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St Hugh's School
St Hugh's School
St Hugh's School
St Hugh's School
top 200
St Hugh's School Faringdon, Oxfordshire Visit
school
St Hugh's School
Faringdon
348 pupils, ages 3-13
Mixed
Day and Boarding

St Hugh's School

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Our view

St Hugh’s is nothing short of a belter. Beautiful surroundings, fantastic facilities, a great academic record and top-drawer pastoral care are all enveloped in this genuinely warm and energetic school, which left us with quite a spring in our step. It’s cheerfully non-selective but has excellent results and an impressive scholarship strike rate. Most notably, the pupils struck as some of the most naturally amiable, engaging, perceptive and respectful we’ve ever met.

Where?

Down a long drive tucked off the A420, St Hugh’s is about 25 minutes from Oxford and Swindon, which are an hour’s train journey from central London. The school’s Jacobean main building – once the family home of actor David Niven – makes for a serious first impression.

A clutch of modern classrooms and additions sit to the back, while the nursery is housed in its own cottage with a playground. The pre-prep building next door was once the stable block to the Manor House. It’s all surrounded by a spread of well-kept pitches and extensive woodland, where children head out for the immensely popular forest school. The school flows brilliantly (a mixture of good fortune and good planning), and the atmosphere hits that sweet spot between spacious and familial. Hats off to the estates team – this is one of the tidiest, most immaculately kept schools we’ve visited.

Head

New head David Griffiths, along with his wife Becky and their three children, arrived at St Hugh’s in September 2023, fresh from his previous post as head of Old Buckenham Hall School in Suffolk. He wasn’t actively seeking a new challenge, but a top spot at the thriving St Hugh’s was too good an opportunity to miss, with scope for considerable ambition and growth and a hugely supportive body of staff, parents, and governors. 

An eminently reassuring character, Mr Griffiths is relaxed and well qualified, with 25 years of experience across both prep and senior schools under his belt. How has he managed to hit the ground running with such ease? ‘I found the right school,’ he answered without hesitation. ‘It’s been a smooth transition because the marriage between the school and myself is the right one, and everyone has a desire for this to work, which has made it easy.’ 

He has made himself very available from the get-go, greeting parents and children at the front door every morning, teaching a Year 7 and 8 PSHE class, getting out and about at breaktimes and converting the weekly headteacher’s blog into a more inviting video format. ‘Schooling is more powerful with positive parental partnerships,’ Mr Griffiths firmly believes. ‘If we develop trust from day one, parents will feel that they can be free to scrutinise us where necessary, but they will also believe the answers.’ 

Mr Griffiths is very proud of the variety of schools that pupils fly on to, but success reaches far beyond these walls – for this head, it’s far more about the children’s attitudes and characters. He wants every leaver to be engaged and outward-looking and to reflect on their formative years here as contributing positively to the way they view their world. After all, ‘successful people will be the ones who can engage, be human and be empathetic’.

Admissions

St Hugh’s has a healthy waiting list, but entry is possible in any year group if there are spaces (Reception and Year 3 remain the most popular entrance points). This is a proudly non-selective school, although children are assessed throughout to ensure that they can continue to access the full breadth of the curriculum and make the most of everything St Hugh’s has to offer. Sign up for an open day to look around and meet the head, after which a conditional offer may be made and a taster day offered. There is light assessment for anyone looking to join at Year 3 and up, but it’s for setting purposes only.

Academics and senior school destinations

The phase-out of Saturday school for Years 5 to 8 a few years ago means weekdays are long, with lessons not wrapping up until 4.40pm. But several pupils we spoke to noted that everything was ‘very well thought through’, from making the best of each day to ‘no-prep night’ on Wednesdays in case pupils are late back from away fixtures. ‘It’s not a stressful place at all,’ they told us – and indeed, the school’s wellbeing plan (which took 18 months to implement) won an award from the National Children’s Bureau.

The brightest pupils are well supported with a scholarship set from Year 7. Latin is taught from Year 5, French from pre-prep, and we hear that the cooking lessons in D&T are superb. CE is, we’re assured, here to stay in the core subjects, but the school has recently adopted the ISEB Project Qualification too.

Pupils don’t currently use their own devices, even at the senior end (although anyone needing laptops for learning support can borrow them for lessons as necessary). But being tech-savvy is important here, and children routinely use laptops for lessons where it enhances learning, as well as getting to grips with coding, animation and programming in the very well-equipped ICT suite.

Independent learning is taught and supported from nursery, but it really blooms in Years 3 and 4 in the form of the fabulous Take One project, centring around an exhibit from the Ashmolean Museum that pupils can then explore and celebrate in their own way – from model-making to cooking or creating a video newsreel. It’s creative learning with sufficient bandwidth to ignite a spark for everyone, whatever their interests.

Facilities are age-appropriate and tailored to make pupils want to learn. The lower-school libraries are bedecked with brightly coloured displays, while the older children use the newly renovated, cool, serenely lit and almost university-style Dovecot library, with beautifully designed Perspex shelving revealing the stone-clad walls behind and pupil-made ceramic doves tucked into nooks and alcoves.

Learning support is taken seriously – pupils are welcome to drop in to the SEND hub whenever they wish, even if it’s just for a cuddle with resident puppy Enzo. Simon Tomlinson, the ultra-approachable head of learning support, makes it clear that it’s ‘strategies, not labels’ that matter here. Pupils we spoke to were genuinely proud to be reaping the rewards of top-up support where needed, and children are keenly encouraged to take ownership of their learning, working through different approaches to see what works best for them.

Results are superb and the exit list impressive, but this is no hothouse. Instead, learning at St Hugh’s is all about making sure that children leave well prepared for the future and excited to move on to the next stage. There’s always a serious haul of scholarships, but it’s not all about the superstars – the school has a 100 per cent success rate at Common Entrance and a high acceptance rate into first-choice school schools. These include Eton, Wellington, Marlborough, St Edward’s Oxford and Cheltenham College, as well as Radley, Tudor Hall, Headington, Abingdon, Winchester, Rugby, Downe House and St Mary’s Calne. There’s a fair split between day and boarding senior-school destinations, with families now looking further afield to schools in Dorset and the Midlands.

Co-curricular

The sports complex has been stunningly extended and refurbished, with a cavernous sports hall complete with cricket nets used by Oxfordshire County at the weekends (and which comfortably fits the whole school for events). A recent addition is the impressive 20-metre indoor pool, which allows swimming to be part of the PE curriculum from Nursery to Year 8 (and the boarders to enjoy an occasional pool party). Facilities include a floodlit Astro, seven tennis/netball courts, cricket nets, five rugby pitches, football/hockey pitches and several age-appropriate cross-country routes through surrounding woodland. The latter sees pupils take part in the twice-termly cross-country challenge, with plaudits going to the runners who have improved the most rather than crossed the line first. 

Everyone plays sport here – there’s nowhere to hide if you’re not keen on getting muddy. Years 3 to 8 have sport five times a week, and everyone gets to be in a team and represent the school in weekly inter-school matches; the amazing teas encourage parental attendance even on the rainiest days.  As well as the usual team sports, there is a big range of other options on offer in PE and in after-school club time, including lacrosse, gymnastics, fencing, judo, street dance and water polo.

Boys and girls in Year 7 and 8 can join the biennial Barbados netball and cricket tours, competing against local schools and clubs; boys go on a similar cricket tour in alternate years. Pupils reguarly bag sports scholarships to senior schools, most recently to Radley, Marlborough, Abingdon, Headington, Cheltenham College and Rugby.

Music and drama have flourished over the past decade, with the spring-term Year 7 musical fusing departments to produce all-hands-on-deck shows such as the recent Matilda, which played to audiences of 300 a night at Radley College's theatre. In the summer term, children in Year 3 and 4 perform their own musical in 'The Barn', the school's cosy theatre space, whilst a selected cast perform each year in the Shakespeare Schools Festival. LAMDA training is available as a club. 

About 70 per cent of pupils play an instrument, and a dozen bands, ensembles and teatime concerts ensure music is part of everyday life. There are multiple choirs catering for children of all ages, with the senior choir going on a tour every spring to destinations such as Venice and Athens. Every two years in June, there is a massive whole-school picnic concert held on the main lawn, with a repertoire mixing classical with pop – and culminating in an exuberant performance by the staff band.

We poked our nose into the wonderfully light art block, which was overflowing with pupils’ work (the teachers got a say in the design of the space, meaning it’s practical as well as pretty) – and a good number of children go on to win art scholarships.

Boarding

Thoroughly popular and much encouraged, boarding here is very flexible. From Year 3 upwards, pupils can weekly-board from Monday to Friday or flexi-board regular nights a week; from Year 7 upwards, many sleep over at least a couple of times a week. Wednesday and Friday nights are the most coveted, as they often involve off-site activities or hugely popular theme nights. On Saturday mornings, children head home after prep is done and dusted.

Everyone sleeps in the Manor House (complete with twisty-turny staircases, secret doors and amazing views). Houseparents Kevin and Harriet Perry-Evans have plenty of experience under their belts and their son is a pupil here, which only adds to the happy, family feel of the place.

Matrons are on hand 24 hours a day and gappies assist throughout the school with tea, prep and games. The pupils we met gave the food a huge thumbs-up, with one mentioning the amazing amount of choice: ‘They don’t keep doing the same thing over and over, and there’s always going to be something you like.’

All pupils, including pre-prep, may arrive as early as 8am and remain until 5.30pm. After-school activities run between 4.45pm and 5.30pm four days a week, and most of them are included in the fees. Day children can stay on for tea and prep with boarders, which ends at 7pm for middle school and 7.30pm for upper school.

School community

Pastoral care is exceptional – ‘One of the best bits of the school,’ said one parent we asked. There is a huge emphasis on kindness, consideration and emotional stability, and an excellent focus on wellbeing. Every child has timetabled wellbeing sessions with yoga, mindfulness, meditation and more.

This is very much a country school, with few international pupils – most families tend to come from within a 25-mile radius in Oxfordshire and East Gloucestershire, although there are an increasing number of enquiries from families escaping from London.

The school community is lovely and tight-knit, and there’s a palpably warm relationship between staff and parents. Friends of St Hugh’s puts considerable effort into helping with events such as the Christmas fair, Bonfire Night and the summer fête, plus backstage work and committed fundraising for Oxfordshire charities.

And finally...

For a halcyon, all-round English-prep-school experience, St Hugh’s is hard to beat. Pupils themselves spoke of a ‘it’s not about the result, it’s about how you play the game’ ethos in sports, high levels of support to explore their passions, the freedom to be themselves and healthy self-competition based on simply ‘doing your best’. The pupils at St Hugh’s really are the best advert for this powerhouse – and testament to the school’s clever blend of homely charm and altruistic ambition.

Gallery See All

Boys rugby team in a huddle with the posts behind them
Aerial view of St Hugh's Prep School
pupils in red blazers sitting on stone steps with a dog
The indoor pool at St Hugh's
girl in a white shirt and tie playing the violin
little boy in a navy blue St Hugh's polo shirt
three pupils in safety goggles and white coats in the science lab
little boy with blond hair peering into a glass cabinet at some shells
boy in navy waterproofs jumping covered in mud
  • Senior school destinations

    Senior school destinations

    Abingdon Bloxham Bradfield Bryanston Cheltenham College Cokethorpe Dean Close Eton Headington Marlborough Magdalen College School Radley Rugby St Helen & St Katharine St Mary’s Calne St Edward’s, Oxford Stowe Wellington College Winchester

  • Scholarships for senior schools

    Scholarships

    Academic9Abingdon, Cheltenham College, Dean Close, Magdalen College School, Radley, St Mary's Calne, St Edward's
    Music1 Rugby
    Drama1 Headington
    Sport5 Abingdon, Cheltenham College, OLA, St Mary's Calne
    Art1 St Edwards
    DT0
    All Rounder2 Bryanston, St Edward's


  • Fees and bursaries

    Day fees per term

    Nursery-
    Reception£4,830
    Year 1£5,280
    Year 2£5,280
    Year 3£7,500
    Year 4£7,500
    Year 5£8,350
    Year 6£8,350
    Year 7£8,350
    Year 8 £8,350
    Boarding fees per term

    Nursery-
    Reception-
    Year 1-
    Year 2-
    Year 3 £9,280
    Year 4 £9,280
    Year 5 £10,130
    Year 6£10,130
    Year 7£10,130
    Year 8 £10,130




    Bursaries
    St Hugh’s offers means-tested bursaries of up to 100 per cent of fees, with the possibility for additional support in exceptional circumstances (for example, assisting with the costs of uniform and school trips). These awards are conditional on a full financial history as well as an annual review.

    The school also offers bursaries to children of armed services personnel.


    Bursary contact:
    Bursar Mr Alistair Hamilton
    bursar@st-hughs.co.uk
  • SEND

    This school currently delivers the following interventions to pupils in class and outside class to support their learning, health and/or physical needs:
    Children with Special Educational Needs are welcome at St Hugh’s and they have an experienced Learning Support member of staff in each of the three stages of the school. These specialist teachers are responsible for planning and coordinating the provision for those pupils identified prior to entrance and also for those whose needs are ascertained as they move through the school. Learning Support sessions are tailored to meet the children’s needs. The school works very closely with both the English and Maths departments to support and reinforce the structured schemes which are in place.  Emphasis is placed on enabling the pupils to enjoy their learning, to achieve their potential and ultimately to become self-sufficient wherever possible. In addition to Learning Support lessons, classes are also helped as necessary by teaching assistants who encourage and support children in both literacy and numeracy. The Learning Support Department is an integral part of the school and is located in one of the main school buildings. There is an open door policy and all pupils including those on the Learning Support Register are encouraged to drop in at any time if they need guidance, support or reassurance.

    This school currently provides the following support for pupils' mental health needs
    Their recent Wellbeing for Schools accreditation was a whole community team effort. The award confirms how important the school feels wellbeing is for each individual but also that St Hugh's is a leading school with regard to pastoral care. The accreditation process provided many new opportunities for the school to focus on initiatives for promoting wellbeing such as, a moment of 'pause' before many lessons to encourage a sense of calm, training for staff on mental health issues in pupils, and supporting various national mental health awareness weeks. They also inform and offer guidance to parents on the latest research on mental health and the issues which children have to contend with - the latest of these have been on sleep and technology. With their six school values at the core; kindness, respect, independence, collaboration, courage and curiosity, they emphasise how important it is for pupils to share successes and their worries. An important life skill that they try to instil is the ability to manage success and failure and not to be afraid of either. 'Resilience' is their buzz word and they are constantly looking for ways to promote it in our everyday lives. With all pastoral matters, they follow a clear system for communication which enables key staff to be made aware of any issues. There are several pastoral staff meetings during the week, which further ensure that no issues are overlooked. The school follows a strict anti-bullying policy, which is published in pupils’ prep diaries, in all classrooms and on the school website. Through their School Council representatives, the children have written in age-appropriate language what the school's anti-bullying policy means to them and who they should turn to if they need to seek help. This is also published in their prep diaries. The school understands that children need help to manage a busy schedule whilst being in control of their emotions and developing self-confidence. Wellbeing lessons, delivered by a specialist teacher, provide opportunities to be calm and reflective and to self- regulate behaviour. These develop breathing, yoga, relaxation and meditation skills. Further opportunities to use and reinforce these skills in other lessons are identified by staff, who have had relevant wellbeing and mindfulness training.

    Co-ordinator: Mr Simon Tomlinson lshead@st-hughs.co.uk
  • Transport links

    School Transport
    School daily bus network

    Public Transport
    Nearest mainline train station: Didcot Parkway, Oxford, Oxford Parkway, Swindon
    Journey time to London by train: 50 minutes
    Nearest international airport: Heathrow (70 miles)


School Updates

  • WATCH: Talk Education's Country Preps Focus - St Hugh's Parent

    WATCH: Talk Education's Country Preps Focus - St Hugh's Parent
  • See St Hugh's 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 St Hugh's in our Country Preps Focus

St Hugh's School is
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Essentials

Address
Carswell Manor, Faringdon, Oxfordshire SN7 8PT

Contact
office@st-hughs.co.uk
01367 870700

Website
st-hughs.co.uk

ISI Report

Fees

Term Dates

Bursaries


Open Days

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

Experience Morning 10.00am - 12.30pm
09 March 2024


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