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.
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 prep 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. 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 – 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.
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. Next year the Innovation and Creativity Centre opens at the senior school that the prep school will also be able to utilise – a replete art space plus lecture theatre, exhibition gallery, 3D workshop, teaching spaces and creative studios.
Throughout lockdown and for the year groups remaining at home, the Prep school has been using Purple Mash to provide remote learning, alongside regular, face to face contact with teachers and classmates. Four year groups have now returned to the school site with a full timetable, plus Year 6 pupils have had the chance to meet Senior School teachers, ready for the new academic year.
All girls have been partaking in regular Be Active sessions, filmed by staff, including games, fitness, cricket, tennis, circuits, dance and the school has launched popular inter-house competitions (over 70% of girls tried the keepy-uppy challenge) to keep kids active at home. There’ll even be a virtual sports day at the end of term. Pastoral care is still top priority with fortnightly well-being questionnaires and access to the school counsellor.
Forest School is offered here (held in the Senior School grounds) and Italian is the language taught to years 5 and 6 with the refreshing thinking that it’s good to open little minds to other languages and options, not just get a head start in French, Spanish and German. There’s a steady stream of specialist teachers, from science to dance and music. Computing is a big deal at Headington Prep – Y6 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.
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.
It might have been regarded as quirky a few years back but 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-themedclothing home clothes day that week). Worth knowing that over at the senior school they offer the IB diploma – the only girls boarding school to offer it in Oxford. I’d say the senior school is stealthily progressive – there’s no question that its base line offering is ‘quality all-rounder’, but it also offers Arts Textiles, Music Technology (pretty unusual still – plenty of schools I go to don’t do it) and Dance and Theatre studies for A level. The new investment on creativity is a bold move.
WRAP AROUND CARE
Pretty standard wrap around provision, with kids here arriving from 7.45 am with a 6pm latest pick up.
Prep school feels are competitive – Reception £3205, Y1-2 £3820, Y3-4 £4310, Y5-6 £4880. The Senior school fees fly slightly higher than some of the other local girls’ schools but with the added possibility of flexi boarding you can argue it’s well worth it.
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. The girls I spoke to talked of the school being inclusive even if you’re quiet and not a joiner-inner but clearly the USP of Headington is to get stuck in and try something new, so if you have a serious wallflower just bear that in mind.
Dare to disagree?! Have a look for yourself at the Virtual Senior & Prep School event on 6 Feb.
Headington School, Headington Road, Oxford OX3 7TD. Tel: 01865 759100.