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

St Hugh's

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Our view

A warm and thriving co-ed prep school for day and boarding pupils from three to 13, St Hugh’s is set in 45 acres of gently rolling south Oxfordshire countryside, with glorious views south to the Ridgeway. A cheerfully non-selective school, it nevertheless produces excellent results and a high scholarship strike rate from its 350 happy and polite pupils, who whizz about in one of the smartest school uniforms we’ve seen. Founded in 1906, it is small enough to feel cosy, but large enough not to feel cloyingly close. Being kind and mucking in is the order of the day here.

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, sits front and centre – and 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 building with a playground. The pre-prep is in a converted stable next door. It’s all surrounded by a spread of well-kept pitches and extensive woodland, where children head out for the immensely popular forest school. Hats off to the groundspeople – this is one of the tidiest, most immaculately kept schools we’ve visited.

Head

James Thompson took the tiller from the widely admired Andrew Nott in 2019. Independent schools are something of a family business, Mr Thompson says: ‘My life has always been ruled by three terms and a bell.’ Dryly humorous, he is an avid skier and music lover – and his great height and affection for pink trousers make him hard to miss around the school.

Formerly head at Royal Russell Junior School in Croydon and deputy head at Ardingly College in West Sussex, Mr Thompson describes St Hugh’s as a place filled with those ‘really willing to go the extra mile for each other. The pastoral care is phenomenal and goes above and beyond what you’d expect.’ He is committed to keeping pupil numbers as they are, and keen to revamp the dining space and introduce more technology in upper-school learning. We’ve heard many stories of his personal kindness to both pupils and parents.

Admissions

St Hugh’s has a healthy waiting list, but entry is possible into any year group if there are spaces (Reception and Year 3 remain the most popular entrance points). This is a proudly non-selective school: 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 undertaken. There is some 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. Pupils mentioned how understanding teachers were if homework was forgotten or a games sock missing. ‘It’s not a stressful place at all,’ they said. The school’s wellbeing plan, which took 18 months to implement, won an award last year 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.

We were hugely impressed with the shiny new ICT suite, where pupils were getting to grips with coding, animation and programming, and the main building’s Dovecot has recently been transformed into a super-cool new library that’s like something straight out of Hogwarts.

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 terrier Izzy. Lisa Davies, who heads up the department, is impressive – and works in tandem with both the academic and boarding teams to ensure a fully holistic approach.

Results are superb and the exit list impressive, but this is no hothouse. Instead, learning at St Hugh’s is all about making sure children leave well prepared for the future and excited to move on for the next stage – ‘If they’re not, we haven’t done our job properly,’ says Mr Thompson. 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 first-choice school entry. These include Eton, Harrow, St Edward’s Oxford and Cheltenham Ladies’, as well as Radley, Tudor Hall, Malvern, Abingdon, Winchester, Rugby 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 hall has been stunningly extended and refurbished in the past year (it now comfortably fits the whole school for events), with the addition of a 20-metre indoor pool (where synchronised swimming and water polo are popular). Facilities include a floodlit Astro, seven tennis/netball courts, cricket nets, five rugby pitches, football/hockey pitches and a cross-country route through surrounding woodland. Quirkier options include synchronised swimming, water polo and horse riding.

Everyone plays sport here – there’s nowhere to hide if you’re not keen on getting muddy. Sport is five times a week, and Wednesday-afternoon matches for Years 4 to 8 are compulsory; the amazing teas encourage parental attendance even on the rainiest days. Best of all, every child gets a spot in a team. Rounders has been replaced by cricket, and lacrosse has received a huge boost in recent years. When we visited, the Year 8s had just returned jubilant from snagging second place in the IAPS hockey tournament.

Girls in Year 7 and 8 can join the biennial Barbados netball tour, competing against local schools and clubs; boys go on a similar cricket tour in alternate years. Sports scholarships have recently been awarded from Harrow, Malvern, Radley, Abingdon 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 staged at a professional theatre. St Hugh’s offers Lamda training, and selected pupils rehearse the whole school year to take part in the Shakespeare Schools Festival – which recently involved a full performance of A Midsummers Night’s Dream out in the beautiful school grounds.

A dozen bands, ensembles and teatime concerts ensure music is part of everyday life at the school, and the selective chamber choir goes on tour every spring to destinations such as Venice and Athens. Every two years in June there is a massive whole-school picnic concert held in the Rose Garden, and in alternate years teachers go glam at the St Hugh’s Rocks concert held in the Barn. Well over 50 per cent of pupils learn an instrument too.

We poked our nose into the new, 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 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, flexi-board regular nights a week or do occasional one-offs if there’s space; from Year 7 upwards, most 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 movie 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), and while the girls’ rooms have been recently revamped, the boys’ side looks a little more tired. New houseparents Kevin and Harriet Perry-Evans have just arrived from Bromsgrove – 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 spoke to 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. And they sometimes do squid!’

Pre-prep pupils (Reception to Year 2) 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, most of which are included in the fees. Day children can stay on afterwards 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. That said, thanks to St Hugh’s brilliant online-learning response during lockdown, more and more London parents looking for a less pressurised environment for their child are registering their interest.

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.

Crucially, we were hugely impressed by each and every pupil we met on our visit – incredibly friendly, welcoming and with a degree of maturity that spoke volumes.

And finally...

For a halcyon, all-round English prep-school experience, St Hugh’s is hard to beat.

Gallery See All

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  • Senior school destinations

    Senior school destinations

    Abingdon - 5 Bloxham - 1 Bradfield - 1 Bryanston - 1 Cheltenham College - 6 Cokethorpe - 2 Dean Close - 1 Eton - 4 Headington - 3 Kingshill - 1 Marlborough - 4 Our Lady’s Abingdon - 1 Magdalen College School - 1 Oakham - 1 Radley - 1 Rugby - 1 St Helen & St Katharine - 1 St Mary’s Calne - 6 St Edward’s - 4 Stowe - 1 Wellington - 1

  • Scholarships for senior schools

    Scholarships

    Academic9Abingdon, Cheltenham College, Dean Close, Magdalen College School, Radley, St Mary's Calne, St Edward's
    Music1 Rugby
    Sport5 Abingdon, Cheltenham College, OLA, St Mary's Calne
    Art0
    DT0
    All Rounder2 Bryanston, St Edward's


  • Fees and bursaries

    Day fees per term

    Nursery-
    Reception£4,185
    Year 1£4,570
    Year 2£4,570
    Year 3£6,645
    Year 4£6,645
    Year 5£7,225
    Year 6£7,225
    Year 7£7,225
    Year 8£6,645
    Boarding fees per term

    Nursery-
    Reception-
    Year 1-
    Year 2-
    Year 3£8,060
    Year 4£6,645
    Year 5£8,640
    Year 6£8,640
    Year 7£8,640
    Year 8£8,640




    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. For more information and the bursar’s contact details, please go to:

    st-hughs.co.uk/admissions/bursaries

    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 we 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. We work 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. Our 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
    Our recent Wellbeing for Schools accreditation was a whole community team effort. The award confirms how important we feel 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 us 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. We 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 our six school values at the core; kindness, respect, independence, collaboration, courage and curiosity, we emphasise how important it is for pupils to share successes and their worries. An important life skill that we try to instil is the ability to manage success and failure and not to be afraid of either. 'Resilience' is our buzz word and we are constantly looking for ways to promote it in our everyday lives. With all pastoral matters, we 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. We follow a strict anti-bullying policy, which is published in pupils’ prep diaries, in all classrooms and on our school website. Through their School Council representatives, the children have written in age-appropriate language what our 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. We understand that children need help to manage a busy schedule whilst being in control of their emotions and developing self-confidence. Our 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: Mrs Lisa Davies daviesl@st-hughs.co.uk
  • Transport links


    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: St Hugh's from home - a message from our pupils

  • WATCH: You're on mute!

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

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

  • 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.
  • WATCH: St Hugh's virtual tour

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


Open Days

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



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