual. The staff work closely to bring the best out in every girl. If your after after a school that “genuinely cares for each child” and looks at them as an individual, challenging them and finding their true potential then you’ve found it. The Head works amazingly hard and the staff have a very open door policy. The boarding is great and they still have lots of opportunities with theatre trips, foreign trips and sports fixtures.

    Reply
    • muddystiletto April 26, 2017

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Amy. x

      Reply
  • Valerie Whitlow April 26, 2017

    As the mother of two girls who have been very happy at Wychwood, I’d say your review was very accurate apart from two things:

    The drama provision is excellent with a very enthusiastic drama teacher & the possibility of studying for LLAMDA (spelling?) exams. The school also takes part in Shakespeare for Schools productions each year. Wychwood’s size is an advantage when it comes to drama. One of my daughters had parts in plays that she definitely would not have had in a larger school. The girls are challenged each year to write, produce, and star in the “form play”, with each form producing a play from scratch in a few weeks.

    The sports department teaches a valuable lesson – not everyone can win! Girls learn to be realistic about their chances against other schools who are fielding their A team when Wychwood only has one team & individual achievements & performances are celebrated. Again, both my daughters played in teams that they would not have been considered for in a larger school.

    Wychwood really gets to know each girl and helps her to achieve academically, socially & develop personally as a caring rounded human being. Having responsibility for a younger child brought out the best in my older daughter and gave my youngest child a sense of responsibility previously lacking in her life!

    The ability to board on an occasional basis is a “God-send” for busy parents & both girls really enjoyed the atmosphere in the boarding house. My eldest was a weekly boarder for a time with a long train journey at weekends and the pastoral care was excellent, both from teachers and very committed “Gap girls”.

    I am so glad that we did not listen to family pressure to send the children to the larger “exam factories”. Wychwood has played a large part in making my girls the wonderful people they are today (I might be slightly biased here!)

    p.s. when considering published exam results one has to take into consideration that Wychwood are accepting girls who would be rejected by other schools in Oxford. Your daughter WILL achieve her full potential at Wychwood, whatever that potential may be.

    Reply
    • muddystiletto April 26, 2017

      Hi Valerie, thanks very much for your honest response. I’m sure it’s helpful to other parents considering the school x

      Reply

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