This academically outstanding day and boarding offers an excellent education to bright, hard-working boys that is brilliantly balanced with an extensive extra-curricular programme.
Abingdon is a large independent school in Oxfordshire for around 1,050 boys aged 11-18, with boarding available from 13. Together with Abingdon Prep, which educates boys aged 4 to 13, it makes up the Abingdon Foundation.
Abingdon is situated on a campus of 35 acres in the centre of Abingdon, just south of the university city of Oxford.
It’s an academically selective school, and one that “believes very firmly in stretch and challenge”. Boys should come expecting to work hard and apply themselves, but also to try new things and take risks. While it’s a large school, small tutor groups of 10-12 students ensure that every boy is known and the teacher student ratio of 1:9 really helps boys to feel personally supported on their educational pathway.
There’s a diverse, international community of students here, with boys coming from 41 different countries. Around 950 are day students and every boy belongs to a House with a houseroom providing space to relax, socialise and study.
Boys coming into the Lower School (equivalent to Years 7 and 8) are offered an easy transition into senior school; it’s very much a ‘school within a school’ with a small, friendly vibe that helps boys to get settled quickly. In the Middle School there’s a brilliant insight into school life written by the students for the students.
It’s a school with great personality, and one that feels down to earth. There’s no snobbery here as Abingdon lets its students ‘sell’ the school across its website with page after page of video testimonials – and there are some great bios of the many highly qualified teachers.
Abingdon enjoys close ties with the nearby girls’ school of St Helen and St Katharine, with whom partnership, drama and musical activities are shared and some subject jointly taught in Sixth Form.
Abingdon sticks with a traditional curriculum, one that it believes is a tried and tested (and effective) method of education. While Abingdon is a traditional school – its history dates back over 750 years – it is also one that sees the value in investing in modern teaching facilities; the Yang Science Centre with its 21 teaching labs and project rooms, library and art school are examples of this.
The curriculum covers art, DT, drama, music, Latin, ancient history, ancient Greek, as well as some more unusual options including computer science and electronics.
At GCSE, Abingdon offers 27 subjects. There’s a choice of 25 subjects in the Sixth Form (A Levels for most subjects and the Pre-U for Modern Foreign Languages); some Sixth Form lessons are taught jointly with the neighbouring girls’ school, St Helen and St Katharine. Abingdon offers flexibility so that boys can choose the subject combination that’s right for them.
Languages are important here. All students study French and German in the First Year and have the option to add Spanish and/or Mandarin in their Third Year; the school also offers Spanish and German express GCSE courses in the Sixth Form.
Sport and the arts
Private schools worldwide have a reputation for championing sport and the arts, whether that’s music, drama, dance, film, or art and Abingdon actively encourages creativity and performance through its extra-curricular offering. Around half the school plays a musical instrument; the school has its own Film Unit, the AFU, which has produced over 200 short films; and there are choirs, bands, orchestras and chamber groups open to both the boys and the wider school community. Activities such as a podcasting club, theatre design workshops, modern foreign language plays and annual drama productions are all part of school life. It all helps Abingdon students to broaden their horizons.
The school has some fantastic facilities including a boathouse, sports centre with swimming pool, two fitness suites, squash courts, climbing wall, martial arts and fencing studio and rowing ergometer suite; Tilsley Park athletics track and 3G pitch, and 450-seat theatre.
The school has invested heavily in its sports programme, and the facilities are widely used by both the school and the local community. Rugby, hockey and cricket are the school’s strengths, and boys will often be seen training or playing a match after school or on Saturdays; regular opponents include Radley, Bradfield, Wellington, Marlborough and Eton. There are also clubs for the football, rowing, karate, canoe polo, fencing, cross-country, sailing and shooting, so plenty to keep any boy active.
Beyond the classroom
Abingdon runs a huge extra-curricular programme fondly known as the Other Half, which encapsulates the school’s belief that “what a boy does in the classroom is only half of the reason he’s at the school and only half of what is going to be important to him as he matures”.
There are over 150 activities including 30 sports, 31 chamber ensemble group, film-making, bell ringing, croquet, CCF, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and debating. It’s all about giving the boys something that they enjoy and teaching them a skill that they will appreciate well beyond their time at Abingdon.
2022 A Level results: 63% of students achieved an A or above in all subjects. 94% of grades were A*-B. 21% of students went on to study economics and business; 21% went on to study engineering and physics; 9% went on to study medical sciences.
2022 GCSE results: 86% of all GCSE grades awarded 9 to 7 grades.
84% of students received a place at Russell Group universities, including Durham, Exeter, UCL and Bristol, and 50% of Oxbridge applicants were offered a place in 2023.
Full and weekly boarding is available from age 13, and there’s a small boarding community here of around 150 boys. From autumn 2023, Abingdon will be opening its newly renovated boarding houses which will offer extended study room facilities and social hubs, and single bedrooms for Sixth Formers.
Admission and fees
The main points of entry are 11+, 13+ and Sixth Form, with boys coming from state and independent schools and from overseas. Entry is by interview and exam.
To enter Sixth Form, all boys (including Abingdon students) require a minimum of an average of 6 in their GCSEs, with at least a 7 in the subjects they wish to study at A Level (and a minimum of an 8 in GCSE maths if further maths is to be studied). It’s tough and very selective but boys who are unable to reach this “bar” will struggle with the “fast-paced and demanding way” that Abingdon teaches A Levels; such is the high standard of education here that the majority of boys continue from Abingdon’s Fifth Year into Sixth Form.
Annual fees are £23,475 for day students, £39,090 for weekly boarders, and £47,880 for full boarders.
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