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What says..

'It seems to be accepted and normal to do your best but it's not pushy'. Music and drama run through the life of Oakham. Well attended series of (free) recitals in the town's All Saints' church gives a chance to get solo performance experience. Everyone spoke of excellent communication between home and school. Hard to imagine a more charming…

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What the school says...

Oakham is an independent boarding and day school for boys and girls aged 10 to 18 offering both A-Levels and IB Diploma (the International Baccalaureate). We are friendly, stimulating, innovative and energetic. Our results are consistently high.

We provide all the opportunities and challenges to encourage your son or daughter to stretch horizons and discover their personal strengths. We have well-resourced teaching facilities, a great campus and an enviable pupil:teacher ratio. Beyond the classroom, pupils acquire new skills, experience adventure, serve others and make new friends through our compulsory activities and service programme.

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Curricula

International Baccalaureate: diploma - the diploma is the familiar A-level equivalent.

Cambridge Pre-U - an alternative to A levels, with all exams at the end of the two-year course.

Sports

Polo

Shooting

Sailing

What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since 2019, Henry Price, previously head of Wellington School in Somerset. Eton and Oxford (classics). A career teacher, first post at Sydney Grammar, Australia, next Sherborne, then Rugby for 13 years where – in addition to being head of classics and a housemaster – he was involved in all manner of extracurricular activities. Acknowledges the difficulties, as a new head, of joining during the pandemic. ‘I miss the live chats with the children – there are no pizza evenings in the head’s house, no casual encounters with parents at matches either,' he told us on a Zoom during lockdown. Nevertheless, he is making an impression on parents and we found him a breath of fresh air, coming across as personable, quick witted and in control. We noted his attire too - dressed in jacket, open necked shirt and no tie, perhaps in recognition that for pupils, uniform is not de rigueur for online learners. 'Excellent online teaching was organised in record time for the first lockdown,' we heard. Disparages labels but believes Oakham’s strength is in what it offers for the ‘good all-rounder’ at examination stage (A levels, IB and BTEC) and in music, art, drama and sport. ‘As a classicist I am convinced that keeping the curriculum as broad as possible, for as long as possible, helps demonstrate the connectedness of knowledge,’ he told us. With a 50:50 split of boarders and day pupils he scouts the idea that Oakham isn’t a ‘proper,’ boarding school. ‘Three hundred in chapel on a Sunday morning feels like a boarding school,’ he told us, and he is proud of the school’s status as a pioneer of co-ed schooling (this is the 50th anniversary year). Believes the important message to get across to pupils is, ‘Success doesn’t happen by accident. If you want to do well, you have to work’. Thinks there is no reason for pupils to be shy of privilege, ‘but they should be aware of their good fortune and resolve to give back to society in some way.’ Is delighted to be continuing to teach his subject (Greek at A level) – ‘it keeps to the heart of the fact that I am a teacher. I think of myself as a schoolmaster, a housemaster and headmaster’. Married to Mary – they have four young children. He tries to keep a level of fitness going, practises yoga and has at least two books on the go, one for self-improvement and a novel for pleasure, currently The Thursday Murder Club Mystery, but Sebastian Faulkes and William Boyd are the authors he keeps returning to. Out of term they escape to their house on Anglesey where his wife’s family have their roots.

Entrance

At aged 10 and 11 from over 30 different preps and primary schools – assessments in maths, English and verbal reasoning. For entry at 13+, a pre-test interview takes place in year 7, usually with a senior housemistress or the head of middle school (online assessment during the pandemic) with places offered subject to a CE mark of 55 or above, or success in school’s own papers in English, maths, French and science. Around 55 new pupils enter the sixth form each year; they should be on target for a minimum of seven 6s at GCSE including the subjects they wish to study, plus satisfactory personal and academic references from previous school. All candidates at the three entry points are interviewed.

Exit

Around 12 per cent eaves after GCSEs. Around 60 per cent of sixth form leavers to Russell Group universities, others abroad (most recently to Northeastern, USA; Maastricht; Milan, Colorado State University, Pueblo; Bolzano University, Italy; IE University, Madrid: EHL Swiss Hospitality School). School employs a Yale fellow who oversees preparation of candidates for US universities. Four to Oxbridge in 2021; other popular destinations are Edinburgh, Loughborough, Nottingham, Oxford Brookes, York, Bristol, Leeds, Manchester and UCL. A good clutch each year to specialist music, art and drama colleges. Oakham has a reputation (several parents spoke of it) for the excellent guidance offered for higher education, apprenticeships and careers. Seven medics in 2021.

Latest results

In 2021, 66 per cent 9-7 at I/GCSE: 59 per cent A*/A at A level (85 per cent A*-B). Average point score of 35 at IB. In 2019 (the last year when exams took place), 52 per cent 9-7 at I/GCSE; 38 per cent A*/A at A level (64 per cent A*-B).

Teaching and learning

IGCSEs in core subjects: the triple and double science award is offered with French, Latin, Greek, Spanish and German as the language options. Around a third of sixth formers take the IB diploma and results are impressive. Geography is popular at A level, followed by maths, business studies and economics; psychology recently added as an available subject. Two subjects - business and sports science - are available as BTECs, as well as A levels. Also runs the IB middle years programme for 11-13 year-olds. ‘It encourages pupils to become creative, critical and reflective thinkers.' Online lessons during lockdowns although, ‘We have slightly changed lesson times to give everyone a breather from the screen and lunchtimes have been extended.’ Parents praise the speed with which ‘everything was organised online – lots of structure was put in place with all sorts of virtual events to keep pupils motivated.’ School recently gained accreditation to become a World IB MYP School, following three years of embedding the programme across years 7 and 8. The senior academic mentor is responsible for overseeing the intellectual stretching for those with academic awards or who have their sights set on Oxbridge. The scholars’ society is ‘elitist but not exclusive,’ says school, and members are drawn from beyond the group of scholars – sometimes talent-spotted by house parents. After all, the school has established pathways to extend and develop sporting, musical and artistic talents. Chosen pupils attend a seminar programme designed to play to particular specialisms and nurture ‘genuine intellectual curiosity’.

The Smallbone library (named after a former head) is impressive. The foyer doubles as an exhibition space and is full of pupils’ art work; it’s also used for parents meetings. (Parent consultations are all online during the pandemic and many prefer it that way – ‘No time wasted queueing and no one overruns their schedule’, said a parent who hopes this continues in the future.) Upstairs, though, it is absolutely silent. Certainly no talking, no whispering and definitely no headphones. ‘Up here pupils can hear themselves think’, the librarian told us (very, very quietly).

Learning support and SEN

The learning support department occupies new top floor premises – quiet, calm spaces with lots of technology. Staff have chosen some wonderful artwork for the walls, all by pupils. ‘Mild’ SEN - mainly dyslexia but also dyscalculia and dyspraxia - catered for via small group teaching, individual lessons (extra charge) or in-class support. Lots of study, organisation and revision support, all described by parents as ‘brilliant’.

The arts and extracurricular

Drama and music are big news with countless opportunities to perform at all levels. The aim is to maximise participation as well as foster individual talents – at whole school plays, hymn practice or small in-house showcases to build the confidence of first timers. Over 300 pupils sing in school choirs and the chamber choir has, in the recent past, reached the finals of Songs of Praise School Choir of the Year and is invited each year to perform in the Brandenburg Choral Festival. We were lucky enough to join an audience of townspeople and pupils at one of the weekly lunchtime concerts in All Saints Church. Young and old sat rapt in the pews, listening to virtuoso trumpet and oboe soloists give spellbinding performances. When asked, ‘Why Oakham?’ a prospective parent sitting nearby simply said, ‘It’s the music.’ Drama is taught right across the school and usually six plays are performed each year. There is a proper theatre all kitted out to provide pupils with the opportunity not only to act, but to learn lighting, stage direction, costume, make up and front of house skills. Even during the pandemic, when pupils were in school, they managed to stage a play entitled, ‘Decky Does a Bronco’ to a socially distanced audience. There are several acting alumni including Miles Jupp. Impressive numbers of top marks for art and DT at GCSE. Specialist teachers in all disciplines including sculpture and textiles, visiting artists run workshops. The courtyard of four art studios was formerly the town prison and the new exhibition space was a workhouse – Oakham can truthfully say that its art takes no prisoners... Wonderful sculpture studio where pupils can create in clay and mixed media on a large scale and even learn stone carving. Not huge numbers taking these subjects at Pre-U/A level but the results are excellent. Two Oakhamians achieved the feat of the highest D1 grade in their Pre-U (higher than A* at A level). Pupils regularly go on to top art schools and to study architecture and fashion design. Exploring Learning camp for younger Oakhamians is a swashbuckling, Treasure Island-themed, problem-solving adventure in the countryside.

Sport

The emphasis these days is on heath and fitness as much as competition. Huge choice of over 30 sports, from sailing on nearby Rutland Water to polo (water and four-legged variety) and, yes, all take part, whether by competing or supporting. Outstanding facilities include 40 acres of grass pitches, two floodlit all-weather pitches, multipurpose sports hall, squash and fives courts. The cricket square hosts county matches as well as school fixtures. There are regularly over 100 pupils playing in the national finals of lots of different sports and the school will create ‘pathways to foster individual talents, whatever they are.’ Oakham’s recent sporting honours are evenly spread between boys’ and girls’ teams with the U14 and U19 netball teams reaching the national finals and the U15 rugby team reaching the NatWest cup semi-finals.

Boarders

‘Transitional’ boarding is offered to lower school pupils (10-13 year olds), enabling families to choose when they want to board between two and five nights a week. Full and flexi-boarding options are also available. Over half the pupils board but the lessons on Saturday morning, plus matches and other activities in the afternoon, means day pupils are unlikely to feel they miss out. Quite a few local day pupils turn up for the Sunday goings on too. Also helps that there are four lower school houses that combine day and boarding pupils in addition to the separate boarding house. Hodges is away from the main campus where younger children can enjoy their own space. Boys’ and girls’ middle school (age 13-17) boarding houses are on either side of a large playing field known as ‘Donkey’ (Doncaster Close). There are two houses (boys and girls) for flexi boarders and four for full boarders. All upper sixth (known at Oakham as ‘seventh form’) pupils are based in two houses in Chapel Close, next to the market place.

Though rooms are fairly standard issue – cabin beds with desks underneath, two or three to a room in the lower years, individual study bedrooms on the ground floor for the lower sixth – there is a constant programme of decoration and updating. Common areas are large and well maintained with the usual exhausted soft furnishings, big wooden bowls of apples (‘we keep trying,’ smiled the housemaster, indulgently resigned to choosing fruit on the basis of what makes the minimum mess if used as a missile), pool and table tennis tables. Year group integration fostered by lots of competitions and activities and several parents mentioned the benefits to the pupils of mixing between the year groups and the ‘family’ atmosphere created. During periods of online teaching in the pandemic, ‘House roll call happened every morning, my daughter really appreciated that – and a newsletter each weekend.’

Youngest boarders do prep in the house library supervised by a member of staff or prefect until they’re ready to work independently. Sensible rules about screens of all kinds, Wi-Fi turned off at 10pm; youngest must hand in everything before bed. The term’s programme of matches, activities, exam dates, UCAS deadlines and the like is up in an A3 frame near the entrance and makes exhausting reading. ‘We like to do a lot,’ said the housemaster, adding, ‘This isn’t babysitting, we put our heart and soul into boarding at Oakham.’

Food is praised by parents and children alike. It's all prepared in-house and everyone eats together in the Barraclough. The homemade bread and soups, carvery nights and Sunday brunch came in for special praise.

Ethos and heritage

Drive into the charming eponymous town (there’s a butcher, baker and by the looks of things no shortage of artisan candle makers), past the Whipper-In hotel (Oakham is home to the Cottesmore, one of England’s oldest hunts) and in the corner of the cobbled market place you will see Oakham School announced in fine wrought iron. Oakham and its near neighbour Uppingham were both set up as free grammar schools by Archdeacon Robert Johnston in 1584 to teach Latin, Greek and Hebrew to the sons of their respective towns. The two schools’ fortunes and size waxed and waned over the next 300 years - as late as the end of the 19th century the original one room school house was still Oakham’s only teaching premises. The main site is a horseshoe of teaching and boarding accommodation and if there is a lack of fine or grand architecture then it is more than amply compensated for by the bright green fingers of a first-rate grounds team. If there were Good Schools Guide awards for best-kept school grounds then Oakham would certainly be on the podium. School is very proud of the courtyard garden with its grass-free lawn designed by near-neighbour Bunny Guinness. It’s overlooked by the biology labs and no doubt the 30 varieties of native plants that make up the lawn provide a useful study in biodiversity. Fair bit of Monopoly-style buying up of town sites – latest is a former pub which is soon to be reborn as a performing arts centre (plans 'moving forward'); the town’s old police station is now a new medical and pastoral centre. Town and gown weave seamlessly in and out – one of the first lessons new pupils receive is about road safety, although we imagine that motorists are held up by pupils crossing, more often than the reverse. Our sixth form guides observed the school’s road safety rules to the letter, despite absence of any traffic, we’re pleased to report.
Sensible uniform of black crested blazers, white shirts, ties (boys only) and below the knee black and white kilts for the girls. All seems to be worn as intended: smartly and un-customised. Seventh formers sport the dreaded business dress – although apparently it’s not dreaded at Oakham. ‘We really look forward to wearing it,’ our sixth form guide told us. Former pupils include Stuart Broad, Tom Fell, Josh Cobb (cricket); Alex Goode, Tom Croft, Matt Smith, Lewis Moody (Rugby); Crista Cullen (Olympic bronze, hockey, 2012, who opened the new hockey Astro); Matthew Macfadyen, Greg Hicks, Richard Hope, Lydia Rose Bewley (actors); Miles Jupp (actor/presenter); Thomas Hescott, Katie Mitchell OBE (directors); Phoebe Gormley, Sarah Curran (fashion/business).

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

Pastoral care was singled out for its high quality and ‘generous scope’ in most recent inspection report and we couldn’t find anyone who disagreed. The parents we spoke to commented how observant teachers were – quick to spot and then get to the bottom of changes in mood or attitude. Like most things at Oakham the pastoral system is commendably well-organised and implemented with genuine interest and concern, not a whiff of weary lip-service to a box ticking set of ‘guidelines’. The head of pastoral care told us how important it was that she and her fellow tutors teach: ‘it keeps things real’, she observed. Tutor groups are small and pupils keep the same tutor throughout their time in each section of the school. Boarding house matrons are all trained in youth mental health care and are ‘eyes and ears’ and girls often pass on concerns they may have about boys (who can find it harder to talk). Add to this a ‘house family’ and buddy system and every child should know plenty of adults or fellow pupils to whom they can turn if necessary. All pupils do a body and mind course that stresses the interdependence of mental and physical well-being. Respect, for oneself and others, plus very clear boundaries, govern relationships between pupils.

Pupils and parents

'You get all walks of life here,’ a parent told us. According to school the Oakham demographic is solid middle class, ‘definitely not socially elite’. Pupils we met officially were clean cut and refreshingly uncynical (they always are) but those we saw from a distance didn’t appear to have revolutionary tendencies either. Oakham probably isn’t the place for determined bohemians or incipient Bolsheviks, but we’ve no doubt that the school would welcome them with a smile and find them plenty to do. Around 15 per cent from abroad – mostly Europe.

Money matters

Comparatively good value, especially the boarding. Even more so if you consider that parents of day pupils are not charged for evening meals if their children have to stay late at school for activities. Wide variety of scholarships at 11+, 13+ and sixth form. Means-tested bursaries also offered, applications considered on individual basis. Ten per cent discount for forces families. Certain reductions are in place for both boarding and day fees during school closures due to the pandemic.

The last word

‘The Oakham of today started when we went fully co-ed in 1971,’ we were told and it’s true that though the school is proud of its origins, four centuries of history are not its defining feature. This is a clear-eyed, energetic, forward-thinking school, aptly summed up by its motto, ‘Et quasi cursores vitai lampada tradunt’ ('And, like runners, they pass on the torch of life').

Please note: Independent schools frequently offer IGCSEs or other qualifications alongside or as an alternative to GCSE. The DfE does not record performance data for these exams so independent school GCSE data is frequently misleading; parents should check the results with the schools.

Who came from where

Who goes where

Special Education Needs

Parents are asked to inform the school at the initial enquiry stage if their child has any learning difficulties. Early submission of any relevant paperwork will enable consideration to be given to the likely needs of the child. The school might be able to offer Learning Support to students who have a specific learning difficulty. If however, it is clear that a prospective candidate requires a higher level of support than can be provided, then it is important that this is discussed openly. Learning Support may be offered to students in the form of group support in lieu of a second language in Forms 1, 2 and 3 (Years 7, 8 and 9) or by in class support. Students on the Learning Support register, requiring a higher level of support, may be taught in pairs or as individuals. Students in Forms 4 (Year 10) and above, who are on the Learning Support register, may be offered individual support. There may be a need for some students with specific difficulties to request special access arrangements in external examinations. If this is the case, the school will require an Educational Psychologist’s assessment which specifies what is recommended. If an assessment needs renewing, this should be carried out in the summer at the end of Form 3 (Yr 9) and the paperwork submitted to the school so that any recommendations are in place at the start of the GCSE courses. This is an examination board requirement. Extra time only recommendations will suffice until the student leaves school. Any other than a time concession requires an update to be carried out after GCSE in preparation for Upper School IB or A Level courses. 09-09

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia
Dysgraphia
Dyslexia
Dyspraxia
English as an additional language (EAL) Y
Genetic
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class Y
HI - Hearing Impairment
Hospital School
Mental health
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
PD - Physical Disability
PMLD - Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty
SEMH - Social, Emotional and Mental Health
SLCN - Speech, Language and Communication
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
VI - Visual Impairment

Who came from where


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