Affectionately known as Teddies, this day and boarding school in the world-famous university city of Oxford has a reputation for its dynamic curriculum, excellence in the arts, and wide choice of options at GCSE and Sixth Form.
It’s a co-ed day and boarding school for students aged 13-18 years, with a sizeable community of international students (18%) from 40 different countries outside the UK. This is a predominantly boarding school where 83% are boarders and 17% are day students.
Teaching throughout Teddies remains broad and balanced, and without the restrictions of a prescriptive syllabus in the all-important middle years (Years 10-11); small class sizes offer a great level of individual attention; and the mix of local and international students throughout the school keeps the community globally focused.
The school was founded in 1863 and its Christian principles and the on-campus chapel remain central to school life. Kindness and community spirit are certainly part of the school’s DNA.
Alastair Chirnside became Warden of St Edward’s in September 2021; Mr Chirnside was formerly Deputy Head at Harrow. Raised in Oxford he attended the Dragon school, before winning a scholarship to Eton where he later taught.
Teddies sets itself apart from the some of the academic powerhouses within the notoriously academic city of Oxford; instead, this is very much a school for the later bloomer or the all-rounder as much as the high-flyer. There are opportunities for students with all interests and abilities thanks to a non-prescriptive and broad curriculum.
Teddies is looking for students who have drive and determination rather than being the brightest; it’s a centre of learning and achievement for students who will be “asking questions, discussing ideas, looking things up and thinking for themselves”.
All students attend school on Saturdays, and morning lessons are followed by sports fixtures and other activities.
In their first year (Shell) students follow a broad curriculum that covers the core subjects alongside humanities, religious education, two modern foreign languages, classics (including Latin), art and ceramics, design technology, drama, music, PE, and Personal, Social and Health Education.
Teddies is a progressive school with plenty of fresh ideas in education. A shining example of this is the introduction of new Pathways and Perspectives courses in the GCSE years. As well as taking between eight and 11 GCSEs, students at Teddies can also take up to two courses from a choice of ancient world, art, design and entrepreneurship, drama, jewellery and entrepreneurship, music technology and popular music, and sports science.
David Flower, Deputy Head Academic, explains why.
"Pathways and Perspectives allow our pupils to learn and think differently. GCSEs provide a sound basis for progression to the Sixth Form, but these new courses require our pupils to innovate, work collaboratively and undertake continuous assessment exactly as they will do at university, within vocational qualifications and in the world of work.
"Not only that but we can mould content to address pertinent issues of the day and meet the needs of the pupils in our care, free from the constraints of the exam specification.”
It keeps the curriculum here very broad and relevant curriculum with explicit links to the real world – and it offers students the freedom to pursue the learning pathway that makes sense for them. This continues into the Sixth Form when students can choose to take either the A Level programme and Extended Project Qualification or the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP); there is a wide choice of subjects offered within the arts, languages, sciences, and humanities on both pathways. Some recent additions to the A Level options are jewellery, textiles, music technology and product design.
Students taking the IBDP complete an Extended Essay, a Theory of Knowledge course (TOK), and the CAS programme (Creativity, Action and Service).
The school has the resources to deliver the specialist teaching required by both the UK and IB programmes, and focuses on plenty of student-led, inquiry-based learning; this is enhanced by additional experiences that support both academic achievement and personal development.
Rather than being a choice of UK vs International, this dual pathway in sixth form is about offering a choice of curricula that plays to the strengths of a child.
The IBDP continues a broad and balanced learning approach to subjects; students need to successfully complete six subjects (three at higher level and three at standard level), which must include a language and a science. A Levels are more specialised and focus on three or four subject areas that normally reflect the direction students are likely to take at university level; A Levels allow students to focus on their strengths and, perhaps more importantly, opt out of those subjects that would bring their grades down. Both qualifications are widely accepted for entry into universities worldwide.
Music is central to life at Teddies, which boasts professional standard facilities, the budget to stage major productions (and take a school show each year to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe), and a reputation for attracting well-known directors and actors (as well as having famous alumni including Emilia Clarke and Sebastian de Souza). Most students get involved in drama and dance at some point while at Teddies, either on stage or behind the scenes.
To have a facility like the Ogston Music School on campus is truly outstanding. Students have access to 20 practice rooms, seven ensemble rooms, the large Weston Recital Room, a rock room, Fenton Recording Studio, and Ferguson Sixth Form Music Library. It’s quite the venue for music groups including chapel choirs, a symphony orchestra and concert band, and alternative rock and jazz groups.
And then there’s the North Wall Arts Centre, which is owned and managed by the school but is also run as a recognised public theatre, gallery and artist development programme. It offers students at Teddies daily access to a working theatre and art gallery, with opportunities to meet professional writers, directors, performers, technicians and artists. It gives students an incredible stage to showcase their talents.
The art department also has excellent facilities, including purpose-built studios, a dark room, ceramics studio with three large kilns, and an art gallery. Students can study GCSE Art and Design, GCSE Ceramics, A Level Fine Art, A Level Textiles and IB.
Sports play a central role in the lives of students at Teddies and the school is producing some stellar sporting talent.
It has a long tradition for rowing excellence, and it is one of the top cricket playing schools in the country (it’s regularly featured in The Cricketer Schools Guide).
Students play competitively and for recreation, and the school has some excellent coaches for football, rugby, tennis, golf, swimming, hockey, netball, sailing and athletics. Sports facilities cater to a wide range of sports and include the Martyrs Sports Pavilion, a strength and conditioning facility, two Astro-turf pitches, all weather netball/tennis courts, sports hall, multiple sports fields and a six-hole golf course.
Activities ranging from rowing to chess, beekeeping to golf are offered three times a week as part of a timetabled extra-curricular. The Combined Cadet Force (CCF) is compulsory for students in the Fourth Form, who have the choice of the Army, Navy and RAF sections. Students can also choose to complete all three levels of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award – Gold, Silver and Bronze.
While Teddies tops the league tables, it manages to deliver outstanding examination results in both A Levels and the IB Diploma Programme without the atmosphere of an academic hothouse.
In 2021, 61% of grades at A Level were at A* or A, while a further 83% grades were awarded A*-B. Since 2018, the number of students achieving A* or A has steadily increased from 40%.
In the IB, the average score was a high 36, and two IB students achieved full marks with 45 points each. In the past three years the average score has ranged from 33-34.
At GCSE, just under 60% of results were at the highest 7-9 level, or A*/A.
Leavers’ destinations include the UK and overseas, and around 80% go on to a Russell Group university or equivalent. There are also rising numbers heading to leading arts colleges including London Film Academy, City & Guilds of London Art School, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and the Birmingham Conservatoire, as well as universities in the US, Canada and Europe. Four 2021 leavers secured places at the University of Oxford to study PPE, Music, Engineering and Medicine.
There are 13 houses for both boarding and day students, five for girls, five for boys, and three that are co-ed; students from all year groups mix in each house, and day students feel as much part of the school community as their boarding peers. As one parent says:
“Teaching staff have no idea whether my son is a day boy or a boarder. I think it’s really wonderful — they are so well integrated that it makes no difference. This is unusual.”
Around half the boarders stay on campus for weekends (there’s a packed programme of activities to keep them busy), while the other half may catch the popular Teddies Coach, a school service running every weekend from London to Oxford via Beaconsfield.
Located in the north of Oxford, Teddies has sports grounds and facilities surrounding an attractive Victorian red brick quad. Recent developments have included The Christie Centre, home to the Oxley Library, a reading room, flexible learning spaces and a café, as well as a 1,000-seat Olivier Hall for concerts and performances.
Teddies accepts approximately 145 students at 13+ into the Shell (Year 9); about 10 at 14+ into the Fourth Form (Year 10) to begin the two-year IGCSE/GCSE programme; and some 40 at 16+ into the Lower Sixth (Year 12) to begin the two year A Level or IB Diploma programme.
Entry to all year groups is via academic entry exams.
Annual fees are £34.650 for day students and £43,299 for boarders.
Good for: Parents looking for a city school which is focused on all-round education, not just top grades, should shortlist this school. Its Oxford location is excellent, the broad curriculum offers opportunities for children of all abilities, and the choice of Sixth Form pathways will appeal to students choosing to follow a wide range of careers and university degrees.
With its very nurturing community, Teddies will appeal to families searching for a school where happiness, kindness and creativity are first and foremost. Its forward-thinking curriculum will also suit students who prefer a less traditional school, and who embrace fresh ideas and modern subject choices.
Not for: With around 800 students from pre-prep to Sixth Form, Teddies may feel too small for some parents. It’s primarily a boarding school, so day students should bear that in mind, and its city centre location may not appeal to families searching for a huge campus surrounded by English countryside.
If your child thrives in a very academic hothouse environment, then Teddies is unlikely to be the best fit – and students should be prepared to commit to a busy school week with both timetabled lessons and extra-curricular activities.
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