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The Manor Preparatory School, Abingdon

Check out my update on this highly-regarded day school in Abingdon with fantastic ISI reports (excellent across the board) for kids 2-11 years old.

Manor House 1[1]


The Manor is a non-selective independent day school for boys and girls 2-11 years old on the outskirts of Abingdon, Oxon. There are 387 pupils (98 of which are early years), 115 boys and 272 girls with a maximum class size of 20, though the current average is a lip-smacking 16. 36 of the pupils are EAL, which means English is their second language.

The main building of the school is a Georgian mansion, handsome rather than knock-out, and is mostly used for admin and the Headmaster’s office. The main school is a modern build, so quite a departure from many traditional prep schools.



The grounds are not huge (9 acres in all) but the space has been well thought out with several outside play areas divided into sections for kids of different ages, plus a conservation area with wildlife pond and gardens. Sports wise there’s pretty much everything catered for here, with tennis and netball courts, an athletics track and pitches for cricket, football, hockey, tag rugby and rounders. A spanking new sports hall to the tune of several million pounds, is now open.


There are individual instrumental lesson rooms, where kids can learn any instrument they fancy (they’ll find the tutor to match) plus several larger music spaces, and a hall that doubles as the theatre for school performances. The Manor goes like the clappers on extra-curricular activities – 144 individual instrumental lessons offered weekly, plus music groups, ensembles, and more unusual ones such as Robotics and Yoga. But I didn’t get a sense of teachers trying to push the children to do more-more-more in a negative way – that truly doesn’t seem to be the ethos of the school.

All instruments are offered for tuition, and drama is massively promoted at this school with the Main Hall designed and used as a drama space (there are separate halls for sports and lunch).


The Manor, in conjunction with Abingdon School and The School of St Helen and St Katharine, runs a bus service covering areas such as Henley, Shrivenham and Bicester, but there’s also a daily minibus from Streatley, Moulsford and Henley run by the school with a dedicated supervisor on board for the younger children.


Excellent. The Manor is proudly non-selective but still manages a haul of scholarships every year. Scholarships, Exhibitions and Awards offered for this year’s Year 6 total 26 (out of 58 children), for schools including Abingdon School, Headington School, Magdalen College School, Oxford High, Queen Anne’s and St Helen and St Katharine.

There’s a fantastic dedicated cottage devoted to SEN – when I was there, two children with little spoken English were practising language games, while another was having a private maths lesson. The Manor has been judged as “Excellent”, the ISI’s highest grade in all areas and so academically and pastorally the kids are in very safe hands.


Alastair Thomas, former head of co-ed The Elms School in the Malvern Hills has been with the school since January 2018. I’ve never seen a head smile so wide, but he’s every reason to be delighted to be at the helm of this school and has now started making some changes including an extension of Forest School so it’s available for more pupils and the introduction of Mindfulness on the curriculum to promote positive mental health and wellbeing. The extra curricular programme now caters to a wider range of interests, sporting provision has increased and the wrap around care, already good at the school, has been increased further – much of it at no extra cost to parents.


Little people start here at 2 years old, and seem very safe, secure and content. They reside in their own self-enclosed area, with the usual accoutrements of sandpit, outdoor space, good staff ratios, all the crafty stuff you can imagine, and happy kids. At this age, that’s all you want really. The Latin classes can wait.


It may sound strange, but I think possibly its biggest quirk is its modernity and sense of normality. For a school judged Excellent in every area (not something many other prep schools can claim if you look closely at their ISI reports) there’s a lack of pomp or show-offness about The Manor – no Palladian mansion blocks, or scenic woodland driveways. The entrance is a bit meh off the main road, and many of the school buildings are functional in that Eighties brick institutional way.

But having been to many gorgeous-looking schools that don’t flow very well because you can’t knock through the Grade I listed walls or mess with the antique plumbing, I really liked seeing a school where classrooms are built with kids in mind. They’re warm, clean, light, and facilitate learning.


The school was inspected by the ISI in April 2017. Read the report here.


Really good value in my opinion. £4690 per term in Reception through to £5720 in Years 5 & 6 (Autumn 2021).


The Manor is super flexible about kids staying late. The children can tell the teacher even on the same day that they need to stay on and can be accommodated up until 6pm. Cue grateful, overstretched parents everywhere. Children 3+ can attend Breakfast Club from 7.30am.


The Manor has a well-earned reputation for pastoral care along with its academic and extra-curricular success. I know quite a few mums whose kids go here, and they’re absolutely ecstatic about it. My feeling on walking around was that it was a very warm, welcoming, nurturing school. It doesn’t have that sense of old-fashioned freedom that some prep schools offer – the kids aren’t left to roam in woods or whack each others’ eyes out with conkers for example. Instead, there are specific areas for specific age groups, and permission is needed to run off into the grounds, which may not appeal to those nostalgic for the freedoms of childhood, but may speak to the pragmatic parent in you.


Good for:  Those looking for a superior all-round option, kids nurtured, brains engaged, opportunity to get involved in loads of different activities in a caring environment that has been judged Excellent in every possible area. Anyone looking for great comparative value for money – The Manor is less expensive than some other schools I’ve reviewed in the region.

Not for: Those who like pomp and grandeur, or for anyone looking for a country idyll – the school, like the well-respected St Helen & St Katharine’s next door (into which The Manor feeds), is a little way off a main road.

Dare to disagree?! Be my guest! The next Whole School open events are on 11 May and 8 Oct. To make your appointment, book here.

The Manor Preparatory School, Faringdon Road, Abingdon. OX13 6LN. Tel: 01235 858458. 

Did you find this useful? Read more of my School Reviews!

5 comments on “The Manor Preparatory School, Abingdon”

  • Manor Mama May 31, 2022

    Another manor mama here, I cannot fault them. Their SENCO dept is simply amazing and the staff are all so genuinely concerned about the children. I live when we walk in every day and a member of senior management is at the gate and welcomes each child by name every day. They take the time to know the children and really that makes all the difference I believe.

  • Victoria Edwards February 28, 2020

    As a current Manor mum but from “get go” in pre nursery and from London, we have never looked back. My girls are the happiest in the world at the school even when they recognised one as dyslexic.
    The school is only as good as it’s staff and they are phenomenal. Happy days every day.

  • Manor Mummy September 16, 2017

    As a current parent of The Manor, I can only say how delighted we are with our choice of school for our two eldest children. The teaching staff are exemplary, resources bountiful, leadership team extremely forward thinking. The ethos of the school exudes warmth, friendliness and inclusivity. As an educator myself, I am able to spot a gem a mile off- this school is a diamond.

  • Rosemary Banner September 13, 2017

    My daughter is a former Manor girl, loved going to school there every day. She needed the SEN as struggled with a bit of dyslexia. It got sorted, extra help and strategies provided to find a way through. She got an academic bursary for senior school – yet at mid juniors was quite behind/struggling on reading! Manor is a lovely and effective school. … Now at 25 after 2 degrees she’s working in a Lloyd’s syndicate. Brilliant school then, built on that excellence since.

    • muddystiletto September 13, 2017

      Hi Rosemary, thanks for taking the time to write. I agree it’s an amazing school, great to hear your daughter is doing so well on the back of the care all those years ago! Hero x


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