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What says..

Rated excellent in every category in its latest ISI report, this non-selective newly co-ed day school delivers academically. Not a hothouse, rather a happy, very down to earth school that aims to inspire curiosity and confidence...

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What the school says...

‘To challenge, cherish and inspire’

Recently receiving the highest grade of ‘excellent’ in all areas by the Independent Schools Inspectorate, The Manor Preparatory School, situated in Abingdon, Oxfordshire offers children an unrivalled start to their education.
Welcoming children aged 2-11, The Manor creates an atmosphere of happiness and warmth where every individual is actively encouraged to give their absolute best so they can reach their potential and beyond. Children are delightfully self-confident and there are many opportunities for them to shine during their time at the school.
The children’s personal development is further strengthened by staff who act as outstanding role models. By offering small classes, children receive the care and attention they need to flourish. Parents constantly praise the dedicated teaching staff, noticed also in a visit from the Good Schools Guide.’ There are far more people at The Manor that go the extra mile for every child than in other schools’ (read the whole review at
The school has an excellent record in ensuring leavers move on to the next school that is perfectly suited to each individual. Scholarships, awards and exhibitions feature highly in all areas. Aside from a wealth of enviable achievements academically, on the sports field and in creative and performing arts, the outstanding pastoral care is renowned for preparing children for life and not just for secondary school.
Beyond a stimulating start to school life, The Manor recognises that many parents are juggling busy lives and so offers fully flexible wraparound care which parents are able to change on a daily basis. Making the school easily accessible, children in Reception and beyond can take advantage of the Minibuses that run daily and have a dedicated supervisor on board. The in-bus supervisors really get to know the children and ensure a smooth and stress free start and end to the day.
The school is very proud of the exceptionally happy, creative and colourful journey offered to the children. Come and see for yourself and learn how each child is challenged, cherished and inspired. To arrange a tour, please email Mrs Nicole Burroughs at [email protected] or call 01235 858462.
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What The Good Schools Guide says


Since 2018, Alastair Thomas (40s). Educated at Kingshott Prep and Felsted (music scholar, playing flute and sax) followed by a gap year in New Zealand and then on to King’s College, London to read French. Having toyed with a career in retail post university, he very quickly knew it wasn't for him and hot-footed it back to his alma mater to take up a post as year 4 teacher, progressing to head of French. Thence to The Downs, Malvern, as head of French and Latin before joining Lambrook as deputy head academic, and then on to his first headship at The Elms School, Malvern. Has taught English, maths, history and sport. Lured to The Manor by the challenge of managing the integration of boys from years 3 to 6.

A very visible headmaster. Parents like that he is 'immensely excited about his school' and 'clearly loves interacting with the children'. 'Parents, teachers and pupils all buy into his vision of fostering independence with the role of the staff being to offer guidance along the way,' according to one very happy parent. Two mornings a week he stands at the school gate to greet arriving pupils with a beaming smile that sets the tone for whole the day. Known for his great energy and sense of humour, he prides himself on knowing every single child. 'It's one of the happiest schools I've ever worked in,' he notes proudly, an assertion backed up by the parents we quizzed. Staff say they feel ‘challenged, appreciated and noticed’.

Loves all sports, music (plays double bass in school orchestra) and dogs, and values risk taking, resilience, creating happy confident communicators, problem solving and letting pupils explore. He resolutely believes 'life should be tackled head on'. Married to Hannah, a physicist and now head of science at the school; they live in nearby Wantage with their two daughters (one at The Manor, the eldest now at Wycombe Abbey).


Non-selective. Each child taken on own merit. School meets all children before offers made (and screens if necessary, at this point). Pupils join throughout the school (places permitting, school numbers very healthy). Nursery accepts tinies from 2+ and reception class has capacity for three classes of 20, although numbers generally smaller. Places considered in registration date order. Boys, formerly leaving at the end of year 2, now integrated across the school with first cohort of year 6s having now very successfully completed their time at the school. Ethnically diverse and open to EAL pupils. Many introductions made via word of mouth, currently 30% boys, 70% girls, more like 50/50 lower down school.


Advice on next step schools rated good. Pupils move on to 11+ day schools rather than 13+ boarding schools. No formal links to senior schools. Destination schools really like the Manor product. Majority of girls (19 in 2023) to St Helen and St Katharine. Other choices include Headington (seven), Abingdon (seven), Cokethorpe, Magdalen, Oxford High, Queen Anne's Caversham, Rye St Anthony. Excellent track record of scholarships across all disciplines (14 in 2023).

Our view

Founded in 1907 as the prep school to a local girls' senior school, the school has been based in the outskirts of Abingdon since 1947. All links severed in 1970, paving the way for the Manor to operate as a stand-alone prep school. Prior to 2018, only nursery and pre-prep were co-ed. Now fully co-ed with the first year 6 cohort of 10 boys having moved on to pastures new. The organic process of going co-ed appears to have been seamless with parents, staff and pupils all genuinely heralding the success of the integration programme. 'Boys and girls are good friends,' remarked our year 6 tour guides, and we certainly detected a delightfully respectful fondness and a feeling of real collaboration between the sexes. 'Not once has my son ever said I wish there were more boys here,' explains one parent. As far as the teaching is concerned, most of the teachers had previous experience of teaching both sexes. In the words of the head, 'Great teachers teach children and focus on individuals.'

Located in Shippon in a handsome Georgian manor house on a nine-acre site some eight miles from Didcot and nine miles from Oxford, the house constitutes the administrative hub of the school. The school feels very normal, certainly not the bubble of some of the larger prep schools in the area. The courtyard, or so-called 'Milkyard' to the rear of the house, is surrounded by modern, functional buildings which house the teaching spaces for years 3 to 6 as well as a new state-of-the-art sports block. Nursery and pre-prep departments are housed alongside the main house, with dedicated outdoor play areas allocated for each department. The school is compact and unpretentious, buildings light, airy and well maintained.

Most pupils live within a 25-mile radius of the school which is well served by an efficient local school bus network. The current head is keen on providing value for money, having focused on maximising the school's wraparound care. The Manor is a day school populated predominantly by dual income families where flexibility is a game changer. The school day runs from 8.30am to 3.30/4.00pm (depending on year group) with wraparound care from 8.00am to 5.30pm included in the fees for children aged 3 and upwards. Extra charges apply only for the 7.30am Breakfast Club (which needs to be booked) and the 5.30-6.00pm late slot. Parents find the Homework Club very useful and note that the 'school is really set up for working parents'. The Manor Fun holiday club is also very popular. One rather frustrated mother was somewhat sad that her daughter was happy to forego the family holiday if it meant not missing the holiday club! From September 2022 the huge number (100+) of extracurricular clubs on offer will be included in the fees for the first time.

What is impressive is what takes place inside the buildings. With the school having earned 'excellent' ratings in every category of its current ISI report, academically teachers are rated extremely highly by parents and pupils, not just for their ability to make learning fun, but also for being extremely kind and caring. Staff turnover is low. 'The staff-pupil relationship is extraordinary,' explains one parent, and the teaching is described as 'incredible' and praised for bringing out the best in its pupils. Achieves an impressive list of scholarships to top Oxfordshire (mainly day) schools. Importantly, less able pupils thrive and find their niche, achieving to their potential in the happy family environment the school is renowned for. We heard examples of unhappy children whose lives had been turned around since moving to The Manor and it is undoubtedly the friendliness and family feel of the school that makes it stand out – in particular, the friendship between year groups and the consideration shown by the older children to the younger members of the school.

Having previously been awarded a silver Artsmark Award by Arts Council England for championing the arts across the curriculum, creativity is prized highly. The spacious art room, full of colour and inspiration, is situated across the corridor from the well-equipped DT room. Here we witnessed hydraulic monsters being lovingly fashioned by year 3s and quirky keyrings being crafted by older pupils with the use of 3-D printers and computer-aided design (CAD). Drama is also a hallmark of the school. There was still a distinct buzz in the air from the recent year 6 play, a music and drama extravaganza. Allocation of roles is 'very democratic' – 'Nobody is just a tree; everyone has their moment.' There is also a broad enjoyment of music throughout the school. Over 140 pupils have individual music lessons and contribute to a vast array of orchestras and ensembles. Cornets, harps, electric guitars and drums are popular, as are teatime concerts and the annual Manor concert in March.

But it is the Kitchen (food tech room) which is voted by pupils 'the most loved room in the whole school'. Enjoyed by years 2-6, its repertoire of culturally diverse dishes is testament to the school's global approach, and helps to ensure social blunders are minimised. 'Survival cookery' is popular, as is tending of the school's veg patch, with homegrown rhubarb harvested the week of our visit. Food is good at the school and manners important too. Its commitment to instilling an appreciation of the benefits of a healthy diet to general wellbeing marries well with the school's on-trend, holistic approach which has seen mindfulness introduced into the curriculum. The school council meets half-termly with pupils having recently made a request for a peace garden for reflection post-Covid. The forest school is also popular and offered up to year 4 from two sites, one at the school and the other at nearby Church Farm.

Lessons are fun - we were captivated by a French lesson where an end-of-term dragon game was in progress using Linguascope Live, allowing year 5s to use vocabulary learnt earlier in the term. French is taught by a specialist native teacher with other languages introduced through clubs. We also visited an impressive English lesson where pupils were learning the rudiments of essay planning. During a tour of the year 5/6 science room the head of science, who fields a team of three science teachers, spoke animatedly about the exciting clubs which complement the learning of science - the Space Explorers and Eco Warriors clubs sounded exciting. Engineering and Robotics clubs are also popular. The focus on teaching life skills as an extension of maths - in particular, the teaching of money management skills - had clearly impressed parents! From year 3 pupils are allocated a Chromebook but not to the detriment of more traditional skills. Reading is a focus, with the recently refurbed library, coupled with its proactive librarian (who knows every child by name) directing children to books they might enjoy with the use of her exceptional knowledge of new titles.

About 10 per cent of pupils receive dedicated learning support which takes place in the first instance in the classroom. A homely SEN building, fondly known as the Cottage, operates an open-door policy. Two full-time SENCos are supported by a small team of learning support assistants. ‘There’s absolutely no stigma whatsoever,’ says head, ‘the children love it.’ Two of our guides had received help here in the past (they said they missed it) and the one who hadn’t was ‘jealous’. For the most able pupils, school reports a ‘no ceilings’ approach; all are assessed and tracked annually, and more challenging tasks made available to those who need them.

Parents agree it hasn't felt like the boys were getting all the attention in a bid to manage their integration into the school: 'There are the right number of boys to make it a cohesive group' and 'Boys’ sport is sorted now'. One wonders if things would have gone so smoothy the other way round. In fact, co-ed sport has come hand in hand with more timetabled sport and the appointment of a head of boys' sport. Girls are enjoying playing mixed cricket and football and recording good IAPS results across the board. The shiny new sports hall has complemented the outdoor sports area known as the Field, where tennis courts double up as netball courts and there is space for rugby, football, hockey and cricket, as well as an athletics track. A very active WhatsApp group set up by parents to follow fixtures and general news is deemed perhaps a little overenthusiastic by some of the 'great Manor parent community' but relax, no parents' races at sports day. Four houses - named after birds. Dance, gymnastics, badminton, and swimming (which takes place at Abingdon School) all on offer. Extracurricular programme, mainly taking place at lunchtimes, includes production of a school newspaper, Manor Mayhem, as well as debating society and a biennial ski trip for years 5 and 6. Year 6 enjoy a week-long residential trip, this year camping in Wales.

Pre-nursery and nursery benefit from an enclosed outside learning area with the 'family feel' of the school in evidence throughout the pre-prep - older pupils very much engaged with the tinies as well. Parents comment how happy and user friendly it is for working parents and are delighted that boys can now stay on until year 6. As much outdoor learning as possible with year 2s able to access the forest school.

Money matters

School really set up for working parents: extras, all clubs and wraparound care included in the fees.

The last word

An unpressurised environment. The school finds each child's niche and builds around it. In the words of a very satisfied parent, 'This is an unpretentious school that is educationally challenging, yet very friendly and happy.' 'It just gets better the more we are there,' said another mother. Grounded, enthusiastic children with a real curiosity for life.

Special Education Needs

Based in The Cottage, our Learning Support Department is an integral part of The Manor available to all children, staff and parents, with an ‘open door’ policy where everyone is welcome. Working holistically, the main aim of the department is to build each child’s self esteem and confidence to take risks and utilise their strengths in order to realise their learning potential. Working within the limits of our resources, we are fully committed to promoting early identification and support and our child centred, personalised approach acknowledges that all of our pupils learn in different ways. We recognise the need for pupils to have a positive and confident attitude to learning in order to ensure success in the classroom. The Cottage offers a welcoming environment where pupils feel sufficiently secure to take risks in their learning. The Department is extremely well-equipped, with children having access to the latest evidence-based learning resources. With a graduated approach, most children’s needs can be met within the classroom. We work closely with teachers to provide strategies in class and to promote active engagement to help children to work towards becoming independent and confident learners and to help them achieve their potential.

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