Magdalen College School

Logo of Magdalen College School

Pupils Info

Gender – Co-Ed School
Age range – Boys: 7-18, Girls: 16-18
Number of pupils on roll – 838 Pupils


Average Class Size: 24
Day School
Oxbridge Entrance Percentage: 29%
£16,275 per annum
A* to B at A-Level Percentage: 86%

Magdalen College School is one of the most over-subscribed schools in the country. This might have something to do with the near perfect results that the school has grown used to achieving; little is left to chance if you get one of the coveted spots. A third of MCS students go on to Oxbridge and 99.12% of grades at A Level are from A*-B, leaving little error margin. Yet the school is not all about the grades. Unsurprisingly for such an old place (the school was founded in 1480 by William Waynflete as part of Magdalen College), it is steeped in history. There is a school sport, Kingball, and an august tradition of supplying its university town with some of its top students. The buildings and grounds would be impressive on their own, but MCS enjoys such a strong relationship with Oxford University that these are subsidized by the many facilities of the surrounding colleges. That the school, which recently introduced girls for sixth form, is at the very top of its game is perhaps unsurprising given that their Master, Tim Hands, is the newly appointed Chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference.

Background and Reputation

There is no question but that Magdalen College School gets results: from the minute the students arrive (after fighting off some very serious competition to get one of the coveted spots) their noses are put firmly to the grindstone. Homework is not something that can be run off before supper, but often takes the form of a private investigation that can take all weekend. Though the school is certainly collegiate and serious in some respects, the very popular Arts Festival that takes place at the end of the Trinity Term, bears testament to the thriving Arts that go on at the school. While you only need to walk the grounds at break time, or watch a fast-paced game of Kingball, to be convinced that the students are anything but grade-obsessed drudges. The arrival of girls for the sixth form, has had a miraculous affect not just on the A Level results (which this year were up a third on the year before) but also on the energy of the school; they have shaken a medieval school and given it a new lease of life.

Academic and Exit Results

Perhaps there is something in then air of Oxford that encourages brain development, because the results achieved by Magdalen are almost uniformly exemplary. 2013 saw the Magdalen boys and girls getting some of the best results the school has ever seen: 45.83% were A* (up by a third since 2012), 91.67% A* to A and 99.12% A* to B. The GCSE results were no less awe- inspiring: 74% of grades were A* (up 16% since 2012), 94.8% A* to A grades (92.25% in 2012) and 40 boys achieve 9 or more A*s. It is consequently no surprise at all that the school has such a sterling history of Oxbridge admission, last year 33% of students were accepted.

Social and Pastoral

Pastoral care at Magdalen is taken seriously, with the school’s House system at its heart. On arrival each student is divided into one of 6 Houses (who’s names are taken from pupils who died in the two World Wars) these houses are then sub-divided into 6 further sections dependent upon age group. This system seems to work very efficiently for it means that each student has a tutor, housemaster (each of whom they can see twice a day) as well as a Head of House and prefects. This system seems to ensure that although the school is an unquestionably high-pressure environment, there are enough forms of recourse for students who feel overwhelmed. The atmosphere at MCS is surprisingly boisterous for such a serious institution. Boys are encouraged to engage with and challenge their teachers and compete with their peers. This makes for a very interactive environment: cerebral loners aren’t suffered gladly.

Sport, Art, Music and Drama

For a school in the middle of a city, Magdalen has some pretty serious sports facilities. The crux of this is School Field, an island surrounded by the River Cherwell connected to the School House rose garden by little bridges. In addition, the school has a purpose built Sports Hall and gym and access to the university facilities at Christ Church, Magdalen and Merton Colleges. The result is that manifold and various sports are played by Magdalen boys and girls, to extremely high standards. The main sports are Rugby, Hockey, Cricket and Rowing, though there are a whole host of smaller sports that students can get involved in, from Badminton to Croquet. Perhaps the reason for the school’s success in sport is the care they take in recruiting their coaches: it is not unusual for the school’s first teams to be coached by ex-England players. At present, Cricket is overseen by Philip DeFreitas and Rugby by Grant Seeley. A great favourite with Magdalen students is the school’s indigenous sport, Kingball, a sport a bit like fives that is played on custom- built courts, very competitively during break times. It is perhaps fair to say that Art isn’t treated with quite the same seriousness as other academic departments; despite this there are no shortage of accomplished artists at MCS. You need only attend the school’s Summer Art Show – which is part of the annual Arts Festival – to have this borne out. The department prides itself on teaching no “house style” but rather encouraging boys to walk their own path. This, unlike at many schools, is believable; such is the diligence of the boys, and the schools general emphasis on independent enquiry, that it is unsurprisingly that the boys studies will take them on wildly divergent routes, and even less surprising, that some of the best results in the country are achieved as a result. Few school’s can rival MCS’s musical history: to be one of the 16 choristers that the school send to perform daily at Magdalen College’s chapel, is to be part of a continuous tradition that started in

  1. Yet the musical education that you can expect to be given at Magdalen is by no means archaic, and neither are the musicians it churns out. The Magdalen orchestras and choirs always seem to be off doing something: whether it is singing on the BBC, or performing at the Sheldonian. Perhaps the four biggest things that contribute to the incredibly high quality of music at Magdalen are: the Music School, which is spacious and custom built and always bustling with activity; the talented and energetic director of music, Jon Cullen; the extensive scholarship program, that lures in the very best young musicians; and finally the heavily musical city that surrounds the school. With all this it is unsurprisingly that so many MCS take part in the the National Youth Orchestra and National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, as well being members of the junior music departments of Royal College and Royal Academy of Music. There is no shortage of outlet for those of a dramatic bent at MCS. The school, which has its own impressive theatre facilities in the form of ‘Big School’ (the main school hall, which is as modern as it gets, with a computerized lighting system among other gadgets) has recently bought a partnership at the Oxford Playhouse, meaning that each year the school is allowed to stage 3 plays in the Burton Taylor Studio and one on the main stage; as well as sharing a Director in Residence with the famous theatre. Whether it is in one of the three big school plays that take place every year, or in a 10-minute house play, or even an independently devised production, anyone who wants to get involved in Drama at Magdalen can seek out the opportunity. For those who want to take Drama more seriously though, the sky is the limit, and the addition of girls to the sixth form, has improved the already toweringly high standard of productions staged by the school.


There are a lot of extra curricular activities to get involved with at Magdalen College. Some are taken very seriously – such as the Model United Nations, Debating Society and Chess Club, others, like the Cheese and Bell Ringing Clubs are much more light-hearted. Although students can get involved in CCF at any time in the school careers, it is only in Lower Sixth that it is compulsory for pupils to decide between joining either the CCF or the Community Service Organisation. Both of these options are popular with students, particularly CCF, which organizes twice annual field days during which members go on 24-hour excursions, often camping out in disused army bases.

Magdalen College School

Headmaster: Dr Tim Hands

Telephone: 01865 242191

Address: Magdalen College School Oxford OX1 4AU

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