Magdalen College School, Oxford
As Oxford as the dreaming spires themselves, this academically outstanding senior day school for boys 11-18 years and girls 16-18 years has been standing in the city since the 15thcentury. It’s a site of modern and more traditional buildings, but its outstanding feature is really its central city location on the River Cherwell, just across the Magdalen Bridge, and minutes from the High Street and Carfax. The Junior school for boys 7-11 opened (1994) opposite the Senior School.
Immense. Impressive. Immaculate. There is no expense spared here, and just as in academics and extra-curricular competitions, Magdalen takes its facilities very seriously. School Field is the centre piece for MCS sport, along an arm-length range of facilities including, Christchurch, Magdalen and Merton Playing Fields, Merton playing fields, Marston Road astro hockey pitch, Iffley Road University Sports Centre, Track and Pool, Oxford Hawks water-based astro hockey pitches, Direct access to the river from school for Rowing Club, and Farmoor Reservoir for the Sailing Club.
In terms of buildings, a four storey 1650 ft Sixth Form centre opened officially in February last year and it’s a stunner, including social spaces, cafeteria, study rooms and offices for 200 boys and girls.
Across at the Junior School the set up is more higgledy piggledy (in a good way – the buildings are older!) but it has charming updoor spaces, and looks out over the river and Botanical gardens.
No-one sends a child to Magdalen School hoping that they’ll just stay out of trouble and make it into the D team. Magdalen boasts some of the most extraordinary results in the country – in the 2018 results just announced, MCS kids scored 82.7% A*/A for A levels in 2018, and in GSCE 95.2% A*-A (inc 7, 8 and 9). Hardly surprising that around a third of pupils in the Upper Sixth last year gained places at Oxford and Cambridge. So standards are unapologetically high here and subjects are on the traditional side (the most quirky – er, Latin and Greek).
Magdalen’s reputation is unabashedly high achieving and competitive, but there’s also huuuuge extra curricular element. Like drama? So did alumni Sam Mendes! Go perform it at the Oxford Playhouse. Love sport? Learn from their professional coaches. A fan of the arts? Magdalen started its own annual festival in 2008 and now it’s grown into the two week, 100 event extravaganza that is the Oxford Festival of the Arts. If your child is an unashamed geek or not keen to go with the pack, you still have options – war hammer club, bell ringing club, flippin cryptic crossword club! You’re getting my drift here.
Well I’m not sure how many schools can boast a saint in their alumni… Sir Thomas More studied here as a child (as did patron saint of the Bond Films Sam Mendes). Having world class choristers within your school ranks is pretty amazing (children can audition from 6 years) and I love the secret passageway that takes the Magdalen Choristers from the Junior school underneath the road to the cathedral. Other than that I think Magdalen College School would be the first to say that they’re not at the vanguard of quirky and eccentric. They’re about tradition, intelligence, achievement. It’s a place where ability is respected. Maybe now, with so many schools worried about of over-egging the role over academics versus ‘softer’ skills, the biggest quirk is how unapologetic MCS is over its drive for excellence.
WRAP AROUND CARE
The senior school day ends at 3.50pm and pupils can stay on site for activities or in the library until 6.00pm. The Junior School runs a daily After School Care service for all pupils until 5.30pm where boys can finish homework before activities start. MCS is part of the Oxford Schools Bus Partnership with 10 routes operating across Oxfordshire.
The Master of the Senior School is Helen Pike who is, frankly, impressive. She’s brainy. She rocks a suit. She’s tall. She has the aura of a woman who can trounce you even at your Mastermind specialist subject. She’s slightly scary in a way a female headteacher should be. And wonderful must it be to be called ‘Master’ by everyone?! Pike has form in this city – an Oxford graduate herself, two of her own three step children were educated here at MCS. Across at the Junior School, Tim Skipwith has been head since 2012, with a decade teaching Biology at the senior school before that.
Senior School £6,313 per term (£18,939 per annum); Junior School £6,081 per term (£18,243 per annum) – £6,313 per term (£18,939 per annum) for 2019-2020.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Go-getters, brainiacs, energetic alphas.
Not for: Kids who don’t thrive on a fast pace environment.
Dare to disagree?! See for yourself if you agree with my verdict. There’s a Whole School Open Morning on Sat 14 September, 9.30am – 12pm.
Magdalen College School, Cowley Pl, Oxford OX4 1DZ. Tel: 01865 242191