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Dragon School
Dragon School
Dragon School
Dragon School
top 200
Dragon School Oxford, Oxfordshire Visit
school
Dragon School
Oxford
798 pupils, ages 4-13
Mixed
Day and Boarding

Dragon School

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Our view

‘You’re never not proud to be a Dragon,’ our pupil guide told us – and with praise like this, what more could you possibly ask of a school? This big, buzzy, hugely popular Oxford powerhouse does everything on a large scale and, with its incredible mix of characters, manages to teach everyone to rub along pretty well together too.

Where?

Located down a quiet side street in leafy north Oxford and sandwiched between a clutch of university colleges, The Dragon is not far from Oxford High School and Teddies. It doesn’t have a long driveway or grand façade; instead, its school buildings meld with the residential ones. Pupils quickly learn to cross the road between the main school site (where the academic, schooly bits generally happen) on one side and the boarding houses and dining room on the other, which creates a lovely sense of ‘going home’ each evening for boarders. 

The campus is vast, with fabulous views to the hills beyond and a spread of facilities housed in attractive old houses and up-to-the-minute science, art and music blocks. Despite the bumper number of pupils (585 in the prep, another 215 at the pre-prep just up the road in Summertown), it doesn’t feel the slightest bit overcrowded. Having so much space feels like great preparation for leavers too, when they suddenly become small fish in very big-senior school ponds.

Head

Head Emma Goldsmith arrived in September 2021 from Winchester House School – and she’s one of our favourite heads on the prep school circuit. Wonderfully charismatic, hugely approachable, a proper team player and hot on kindness and communication, Mrs Goldsmith is a stellar appointment for the school, and parents, pupils and staff are all delighted.

The door to Mrs Goldsmith’s bright office is always open (she even joins boarders for breakfast on Saturday mornings) and parents are already praising the renewed energy and vigour she’s injected into the school. She’s incredibly well respected on the educational circuit, too – she’s currently vice chair of the ISEB and an ISI inspector (although she limits the number of visits she makes to allow her to fully focus on her role at the Dragon). It’s safe to say we’re enormous fans.

Admissions

The pre-prep is bursting at the seams, so get in quick for a place in Reception. It is broadly non-selective, so pupils on the list are invited to join a normal school day to meet staff and pupils and sit a very gentle assessment designed to measure potential rather than attainment. It’s much easier to bag a boarding place than a day one, so if the school is top of your list, changing tack might up your chances. Entrance in Year 7 is possible for those keen to experience boarding prior to taking up their 13+ place. 

Academics and senior school destinations

Studious hour-long lessons promote proper, knuckled-down learning (and less faffing in between), but there’s huge respect for a decent work-life balance (heads down in the week, chill out at weekends). Here, the focus is on nurturing natural curiosity: ‘if a culture of questioning is embedded at an early age, it will encourage an enthusiasm to lead a lifetime of learning’, says Mrs Goldsmith.  

Classroom life is deceptively relaxed: teachers swish around in jeans; there’s limited setting early on (scholars aren’t singled out until Year 7); pupils get to scribble on walls with funky ‘ideas paint’; and Saturday school has been scrapped in favour ‘Dragon Quest’, an optional enrichment programme where pupils fling on their home clothes and do cool stuff like yoga, debating, animation and orienteering (more on that below).

Pupils are brilliantly prepared for senior schools, with thinking skills for Year 4 (great prep for the ISEB pre-test), drilling down in Year 5 (heaps of verbal and quantitative reasoning to pep up their brains) and bespoke interview practice in Year 6 to build up confidence. Mrs Goldsmith is a big fan of CE (‘it’s a really good curriculum’, she tells us’), and believes it’s a great goal for Year 8 pupils to aim for.  

A handful of girls peel off at 11+, but as this is a standalone prep, the 13+ destination list is much more diverse, with Rugby, Headington, Wycombe Abbey, Eton, Marlborough, Cheltenham Ladies, Teddies and Wellington all proving popular next steps.

Co-curricular

If you’re sporty, your luck is in: the sheer scale of the school translates to a silly number of sports on offer, and everyone gets a go at representing the school. With the Cherwell meandering through the grounds, sculling is a biggie; then there are acres of sports pitches, a great indoor pool, Olympic-sized Astros and tennis and netball courts (often borrowed by neighbours Oxford High). Quirkier options include riding, golf, climbing, archery and dance, and each year pupils head off on sun-soaked sports tours to South Africa and Mallorca.

Activities are cleverly embedded into the timetable, so no one is too busy to miss out – and masses of extra clubs after the final bell give pupils the chance to try everything from bridge to beekeeping. The art room brims with paint-splattered mini-creatives; everyone learning an instrument must join an ensemble (so there’s no excuse not to practice) and each term is packed with drama productions. Work on a brand-new performing arts centre is due to begin soon – it will include a smart music and drama studio, plus a dedicated performance space.  

Last year, the Dragon launched its new enrichment programme, Dragon Quest, which focuses on developing pupils’ broader interests and skills in a creative and vocational way. Initially aimed at pupils in Years 4 and 5, it’s been such a resounding success that it’s now been extended to all. Every Saturday morning, pupils pick from a dizzying array of activities driven by three key principles: ‘discover’, ‘develop’ and ‘dare’. Children can head off on an architectural tour of Oxford, spend a messy morning mucking out the animals at a local farm or stay on campus to tear apart and repurpose wrecked bikes, under the guidance of a member of staff with a particular passion or hobby. It’s compulsory for boarders and entirely optional for everyone else – yet around 90 per cent of pupils currently opt in. If we were a day pupil, we’d certainly be rushing back.

Boarding

The boarding model has been recently altered to suit a growing appetite for more flexible options – but full boarding is still thriving here, with many boarders from the UK and overseas. Alongside the full and weekly boarders, there's a growing cohort of day boarders who choose up to three nights a week to stay over. Flexi boarders can ring up and book in as late as the week before. Around two-thirds stay in (with numbers peaking in the top two years), so this feels like a proper 24/7 school. Best of all, if a weekly boarder wants to stay on after Saturday morning Quest, they’re more than welcome to. Weekends are filled with matches and plenty of organised fun (lip-sync battle evenings are the best, our pupil guide tells us).

No personal devices are allowed in the boarding houses – instead, pupils are encouraged to read or play card games after supper and prep, and can call home from the carefully-monitored desktop computers in the common rooms.  

An escorted coach service ships pupils up and down from London, too - with a weekly bus returning pupils to the school on a Sunday afternoon.  

School community

The philanthropy here is phenomenal. The annual pupil-and-parent-run Dragon Christmas sale often raises up to £100,000, and everyone from current parents to ODs gets involved. ‘It’s a huge community effort and really embodies the Dragon spirit’, one parent tells us. Proceeds go to pupil-nominated charities (nominated via a Dragon’s Den-style pitch). During the lockdowns, Dragon caterers provided 250 school meals a week to the local community, and children love bagging service credits via the Dragon Award scheme, which might see them helping out in the library or assisting junior games. They take environmental issues seriously here, too, and Mrs Goldsmith is in talks with the local council to find ways to work together to achieve their aim of becoming a net-zero school.  

Most day pupils tend to live within a 45-minute commute, with lots of Oxfordshire-based families. The school is part of the Oxford Schools' Bus Partnership, a bus network which brings children in from the surrounding area to a number of Oxford schools including Teddies, Headington and Magdalen College School.  

Others represent 25 nationalities, so there’s a healthy diversity too, and a clutch of ‘transformative’ bursaries targeting local children – so do enquire. Word on the parent grapevine is this is a seriously warm, friendly community (and financially secure too – generous parents donated several millions for the music school). The Dragon has a huge OD network, and a fair percentage of alumni send their children here too. On our tour, we met the delightful school archivist, Gay, who enthusiastically regaled us with tales of the school’s history and former pupils. She, like all the staff we met, was charm and humour personified – the real icing on the Dragon’s dazzling cake.

And finally...

The Dragon has a real knack at building the confidence its pupils need to thrive at senior school, and they’re often having so much fun they’re unaware of how much work they’re actually doing. This is a fun, carefree, happy place – and, as if by magic, produces the most fantastic results too. 

Gallery See All

  • Senior school destinations

    Senior school destinations

    30 schools in total - Top 10 as follows: St Edward’s School 19, Eton College 16, Rugby School 11, Marlborough College 9, Stowe School 8, Headington 7, Abingdon 6, Radley College 6, Harrow School 5, Magdalen College School 4, Oundle School 4, Wellington College 4.

  • Scholarships for senior schools

    Scholarships

    Academic17Abingdon School, Headington School, St Edward's School, Bloxham School, Magdalen College School, The Cheltenham Ladies' College, Eton College (King's), Oxford High School, Winchester College
    Music8 Clifton College, Magdalen College School, Rugby School, Harrow School, Marlborough College, St Edward’s School
    Drama7 Bloxham School, Headington School, St Edward's School, Harrow School, Malvern College
    Sport6 Magdalen College School, Stowe School, St Edward’s School, Radley College
    Art10 Cheltenham College, Headington School, St Edward's School, Cokethorpe School, Magdalen College School, The Cheltenham Ladies' College, D’Overbroeck's, Oxford High School, Tudor Hall School
    DT2 Marlborough College, St Edward’s School
    All Rounder5 Magdalen College School, St Edward's School, Fettes College, Oundle School, Stowe School


  • Fees and bursaries

    Day fees per term

    Nursery-
    Reception£4,470
    Year 1£5,115
    Year 2£5,115
    Year 3£5,880
    Year 4£7,880
    Year 5£7,880
    Year 6£7,880
    Year 7£7,880
    Year 8 £7,880
    Boarding fees per term

    Nursery-
    Reception-
    Year 1-
    Year 2-
    Year 3 -
    Year 4 £11,640
    Year 5 £11,640
    Year 6£11,640
    Year 7£11,640
    Year 8 £11,640




    Bursaries
    Dragon School offers a number of fully funded bursaries to talented applicants who would otherwise be unable to afford to attend the school. These awards are means tested and awarded at the discretion of the school.

    They also offer an Armed Forces Discount for those in receipt of the CEA; a discount of 20% of fees will apply if Dragon boarding begins in the junior years (Years 4 to 6). Once awarded, the discount will continue through to, and inclusive of, Year 8 as long as the child continues to board and the family remains in receipt of the CEA grant.

    Dragon School also offers a 7.5% discount against boarding fees to parents who are employees of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office who are also in receipt of the CEA grant and whose children enter the School to board in Years 4 to 6 inclusive. Once awarded, the discount will continue through to, and inclusive of, Year 8 as long as the child continues to board and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office employee remains in receipt of the CEA grant.

    For more information please see the school website, which also contains contact information for the Admissions Team:

    dragonschool.org/admissions/bursaries-discounts/



    Bursary contact:
    Registrar Kate Heath
    bursar@dragonschool.org
  • SEND

    This school currently supports the following kinds of learning needs, health needs and physical disabilities:
    Dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD

    This school currently delivers the following interventions to pupils in class and outside class to support their learning, health and/or physical needs:
    The Learning Support department aims to celebrate neurodiversity, raise confidence and help children learn in ways that play to their strengths and help to develop independent learning.
    The department is situated at the heart of the school, with an open area surrounded by specially designed teaching rooms. All staff have a qualification in teaching children with Specific Learning Difficulties. There is also a Speech and Language therapist who supports children with speech, language and social skills. The Department works in close conjunction with individual subject and form tutors to ensure that support is provided when and where necessary and within the context of the broader curriculum. There is an educational psychologist who visits the school.

    This school currently provides the following support for pupils' mental health needs
    There is a full-time school counsellor

    Co-ordinator: Jane Jackson jane.jackson@dragonschool.org
  • Transport links

    School Transport
    School bus service to/from London
    School daily bus network

    Public Transport
    Nearest mainline train station: Oxford Parkway and Oxford
    Journey time to London by train: 55 minutes
    Nearest international airport: Heathrow (46 miles)


  • Parents tell us

    ‘We chose the Dragon school as both siblings went there and it is a big school, so they have a huge range of children and everyone learns to get on with lots of different types of characters.

    The admissions process was easy as they had a sibling policy.

    The school’s communication with parents is good. The pastoral care is good.

    The Dragon is preparing my children well for the next stage of their education because it is a big school, so it has an advantage in preparing for secondary school – the children learn to navigate a large school with different classes in different rooms, so they develop organisational skills. They also learn that there are many different types of people in this world.

    The school is becoming a flexi boarding/ weekly boarding school, so the majority of parents are Oxfordshire based. In the prep school they use Classlist to form the school community – which is a friendly service if you put a little bit of work in.

    As always, there is luck involved as to the peer group, but they are used to dealing with lots of different types of children. My advice to new parents would be to get involved with the Dragon Sale to meet other parents.'

School Updates

  • WATCH: Dragon Prep

    WATCH: Dragon Prep
  • View from the Top: Emma Goldsmith on the joys of boarding

    View from the Top: Emma Goldsmith on the joys of boarding
  • WATCH: Dragon School Boarding

    WATCH: Dragon School Boarding
  • WATCH: Everything you need to know about Dragon QUEST

    WATCH: Everything you need to know about Dragon QUEST
  • WATCH: Hear a parent talk about their experience of Dragon School

    WATCH: Hear a parent talk about their experience of Dragon School
  • WATCH: Talk Education's Country Preps Focus - Dragon School

    WATCH: Talk Education's Country Preps Focus - Dragon School
  • See Dragon School in our Country Preps Focus

    Find your perfect country prep school. Whether you're contemplating a move for your entire family or want to explore the education options within a daily minibus-ride of the capital, we can help.
    See Dragon School in our Country Preps Focus
  • WATCH: What will your Dragon be like?

    WATCH: What will your Dragon be like?

Essentials

Address
Bardwell Road, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX2 6SS

Contact
admissions@dragonschool.org
01865 315405

Website
dragonschool.org

ISI Report

Fees

Term Dates


Open Days

Open days and how to visit View Open Days Register for open Day

Virtual Open Morning
05 October 2022


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