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The Dragon remains the choice for the social elite of Oxford – if you want to be invited to the smartest dinner parties, this is your school. Happy free-range children roaming around, unrestricted by petty rules and health and safety, having a jolly time; play by the river still possible as long as a child can swim two lengths of the pool fully clothed. Boys outnumber girls two to one. Some grumbles about middle of the road children lost in the masses and...

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What the school says...

The Dragon is a highly renowned boarding and day school in Oxford for boys and girls from 4 to 13 years. The Dragons outstanding, all-round education encourages, enquiry, confidence, individuality and a love of learning. A creative academic curriculum is extended with extensive programmes of sport, music, drama, clubs activities. Family-style boarding in ten boarding houses from age 8 is at the heart of the school. Pupils of wide-ranging ability excel at the Dragon; this years leavers achieving excellent results at Common Entrance as well as 43 scholarships and awards to the countrys leading public schools. ...Read more

What the parents say...

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Sports

Rowing

Fencing

What The Good Schools Guide says

Dr Crispin Hyde-Dunn

Since September 2017, Dr Crispin Hyde-Dunn MA (Oxon) PGCE MA (Ed) NPQH, PhD (40s). Read history at Oxford. Previously head of Abingdon Prep. Before that was deputy head of King’s College School, Cambridge and earlier still was head of history at New College School in Oxford. Wife, Lucy, is a medical research fellow at Oxford.

Entrance

Register early - as early as you like post-conception. The school is full and there are waiting lists at all stages. However, spaces can be available at any time as pupils move away to another area or country. Potentially easier to get in as a boarder but this depends on the year group. Non-selective entry although the school assesses maths and English to check that a child will be able to cope. Up to 100 per cent means-tested bursaries are available from year 4 for the full five years. Not based on academic merit: the school states that they 'start with need' but have to be sure the family is able and willing to commit to the Dragon way of life - Saturday morning school, extracurricular commitments etc.

Exit

Frequent destinations include Abingdon School, Cheltenham Ladies' College, Eton College, Harrow School, Magdalen College School, Marlborough College, Radley College, Rugby School, Stowe School, St Edward's School, Wellington College, Winchester College and Wycombe Abbey. No favourite school, but ‘we have a strong working relationship with St Edward's’, as the two schools have a similar ethos and are co-ed day and boarding. Pupils are supported but not intensely prepped for pre-test at 11 or entrance exams at 11 – would not want a child to get into a school on the basis of excessive prepping. Senior schools take note of the Dragon’s reports and trust their judgement but this isn’t a school whose priority is to get children into the most academic local seniors. Bucket-loads of scholarships won – 40 to 50 per year. Famous Old Dragons include Sir John Betjeman, Leonard Cheshire VC, John Mortimer, Antonia Fraser, Alain de Botton, Rageh Omaar, Hugh Laurie, Tim Henman, Tom Hiddleston and Emma Watson to name but a few.

Our view

The Dragon, so named after an early school football team called Dragons, is as sought-after as ever. Originally founded as the Oxford Preparatory School by a group of dons who wanted a progressive, liberal school for their sons where learning would be fun. Once avant-garde, education and society have caught up with these principles so that today the Dragon can only aspire to unconventionality. It has resisted formality and retains the ethos of ordered disorderliness – a charmingly unpretentious, relaxed atmosphere. The school confesses they are relaxed about petty issues – untucked shirts, scruffy uniform and clutter – while concentrating on the things that matter, such as learning. Like an upturned swan – feet paddling busily on the surface whilst the underlying systems are serene and quiet. Unconventionality, or ‘colouring outside the lines’, has always been and still is encouraged, although school admits it is ‘a balancing act’ between risk-taking in schoolwork, striving for imagination and curiosity on one side, and discipline and toeing the line on the other. The Dragon aims for and encourages both.

Broad curriculum with a huge extracurricular programme including languages such as Mandarin, Japanese, Arabic and French as well as ‘toast and translation’ (a Latin club), music and drama etc. Most subjects are setted with scholarship classes at the top of the ability range. Learning support needs are screened in year 2 or on intake and help is available at extra cost. Dedicated learning support unit with five full- and three part-time members of staff who advise and update colleagues and draw up individual education plans. Additional groups provided at no extra cost for handwriting, reading comprehension and social skills.

Breadth is key at the Dragon with excellence across the board – outstanding sport with fantastic facilities and accolades too numerous to mention. Non-sporty children can find refuge in music – equally successful and receiving high praise from parents. Over two-thirds of pupils take individual music lessons. Fantastic art work in light airy art rooms and space in the Forum for the annual art exhibition – check out the school magazine – worthy of any secondary school. Facilities in general match those at many senior schools with science labs, impressive library (look out for dragons etched on the glass fronted mezzanine), 25m swimming pool and playing fields stretching down to the river and boat house. A mini-campus with happy free-range children roaming around, unrestricted by petty rules and health and safety, having a jolly time; play by the river still possible as long as a child can swim two lengths of the pool fully clothed. Traditions such as this survive along with others – female teachers are called Ma, bun break at mid-morning and tea in the afternoon. The blue cords of yesteryear have stood the test of time – for boys, shorts in summer, longs in winter plus polo shirt and jumper; for girls, a kilt and bright yellow shirt, summer plaid dresses.

The Dragon is large (800+ including pre-prep, a mile or so up the road). Boys outnumber girls still. Some grumbles about middle of the road children lost in the masses and unable to find a niche if not sporty or musical. School says that the children are separated into smaller units so that they operate within age-related spheres at any one time without being overwhelmed. Good pastoral care – children are discussed weekly and communication is paramount. The school takes its privileges with responsibility and is committed to raising money for charity through entrepreneurship which starts with the concept of the ‘little society’ and the teaching of philanthropy to children, and extends to ventures such as the locally renowned Dragon sale which raises tens of thousands of pounds. School is lead sponsor of a new multi-academy trust which includes three Blackbird Leys' primary schools. The primaries can use the school’s science, art, music and sporting facilities, while Dragon teaching staff are developing initiatives within the new academies. The Café Dragón brand of ethically-sourced coffee is sold at school events.

Boarding houses, separated by sex and age, run by married couples with a homely atmosphere and individuality. Bun breaks and tea in the houses with supper in the dining hall. Children can pop in and out of their house during the day. Day pupils often invited back. Full boarding means that the boarders are ‘the heartbeat of the school’. Weekends are packed with activities and many day pupils opt to board – one boarder walked from his boarding house past his family home every day. Day pupils easily fielded until 6pm, playing with boarders or participating in the huge number of extracurricular activities.

It was once established for dons, but they have largely been priced out of the market (in line with many independent schools). Lots of London money and business parents buying up north Oxford but professions also in evidence – many medics, lawyers, as well as a few academics (wealthy ones or few children). Lots of Old Dragon children. The Dragon remains the choice for the social elite of Oxford – if you want to be invited to the smartest dinner parties, this is your school. School says there is still plenty of mix and parents agree that everyone can find their level and this is not necessarily a school full of nannies in the playground. Boarders local and international, with no particular country in predominance. Around 30 pupils have EAL lessons.

The Dragon is still the prep school in Oxford, in sound heart as ever, chosen by parents for breadth of education, good old-fashioned freedom and encouraging a ‘can do’ attitude. Lifelong friends and contacts start here.

Special Education Needs

The learning support department offers assistance and support to children with learning difficulties such as dyslexia and dyspraxia. The department works in close conjunction with subject and form teachers to ensure that support is provided when and where necessary, and within the context of the broader curriculum. The department is situated at the heart of the school with a central area and specially designed teaching rooms. All those who teach in the department have a qualification in teaching children with specific learning difficulties. Children are generally withdrawn for individual lessons once or twice a week but some group lessons also are provided. There are also speech and language therapists who support children with speech, language and social skills.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Aspergers
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia Y
Dysgraphia Y
Dyslexia Y
Dyspraxia Y
English as an additional language (EAL)
Genetic
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class
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 Y
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

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