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Moulsford School, Moulsford

A highly-regarded boy’s prep school in South Oxon in a stonkingly lovely setting on the Thames, with a strong reputation for sport and extracurricular activities.


Moulsford School is a boy’s prep school with day, flexi or weekly boarding in South Oxfordshire, set in an idyllic 30 acre location by the river. At a time when former single sex schools are opening their doors to co-ed (mainly for financial reasons), Moulsford has created a niche for itself in priding itself on being boys-only experts, with the curriculum, sport, even the choice of teachers tailored towards them.

Like many schools I visit, Moulsford is a mix of the old and new, the original building a grand red brick Victorian mansion, with a lot of wood panelling and stained glass, and a grand dark wooden staircase that leads up to the boarding block. Sympathetic modern buildings house the classrooms for the 370 boys aged 4-13, of whom 41 are boarders.



Excellent and evolving. Sport is a BIG DEAL at Moulsford with 8 cricket pitches, 12 sets of cricket nets, one large hockey pitch on the astro (which can be divided into two small pitches), 4 tennis courts, up to 12 football/rugby pitches and a massive indoor gym that’s marked up for tennis, badminton and basketball with an indoor climbing wall to boot (not to mention a natty mezzanine with views over the river). There’s a 15 metre outdoor swimming pool, and tentative plans now for another astro.

You’ll find plenty of prep schools with that kind of sports roll call, but not many of them have this kind of view or access to the river.

My view from the upper pavilion of the sports hall

The school, unsurprisingly, offers comprehensive water sports including kayaking, canoeing and even dinghy sailing where kids can go up to ‘Goose Poo Island’ for the full Swallows & Amazons experience. Paddleboarding has gone berserk here and the school has just bought a further 12 boards (you might catch headmaster Ben Beardmore Gray on the river in the early evening too). Moulsford has recently bought 8 new ergos and are exploring rowing as an option. And new for 2021 is an increased focus on hockey, with the sport given proper timetabling for the boys to get more exposure.

Moulsford sport once had a reputation for ‘win first, inclusivity second’, but there’s been a shift over the last few years – the head master only referees the lower team matches, the first XV rugby jerseys have been phased out, and schools chosen for the fixture lists are deliberately of a similar size, so all teams have a fair chance to shine.


The main hall that doubles as a drama space

Drama-wise, the main school hall is small but well-appointed with all the theatre lighting and pull-out tiered seating you’d expect. All kids get the opportunity to perform or be involved in a drama production each year, drama courses run in holidays and children in certain years being offered an introduction to film production. 10% of kids here go through LAMDA exams.

The dedicated music space is relatively small at Moulsford, but even so 65% of senior boys choose to learn instrument here (that’s on the higher side of what I experience going round schools). And because there are no girls around, it’s not regarded sissy to play more ‘girly’ instruments like the flute or to join the orchestra or choir. The performing arts are being taken seriously – in 2017 the school introduced its inaugural dedicated summer music concert on the front lawn and it’s now the second most important event of the school calendar, after Prize Giving.


Moulsford’s new-state-of-the-art Pre-Prep building is currently under construction and due to open in Sept 2022. This Pre-Prep will be home to a Pre-School, Reception, Year 1 and Year 2. A new venture for the school, it’ll be for boys and girls who’ve turned 3 years old. There are no plans for any other year groups in the school to be co-educational, though: from Reception onwards (as now) Moulsford will focus on delivering its education specifically for boys.

It was still more building site than school when I looked around but I can tell you it’s a large plot of land, prettily situated and is bound to be a shiny new string to Moulsford’s bow. Take a virtual tour of the new building and get further details here.) The Pre-Prep build is the latest example of Moulsford showing real teeth in taking sustainability seriously. The school just launched its Environmental and Sustainability Plan and the new Pre-Prep fits that perfectly – solar panels and air source heat pumps to provide underfloor heating, natural ventilation is provided through roof turrets, green roofs will cover flat roof areas, and extensive planting and landscaping with wild flower meadows will shield the building from the road.


Moulsford isn’t overtly academic in its selection process (the school is over-subscribed and looks actively at ‘all round’ abilities) and in fact, 45 children of its children have 1:1 learning support, mostly for dyslexia/dyspraxia.

Small class sizes and a smart use of technology (£1m invested in the last 12 years) have kept standards up, and also stood the school in good stead when Covid decided to say hello in 2019.

Interestingly Moulsford was one of the first schools to opt out of working toward the Common Entrance exam and design its own curriculum on its own pre-testing for next schools. In 2021, at 13+, seven boys gained Awards to Abingdon, one to Radley, two to Oundle, two to Pangbourne, two to The Oratory, and one to Shiplake, all across a range of academic, sports, music, drama and DT.  Moulsford boys also regularly progress to the likes of Marlborough, Wellington, St Edward’s Oxford, Bradfield, Eton, Harrow, Stowe, Magdalen College School and Cokethorpe.


Five years ago Moulsford initiated a radically new Activities Programme from Reception to Year 8. I’m a big fan of the way it’s successfully unlocked potential and opened the pupils’ eyes to having a go at things they wouldn’t ordinarily attempt.

Basically, every half term the boys can choose an activity every day (45 – 60 mins, depending on age), anything from music theory, fencing, dance and gymnastics, to rugby fit, kayaking, sewing and night running. For pre-prep, it’s the likes of music and movement, golf, balance biking (great idea), drama, mindful drawing and board games.

BUT the boys have to have to tick boxes for healthy living, performance and the arts, self-development, community service and adventure, which means that a sports nut can’t just do sport, he has to try, say, public speaking. Conversely the music prodigy has to step out of his comfort zone and try dance. Only by showing they’ve tried hard to master a new skill will they be in the running to win the Moulsford Award. Such a great initiative – I know with my own kids how hard it is to get them to step out of their comfort zone so to reward the effort is super-smart.


No school can ignore the pressures now enveloping children and Moulsford is taking it seriously. For starters, one of the school’s two Deputy Heads has the sole task of providing pastoral care for the kids. Over the last year Moulsford has also upped the hours for the school counsellor, and AS tracking continues to help identify pupils who are at a hidden risk of developing social and emotional difficulties. Twenty staff have been trained in mindfulness to teach the boys to slow down and reflect (as a day school primarily the pace is fast here) and school lunch break has been extended to 70 minutes.

Most recently, the school is in the process of being accredited for a national Wellbeing Award, developed in partnership with the National Children’s Bureau (NCB) – a kite mark that rewards the promotion of emotional wellbeing and mental health across individual schools.


Ben Beardmore-Gray has been at the helm here for seven years, and has pretty much overhauled the school in that time. Married with three kids, he’s affable, smart, blazered up, and more English than a mid-afternoon cream tea. Wife Sarah is a smart cookie, overseeing the marketing, along with more practical aspects like dorm decor and, most recently, the new school uniform – checked shirts, blue jumpers and generally less grey.


Moulsford’s biggest quirk is fast becoming its single sex status – so many day prep schools are becoming co-ed (The Manor, Cranford House, Rupert House, Elstree). But Moulsford’s strength is not really about quirkiness – I think parents probably choose this school because it’s the quintessential English prep school, big on sport, academics, the arts, and manners, though any school that sends children sailing off to a place called Goose Poo Island shows a smart grasp of how little boys’ minds work.


Nearly all Moulsford’s kids come from a 20k radius of the school, nearly all boarders are local too – either kids who want to do a couple of days a week for fun or older children who are getting in the zone for the time when they board at Senior School. The dorms were refurbed a few years ago with new carpets, repainting, blinds, curtains, and a cosy common room area.

Moulsford boarding

There are 36 beds and priority goes to weekly boarders (Mon – Fri, there’s no Saturday school), but it’s possible to board on single pre-booked nights too. In terms of after-school care, all children can stay until 5.45pm for prep or activities, and if the school is notified first thing in the morning, children can also stay for supper and play until 8pm. In holidays, there are week long (paid for) courses put on for the kids in sport, art, drama, music etc.


Just reviewed by inspectors in March 2022, with much to shout about. Click here for the full Inspection Report, which gave Moulsford the highest possible grades in all categories — a whole lot of ‘excellent’s flying around!


I’m sure most parents will be thrilled to read this – mobile phone use is prohibited for day schoolers and flexi boarders, and weekly boarders are allowed only 30 minutes per night.


Pre-Prep day fees start at £4,200, rising to £6,275 per term for Prep day fees. With boarding the termly fees are £7,850, so I’d say the fees are broadly average.


The mums I spoke to are extremely pro Moulsford and like the head and the changes he continues to implement. Music and drama provision have improved though sport is still the standard bearer. That said, previous moans about lack of involvement for lower teams down the pecking order have largely gone with a much more inclusive ‘sport for all’ philosophy. The introduction of a new school uniform over the last term has rankled some parents, mostly on a hassle and cost basis, though the kids I met love it – apparently, it’s way more warm and comfortable.


Good for: Boys with energy to burn, who thrive on an outdoorsy, idyllic Swallows & Amazons-style school. Sporty kids will love it here, but the head is eager to promote an all-rounder ethos and the arts are far from ignored here. Discipline is strong and manners are drilled in with military precision – the boys I met were incredibly polite and assured.

Not for:  Vehemently non-competitive kids may not enjoy the give-it-a-go attitude at Moulsford.

Dare to disagree? Don’t take my word for it! Have a look for yourself at the next open day on 20 May, or take a virtual tour.

Moulsford School, Moulsford-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, OX10 9HR. Tel: 01491 651438.

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