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Headington Prep School, Oxford

A stone's throw from Oxford city centre, Headington Prep is a smart, selective, bijoux all-girls' school that handily feeds into the super-popular Senior school across the road.

WHAT? WHERE?

Headington Prep School is a smart, selective all-girls day school in the well-heeled suburb of (you guessed it) Headington, two miles east of Oxford’s city centre. The school takes approximately 270 girls from nursery through to Year 6 in a Victorian mansion house that has been added to and modernised over the years – a striking glass atrium as you enter, and bright spacious classrooms. Class sizes for the prep school are a maximum of 20, but generally around 16 (and competitive at the moment, with many classes needing waiting lists). One of Headington Prep’s calling cards is the direct entry it gives the pupils to the increasingly popular senior school Headington across the road, since it’s academically selective and conducts formal assessments from Year 3. The secondary school is set in a grand brick 1930s deco building built in neo-Georgian style and regarded as a strong all-rounder option for day pupils and boarders.

FACILITIES

The prep school sits in a bijou 4 acres of land, with an attractive wooded area, refurbed with plenty of play frames, a large gym, a netball court, modern library, two music rooms and a 300 seater auditorium with racked seating, full lighting rigging, stage and backstage area and sprung floor. But of course with the senior school across the road that’s just the beginning – the kids go over every week for Forest School, sports, swimming (there’s a heated 25m), and access the impressive £3.4 million Dance and Fitness Centre including a 270m2 dance studio and fitness centre.

There’s also a staggeringly good art room, which houses a kiln, potters wheel, small kitchen, sewing machines and DT equipment for STEM projects alongside the usual art supplies. And this is but a taste of what’s to come in the context of the senior school’s Creativity & Innovation Centre: The Hive, also used by the prep school. The Hive is a replete art space plus lecture theatre, exhibition gallery, and 3D workshop, with teaching spaces and creative studios.

ACADEMICS

Held to a high standard: the Prep is academically selective so as to ensure that girls going through to the Senior School meet the same criteria as those sitting for places in Year 7 and 9. There are special programs to challenge those that are excelling, and a unit devoted to helping any strugglers.

Forest School is offered up to and including Year 2 (held in the Senior School grounds) and French is taught in every year group, with Spanish, Mandarin, and Latin clubs available. There’s a steady stream of specialist teachers, from science to dance and music. Computing is a big deal at Headington Prep – all of KS2 have their own iPads, there are 2 flash computer suites, and the kids do robotics and coding as part of the curriculum. Last year the school won an Artsmark Gold Award for the richness of its arts offering.

As in the Senior School, extra-curricular is a huge calling card here – over 60 clubs offered after school every week including a 40-member orchestra – huge for prep school of over 250 kids. The kids take swimming lessons weekly from Y1 (no need for parents to take them to hot leisure centres – yay!). The result? Headington Prep reached the IAPS National Swimming Finals in 2019.

THE HEAD

Jane Crouch, the head of Headington Prep, was away on the day I visited, though I nobbled the Deputy Head team who were lovely and are clearly part of a tightknit teaching team here.

QUIRKS

It might have been regarded as quirky a few years back but the school’s overt emphasis on community, charity and sustainability is now centre stage and clearly percolating to the children (the kids were excited about an eco-themed clothing home clothes day that week).

WRAP AROUND CARE

Pretty standard wrap around provision: there’s free morning care to facilitate early drop off from 7:45am, and after care until 6pm with a light tea. This involves games, crafts and activities for younger girls, while older girls can also do their homework in the library.

FEES

Prep school fees are competitive – Reception £3270, Y1-2 £3895, Y3-4 £4400, Y5-6 £4975.

WORD ON THE GROUND

Nurturing and friendly are the word I hear a lot about Headington Prep. The girls I met during the day there seemed very happy and well balanced. Busy too – there’s not much down time. The proximity of the senior school and its facilities means the prep punches above its weight in many areas, but the girls I spoke to seemed to think that everyone could join in, whatever your ability – not always the case in high-achieving schools.

THE MUDDY VERDICT:

Good for: The huge extra-curricular programme offers plenty of opportunity beyond the classroom. Class sizes of 16-20 allow individual attention but also the ability to mingle with different sets of girls and not become too cliquey. Anyone wanting their kids to move up to the sought-after Senior school – there’s direct entry into the Senior School (academics permitting).

Not for: Well, single sex education is a marmite subject so if you’re not keen on the idea, strike Headington off now. As a city school the outside acreage is naturally not what you’ll find in a more rural setting.

Dare to disagree?! Check out the school on their Prep Summer Open Morning, Friday 13 May 2022 at 10 a.m and the EYFS Taster Morning Wed 25th May at 9 a.m. Book onto it here.

Headington School, Headington Road, Oxford OX3 7TD. Tel: 01865 759100.

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