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What says..

No Saturday school, but attendance at sporting fixtures is mandatory and everyone is involved.  The 'sport for all ethos' where 'it's all about performance, not results' is key...Hours of fun are to be had in the grounds and on the river, boating, fishing, camping or cooking on campfires. Only a few boys board for geographical reasons, most live within an hour of the school and board because they love it. Half of year 8 boys end up boarding to prepare them for their next schools 

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What the school says...

Moulsford is a thriving prep school of 370 boys aged 3 to 13 years, set in tranquil and picturesque grounds on the banks of the River Thames, surrounded by the rolling hills of South Oxfordshire. At Moulsford, the message is straightforward – we want our boys to receive the broadest possible education, while remembering that they will learn best when happy and settled. Our down-to-earth, family-focussed approach embraces the fact that boys of this age should be having fun at the same time as learning. ...Read more

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What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since 2014, Ben Beardmore-Gray. Educated at Ludgrove (where his father taught) and Ampleforth, he read history at Newcastle before embarking on a career as a corporate lawyer in the City of London. An educationalist at heart, the legal world was not for him and he returned to Ludgrove where he gained his QTS, thence to Farleigh Prep as deputy head followed by seven years as head of Mowden Hall School in Northumberland. Some of those lawyerly skills are evident in the clearly defined and forward-thinking strategies he has rolled out at Moulsford.

We were impressed by Mr B-G's account of the practical changes he has put in place. Pastoral care is viewed as a cornerstone and proactive monitoring of pupils' mental health is a priority. The introduction of AS Tracking for years 3 to 8 is proving a useful tool for flagging challenges early. Confidence-building is also high on the agenda with the profile of the performing arts having been elevated. Each boy is now assigned two roles in school plays, allowing casts to alternate and everyone to be included; in a similar vein, victories by E or F teams in sport are now applauded as much as those of A teams, with inclusivity the order of the day. The curriculum has also undergone a major overhaul with emphasis on acquiring the soft skills needed to succeed in life. Even the uniform has been zhuzhed up with boys now enjoying more informal checked shirts. The opening of a new £5m pre-prep building in September 2022, incorporating a co-ed pre-school class, is indicative of this forward-thinking school, which is keen to promote early years education. In the words of one parent, 'Ben sets the tone, he's a historian who loves teaching, not a marketeer.' 'Communication with parents is very strong' and he recognises that parents are seeking 'a bespoke personalised education' for their boys.

Responsible for communications and marketing, Mrs B-G also plays 'a very important role at the school'. Having met at university, together they create a warm and cohesive team, promoting a strong sense of family and a nurturing community in a school where everybody knows each other. Parents love the 'very active social side of the school'. With three older children and black Labrador in tow, the B-G's are immensely positive ambassadors for this happy and successful school.

Entrance

To date the most popular entry points have been reception (for co-ed pre-prep) and year 3 (for boys-only prep), although admissions enquiries are accepted in all year groups, subject to places being available. Recommendations often by word of mouth. Newcomers to private education are on the increase which bodes well for the new pre-prep building, which will allow the school to expand this thriving department. The new co-ed pre-school has opened up the school up to 3-year-olds (and girls) for the first time and since September 2023 the pre-prep is also co-ed.

The school has announced plans for the prep to begin taking girls into year 3 in 2026, so that the school will be fully coeducational by September 2031.

The school is full (waiting list of well-heeled families moving out of London having boosted numbers). Entry to pre-school and reception is first come, first served. Assessment day in October for following September’s year 3 applicants. School is not ‘overtly academically selective’ but demand for places is high. The school bus serving Henley (about 30 minutes each way) caters to the school's predominantly local catchment - about a third of pupils use the service. 'Everybody lives within 15 miles of the school,' hence fairly limited demographic diversity.

Exit

Prides itself on the breadth (nearly 20) of schools its leavers feed into and works hard to achieve the right fit for pupils. Moulsford boys are well prepared for their senior schools and known for 'hitting the ground running'. Abingdon is the most favoured option, followed by Pangbourne. Local destinations include Radley, St Edward’s Oxford, Shiplake and The Oratory. Bradfield, Eton, Harrow, Wellington and Winchester attract small numbers too. Nine scholarships in 2023.

Our view

Set in 30 acres of picturesque south Oxfordshire countryside on the banks of the River Thames, where idyllic summer evenings are spent kayaking, paddleboarding or dinghy sailing to Goose Poo Island, the amazing river frontage setting is very much what makes the school unique. Located an hour by train from London, some five miles from Wallingford and 15 miles from Henley, the school is popular with (affluent) local Oxfordshire families and those who have moved out of London in search of more space.

Founded in 1961. A large red-brick Victorian mansion with exquisite views down to the river forms the epicentre of the school, surrounded by glorious grounds and modern buildings that house the classrooms. From 2022 the school site extends to the other side of the road, with the opening of a stunning eco-built pre-prep department (generating seven new classrooms). This will build on Moulsford's already strong reputation for early years education, as well as freeing up five classrooms and much-needed additional playground and parking space at the currently rather crowded main school site. A new library is also planned, together with extra space for SEN.

Currently 10 per cent of pupils have a diagnosed learning difficulty, with 60 or so on the learning support radar and subject to close monitoring. We heard very positive comments about the SEN provision. One parent described the support her son with mild autism has received. 'He's a different child in a year since he joined Moulsford. I don't feel I'm alone in this process any more, my child is so well supported I feel like I have arms around me to guide me and there are no stigmas for being neurodivergent.' Another parent talked of the 'transformative' support her son had received' with another describing her 'fidgety squirrel' who 'can now sit quietly and read'.

No Saturday school, but attendance at sporting fixtures is mandatory and everyone is involved. The 'sport for all’ ethos where 'it's all about performance, not results' is key to Moulsford's approach. ‘Awesome' sports facilities include eight cricket pitches, facilities for hockey, tennis, 12 rugby/football pitches and a large indoor gym, not to mention the outdoor swimming pool and water sports on the river. Mr B-G has shifted the focus, ensuring that those who previously did not love sport now gain real enjoyment and are equally applauded for their successes. 'It is a very sporty school but there is a real sense of equality. There is as much excitement at E team wins as when the A team wins.' 'Lionheart' prizes awarded for effort and performance reinforce the ethos that it's not just about winning.

Hours of fun are to be had in the grounds and on the river. Whether boating, fishing, camping or cooking on campfires, the great outdoors features highly. Other activities include archery, bike maintenance, cyclocross, gardening, geocaching, real tennis, golf, yoga, ‘magic and cards' and even stand-up comedy. The Moulsford Award (years 3-8) is a popular four-term programme where boys pursue a range of chosen activities to learn and improve different skillsets, highlighting the school's proactive approach to building self-confidence and encouraging pupils to challenge themselves.

Under Mr B-G the Moulsford curriculum has evolved to focus on building transferable skills rather than just preparing for Common Entrance. Both teaching and extracurricular provision is now based on guidelines laid down by the World Economic Forum and the school aims to develop lateral thinking, the ability to communicate ideas effectively, collaboration, empathy, influencing and reading others, flexibility and resilience, in addition to knowledge, ambition and academic rigour. Parents support this mix of ‘the traditional and the progressive’. Technology is embraced and 'the school is very proactive about new teaching methods'. All boys learn to touch-type, use iPads and 3-D printers (from year 3). Exams are viewed as a gateway but do not define success. 'Inclusivity in all areas of the curriculum is at the heart of what we strive for at Moulsford.' Maths is 'particularly well taught' and we saw evidence of maths lessons having taken place outside on one of the walls of the school.

We got a real sense that the boys love learning something new every day and that there is always 'something for everyone'. This is borne out by comments from happy parents who view the teaching as 'excellent'. 'There is a wonderful mix of formality and respect, coupled with very committed dynamic young teachers who are very involved in the boys' lives.' 'Somehow Moulsford just gets my son,' explained one satisfied customer.

The school prides itself on knowing all its pupils well. Weekly staff meetings are timetabled to discuss pastoral issues so that any problems are identified early. Average class sizes of 15 also means 'nobody goes unnoticed'. The week of our visit, boys were keen to showcase work they had been doing in PHSE to identify their own personality traits and talked openly and confidently about the previous week's topic covering toxic relationships - quite an eye-opener! Boys were down-to-earth, open and engaging, discussing future careers and goals in life with a maturity quite remarkable for a group of 12-year-olds. Accreditation with the Wellbeing Award for Schools was achieved in 2022.

On the day of our visit, the Easter assembly was a joyful combination of traditional and modern hymns, showcasing not only pupils’ outstanding musical talent at the school but also its inclusivity. Enthusiasm for the school's recent production of the musical (D)Annie very much in evidence during our tour. Double casting of shows has proved a very successful change and the profile of drama is much higher than it used to be.

Boarders

Weekly boarding (Monday to Friday) from age 10. Boarding is strongly encouraged (over half of pupils board at some stage) and viewed as 'great fun' but also an opportunity to build vital organisational skills to prepare boys for onward schools. Comfortable dorms upstairs in the main house for up to 13 with fabulous views. Flexi-boarding parents must commit termly in advance to minimum of two consecutive nights a week. Day boarders can stay until 8pm. Needless to say, boarding in the summer months is oversubscribed.

The five dorms are all named after famous explorers and 'ad hoc' boarding is available if there is space. Boarding staff comprise two houseparents and a junior TA. Only a few boys board for geographical reasons; most live within half an hour of the school and board because they love it. Half of year 8 boys end up boarding to prepare them for their next schools and there’s a waiting list for places in the summer term. A group of boarders we met were very happy with their lot: ‘It's great to wake up with your friends, everyone's good friends with each other, the food and activities are great and it's a really tight community where everyone knows each other.' Boarding also ‘draws staff’ who are enabled, courtesy of the school’s staff flats and houses, to live in what could otherwise be a prohibitively expensive part of the country.

The last word

Mr B-G is steering Moulsford on a very successful course, preparing pupils to meet a challenging world (not to mention their senior schools), armed with all the requisite academic, practical and interpersonal skills. Commitment to 'building from the bottom' is demonstrated by the exciting new pre-prep offering. Fun, friendship and messing about with boats - a winning combination.

Special Education Needs

At Moulsford, we believe that there may come a point in any boy’s school career where he needs a bit of extra care and help. While this can often be addressed through a differentiated curriculum in the classroom, some do need more focussed attention in a one to one or small group environment, whether physically, emotionally, socially, or for a specific learning difficulty. Academic and pastoral staff work closely with parents if it is thought that a pupil might need additional help. Steps are taken to assess, plan and review, so that appropriate action can be taken to support each individual - for example in literacy, numeracy, gross and fine motor skills and other aspects such as study skills - all within a friendly and caring department that is integrated throughout life at Moulsford. Boys are always rewarded for their extra endeavours which subsequently raises self-esteem. A small team of well-qualified and experienced Learning Support teachers and Learning Support assistants are committed to building self-confidence in their pupils, communicating with their parents, and co-ordinating with teaching staff and outside professional agencies as necessary (eg Educational Psychologists, Occupational Therapists, Speech and Language Therapists). Raising an awareness and understanding in this area is also regarded as important. Guest speakers are invited to speak to the boys in assemblies, as well as there being regular training for staff, and coffee mornings for parents. An extra charge is made for individual Learning Support lessons.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia
Dysgraphia
Dyslexia Y
Dyspraxia Y
English as an additional language (EAL)
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

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