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  • St Edward's Oxford
    Woodstock Road
    Oxford
    Oxfordshire
    OX2 7NN
  • Head: Mr Stephen Jones
  • T 01865 319200
  • F 01865 319202
  • E [email protected]
  • W www.stedwardsoxford.org
  • St Edward’s Oxford is an English independent boarding school for boys and girls aged 13 to 18, located in Oxford. It educates over 600 pupils and was founded in 1863 on its original and previous site of New Inn Hall Street in central Oxford.
  • Boarding: Yes
  • Local authority: Oxfordshire
  • Pupils: 695; sixth formers: 283
  • Religion: Church of England
  • Fees: Day £31,590; Boarding £39,480 pa
  • Open days: May, September
  • Review: View The Good Schools Guide Review
  • Ofsted report: View the Ofsted report
  • ISI report: View the ISI report

What says..

An exuberance of riches is on offer in the form of clubs, societies and boarders’ weekend activities, from debating club to dressage, from making a fortune with the investment society, to making honey with the bee-keepers. ‘Traditional’ and ‘down to earth’ were phrases we heard repeatedly at the school, but in reality we found the once traditional curriculum has transformed into an ...

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What the school says...

St Edward’s is a refreshingly different kind of school. The deliberate emphasis on a broad range of academic abilities on entry means that the community fizzes with diverse interests and enthusiasms. At the upper end, 90% of our top pupils gain the highest grades in their Sixth Form exams and take up places at the world’s best universities – a record which exceeds the outcomes of many highly selective schools.

Academic work is unquestionably the most important part of any education but at Teddies, there is so much more to school life. Talented scholars, musicians, sportswomen and men, performers, dancers, humanitarians, adventurers, entrepreneurs, filmmakers and artists - among many others - live and work together, inspire each other, and become lifelong friends.

Sixth Formers find themselves in the rare position of being able to choose between A Levels and the International Baccalaureate Diploma, a stimulating choice that enables our pupils to work to their strengths.

Beyond School, pupils enjoy being part of the wider community of Oxford, a beautiful, culturally sophisticated university city offering tangible connections to the real world. It is an exciting and transformative combination.
...Read more

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Curricula

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

Sports

Rowing

Shooting

What The Good Schools Guide says

Warden

Since 2011, Stephen Jones MSc MLitt (60s). After a first class degree in philosophy from Durham, he returned there to read for an MLitt in philosophy of maths. His early teaching career includes assistant housemaster at Cheltenham College, head of maths at Berkhamsted School and social tutor at Radley College, before being appointed as head of Dover College, whence he departed for Teddies (as it is affectionately known).

He relates how he grew up in a military environment, with stints living in the middle east and Germany, and attended Hurstpierpoint and Lord Wandsworth Colleges. There is a trace of officer quality in his non-nonsense manner, as he expatiates on his achievements since joining the school: two new boarding houses, an elegant music suite and increasing the uptake of IB in the sixth form.

Dressed for country pursuits, Tattersall shirt, brogues and exuberantly coloured socks, he gazes out of bay windows in his comfortable rooms to the quad beyond, where students can be seen hurrying to classes beneath the shadow of a huge crane, employed in his newest expansion project. ‘The buildings are a vehicle to do what we want to do’, he explains. They include a multi-storey library with café and seminar rooms for discussion round oval tables, along with a hall large enough to accommodate the expanding numbers of students. Lack of space and a changing pedagogical style has inspired this vision, ‘Synthesis is the word’ he explains from beneath thick eyebrows, ‘Education is no longer about me imparting what is in my head to your head. The method of education is changing, from serried ranks of desks to the Harkness table’.

Married to Katie, a CofE priest, with three children, one still at the school and another who has followed into teaching. Parents like him - ‘he’s a big character, he’s ambitious for the school’, said one, ‘he’s got his legacy in mind’.

To be replaced in September 2021 by Alastair Chirnside, currently deputy head at Harrow. Brought up in Oxford, he attended the Dragon, winning a scholarship to Eton where he later taught. Took a congratulatory first in classics and modern languages at Merton College, Oxford, where he also won a lightweight rowing half blue. Married to Zannah, with whom he has two young daughters.

Academic matters

‘Traditional’ and ‘down to earth’ were phrases we heard repeatedly at the school, but in reality we found the once traditional curriculum has transformed into an Aladdin’s cave of enlightened choices. A mounting number of GCSEs and iGCSEs (‘my son had to do 11,’ complained one mum) led to solid results of 53 per cent 7-9 (A-A*) in 2019. However, all change from 2020, students sit only eight core GCSE subjects, including a modern language, along with the virgin Pathways and Perspectives courses. These have been devised at Teddies and are aimed at awakening an individual’s passion or refining a particular interest. ‘More like real life and what they will be doing at University’ explained the Warden. The courses, accredited by the University of Buckingham and graded like a GCSE, are assessed by a range of measures, including presentation and reflective log. Exciting options include, ‘Global Society’, ‘Big Ideas’ for the deep thinkers or courses with a practical element, like ‘Sports Science Pathway’ or ‘Design and Entrepreneurship Pathway’. They are aimed at eliminating ‘hidebound’ aspects of GCSEs which stifled enquiring minds. ‘We are going for high end thinking’, said one teacher. ‘Kids fear the failure of GCSE but we want, like James Dyson, not to worry about failing but to build on failure - it’s so important.’ One mum was annoyed there was no computing GCSE.

Sixth formers are also spoilt for choice, between three (or four) subjects at A level in addition to an EPQ title, or IB with its wider range of academic subjects, and creative and active-service curriculum. IB has proved a hit, with over 50 per cent of students choosing it. ‘I wanted to continue as many subjects as possible,’ we heard from one girl. ‘It’s got wider grade boundaries,’ explained a teacher, ‘You’ve got your eggs spread across more baskets’. Results are solid, with 34 the average IB score in 2019, while A level achieved 79 per cent A*/B and 45 per cent A*/A. One parent commented diplomatically, ‘the logistics of running IB and A levels has not been easy for them’.

Eight forms are created from the 145 new pupils in the Shell (year 9). The intake is broad and the school prefers not to use sets in the middle years, except for maths, in which the top two groups follow extension work. Languages also require some filtering due to a wide variety of language skills arriving in the lower years. Sixth form numbers increase by 45 and the emphasis is on self-motivated learning, supported by a coaching model of teaching. A small learning support department nurtures children with mild specific learning difficulties like dyslexia, supported in class rather than by individual sessions.

Games, options, the arts

Vistas of green fields around the quad tell you Teddies is a sporty school and the glittering-prize walls of the dining room, lined with tin shields from 1929 to the present day, celebrate their sporting heroes (known as Martyrs). Opportunities to take part are myriad. Regular fixtures in team sports, netball, hockey, tennis, rugby, football and cricket are played against formidable independent schools. Teddies’ large numbers of athletes mean the school can field several teams per event, so everyone gets to play up and play the game. Where the school excels is in the facilities for more unusual sports: a boat house on the Isis trains the rowing and canoeing teams; use of the Nuffield Health Centre in the grounds allows for indoor tennis, squash, swimming and fitness, and if you still have the legs, try a round of golf on the school’s six hole course. ‘If you’ve got a dim sporty child, they’ll be very happy there; if you’ve got a clever sporty child they’ll be even happier,’ said one mum. One parent we spoke to had seen her son become the captain of rugby, another boasted hers skippered the football team, while an international pupil from a desert country, who had ‘never in his life rowed’ had joined the rowing crew. As one pupil said, ‘There’s no shame in being interested in things here.’ The only gripe we heard was the lack of girls’ football.

This is a school with its own professional theatre, The North Wall, which hosts both school and national productions of drama and dance. Darcey Bussell had visited the week before, to open a photography exhibition in the foyer-gallery. We witnessed a pupil perform a quick-change from sensible school shoes to pirouetting pointes during an after-school dance class in the wonderful, mirrored studio. Alumnae include Sir Lawrence Olivier, Oscar-nominee, Florence Pugh and Emilia Clarke of Game of Thrones, so no shortage of drama role-models, and a few lucky students get to perform at the Edinburgh Festival each year. ‘It’s really exciting, you learn so much, the teachers are professionals,’ said our guide. Music has recently been re-housed in a fabulous new temple to the muse, The Ogston Music School, where we found two floors of concert-standard studios and recording equipment. Instrumentalists can practise anything from the violin to the bagpipes in one of 20 sound-proofed rooms. An elegant concert hall, warmly resonating in Douglas-fir panels, allows for choir rehearsals (full choir, chapel or chamber choir) and orchestral performances. A mum commented, ‘My son signed up for music tech, he wanted to live in that building, he wanted to immerse himself in it.’

Above the noise of lathes and electric saws, we tracked down the head of design in his workshop. ‘It’s more creative than straight DT’, he tells us. One class were making skateboards as part of ‘Design and Entrepreneurship’, which involved developing a brand. ‘It’s the entire process of production, how to sell, how to market.’ We were shown an arts and crafts style steam-bent chair, made from ash-wood felled in the school grounds. Jewellery Design is popular with boys and girls, who get to use the 3-D printer and wield a blow torch. The shell has art in their own room, (the old boiler house - not a reference to the teachers, we heard) and upper and lower sixth have dedicated studios. ‘We literally have everything we need’, a student told us, ‘and everyone we need.’

An exuberance of riches is on offer in the form of clubs, societies and boarders’ weekend activities, from debating club to dressage, from making a fortune with the investment society, to making honey with the bee-keepers; lunch-hour extends to ninety minutes to accommodate it all. ‘It’s very easy for a school to put everything on for the pupils’, explains the head, ‘but isn’t it better that the pupils put it on?’ Media-savvy students have developed their own TV channel, Teddies TV, which broadcasts wonderful short movies and reportage of student life. Binge-watch them via the newsletter on the website or on Teddies TV Vimeo channel – we were completely hooked. One boy was recently allowed to film the England rugby team, in a coaching session on the school’s sports fields.

Boarders

Thirteen houses, seven for boys, five for girls (and one unfinished, co-ed) make up the accommodation, some sited quad-side, popular with children who rate food higher priority than sport. The newer houses on field-side are accessed by a tunnel under Woodstock Road. A far cry from the dorms of Malory Towers, the girls’ house we visited was stylish and spacious. Inside was a living room with squashy sofas for evenings chilling in front of the TV, with nachos and cheese, after communal prep at one of the many desktops; there was a spotless dining room with kitchen facilities and several floors of bedrooms. First year students share four to a room, fewer in the upper years and a single bedroom with white-board, basin, desk and wardrobe for the sixth. Students return to house at break, for a quick round of toast, but eat meals together on the main site in a communal dining-room. (Food was excellent, especially the cakes, and always available, we heard. Shame about the single-use cups!). House master/mistress (HMs) live in-house and were a line of communication between parent and offspring, ‘They encourage you to keep in contact. Email and they’ll always get back to you,’ said one mum. Another parent added, ‘You get a very respectful and professional response to emails.’ Day children are allocated a house, finish prep with their house-mates and depart for home at 6.30 or 9pm. One mum felt the introduction of weekly boarding had changed the inclusive culture of the school. As to the tricky process of selecting a house, all students we met had joined the house they were directed to, on their initial visit to the school; no sorting hat procedure needed! ‘All houses have their own traditions,’ a student remarked. ‘You form strong relationships with the people you are living with. I literally have 10 sisters.’

Background and atmosphere

Occupying a prominent site in Summertown, a genteel suburb of north Oxford, St Edward’s has the edge over other independents in its position on the threshold of a vibrant university town - an aspect which appeals to parents, while having a back gate to local shops and artisan bakeries, popular with the youngsters. The school’s Victorian gothic façade is complemented by many splendid horse-chestnut trees which line the road dividing the school from its acres of green fields. Within stands a central quad, suggestive of an Oxford college, with stained-glass windows of library and chapel glinting at one side, tall mullioned windows of refectory and warden’s rooms on another, all planned in 1873 when the school moved from the centre of Oxford. The original Christian ethos, established by the school’s founder, continues today in services three times a week in chapel, where the choir’s voices rise to a vaulting apse and the school’s war dead are remembered by commemorative plaques on the walls. Meander with the students along the gravel walkways between neat lawns and through the subway, however, and you leave tradition behind to discover a small settlement of modern boarding houses, a bright new sports pavilion, Astros and pitches stretching as far as the eye can see.

We visited at midweek, when the school is a hive of activity. Students in their navy and gold-trimmed kit were hurrying to sports, sixth formers in dark suits were head-down over books in the hushed library, while others in Cadet force fatigues strode across the courts to parade. (The school has links with the RAF and boasts Douglas Bader and Dambusters’ Guy Gibson as Alumnae.)

We made our way to the not so gorgeous workblock where we found traditional design classrooms with encouraging slogans on the walls. We particularly liked the English department’s, ‘One’s vocabulary needs constant fertilising or it will die’, mulched by a helpful ‘Word of the Week’.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

As well as a formal structure of pastoral care, supervised by the HM, the boarders can talk informally to a peer listener, an in-house sixth former who can empathise from a student’s perspective, or call on matron, nurse, chaplain or personal tutor as need be. The health centre is open seven days a week and a counsellor is on the staff. Parents were happy with the pastoral provision, ‘It’s very important for parents not to worry, for example, if a child gets hurt during a match.’ Another mother discussed a past drugs incident, which saw a number of boys expelled: ‘It’s not something considered cool or edgy’. A parent added, ‘I was impressed that they don’t hide things. It’s very important for everyone to know the repercussions of this sort of thing.’ We heard from parents, ‘They emphasise kindness a lot; ambition and kindness don’t often go hand in hand.’

Pupils and parents

Day children come mostly from Oxford - ‘You wouldn’t want to live far away’, we heard. Boarders from 60 different schools, but the difference between day/boarder was indistinguishable, even the teachers couldn’t tell. A coach now runs between London via Beaconsfield for weekly boarding. Head is keen to keep the traditional character of the school and maintains the international intake at 15 per cent. The highish fees naturally affect the demographic. Parents come from academic, professional, medical and banking careers and are all invited to meet up at weekend activities, quiz nights and dinners. One London parent had joined the St Edward’s Singers, made up of parents, staff, neighbours and friends, ‘from grannies to teenagers,’ she told us.

Entrance

The school takes children via Common Entrance from prep schools all over the south and midlands. Others take the school’s own entry test in January of entry to year 9 and there are a limited number of places for year 10s. For internationals, the UKiset screening test can be sat abroad; from 2022, 11+ children will take ISEB tests. Sixth form entry requires Teddies’ own exam and at least six GCSEs 6-9, or equivalent.

Exit

Most to Russell Group universities with London, Newcastle and Edinburgh popular choices and a few to Oxbridge (three in 2019, plus three medics). Impressive number of respected art, drama and music destinations and a few entrepreneurs who take off to set the world alight, going straight to start-ups and media careers. A professional head-hunter runs the careers programme.

Money matters

It’s not cheap maintaining 100 acres of prime Oxford estate and these academic standards but, ‘if you really make the most of what’s on offer’, a teacher told us, ‘it’s worth the money’.

‘Lots of bursaries’, said one mum, ‘to get clever children to Oxford and Cambridge, it gives a chance to people unable to afford private education.’ Some means-tested bursaries up to 100 per cent.

Our view

A happy, fizzing school plumb in the middle of an inspiring city. St Edward’s takes a broad mix of children and grows a community of successful, interested and energetic young people by offering them a clever mix of choices. ‘I have three very different kids, and they have excelled in different areas and failed in different areas,' said one mum. They will tell you it is very ‘down to earth’, we thought it was flying high.

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

We have a small Learning Development department (one full-time member of staff and one part-time). Learning development at St Edward's takes the form of coaching, guidance and advice for all pupils on all learning challenges they face. This may include 1:1 coaching sessions if appropriate.There is a strong culture of tutoring, coaching and excellent pastoral care at the school which is designed to address the individual needs of all pupils.

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

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