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Living in south Oxfordshire

The pace of life is slower here in South Oxfordshire, 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.

Pick up the poshest local cheeses at the Nettlebed Creamery (they’re all named after local villages); sip on an ale at The Chequers in Aston Tirrold, where you might run into landlord Tim ‘Tiger’ Henman; pop into Wallingford, Goring or Henley to grab something for lunch, but watch your back, for this is Midsomer Murders country and you never know who you can trust. Such is the lure of South Oxfordshire village life that former prime minister Boris Johnson has recently bought a house in Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, near Wallingford. Even Mary Berry, the ultimate pin-up of English gentility, lives here: you couldn’t ask for a better neighbour than the Queen of Cakes herself, now, could you?

We’ve divided the area into three: moving west and south-west from Oxford, the Abingdon area moving up towards Witney and down to Wantage and Faringdon; then Henley and Wallingford, taking in their surrounds, including Watlington; and lastly, around Stadhampton, taking in the lovely Miltons and Haseleys and peering over the motorway towards Thame.

Oxford’s just here, of course, offering a culture fix if you need one. If you need a dose of London, hop on the train from Didcot Parkway/Cholsey (Great Western Main Line), or Haddenham & Thame Parkway (Chiltern Line) – or if you’re savvy you might drive to the Elizabeth Line at Reading. Mainly, though, we don’t think you’ll want to leave at all.  

Education scene in south Oxfordshire

Local Education Authorities in south Oxfordshire
Oxfordshire County Council

Many children in south Oxfordshire start their school journeys at a village primary school: most are small, the rest tiny. Bigger towns – Wallingford, Henley, Watlington – have good primaries, with catchments that don’t usually stretch far. A lot of primaries lose pupils to local prep schools from year 3 onwards: there are plenty of options, particularly in the south and south-west of the county, not all of them too expensive or snazzy. 

South Oxfordshire families are spoilt for choice when it comes to secondaries. There are some good comprehensives around here – no grammars, though, you’ll have to go to Buckinghamshire or Berkshire for those – and a lot of private secondary schools. In fact, you’ve got many more options round here than your peers in north Oxfordshire; private schools are clustered around Abingdon or in the south of the county. 

The Oxford private day school scene, easily accessible on school buses that zip around the area, is league-table-and-Oxbridge-glory nirvana. The private day schools in south Oxfordshire are lower-profile and slightly less academic. There’s only one full boarding school in south Oxfordshire (Radley College); there are plenty offering flexi or weekly boarding, which are more local in their reach. 

Looking for the best schools in south 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 south 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 south 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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