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St Hugh's, Oxon Faringdon, Oxfordshire Visit
St Hugh's, Oxon
343 pupils, ages 3-13
Day and Boarding

St Hugh's, Oxon

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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. 


Down a long drive tucked off the A420, St Hugh’s is about 25 minutes from both Oxford and Swindon – each are an hour’s train journey to central London. The school’s Jacobean main building, once the family home of actor David Niven, sits front and centre, with modern classrooms and additions to the back. Hats off to the groundspeople – this is one of the tidiest, most immaculately kept schools we’ve been to.


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 St Hugh’s 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. 


St Hugh’s has a healthy waiting list, but entry is possible into any year group if there are spaces. 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. Please note, there’s no sibling discount, although they do give priority entry to those with siblings already in the school whenever possible. Fee assistance is available to qualifying families – up to as much as 100 per cent of fees. St Hugh’s also offers a discount of 15 per cent to armed forces families. 

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.

The exit list is impressive: a record 26 scholarships were awarded by senior schools last year. But it’s not all about the superstars, as the school has a 100 per cent success rate at Common Entrance and first-choice school entry. These include usual suspects Eton, Harrow and Cheltenham Ladies’, but also Radley, St Mary’s Calne, Magdalen College School, Malvern, Abingdon, St Helen’s and St Katherine, Winchester, Rugby, St Edward’s, Oxford, and Cheltenham College. 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.


The sports hall has been stunningly extended and refurbished in the past year, with the addition of a 20-metre indoor pool. 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. A highlight this year was the equestrian team’s qualification for the National Championships later this year. 

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. Rounders has been phased out in favour of cricket, and lacrosse has received a huge boost in the past few years. 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 notables like Harrow, Malvern, Radley, Abingdon and Rugby schools. 

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) that have included Oliver!, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Honk! in recent years. St Hugh’s offers Lamda training, and selected pupils rehearse the whole school year to take part in the Shakespeare Schools Festival. 

A dozen bands, ensembles and teatime concerts ensure music is part of the 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.


Thoroughly popular and much encouraged, boarding here is also very flexible. Pupils can weekly-board from Monday to Friday, flexi-board regular nights a week or do occasional one-offs if there’s space. Wednesday and Friday nights are the most coveted as they often involve off-site activities. 

All-boarding is in the Manor House, and while the girls’ rooms have been recently revamped, the boys’ side looks a little more tired. Houseparents Jessica and Jack Avery (a former pupil) are very much visible throughout the day, feeding their own little ones at pupil breakfast in the morning and supervising smaller boarders’ prep in their flat, with Labrador Mazzi curled up under the big dining table. 

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. 

There are few international pupils; this is very much a 'country' school, with families tending to come from within a 25-mile radius in Oxfordshire and east Gloucestershire. 

And finally...

This is a tightly woven school community with high levels of pitching in and 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 fete, plus backstage donkey work and committed fundraising for Oxfordshire charities. Being a fairly rural school, the school does tend to be the hub of the social wheel, and parents looking for an international flavour might be better suited elsewhere, but for a halcyon, all-round, English prep-school experience, St Hugh’s is hard to beat.

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St Hugh's, Oxon gallery image
St Hugh's, Oxon gallery image
St Hugh's, Oxon gallery image
St Hugh's, Oxon gallery image
St Hugh's, Oxon gallery image
St Hugh's, Oxon gallery image
St Hugh's, Oxon gallery image
St Hugh's, Oxon gallery image
St Hugh's, Oxon gallery image
St Hugh's, Oxon gallery image
St Hugh's, Oxon gallery image
St Hugh's, Oxon gallery image
  • 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


    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
    All Rounder2 Bryanston, St Edward's

  • Fees and bursaries

    Day fees per term

    Year 1£4,470
    Year 2£4,470
    Year 3£6,500
    Year 4£6,500
    Year 5£7,065
    Year 6£7,065
    Year 7£7,065
    Year 8£7,065
    Boarding fees per term

    Year 1-
    Year 2-
    Year 3£7,885
    Year 4£7,885
    Year 5£8,450
    Year 6£8,450
    Year 7£8,450
    Year 8£8,450

    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:

    Bursary contact:
    Bursar Mr Alistair Hamilton
  • 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 Alexandra Lord
  • 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


Carswell Manor, Faringdon, Oxfordshire SN7 8PT

01367 870700


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