Tudor Hall, Bloxham

A girl’s secondary boarding/ day school in a stunning rural setting near Bloxham, Banbury for 11-18 year olds, Tudor Hall offers an emphasis on 'joining in' and good manners.

My thirteenth Muddy Best Schools Guide, but no back luck attached for Tudor Hall in Banbury. I went around this school in May 2015, so all facts and figures have now been updated (18 July 2016).

TUDOR HALL, BLOXHAM

What? Where?

tudorhall

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, see!). Tudor Hall also owns nearby Carrdus School for kids 3-11.

cow

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 Muddy Award winning cafe Baker Girl! Now that’s what I call a coup.

Facilities: 

swimmingpool

An 18 metre covered swimming pool, full size astroturf hockey court, 13 netball courts, tennis courts, a  theatre complex complete with natty neon signage (the girls are excited about that, there’s a very active drama department here).

studio2

What else? Music is a big deal here – 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.

staircase

Academic results: It’s hard to compare school to school sometimes as they all have a more attractive way of working their results but 88% A*to B is good in anyone’s book for GSCE and 83% A* to B for A levels isnt too shabby either. The school is very proud of its Value Added scores – in the top 5% in the country, as well as its rising status in The Sunday Times Schools Guide – now ranked 106 out of the top 424 independent secondary schools in the UK, up from 140 last year.

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Head teacher: Wendy Griffiths has been head teacher here for 11 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 asssess whether the prospective pupil will ‘fit’ the school’s motto ‘Habeo ut dem’ (I have in order that I may give).

Quirks: 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, so I loved that.

What else? 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. Practical, realistic and healthy – big Muddy ticks.

Wrap around care:

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I went around loads of 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.

The food hall. Good grub.

The food hall. Good grub.

The 25% day pupils are in the minority (der, even I can do the maths on that one) 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.

The gorgeous entrance to Tudor Hall

The gorgeous entrance to Tudor Hall

Fees: The boarding fee is £10,870 per term and the day fee is £6,865 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 re-sult at this age.

The manor house entrance

The manor house entrance

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. 

Oh I say! It's the tennis courts

Oh I say! The tennis courts

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.

Tudor Hall, Wykham Park, Banbury, Oxon, OX16 9UR. Tel: 01295 756259. tudorhallschool.com

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