Radley College

Logo of Radley College

Pupils Info

Gender – Boys School
Age range – Age 13-18
Number of pupils on roll – 688 Pupils


Average Class Size: 19
Boarding School
Oxbridge Entrance Percentage: 13%
£11,475 per term
A* to B at A-Level Percentage: 96%

Founded in 1847 by Reverend William Sewell, a Fellow at Exeter College, Radley was built in the vision of an Oxford University College. With the quadrangles and cloisters, teachers as ‘dons’ and boys donning gowns, Radley was in danger of looking like an affected, young mimic of its university template. Brilliantly built and charmingly understated, they avoid that negative comparison. Set in a beautiful self-contained 800 acre estate in prime Oxfordshire countryside, Radley is elegant and modest with none of the pretentiousness we feared. The boys fit into the same categories. With some of the best of 18th and 19th century architecture, the surroundings inspire pupils and teachers (sorry, ‘dons’) alike. “We are really spoilt; the grounds are lovely: peaceful and beautiful and, when we get bored, there’s always Oxford.” Right; and the Downe House girls.

Background and Reputation

Strong in the arm, but by no means thick in the head, Radley boys (known as Radleians) have an all-round decent demeanour. Current head, Angus McPhail, is determined that the school’s approach to education remains in the vision of its founder. As well as having an emphasis on “good manners and kindness” (William Sewell), McPhail is keen to instil “tolerance, inquisitiveness, perseverance [and] humility” into the boys as they develop into men. Largely speaking, we think that he has triumphed in this ambition. Gentlemanly and chivalrous, the boys are charming, self-assured and engaging. If anything, the parents were more inclined to show off than the boys. One delighted mother we spoke to was not only wildly sycophantic in her praise for the school, but used our interview as an opportunity to brag about how brilliant her son was! To the boy’s credit (and to Radley’s) he sat next to her blushing furiously and occasionally raising an eye to heaven when it all got too much for him to handle. There is no doubt that there is an excellent school culture in which the boys’ achievements are celebrated but not venerated in a way that encourages arrogance. Hat’s off to them. One of the few remaining all-boys, all-boarding schools in the country, Radley has no plans to change. With its balanced approach between traditional and modern education, why should it.

Academic and Exit Results

Reluctant to introduce International Baccalaureate or Pre-Us (Pre-university qualifications that aim to prepare students for higher education with a more exciting and challenging syllabus than the current A-levels provide), Radley makes the boys take both their AS and A2s in the final year. Stemmed from the belief that boys are late developers, the results speak for themselves – nearly 70 per cent of boys got A*s and As in 2012. Most of the boys take four subjects through to A2 and are encouraged to select a broad range (i.e. not all Science or all Humanities but a combination of the two). This gives the boys a “wider education and a more varied field of interests”. Another advantage of this approach is that lots of time is freed up in Lower Sixth and, as a result, the school can educate the boys beyond the constraints of the curriculum. They introduced an impressive lecture programme, ‘Standing on the Shoulders of Giants’, which aims to broaden the boys’ minds and inspire long-lasting interests in subjects beyond the mainstream syllabus. They can boast a strong language department with excellent results in Latin and Greek alongside the more ‘contemporary’ Russian and Mandarin. History is hugely popular and many go on to read it at university. Though they don’t offer separate Sciences at GCSE, the boys receive a good enough foundation to extend into A-levels, and many boys do. In terms of their SEN offering, we must admit we have seen more sophisticated approaches. That said, mild dyslexia is supported in a discreet fashion by caring part-time staff.

Sport, Art, Music and Drama

It is on the sports fields that Radleians really do come to life. Enthusiastic and competitive, Radley has excellent sporting facilities. They have an A grade sports pavilion, where those not taking part often come to support. With its own nine-hole golf course there is plenty for the boys who don’t dominate the rugby or hockey pitches. Rowing is really centre-stage and Radley is usually near the top of the tables at Henley and the National Schools’ Regatta. Music at Radley is commendable; their famous Piano Extravaganza (in which huge numbers of boys of varying talent take part in a multiple-piano medley, playing fun pieces from popular musicals) is a sight worth seeing. They set aside an hour every day for the boys to engage in “music, culture and creative activities.” This means that all pupils (whether formally studying any of the ‘arts’ or not) are encouraged to at least experiment in this domain. The results are wonderful – brilliant and varied art works hang on display throughout the school buildings and the sound of music fills the corridors.

Social and Pastoral

The boys live in one of ten ‘socials’ (boarding houses). The younger boys are given cubicles within dorms and the older boys have rather superior single rooms (more hotel than boarding school with their personal safes and fridges!). A rather nice lasting tradition is that of ‘cocoa’ – the ritual that each evening the boys of every age congregate in the house common rooms and bond over a warm cup of cocoa. Sounds a little “Sound of Music”, but we are assured that they all love it. The boys are far from locked up. There are formal exeats either side of half term and they are allowed, even encouraged, to go home after chapel on Sundays. Saturday nights are a jolly affair with pizza and fizzy drinks in house.


There is a wide range of activities on offer – from French cookery lessons to pilates. The boys are encouraged to take part as much as they desire and to find something above and beyond the classroom that they feel passionate about. This is a venerable characteristic of the school and one that puts the boys in good stead for future life and fulfilment.

Radley College

Headmaster: Angus McPhail

Telephone: 01235 543000


Address: Kennington Road Radley Abingdon Oxfordshire OX14 2HR

See the map
` `