Radley College Review

One of the UK’s leading (and last remaining) all-boys boarding schools, Radley College offers a well-rounded, very British education to a community of bright, sporty and creative boys.
At a glance
School type
Private
School phase
Secondary
Inspection rating
Excellent
Curricula taught
Availability 2021/22
No data
Availability 2022/23
No data
Status
Open
Gender
Principal
Mr John Moule
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Radley College
School type
Private
School phase
Secondary
Inspection rating
Excellent
Curricula taught
Availability 2021/22
No data
Availability 2022/23
No data
Status
Open
Gender
Principal
Mr John Moule
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One of the UK’s leading (and last remaining) all-boys boarding schools, Radley College offers a well-rounded, very British education to a community of bright, sporty and creative boys.

Radley College is a Church of England, boys-only, all-boarding independent school in Oxfordshire, for around 700 students aged 13 to 18 years. This prestigious school has a vast campus covering 800 acres with playing fields, a golf course, a lake and farmland. It has some of the hallmarks of a traditional British public school education but is more down to earth than schools such as Eton and Harrow. And, with many parents registering their son at birth, places are already filled up until 2023.

There are very few boys-only, independent boarding schools left in the UK; most recently we have seen Winchester College admitting girls to their Sixth Form for the first time in 640 years. Currently, Radley has no plans to follow the trend and admit girls. It continues to offer a full boarding environment with a six-day week and a different timetable for the Summer and Winter months (to fit in as many activities as possible).

Radley has a strong Christian ethos (boys attend chapel four days every week) and around 120 boys are members of the school choir. The school welcomes students of different faiths and holds a popular weekly Social Prayers evening when the boys can talk about subjects that are important to them.

The headteacher (known as Warden) John Moule joined Radley in 2014. He was educated at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford where he was a scholar and gained a first class degree in history. He was Head of History at Stowe School from 1998 to 2000 and then a housemaster. He then became Vice Master of Bedford School, then Headmaster, before becoming Warden of Radley.

Radley College was rated Excellent in all areas in its most recent full ISI inspection, which was held in 2019. Inspectors reported on the “strongly competitive culture” here, and how boys take advantage of their boarding experience and study well beyond the end of the school day. They found the boys to be “extremely confident without being arrogant”.

The curriculum

Pupils are setted separately for English, maths, modern languages and science, according to their performance in Common Entrance. All boys study two languages chosen from French, Spanish and German. Radley also teaches critical thinking in the younger years to develop independent research skills, which gives the boys excellent preparation for the years ahead. Each boy is given an iPad, to access technology and to limit the use of their personal mobile phones.

Both GCSEs and IGCSEs are offered in many subjects at Radley for boys in the top sets. There is a core of compulsory subjects – mathematics, English, science and a modern foreign language – and many boys take GCSEs early, which is unusual these days. Art, classical civilisation, drama, design engineering, design electronics, geography, German, Greek, history, Latin, music, Spanish, and theology are offered as options, in blocks.

Every year, 20-plus boys enter the Sixth Form from other school, having taken GCSE-level academic tests in their prospective A Level subjects. Each boy takes three A Levels, but four is permitted if it is in further mathematics. The A Levels on offer are: art, biology, chemistry, classics, design, drama, economics, English, French, geography, geology, German, Greek, history, history of art, mathematics, music, physics, politics, Spanish and theology.

Sixth formers have the opportunity to develop skills beyond the curriculum through the school’s Curriculum Extension Programme (subjects include engineering, international relations and law), which can be taken alongside the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ). Students are also encouraged to take part in wider academic activities such as science Olympiads, debating competitions, and Greek and Latin reading contests.

Sports and the arts

Radley is extremely sporty offering rugby, hockey, rowing, cricket, football, tennis, golf, racquet sports, swimming, water polo, cross country, sailing and fencing. It also has a Countryside Centre where boys can play polo in the summer and go beagling in the winter.

The Radley College Sports Centre has some excellent facilities including a 25 metre swimming pool with adjoining 3.5 metre diving pit, fitness suite, weights room, sports hall, five squash courts, real tennis court and gymnasium. These are complemented by excellent external facilities including three full-size AstroTurf pitches, nine-hole golf course, an eight lane athletics track and a state of the art rowing tank. There are also exercise stations around the campus.

This is also the school for boys who like to perform. The theatre is extremely well equipped with technical equipment and backstage facilities, and there is a black box studio. There are several performances each year including student-led and inter-social productions.

Music is widely celebrated, and there are daily chapel services as well as a wide range of public concerts, informal workshops, competitions and more. Over half the boys take musical instrument lessons and Radley has a music technology facility and a recording studio.

A number of boys go on to study music at university, often as choral or organ scholars. It has several choirs and orchestras, bands and an electric guitar orchestra as well as specialist ensembles, rock bands and more. There are varied performance opportunities for boys of all abilities and ages, not just the best, ranging from small scale informal concerts to performing in the Piano Extravaganza or conducting or playing with a guest orchestra. Recently school ensembles and choirs have toured to six different countries in Europe, they sing Evensong regularly in various cathedrals and it has a professional Ensemble in Residence who give concerts within the College and work with pupils on composition and performance projects.

To support its broad art programme, there are four specialist art teachers with five purpose-built and fully equipped studios, which have facilities for painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, ceramics, computer graphics and digital photography together with other ICT equipment.

Beyond the classroom

Radley has an extensive list of clubs and societies, and the Combined Cadet Force is extremely strong here. There are plenty of opportunities for boys to get active and step outside of their comfort zone. Radley offers several climbing excursions a year, a relay running along 86 miles of the Ridgeway from Ivinghoe Beacon to Avebury, a 50 kilometre relay, a 24-hour track challenge, wakeboarding, a 100 -mile cycle relay along the Thames Valley, go-karting, the Three-Peaks challenges in Wales, Yorkshire and the National Challenge, and the Duke of Edinburgh award.

Radley’s Countryside Centre, opened in 2006, provides practical experience of animal husbandry. Radley has had a beagle pack since 1940, and has more recently introduced cattle, sheep, pigs, ducks, pheasants and chickens, with rare breeds such as Oxford sandy & black pigs, and Jacob sheep. The boys can also become involved in ferreting, pest control and clay pigeon shooting.

Academic results

In 2020, A Level results were mixed, ranging from 33% A*-A in geology to 100% A*-A in music, German and Latin. The lowest percentage of A*-B was 83.3% (geology) and nine subjects achieved 100% A*-B. There are very few C grades across the cohort. In GCSE, the sciences came out top with the most grade 9s.

Around 10% of leavers receive Oxbridge offers every year.

Boarding

There are 11 boarding houses, known as Socials A-L, at Radley with around 70 boys in each. New boys sleep in cubicles arranged in small dormitories and, after the first year, all boys have their own study bedroom. Each Social has a number of communal spaces for relaxing, playing table tennis and so on – and all boys comes together daily for meals in the great hall.

Campus and facilities

Radley was founded in 1847 and was originally housed in Radley Hall, which is now known as the Mansion. Later in the 18th Century, the estate passed to a family who commissioned Capability Brown to redesign the grounds. Today, the huge campus is home to state-of-the-art academic, boarding, sporting, and co-curricular facilities; with its combination of modern and historical buildings set within landscaped grounds it is a beautiful environment to live and study in.

In any one day, boys dine together in the grand Hall, perform in a modern concert hall seating 240, socialise in the grassed quadrangle, sing Evensong in the Chapel, and practice rowing in a fantastic rowing tank.

Admission and fees

Most boys enter Radley aged 13 and have been registered since birth through the Radley List process; if you want your son to join in September 2025, apply now as it is completely full up until 2024. The school also has started an Open List where it will accept ‘late’ registrations around 10 years of age for entry at 13+.

The main entry process begins in Year 5 with the ISEB Common Pre-Test (CPT) and a report from the boy’s current Headteacher. They are then shortlisted on an A or B list and then have to sit the Common Entrance in their last year of prep school, for setting purposes.

Fees are £40,125 per year with a host of extras such as boat club charges and music lessons.

The school offers around 16 fully or partly funded places to talented boys every year, and the next Funded Places Open Day is on November 6, 2021; there are also scholarships for music, sport, art or drama.

Best For

Single sex environment
Extremely sporty, outdoorsy school
Music

Not For

Those not wanting a very traditional boys-only school
No IB
Day students

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