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Living in Oxford and Oxfordshire

From dreamy hamlets to dreaming spires, Blenheim Palace to Bicester Village, you’re bound to find your tribe in Oxfordshire. Oxford offers city life (‘London lite’, émigrés call it). Bike up the canal, fleeing tourists and Harry Potter memorabilia, to Jericho or Summertown; take a dip in the river at Port Meadow or wander around the coffee shops. You’ll get more bang for your buck (and a Waitrose) in Headington; Oxford’s edgier hang-outs are up Cowley or Iffley Roads (‘it’s where we go to scratch our Hackney itch’, locals told us).

Head north or west for bucolic country living. Drive towards Gloucestershire for classic Cotswolds villages, Farrow and Ball front doors and Cath Kidston crockery. Towards Warwickshire the landscape gets rugged and the four-by-fours muddier. Nip into Chipping Norton (‘Chippy’) for your groceries; sort your Christmas shopping at Daylesford Organic or Burford Garden Centre (a misnomer: it’s more a lifestyle emporium); trains from Banbury, Bicester and Oxford Parkway (Chiltern line) or Charlbury (Cotswolds line) will have you into Marylebone or Paddington in a jiffy.  Jeremy Clarkson, the Beckhams and the Camerons have been here for years and at time it feels as though half of Notting Hill upped sticks to this #blessed part of the world. 

South Oxfordshire, with its slower pace of life, is where families have forever flocked in search of something more. Given their proximity to the big smoke, the Chilterns really are beautiful: sheep graze contentedly; steam trains pootle picturesquely; even the Thames seems to take on a magical quality here, a very different river from the one you’ve left behind in Barnes or Battersea.

We’ve divided the county into six areas: the city of Oxford; Banbury & Bicester in the north and Cotswold towns such as Chipping Norton and Charlbury in west Oxfordshire. West and south-west of Oxford, an area taking in Abingdon, Witney and down to Wantage and Faringdon; then Henley and Wallingford, including Watlington; and lastly, around Stadhampton, taking in the lovely Miltons and Haseleys and peering over the motorway towards Thame.

Education scene in Oxford and Oxfordshire

Local Education Authorities in Oxfordshire
Oxfordshire County Council

For a thousand years, clever boys (and latterly girls) have been coming to Oxford to get even cleverer. Since then, a lively school landscape has emerged in Oxford and its surrounding countryside. Village primaries, some tiny and often with Church of England foundations, give pupils an idyllic start. Town primaries are super, too, particularly in Oxford itself. For C of E schools (unlike Catholic schools) you don’t usually need to attend church, though being active in the parish sometimes helps so check admissions criteria. They’re not as oversubscribed as you fear, particularly if you’re coming from London; from year 2 onwards, many lose pupils to preps of which there are plenty of options, particularly in the south and south-west of the county, not all of them too expensive or snazzy.

There are no grammar schools in Oxfordshire – you’ll have to go to Buckinghamshire, Berkshire or, at a stretch, Warwickshire for those – and a lot of private secondary schools with something to suit any child, from academic highflyers to sporty, arty or musical types. The Oxford day schools, easily accessible on school buses that zip around the area, is league-table-and-Oxbridge-glory nirvana. There’s only one full boarding school in Oxfordshire (Radley College); there are plenty offering flexi or weekly boarding, which are more local in their reach.

The county's comprehensives vary considerably; we’ll steer you towards the best. Admissions are organised around designated areas, again, and managed by the County Council. At the most desirable secondaries you aren’t guaranteed a place even if you live within catchment so do your research if moving to the area.

Looking for the best schools in Oxfordshire? Our education consultants can help

Every day, Good Schools Guide education consultants successfully help parents from all over the world find the best schools for their children. Our UK team is spread out across the country, each expert with their own specialist areas of knowledge. If you would like us to help you find a school place or are keen to know more about your family’s education options in Oxfordshire, we are ready to help. Read about our education consultancy services or get in touch. Read about our education consultancy services or get in touch by emailing [email protected] 

Your experience of education in Oxfordshire

Are you tuned in to the Oxfordshire education scene? We rely on parents and teachers who have been there, done that and got the school blazer to keep us informed and to guarantee that the information we publish stays fresh and useful. If you know something about schools round your way which would help other families reach decisions – good or bad, do let us know!  [email protected]

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