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What is included in the Chandlings Prep School review?

Information about the head
Our unparalleled access to the head teacher means we can tell you exactly what to expect when you meet them – from leadership style right down to the décor of their study and what they’re currently reading.

Entrance & admissions information
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Exit information - where do the children go next?
Whether the next step is state, private or boarding at secondary, we’ve got the data.

Our view
We closely observe everything you’ll never see on an open day. An exclusive insight into the school’s learning approach, SEN support and pastoral care, arts, sports and extracurricular. Plus, the pupils and parents (and what they are really like).

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What says..

The academic focus is paramount. New staff have been recruited into key areas, with music, drama and digital learning the latest beneficiaries. The new head of digital learning, one of only 20 Google innovators in UK schools, used lockdown as an opportunity to develop digital lessons in every subject. The latest drive is to embed engineering into the curriculum through STEM and DT. Both boast all the latest sophisticated facilities, which pupils demonstrated with real proficiency and detailed explanations. Parents appreciate the...

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What the school says...

Chandlings is a leading co-educational prep school for children aged 2-11 set within 60 acres of beautiful grounds yet just five miles from Oxford itself. Alongside such an enviable location, we pride ourselves on exceptional academic achievement, genuine pastoral care and superb facilities. Our teachers are passionate about education and our children are curious, creative and independent.

We offer impressive sports facilities, a huge range of enrichment activities and extensive private rural surroundings that include a low-ropes course in the Bluebell Wood. We consistently gain outstanding academic results to highly selective senior schools and we ensure that our children are both challenged and inspired. With us, your son or daughter will discover themselves and make memories to last them forever.
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Equestrian centre or equestrian team - school has own equestrian centre or an equestrian team.


What The Good Schools Guide says


Since 2018, Christine Cook, previously head of Cokethorpe Junior School for 11 years. Taught at Chandlings when it first opened as part of the Cothill Trust in 1994 – rose to director of studies then head of pre-prep. Both adventurous and experienced, she has also taught in Western Australia at Guildford Grammar School, Perth and as houseparent at The Dragon.

Took over after a rapid turnover of heads (never good) and is clearly relishing steadying the ship, as well as finding ways to power it forward through the uncharted and choppy waters that the current economic climate will inevitably bring. Has carried out some important cost savings to help deal with this, but no-one is complaining there’s not as much champagne served at school events - parents generally approve of good housekeeping in challenging times. She is also keen for the school to shout a bit louder about its successes, especially given the stiff competition in the Oxford area.

Believes key to overall success for the school is ‘in recruiting really good staff who enthuse pupils, engender a love of learning, promote self-confidence and develop resilience’ - all evident throughout our visit. Is also proud that the school stands out for its family feel.

Embodies the energetic and purposeful atmosphere of the school - from her smiley welcome to her thoughtful answers to our left-of-field questions. Excels in attention to detail, overseeing all visitors’ arrivals into the panelled entrance hall, complete with large wood-burning stove and squishy sofas - all carried out with her signature charm and good humour. Staff pay tribute to her ‘encouragement and support’- ‘She lets us get on with it but knows what we’re doing.’ One called her a ‘steady Eddie who manages everything and everyone with a lightness of touch, no doubt borne of both instinct and experience.’ Parents speak highly of her attendance at school events, come rain or shine, and say she notices and comments on each pupil’s progress.

A former county hockey player, she is more likely to be found kayaking these days – preferably in the Norwegian fjords. She’s also a musician who plays three instruments. Her grown-up son was a pupil at the school.


Register pre-birth for entrance into nursery, which now has a waiting list. Places sometimes come up for grabs in higher years, when families join from eg state primaries and overseas. Up to year 3, entrance via a ‘visit or two to see that the child will be happy in a busy school.’ From year 3, assessments in English and maths, plus visit and interview ‘to check that the child will cope academically.’


At 11+ mainly to Oxford and Abingdon day schools, a few to boarding schools. Abingdon, Cokethorpe, Magdalen College School, Bloxham, Magdalen College School, St Helen's & St Katherine School and d'Overbroeck's all popular. In 2023, 10 scholarships.

Our view

This is a school that doesn’t feel like a school - probably because it is so good at retaining the vibe of the large family home it once was. Built in mock Tudor style, the grounds boast a six-hole golf course, lake and 60 acres of immaculately landscaped parkland. Parents love the country house feel and views of rolling Oxfordshire countryside. Children love the school’s expansiveness – they get to run around the woods and take Frank and Fred (the Pygmy goats) for a walk, sometimes with the head who ‘loves goat walking.’

Parents say the school is both accessible (only three miles from Oxford and Abingdon, just off the A34) and flexible (allows for early drop-offs and late pickups). They also appreciate the massive car park - a real plus for the big 4x4s that predominate. Inside, the school is in excellent decorative order throughout. The most serene and attractive room has to be the library, packed to the brim with books and an oasis in a busy school.

The nursery in Lavender Court is delightfully cosy and attractively positioned in a courtyard. We saw older children clearly enjoying their interaction with the tinies, and nursery staff eager to chat and to introduce the children by name.

The academic focus is paramount. New staff have been recruited into key areas, with music, drama and digital learning the latest beneficiaries. The new head of digital learning, one of only 20 Google innovators in UK schools, used lockdown as an opportunity to develop digital lessons in every subject. The latest drive is to embed engineering into the curriculum through STEM and DT. Both boast all the latest sophisticated facilities, which pupils demonstrated with real proficiency and detailed explanations.

French from reception, with taster courses in Spanish and Italian from year 4. Setting in maths from year 3 and ‘groups’ in English from year 4 based on classroom dynamics – ‘to avoid too many chatterboxes in one class.’ Maximum class size 20, with many smaller.

Chandlings doesn’t shy away from the important business of preparing children for their next, often very selective, senior school. Extra tuition is offered after the 4pm end of school to help get them ready for those all-important exams in year 6, including the pre-test 13+. ‘It’s pretty intense,’ said one parent - ‘plenty of homework.’ But the balance of the curriculum and extracurricular programmes mitigate much of the inevitable anxiety, according to parents.

School says it can cater for children with ‘mild learning difficulties,’ and the SEN support is praised by parents for enhancing confidence in writing, reading and speaking skills and number work. Where possible this is provided in class, though around 20 per cent of pupils receive additional help one-to-one or in small groups (charged as an extra). ‘My sensitive son was given a lot of help when he arrived and settled very quickly,’ said a parent. Around 40 languages feature in the pupils’ homes although only a small number require EAL provision (also charged as extra). ‘At this age, children learn to speak English very soon after they arrive,’ says school.

We braved the wind and rain to visit the outdoor classroom - and to meet the inspirational teacher and children who were tasked with collecting 10 different leaves from deciduous trees. The teacher had spent the first lockdown carving a nature display board out of her wardrobe door.

‘Sport for all’ is the mantra - everyone can be in a team for one or more sports if they want to be. Sometimes this means three teams from each year group. The school competes in county tournaments for hockey and netball and plays local and regional prep schools at rugby, cricket and football. Boys and girls sometimes play cricket together and there’s lots of tennis, sometimes mixed, in the summer. All pupils learn to swim in the smallish, but adequate, indoor pool all year round, and some take part in competitions. Gymnastics and dance are on offer, plus the opportunity to ride a pony at the school’s on-site equestrian centre (pupils learn to ride on a suitable steed for a ‘pay as you ride’ fee). Parents say the school is quick to praise those who try their best, with awards for progress for all abilities.

Music is highly regarded, with weekly lessons for all. The house singing competition is always a hit and over 70 per cent of children learn at least one musical instrument. There are a number of ensembles and a chamber choir.

Drama also on curriculum. The drama teacher writes her own words and music for most of the school’s shows, whilst the LAMDA teacher takes students to the Edinburgh fringe. ‘They have to get used to playing audiences in Edinburgh that might not be as generous as parents or grandparents at school productions,’ she points out. Parents say the performances are ‘brilliant,’ but would like a ‘proper theatre to enhance the wonderful experience.’ There is talk of fundraising.

Art is displayed everywhere you look, with regularly changing exhibitions in the head’s office. There are two art teachers, well-resourced art rooms and children enjoy visits to exhibitions and galleries in Oxford.

The cookery department – with its great working kitchen - had taste buds tingling. Sadly, we just missed the tasting of a Spanish omelette cooked and eaten by year 5s. Pupils told us the teacher shows them how to cook nutritious food that tastes good.

Gardening club, debating, yoga, rock band and music tech feature in over 60 extracurricular activities. Post-Covid trips are back on track, including ski trip and the annual year 6 trip to France.

No boarding as such, but sleepovers are arranged for children in year 3 and above to get used to being away from home – perhaps for the first time. It’s also a taste of boarding for the small number of children (about 10 per cent) who go on to board. ‘We do this throughout the year when we arrange special activities for children’ says the school. A nice touch.

Mindfulness for all, and every pupil knows that they can speak to ‘trusted adult,’ as well as their form teacher. Our very articulate and knowledgeable pupil guides were proud to show us the dedicated wellbeing area where the friendship hut and the ’worry monster where worries can be devoured’ feature strongly. Parents say they’re kept in the loop – even down to discussing changes before they are decided upon, and ‘nipping bullying problems in the bud before they become an issue.’ The school has access to a trained counsellor. Children told us they feel they have a voice and are encouraged to take varied positions of responsibility, including as wellbeing ambassadors. We found the children open and friendly, with excellent interpersonal skills and terrific enthusiasm for school life.

Most parents live south of Oxford, close to the school. There is a predominance of those who work in the tech, automotive and medical industries close to Oxford. Some have come from overseas on short-term contracts and sometimes children only stay for three to four years, but the diversity this brings is seen as positive by the school.

Food is tasty, traditional and wholesome - we enjoyed a roast dinner and apple crumble although it was fish and chip Fridays that the pupils really wanted to tell us about. Parents say fresh fruit and yoghurts are always available and they appreciate the great salad bar and vegetarian options.

The school’s relative newness - it opened in 1994 by the Cothill Trust (now Prep Schools Trust) as a co-educational day prep school - may be perceived as a downside by more trad parents. But most see it as an upside, not least because it attracts families from a wide variety of backgrounds and nationalities.

The last word

This is a school that gives every child an opportunity to challenge themselves both in and outside the classroom, and to have enormous fun doing so. The school emanates warmth and creativity but is convincing in its commitment to achieving academic excellence relative to the ability of every pupil. The school’s location and campus are also clear winners in this most competitive locality.

Special Education Needs

Most children's needs can be met within the classroom through differentiated tasks and provision, particularly in the early stages. All children are taught in mixed ability classes apart from maths and spelling in which they are set or grouped according to their levels of achievement in the Prep Department. According to pupil needs, individual or group lessons may be offered with specialist teachers in the Learning Support Department. The SENCO manages this experienced team which offers advice, support, training and teaching within the school. The focus of the department is on early identification and positive intervention with regard to some specific learning needs and to offer a 'boost' to English skills if indicated.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia Y
Dysgraphia Y
Dyslexia Y
Dyspraxia Y
English as an additional language (EAL) Y
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class Y
HI - Hearing Impairment Y
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 Y
SLCN - Speech, Language and Communication Y
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty Y
VI - Visual Impairment

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