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Magdalen College School, Oxford

An academically outstanding day school for boys 11-18 years and girls 16-18 years in the centre of 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 years is opposite the main school site.


Immense. Impressive. Immaculate. There is no expense spared here, and just as in academics and extra-curricular competitions, Magdalen College School takes its facilities very seriously. School Field is the centre piece for MCS sport, along an arm-length range of facilities including, Christ Church and Merton Playing Fields, Marston Road astro hockey pitch, the University’s Iffley Road Sports Centre (home to the Sir Roger Bannister Running Track and the Rosenblatt Swimming Pool), Oxford Hawks’ water-based astro hockey pitches, direct access to the river from school for the 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 2018 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 outdoor 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 and it’s hardly surprising that Oxford and Cambridge are two of the most popular destinations for leavers. 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 a huuuuge extra curricular element. Like drama? Go perform it at the Oxford Playhouse. Love sport? Learn from their professional coachesA fan of the arts? MCS 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, alumnus 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 over-egging the role over academics versus ‘softer’ skills, the biggest quirk is how unapologetic MCS is over its drive for excellence.


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 how 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 £6,600 per term (£19,800 per annum); Junior School J1-J2 £6,358 per term (£19,074 per annum), J3-J4 – £6,313 per term (£19,800 per annum).


Good for: Go-getters, brainiacs, energetic alphas.

Not for: Kids who don’t thrive in a fast pace environment.

Dare to disagree?! Their next open events are a Year 7 and Year 9 taster evening on 18 May 2022, a Junior School Open Morning on 24 June 2022, a Senior School and Sixth Form Open Afternoon on 28 June 2022, and a Whole School Open Event on 17 September 2022. Booking is essential for all: register your interest here.

Magdalen College School, Cowley Pl, Oxford OX4 1DZ. Tel: 01865 242191

1 comment on “Magdalen College School, Oxford”

  • JWl February 25, 2021

    Great school when I was there….still is it seems ,with very good results all round..It also has one of most picturesque “school fields” in the country,…… a complete island surrounded by the Cherwell and a quick row up to the. Isis,,and a marvellous vew of Magdalen College tower


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