Hello from sunny Oxford,
two weeks ago we visited Oundle School, one of our partner schools we had not been to for a few years.
Oundle is without a shadow of doubt one of the most impressive English boarding schools we know. It excels academically, in sports, in music, in the arts and pastoral care.
However, the uncontested jewel in its crown is its SciTec center - an amazing combination of its science, maths, engineering and design departments under one roof.
The entrance to the school.
Oundle School is part of the small, picturesque market town Oundle, a two-hour drive from central London. With academic departments, playing fields and boarding houses sprinkled all over town, Oundle town and school merge seamlessly into one enormous school campus. Pupils frequent the town's shops to buy sweets in break-time and go for pizza in the local Italian restaurant on week-ends.
This combination of school and town giving pupils the chance to come up for air from a busy schedule of school and activities, always stikes us as very attractive.
Campus and town right next to each other: the language department (left) right next to Oundle Chapel.
Oundle's SciTec Center
The SciTec Center - simply amazing.
Oundle School decided a few years ago to combine its reknowned Patrick Engineering Center with its maths and natural sciences departments. The goal was to bring together academic disciplines to provide pupils with a hands-on science and engineering education to prepare them for the 21st century workplace. The resulting STEM campus, the SciTec Center is one of the best of ANY academic institution in the country.
The workshop where the magic happens
Our tour through the SciTec Center lived up to our sky-high expections. Anne, our lovely, enthusiastic guide, showed us around the Engineering Center first.
What we saw resembled more a high-tech engineering company a la Tesla than a school's academic department!
We saw pupils working on projects ranging from creating innovative furniture for tomorrow's workplace to building fully functioning electric vehicles out of their parents' defunct cars.
Pupils are supervised by six very passionate and helpful teachers. We were amazed though by how seasoned pupils were at handling the high-tech tools.
That's what school should be like!
A metal skull, project of a pupil
The technology at the pupils' disposal would probably make any UK engineering student green with envy: pupils freely use the latest cutting-edge computer run equipment, such as the CAD/CAM laser cutters, CNC milling machine and lathe, 3D printer and a computerised plasma cutter.
The pride and joy of the department: a plasma cutter, allowing pupils to create prototypes out of any material
A 3D printer in action
Rooms with a view: a typical Oundle chemistry lab
The natural sciences block held some further suprises in store for us. Pupils get access to electonic microscopes and windtunnel-technology for their biology and physics lesssons.
Some pupils we spoke to excitedly told us how hands on their sciences lessons are. We did not get the impression that they were taking all the amazing facilities at their disposal for granted.
An electronic miscroscope...
...that produces imagery like this!
The rest isn't half bad either!
It would be too easy to reduce Oundle to its STEM programme, however.
The wonderful arts department
We got access to Oundle's Arts Department, which to our surprise, was not integrated into the SciTec Campus. The space, teachers and facilities seemed great. But it was the quality of the pupils' art on display that stuck us most.
Here are some examples:
So expressive - a screaming mask made from plaster
A leguan made from bronze
Languages are also going from strength to strength at Oundle with seven languages including Russian, Arabic and Chinese on offer. All bar Arabic can be taken at A level.
As you would expect from a high-calibre boarding school like Oundle, sports plays a central role in everyday school life. In fact, the Next Big Thing at Oundles will be the new sports center to be opened at the end of 2019. Mr Grewcock, the Head of Sports told us he wants to build on Oundle’s undoubted sporting strengths in rugby, cricket, hockey, swimming and netball, develop rowing, and focus on other activities such as dance and cycling.
A harp case in the school's buzzling music department
And lest we forget, the music department seemed very lively and up to good things! 80% of pupils play instruments at Oundle. Orchestras, jazz bands, several choirs and rock bands ensure that everyone gets a chance to perform here.
Music galore! From the tuba ensemble to the chapel choir, Oundle offers an amazing range.
Full Boarding, no compromises.
Oundle School is bucking a trend. Due to a decrease in demand, many boarding schools are introducing flexi boarding. Not Oundle - out of a school population of 1100, a whopping 860 pupils are full boarders.
Boarders are housed in eight boys and six girls houses distributed around town. Pupils eat in their boarding house. This gives teachers and house parents regular opportunities to check in with pupils to gauge their well being. All boarding houses have their own catering teams. We tasted the food in cozy Berrystead House: chicken and fries, followed by chocolate cake. Very yummy!
Oundle is the kind of school that made us wish we could go back to school. Simple as that. For anyone interested in the sciences, engineering, design and the arts, this school is very well worth a visit!
A few facts about Oundle School:
- 82 per cent A/A at I/GCSE in 2017 and 53 per cent A/A at A level/Pre-U
- Most favoured A level subjects are maths, chemistry, history, biology,
- Core strengths: STEM, sports, the arts pastoral care
- Boarding fees £27,030- £35,565 pa
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