Magdalen College School Oxford, Oxfordshire
Magdalen College School
Oxford
786 pupils, ages 11-18
All-boys (mixed sixth form)
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Magdalen College School

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Our view

Ah, lovely Oxford: a city synonymous with blockbuster architecture, yonks of tradition and quite frankly intimidating heights of intellect. Little wonder, then, that it’s the setting for one of the brainiest schools in the country, educating the South East’s brightest buttons all the way from seven to 18. Boys have been coming here for more than half a millennium and girls started arriving in the sixth form just over a decade ago, marking the beginning of a brand-new chapter for this historic school. With its terrifically privileged position at the heart of one of the world’s leading universities, and a magic connection to the Oxford college with which it shares its name, this is the school to come to for an extraordinarily superb education on a par with Westminster or St Paul’s – for a fraction of the cost.

Where?

Smack-bang in the middle of the city, sandwiched between Magdalen College and Christ Church meadow, MCS’s location is a real stunner. The oldest and prettiest parts of the school – built from golden syrupy Oxford stone – back right onto the banks of the River Cherwell and from here, it’s a quick saunter over a white-painted bridge to what must be the world’s most idyllic sports fields, marooned in the middle of the river overlooking the university Botanic Garden with both Tom and Magdalen Towers in view. Head deeper into the senior school and an amalgam of architectural eras makes things a little more schooly and austere, but it’s well worth having a snoop around the mega new Richard Record sixth-form centre, which opened to much fanfare last year.

Head

Helen Pike is the school’s first female master in its 540-year history and, boy, is she brilliant. She’d always had her eye on the job and her ties to the city run deep: she’s got a modern history degree from Christ Church, her partner was senior proctor at Oxford and two of her stepsons were pupils here. Tall, ridiculously glamorous and great fun, she’s a formidable character too: highly intellectual, a fantastic speaker and blessed with an astonishing knack for bringing together interesting people.

She’s got heaps of experience at high-flying schools (her CV includes stints at Westminster, City of London School and St Paul’s before a headship at South Hampstead High School) and everyone quite clearly adores her. Tim Skipwith oversees the day-to-day running of the junior school – a cosy, gentle introduction to the main event that shares grounds, facilities and specialist staff with the senior school.

Admissions

Once you’re into the junior school at 7+, there’s a fairly rock-solid guarantee of a place the whole way up to 18, so it’s worth trying your luck early on. Everyone sits a rigorous exam and those that make the grade are invited back a few weeks later for an interview with the head. If you’re looking at senior-school entry, 11+ is the main intake, with roughly four times the number of places up for grabs as those offered at 13+ (when entry is via CE). That said, the 11+ entry test doubles up as the 13+ pre-test (and 40 or so boys from the junior school are likely to snaffle up half the spots), so it’s only the very strongest academically that’ll secure a place.

This isn’t the type of school anyone can just blag their way into: boys need to show an enquiring mind, varied interests and serious academic prowess. Girls arrive for the heavily oversubscribed sixth form (they need six or more A*s at GCSE but, in reality, most aim way above that); the majority are defectors from local single-sex day schools like Headington and Oxford High.

Academics and university destinations

Unashamedly academic, Magdalen rarely drops below the top 10 in the national league tables. Everyone studies for 10 GCSEs and in the sixth form, four A-levels are the norm (or five, if you throw in further maths). Last year’s results were a stupendous 96 per cent A*-B – pity those who let the side down. It doesn’t bother with subjects that won’t score points with the top universities (so no photography or psychology on offer), and classroom work is complemented with a dizzying array of societies, reading groups, debates and lectures from visiting speakers drawn from Oxford’s stupidly brainy gene pool.

Weekly ‘Lilium’ sessions tackle sensible stuff like business and enterprise, statistics, tax and how to apply for a mortgage, with modules in public speaking and research. And alongside the small matter of A-levels, these star sixth-formers somehow find the time to knuckle down to MCS’ very own version of the EPQ, the Waynflete Studies: a 5,000-word, independently researched topic on any topic they like – whether that’s post-quantum cryptography (eh?) or phantom limb pain. Everyone finds a tutor from the university to supervise them (often a world expert), with findings presented in front of a kick-ass academic panel. Little wonder this lot bagged an astounding 41 Oxbridge places last year.

Co-curricular

Top-level ex-professionals have been brought into the sports department to give standards a boost and competition has been gathering pace against big-gun rivals such as Eton, Radley and Abingdon. Rugby is huge and football is on the up (dare we say it, the girls are even starting to outperform the boys), and although there’s plenty of rowing, it’s not as popular as you might think (sailing seems to be the water-based sport of choice here).

There’s no shortage of space or facilities. As well as those picture-perfect aforementioned pitches, pupils use the university’s Iffley Road Sports Centre, share Christ Church, Magdalen and Merton’s playing fields and have their own cricket nets, tennis courts and sports hall on site.

With 16 angelic young choristers of its own, Magdalen has a longstanding choral tradition and music and the arts are a bumper part of school life. Pupils perform Shakespeare from punts on the Cherwell, stage Greek epics at the Oxford Playhouse, produce a full-scale musical each year and spend summer stints at the Edinburgh Fringe. The MCS-founded Oxford Festival of the Arts – a two-week extravaganza of workshops, concerts, recitals, masterclasses and art exhibitions – is the highlight on the school calendar and draws an impressive star-studded line-up of speakers, playwrights and authors including Louis de Bernières, Germaine Greer and Tom Attenborough.

Clubs run the gamut from hillwalking to medieval reading, while an excellent community outreach programme sees sixth-formers heading out into the city each week to mentor pupils in local state schools, work in charity shops or lend a hand in care homes.

School community

Some might worry that life at MCS sounds a little too all-consuming, but we were struck by the tremendous sense of community here. There are no lessons on a Saturday (weekends are reserved for family time) and pupils are split into houses based on where they live, so friendships follow suit (music to the ears of school-run- weary mums). Fees are kept enviably low to help out the squeezed middle and the parent body is emphatically more Oxford academic than Chipping Norton set (read: diverse, hardworking and a little bit geeky).

Pupils will travel; some come from as far afield as Cheltenham and Swindon and one or two even commute from London. We suspect most aren’t quite as streetwise as their peers in the capital (we don’t get the impression there are many problems with drink and drugs at the school) but, wow, are they on track for amazing things.

And finally...

You’ve got to be a razor-sharp superstar to thrive here, but for the right child what Magdalen offers is second to none. We’d say it feels more like a junior university than a school – and with all the remarkable things going on, we think those Oxford dons better watch their backs…
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  • Academic results

    GCSE results
    A level results
    Download results as PDF
  • University destinations

    In 2020:

    26% of leavers went on to Oxford or Cambridge university.
    62% of leavers went on to a Russell Group university.
    1% of leavers went on to an American university.
    1% of leavers went on to an overseas university.
  • Subjects offered

    GCSE

    Ancient Greek
    Art & Design
    Biology
    Chemistry
    Computer Science
    Economics
    English Language
    English Literature
    French
    Geography
    German
    Government and Politics
    History
    Latin
    Mandarin
    Mathematics
    Music
    Physics
    Religious Studies
    Spanish
    Classics

    A Level

    Ancient Greek
    Art & Design
    Biology
    Chemistry
    Computer Science
    Economics
    English Language
    English Literature
    French
    Geography
    German
    Government and Politics
    History
    Latin
    Mandarin
    Mathematics
    Music
    Philosophy
    Physics
    Religious Studies
    Spanish
    Computer Science
    Classics
    German
    Politics
    Theology
  • Fees and bursaries

    Day fees per term

    Year 7£6,313
    Year 8£6,313
    Year 9£6,313
    Year 10£6,313
    Year 11£6,313
    Year 12£6,313
    Year 13£6,313




    Bursaries
    Magdalen’s bursary provision is open to senior-school applicants at any point of entry and offers means-tested support of up to 100 per cent of fees. The school assesses the need itself and might conduct house visits as part of the application process. Fee support, if granted, is on a sliding scale against income and perceived need and is reassessed annually.

    mcsoxford.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/0.1-Bursary-Financial-Assistance-With-Fees-new-and-renewal-2019-20-updated.pdf

    mcsoxford.org/admissions/fees-scholarships-bursaries

    Bursary contact:
    Bursar Mrs Alexandra West
    bursar@mcsoxford.org
  • SEND

    This school currently supports the following kinds of learning needs, health needs and physical disabilities:
    The School recognises that many pupils need extra help with particular aspects of their learning at some stage in their school career. SEN provision is co-ordinated by a Head of Learning support, who oversees provision in the Senior and Junior schools. The learning support department is centrally placed, well-resourced and provides regular assessment and testing. The department provides one-to-one teaching sessions as necessary, and there is close communication between tutors, parents and teachers. MCS has a dedicated EAL co-ordinator to support pupils for whom English is an additional language, and we engage an independent Educational Psychologist to conduct assessments for pupils who require them. A high priority is placed on providing the best possible support for pupils with special educational needs, and thoughtfully devised Individual Education Plans are in place for all pupils on the Learning Support roll.

    This school currently provides the following support for pupils' mental health needs
    All pupils have access to a Registered Mental Health Nurse (RMN) and two school counsellors. Pupils can visit the Medical Centre at any time to discuss mental health needs and do not require a referral.

    Co-ordinator: Dr Scott Crawford scrawford@mcsoxford.org
  • Transport links

    School Transport
    School daily bus network

    Public Transport
    Nearest London tube station: N/A
    Nearest mainline train station: Oxford
    Nearest London Overground station: N/A
    Journey time to London by train: 55 minutes
    Nearest international airport: Heathrow (44 miles)


  • Parents tell us

    ‘The academic reputation of the school was second to none in Oxford. It combined a great academic education with a fun atmosphere. The diversity of the pupils was very impressive and a big factor in our choice. The teachers also provide such enthusiasm for their subjects that we were very keen for our sons to be their pupils.

    I thought the admissions process was very professional and considerate of my sons' abilities, emotions and happiness. They made the exam day feel not too stressful and the interview was very professional and friendly. My sons are twins: Magdalen was very careful to give the right feedback to the right child after the interview (unlike one of the other schools, they did not mix the feedback up) – this gave us confidence that they really care about the children as individuals.

    The headteacher is excellent – she combines professionalism and academic prowess with humour, leadership and aspiration. She is an excellent female role model in a boys' school and gave me every confidence my boys would do well in a school run under her leadership.

    Mr Hemingway was an excellent head of lower school and really made the boys feel welcome when they joined and encouraged resilience to the inevitable temporary loss of mislaid games kit and keeping up with the different lessons with different books in different parts of school.

    Mr Thomas as head of house was an inspiration to both boys with his focus on 'panache' and drama.

    Mr Whelan had an excellent way of making maths hard but incredibly fun and stretching. Many an evening meal has been spent discussing game theory and probability.

    Mr McDonald was an excellent advocate for Latin for both boys and they thoroughly enjoyed lessons with him, and his support and encouragement in putting together the team in the National Literature Quiz was a great experience for my son.

    Miss Smith has been excellent in supporting both sons to find the sport they enjoy and excel at and enabling them to be the best they can be in this.

    The school communicates very well with parents at all times – they are careful not to overload with information, keep it in a central location, provide regular updates and were very helpful with communicating and motivating pupils and parents in the initial lockdown period when the school had to close for the majority of pupils.

    I feel very involved with both my sons' education – the regular parents' evenings have been an excellent opportunity to learn more about the syllabus. The remote lessons and exams during lockdown were a challenge for pupils, parents and staff but they worked and the children managed to learn successfully and are very glad to be back at school now, learning with their friends in an environment that helps them understand so much.

    Overall, the pastoral care has been excellent and the school very much knows both my children well and helps them to look after their own wellbeing. The usher is excellent, as is Mr Hemingway.

    I feel that the way the school prepares not only the academic content but also the teaching of study skills and exam techniques is a great help to prepare my sons for their next stage of education. They thoroughly enjoy school and enjoy learning, which means they are engaged and curious about their next stages of education.

    Yes, I would say the school community is quite close-knit. The use of Classlist really helps new parents get to know each other and to join in with parent social events, which have always been great fun. The initial induction day that parents attended with their children was an excellent way to meet parents from the same house, and we have remained good friends with those we met and arranged social events accordingly. We have also met several new families at social events, so I believe the community is welcoming to new families too.

    Magdalen has lived up to all my expectations; it is an excellent school in so very many ways.

    I think the only thing I would suggest prior to joining is that Magdalen could do more of a sales approach with local feeder schools. I feel Magdalen could really market some of its key strengths, such as its diversity, sense of fun and promotion of individuality – and their humour, which brings people together to meet challenges like Covid head on and with a smile to keep people's spirits up.

    Magdalen is an excellent school and I am so happy both my sons are there.’

School Updates

  • Primary pupils equipped with laptops thanks to Magdalen College School fundraising campaign

    Magdalen College School, Oxford has equipped families in need from three Oxford primary schools with laptops and data access in a bid to tackle digital poverty exacerbated by Covid19.
  • Schools Going the Extra Mile in the Time of Covid

  • WATCH: Magdalen College School Aerial Tour

  • WATCH: 10 Questions with Helen Pike, Master of Magdalen College School

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Magdalen College School is
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Essentials

Address
Cowley Place, Oxford , Oxfordshire OX4 1DZ

Contact
enquiries@mcsoxford.org
01865 242191

Website
mcsoxford.org

ISI Report

Fees

Term Dates


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