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Dragon School
Dragon School
Dragon School
Dragon School
top 200
Dragon School Oxford, Oxfordshire Visit
Dragon School
600 pupils, ages 8-13
Day and Boarding

Dragon School

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Our view

This big, buzzy, hugely popular Oxford powerhouse has everything youngsters could want. There are enough pupils for everyone to find their tribe and yet somehow, it retains a small school feel that nurtures and celebrates the individual, generating top-notch results without pressure.

Where is Dragon School?

Located down a quiet side street in leafy north Oxford, Dragon School is sandwiched between a clutch of university colleges, and isn’t 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, school 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.

Dragon School's campus is huge, with stunning views to the hills beyond and a spread of facilities housed in attractive old buildings and up-to-the-minute science, art and music blocks. Despite the large 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. This abundance of space feels like great preparation for leavers too, when they suddenly become small fish in very big senior-school ponds.

Headteacher at Dragon School

Head Emma Goldsmith arrived in September 2021 from Winchester House School – she’s one of our favourite heads on the prep-school circuit and our most recent visit has only served to further gild her already glittering credentials. She is warm, measured and incredibly stylish, radiating energy in a decisive yet amiable way – absolutely the kind of woman you would want to be both your board director and your best friend. Mrs Goldsmith is a stellar appointment for the school, and parents, pupils and staff continue to be delighted.

Communication is a recurring theme here and the school has totally and utterly embraced the new wave of parents who want to be fully informed. ‘I embrace it as a proper relationship with parents,’ says the head, and ‘if we are open and confident with everything we do, we shouldn’t be concerned’. The economic climate has undoubtedly impacted the independent sector but if numbers here are anything to go by, Mrs Goldsmith is right to be confident. But she also recognises that parents want value for money, ‘While we appreciate that we are expensive, we can demonstrate exactly what parents will get’ and in fact, Dragon has taken transparency to a whole new level this year by sharing its strategic plan with parents. The end of the academic year will see a follow-up report delivered with outcomes against the year one targets – this is a thriving school utterly unafraid to be scrutinised.

Mrs Goldsmith is also incredibly well respected on the educational circuit – she is 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 School). It’s safe to say we’re enormous fans.

Admissions at Dragon School

The Dragon (both the pre-prep down the road and the prep school itself) is very popular, so apply early for a place in Reception if you can. The school is broadly non-selective, so children 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 as well as current attainment. It’s much easier to get a boarding place than a day place, so if the school is your top choice, changing tack might up your chances. Entrance in Year 7 is possible for those keen to experience boarding before 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 casual clothes; 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 of Dragon QUEST, an optional enrichment programme where children fling on their home clothes and do cool stuff like yoga, debating, animation and orienteering.

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 RugbyHeadingtonWycombe Abbey, Eton, Marlborough, Cheltenham Ladies’Teddies and Wellington all proving popular next steps.

Co-curricular at Dragon boarding school

If you are sporty, your luck is in here: the sheer scale of the Dragon translates to a silly number of sports on offer, and everyone gets a chance to represent the school. With the River 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 School). 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.   

Junior Games Takers (usually first-team captains, sports nuts and scholars) help out with lessons for younger years to inspire a love of the sport. Our youthfully insightful pupil guide added that ‘you want to give this mentoring back to younger years as you know yourself how nice it was to receive it’.

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 who is learning an instrument (and there’s a stonking 700 lessons taking place each week) must join an ensemble and each term is packed with drama productions (most recently Holes and a fabulous School of Rock). Work on a brand new music and performing arts centre is very much underway – adding a smart music and drama studio, plus a dedicated performance space to the burgeoning list of facilities.  

A few years ago, 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 children 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 who stay in school at the weekends, and entirely optional for everyone else – yet around 90 per cent of pupils currently opt in. Grown-ups can also avoid FOMO now by getting in on the action via the newly launched offshoot ‘Dragon QUEST Prime’ offering tennis, backgammon and touch rugby to keen parents.

Boarding at Dragon School

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, so there’s usually around 300 pupils boarding at some point over the week. 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. There are five junior boarding houses for pupils in Years 4 to 6, housing up to 25 each for a more cosy homely feel. Seniors hang out in bigger houses, accommodating up to 50 with two houses for boys and two for girls but still with plenty of home-from-home touches. Weekends are filled with matches, plenty of organised fun and the odd special meal or house breakfast – ordinarily, all meals are eaten centrally in the school dining room.

Speaking of food, no review of the Dragon would be complete without an appraisal of their culinary reputation – the food is phenomenal. From the plate of beautifully made petit fours on arrival to the Argentinian steak with rice on offer for everyone in the canteen for lunch, it’s a gastronomic joyride. The clever head of catering understands the balance between materials and labour and devises ambitious and creative menus that require limited prep time, leaving budget to splurge on quality produce to nourish the bodies (and epicurean souls) of delighted staff and pupils alike and enticing parents from miles around to sample the legendary match tea.

No personal devices are allowed in the boarding houses – ‘It’s so much more social without them and we make deeper bonds as there’s no second option,’ noted one astute pupil. Instead, children 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 – with a weekly bus returning children to the school on a Sunday afternoon.

School community at Dragon School

In terms of parental communication and building a strong and loyal community, Dragon is firing on all cylinders. Mrs Goldsmith and deputy head pastoral Kath Harvey both independently endorsed the value of transparent, informative and two-way conversation which typifies the ‘culture of openness’ that exists here. Mrs Harvey notes that ‘there has to be a partnership with parents, we offer practical advice from a non-judgmental place. We want to open up the conversation - we can learn from difficult conversations too but we are non-apologetic, this is what we do’ – and she’s right. These guys are most certainly the experts, more than happy to share every detail but confident that they have the experience to make the right choices.

A switched-on marketing department oversees clear and consistent weekly comms and has tripled the social media following in the past few years, using the best channels to inform current parents, educate potential newcomers and keep old dragons abreast of news and prompting a bit of positive nostalgia.

As well as helping parents gen up on learning methods and pertinent topics, Dragon has also invested in a ‘digital boundaries’ survey both as a way to understand the patterns and trends across year groups but also to help parents to set age-appropriate restrictions and know that others are doing the same – eliminating the ‘dinosaur parent’ accusations from children who will always have you believe that you are ‘the only ones’ who don’t allow it.

We were seriously impressed by the investment the school has made in understanding what parents want from them and offering back far more in return. But it’s a philosophy that has already paid dividends for the wider community too: ‘Philanthropy and partnership is a huge part of life here,’ says Mrs Goldsmith. Not only does the school partner with several local primaries inviting them to join Dragon QUEST programmes, offering best practice sharing and rostering parents to help readers, but the annual Dragon sale this year raised a phenomenal £130K for a mixture of local charities and the bursary fund.

Becoming a net zero school remains firmly on the agenda, with the caterers and maintenance team already zipping about in their electric vehicles and the music and performing arts centre that’s under construction has been designed with boatloads of eco-credentials.

Pupils at Dragon School represent 25 nationalities, so there’s a healthy diversity too, and a clutch of ‘transformative’ bursaries targeting local children – so do enquire.

And finally...

One of our charming pupil guides told us that they don’t have a head boy or head girl here as ‘no one is superior’. Instead ‘we all work in groups with others to achieve something’. It’s a perceptive observation and a fitting accolade. Every single child is valued as an individual, but the sum is perhaps even greater than its parts. It's a big school footprint with a small school feel and the Dragon has a real knack for building the confidence pupils need to thrive at senior school, but they’re often having so much fun they’re unaware of how much work they’re actually doing.

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  • 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


    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

    Year 1-
    Year 2-
    Year 3-
    Year 4£8,550
    Year 5£8,550
    Year 6£8,550
    Year 7£8,550
    Year 8 £8,550
    Boarding fees per term

    Year 1-
    Year 2-
    Year 3 -
    Year 4 £12,630
    Year 5 £12,630
    Year 6£12,630
    Year 7£12,630
    Year 8 £12,630

    The school aims to award up to five bursary places to pupils entering Year 4 each year. There are currently 26 bursary recipients in the school, and the award remains in place throughout the child’s time at the Dragon, with the level of fee reduction based on the particular circumstances of each applicant. The school looks at both financial criteria and the onward trajectory of any potential recipient, and the bursary committee will make awards to those most likely to benefit from the opportunities on offer. 

    They also offer discounts on full boarding fees to children of employees of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, the UN, and of those serving in the armed forces.

    Bursary contact:
    Registrar Kate Heath
  • 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: Josie Evans
  • 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.'
  • FAQs

    When was the Dragon School founded?
    The school was originally founded in 1877 as the Oxford Preparatory School, designed to educate the sons of Oxford University professors. After many years, the name changed to the Dragon School and was run by the Lynam family. 

    What notable alumni studied at the Dragon School?
    Having been open for many years, the Dragon School has seen many legends walk through their doors – including actor, activist and artist Emma Watson, British rower Tom George, and actor, comedian, presenter & writer Jack Whitehall.

School Updates

  • WATCH: Meet the Head

    WATCH: Meet the Head
  • WATCH: 10 Questions with Dragon pupils

    WATCH: 10 Questions with Dragon pupils
  • 10 Questions with Emma Goldsmith, head of the Dragon

    10 Questions with Emma Goldsmith, head of the Dragon
  • 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?

Dragon School is
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Bardwell Road, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX2 6SS

01865 315405


ISI Report


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