Oxford senior schools(24 Posts)
We are currently looking for a senior school for my daughter.
We are looking at St Helen's in abingdon, Cokethorpe, Headington or Wychwood.
Could anyone give me up to date honest information on these schools?
Especially on Pastoral care.
Thanks for doing this. Didn't think it would be so hard to choose a school!
I can say that from first and second hand experience the first two are both pastorally very sound. However, you have listed four schools here that are very different in other respects, especially in how they cater for the needs of more/less academically able, more/less sporty, more/less musical kids. If it's all about fit to the needs of your particular DD you might want to say more about what she is like and likes to do. I've heard tales of a girl moving from SHSK to Cokethorpe largely because she thought the sports was better, and another moving in the opposite direction to get more academic subject options. Gender balance and size might influence you as well. You'll probably get lots of strong opinions about these schools, but try to focus on fit for your own DD's needs.
doing the same as you! So far, I reckon…..
St H - not for us, way too academic for dd. Don't want her to struggle and be academically at the bottom. Lots of happy parents there though.
Coke - A level results worry me here. Personally, I have heard not great things pastorally, even though it has a good reputation for that. Too many friends struggling with their kids there for my liking. It doesn't fill me with confidence.
Head - big, lots of extra curic opportunities, academically more diverse that St H, poss a bit too posh for us!!!!
Wych - now, here I'm tempted, but am put off by the vv small size. Is it too small??? I actually have a thread going on Wychwood.
These are just my personal experiences and opinions by the way. I am sure people have other ideas.
Where do you live? It's key for choosing schools in and around Oxford.
Really don't worry about Headington being too posh.
I don't find Headington posh and I'm as common as muck ;-) The pastoral side at Headington is very good.
As Myrtille says, location is important IMO.
Thanks all for the information so far.
I have lived in Oxfordshire for 20 years now, so know what the traffic is like! Headington would be the worst to get to, but would make it work if it was the right school.
My daughter is not particularly sporty, but loves music. She is pretty average in intelligence, I worry about St Helens as I think she would be at the bottom here.
Wychwood is lovely and my daughter liked it, but I worry it's too small. Although people have said they cater for everyone. I worry there is not going to be enough girls in her year and she doesn't find a friend.
So much to think about!
Yes, but it doesn't always help to know what the day to day reality is like.
OP - maybe we should both send our dd's to Wychwood and they can be friends!!!
I've got friends with girls at all these schools.
St helen's - very very academic, good for all rounders with confidence. Plus of doing joint things iwth abingdon boys.
Cokethorpe - has tended to take the girls who don't get into/ want the other schools. Less academic.
headington - great academic results, loads of extracurric activities, lots of different types of girls (posh and not!), all my friends are happy with it
Wychwood - tiny, good pastoral care, more limited choices/ facilities due to size but depends if that matters. Lots leave after gcse as fed up with smallness. Academically ok but not brilliant.
Oxford high - super academic hot house. I am not keen as see too many o their girls in my clinics ( mental health).
I have a ds and am expecting no.2. Will be signing up for headington school if a girl.
I know a bit about Oxford schools. From what you've said, Wychwood sounds like the best fit.
Thanks everyone for your feedback. Wychwood, I think, is the best choice for her too.
But it was good to hear about other schools too.
Now I just hope there is enough girls!
Oxfordmum - what year group is your dd currently in?
Why has nobody considered Rye St Antony? Don't know that much about it apart from not as academic as Headington but seems like a lovely friendly place!
I was just looking at the performance tables to see if 2014 KS4 was out (the are not yet), but it might be useful to point out that at least as measured on points per A level in 2013, there are really two groups of schools here. SHSK, OH and Head all get A or A-, whereas Wychwood, Cokethorpe and RSA all have B- as the average A level grade. Cherwell is C+ if that helps calibrate. If SHSK is too academic the High will be. With RSA you would want to decide if a Catholic school is appropriate for you. If you are looking at Wychwood it makes sense to look at Cokethorpe as well.
If you're looking at StH, have you considered OLA?
Family members go there (having not got into more academic schools) and really like it. They're not Catholic.
I do think you need to consider that if your DD is not academic she won't be getting the wonderful A level results which the top end of the very academic schools produce even if she does get in. Far and away the biggest factor is the individual, not the school. At that point it's a decision as to whether she'll do better as the least academic person in an academic school or as the most academic person in a non academic school. (And of course there's a big spectrum in between).
If she's average in intelligence on a national scale, she isn't going to get into StH and the like anyway - their bottom end is way above national average. Average nationally is about a GCSE grade C and these schools have almost nobody who gets even one grade that low.
I didn't like Headington at all to the extent that we didn't apply. Their attitude to "what about anorexia etc." was very much "oh, that isn't a problem here." OHS's was "we know this can be an issue, so we do this and this and this and this..." Though DD is now at uni, so this is a few years ago now.
OHS has this reputation as a hothouse. We didn't find this at all. They were incredibly supportive of DD's (non-trendy, non-school) sporting activities and the fact she was prioritising them over absolutely top academic achievement. And you've got to love a basic plain navy uniform with minimal faffy embroidered bits. Even if you buy it in the approved shop (we didn't after year 7) it's half the price of the Headington one tops.
So this years performance tables are out and there has been a bit of movement. KS4 tables are now utterly useless as schools doing IGCSE are not included, but at A level: OH & SHSK A, Head A-, Wychwood B+, Cokethorpe & OLA B, RSA C. Am a bit shocked by RSA. Wychwood has made a noticeable move up. For a bit of calibration both Cheltenham College and Dean Close are also on B. Of course these changes are all subject to cohort effects and as always a strong function of the inputs etc etc. I also think labelling OH as a hothouse is misguided - the real hothouses are in the Far East where extra-curricular activity is extra maths. The other thing about the tables is you get can different orderings if you look at "academic" subjects. Then RSA and Cokethorpe trail the others by some way.
It's a really interesting thread and very current in our household as we have visited, taken entrance exams for SHSK,OHS, Head. I disagree about OHS being a hothouse, their aim is to allow each girl to reach their potential in a safe learning environment rather than just focus in a select super few. SHSK are heavily streamed right from the off and girls get moved between these regularly which can stress some girls who take it personally. Headington has great facilities and is more rounded overall with a broader range of abilities, but still achieves well. Any girl lucky enough to go to either of these schools should be fine as they all offer great opportunities. It's about what suits your DD, although my view is that girls do change so consider a bit more long term. If all else fails, just move them!!!!
OHS has been trying to tone down its "hothouse" image and provide a more rounded education. When we visited the school on an open day last year it looked & felt very business like - uninspiring. SHSK had a warmer feel to it but personally didn't like the direction they were moving to by turning the swimming pool to a science lab. I also noticed that they have moved up the GCSE rankings by quite a margin (didn't the old head from OHS move to SHSK a few years back?). I'd say both these schools are suitable for highly academic girls so if looking for a more rounded school its best to consider other options.
By way of calibration more globally - I do not think there is a single genuine hothouse in Oxfordshire. The real ones are in Korea, China etc., where the idea of an extra-curricular programme is extra evening maths classes. Schools like OHS and MCS for the boys are actually very rounded in comparison - the kids are doing lots of extra-curricular music, drama, sports etc. The few girls I know at or recently at OHS have been great kids, doing a massive range of things. I'm wondering about having DD apply, but the sheer hell of Oxford traffic (we live to the West) is putting us off, and I quite like the look of SHSK. Their new science centre is lovely - but did they really lose a pool to build it - that's a shame.
SHSK lost an outside pool (probably dating from the 60s by the look of it) which was only used in the summer term to build the science centre which is absolutely fantastic. They use the pool at Abingdon.
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