Tudor Hall, Banbury, North Oxon
A girl’s secondary day/boarding school in a stunning rural setting near Banbury, Tudor Hall's emphasis is on 'joining in' and good manners. Tick and tick.
TUDOR HALL, BANBURY
Tudor Hall is a rural girl’s secondary boarding and day school in Bloxham, near Banbury for 11-18 year olds. It’s a small school, with 332 girls, 75% of whom board in a stonkingly lovely setting. It feels like a National Trust estate as you approach over cattle grids and rolling countryside (and cows right by the car). Tudor Hall also owns nearby Carrdus School for kids 3-11.
Like many public schools, there’s a beautiful centuries-old main building with modern additions all around it, plus in this case 46 acres of grounds with a direct cross-field route to Wykham Park Farm (amazing farmshop goodies there btw, though the fabulous Baker Girl cafe has just closed and moved up the road to Great Tew).
An 18 metre covered swimming pool is probably the headline sporting attraction here along with the floodlit astroturf for 9 netball courts and 9 tennis courts, a further 4 hard tennis courts and 3 netball courts (are you keeping up?), 2 lacrosse pitches, fitness suite, hall for dance and a grass athetics track. Further afield Tudor Hall girls have access to Banbury Harriers Athletics Club, with their all-weather athletics track, Banbury Hockey Club, Wade Gymnastics Club, and Wood Green 50 metre outdoor swimming pool.
The theatre complex complete with natty neon signage and a super-active drama department makes this school an attractive proposition for jazz handers, but music is also a big deal at Tudor – out of 336 pupils, 290 of them take weekly individual music lessons. Even the most ferocious tiger mum would be pleased with those stats! There’s a purpose-built music building housing 13 practice rooms, a music technology suite (no music tech GSCE or A level though) and classrooms. As you’d expect, most instrumental choices can be accommodated, so if your daughter really wants to play the kora, they’ll find a way to get her a teacher.
It’s hard to compare school to school sometimes as they all have a more attractive way of working their results but 61% A* to A (100% A* to C) is good in anyone’s book for GSCE and 78% A* to B for A levels isn’t too shabby either.
Wendy Griffiths has been head teacher here for 14 years and seems like a shrewd cookie. Every head I meet has his or her passion and Wendy Griffiths’ is intent on creating well rounded characters. The entrance exams to the school take in not only academics but also consider outside interests and activities, including an interview to assess whether the prospective pupil will ‘fit’ the school’s motto ‘Habeo ut dem’ (I have in order that I may give).
Plenty, though on first impressions it feels very traditional with the usual array of GSCE and A level subjects on offer. But in other areas, Tudor Hall feels very forward-thinking. Girls earn their privileges through manners (no wonder the girls I met had phenomenal social skills). Doors are opened for you, chat is relaxed, and charm is effortless. I can’t stand rude kids so I’m always mightily impressed when they can look you in the eye and ask about your life rather than theirs.
The girls are encouraged – strongly – to step back from over-focusing on pure academics to forge interests in sport, music, anything extra-curricular. The teachers have made it clear here that girls have to offer more than brains and academic results to compete for places at university and in the workplace. With the trend towards anxiety in teens, that’s good to hear.
Wrap around care
I went around different boarding houses, some swisher than others. The truth is boarding houses in most schools are the same – high street sofas and large TVs and table football in the communal areas, oak veneer bunkbeds in the rooms. House competitions and a buddying system encourages integration between the years. I had lunch with several boarding mistresses who seemed lovely and did get the sense that they were massively fond of the children and the kids were well-looked after. Day girls can also sleep over if there happen to be spare beds.
Day pupils are in the clear minority at 25% but the school seems very aware of the need to integrate day girls and boarders and so day girls can stay until 9pm, have their own day rooms and can sleep over with very little notice. With a day that runs from 8am to 9pm it’s easy to see how a day girl who leaves at normal time might feel like they’re not fully involved in the school but with over 50 extracurricular clubs every week the emphasis is very much on joining in, so I don’t sense it’s a big issue.
Fees: The boarding fee is £11,370 per term and the day fee is £7,115 per term so on the more expensive side for local independent schools. Value for money? Hard to say, but the girls seem very happy, confident and there seems to be an absence of meanness and vanity amongst the girls which is a result at this age.
Word on the ground: Very happy parents at Tudor Hall. The school is small (average class sizes only around 16) but not so tiny that the girls don’t have room to grow. The mums I nobbled talk about the school being nurturing but not too claustrophobic.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Anyone looking for an idyllically-situated rural school, with good travel connections. Banbury is 4 miles away and links straight to Marylebone on the Chiltern Line in an hour. It’s 35 minutes to Oxford to the west. Those who want their daughters offered every opportunity – extra curricular activities are massive here.
Not for: Non-joiners. Mostly the interview process will weed out those who prefer a more laid-back school experience, but everyone I talked to, from the headteacher to pupils said that this is a school for kids who want to get stuck in. If you’re looking for a progressive, funky school this might not be the one for you – Tudor Hall is about traditional education, manners and turning out confident girls.
Dare to disagree?! Have a look for yourself at the whole school on Saturday 12 May 10am-1pm.
Tudor Hall, Wykham Park, Banbury, Oxon, OX16 9UR. Tel: 01295 756259. tudorhallschool.com