By the sound of it, the name of this school sounds like a Dragon’s Den spin-off. But it is, in fact, a preparatory school in Oxford that has served as the learning grounds for some of Britain’s most watchable actors, like Hugh Laurie, Tom Hiddleston, Tom Hollander, Emma Watson and many others. Welcome to the place where old-world British charm meets avant-garde teaching with a flair of posh. This is Dragon School!
Dragon School is set in a quiet area of North Oxford, amid extensive grounds which reach down to the river Cherwell. The school has always embraced the changes that a modern world demands and since the Oxford preparatory school was founded in 1877 it has evolved into the thriving establishment that it is now. That small school, initially created to educate the sons of Oxford dons, changed its name to Dragon School, welcomed boarding and day pupils equally, moved to the current Bardwell Road site, admitted its first girls in 1904, established its own thriving Pre-Prep School nearby, and is now renowned internationally as one of the foremost prep schools in the UK.
A Dragon education aims to:
- Provide a purposeful learning environment, establishing high expectations for all children, and enabling each ‘dragon‘ to fulfil their potential through the promotion of learning habits of diligence, resilience, ambition, collaboration, and organization.
- Foster intellectual curiosity and a desire to learn, and nurture emotional intelligence within a supportive environment, with the pursuit of excellence throughout the curriculum and across extra-curricular opportunities.
- Inspire the dragons, through the school’s values of kindness, courage, and respect. To learn and show compassion, integrity, resilience, citizenship, loyalty, and enthusiasm, throughout their school life and beyond.
- Encourage the dragons to take risks, be adaptable, and develop independence. Their individuality and wide-ranging achievements are valued and celebrated within a community that appreciates diversity.
- Offer expansive learning opportunities, to enable the dragons to approach a broad range of challenges, both within and outside the classroom. They become articulate, creative, and exceptional children who display confidence and independence as they actively engage in their education.
Life at Dragon School
The Dragon Prep sits proudly amid stunning open playing fields in North Oxford on the banks of the river Cherwell and the Pre-Prep is in the heart of Summertown.
The school’s distinctive approach encourages enquiry, confidence, and enthusiasm. The breadth of intellectual and philosophical challenge underpins an expansive academic curriculum. There are six separate science labs, opportunities to learn classics and three large art and DT (design transit) studios where children explore drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture and ceramics and experiment with a range of materials and electronics.
The Dragon School offers over 20 sporting activities for its boys and girls to enjoy including sculling, fencing, football, golf, cricket, equestrianism, and judo. There is a busy calendar of fixtures against other schools and senior squads can go on overseas tours. Music and drama are our real strengths as you would imagine from a school with alumni such as Emma Watson and Tom Hiddleston. There are annual plays and musical productions and over 800 individual music lessons per week (held in soundproof pods) and 60 music ensembles.
The Thrill-imbibed Training
Sometime ago, the Dragon School also introduced ‘Dragon Quest’ – an enrichment curriculum programme on Saturday mornings. A timetable of activities provides Dragons with a wide range of options, including farm visits and yoga, from film making to animation, first aid and debating through to astronomy, orienteering and cultural exploration in Oxford. Dragon Quest facilitates the children with the opportunity to discover wonderous talents, develop new skills and dare to embrace new challenges.
Every Sunday evening, the Dragon bus from London takes boarders back to school. Day and flexi boarding are increasingly popular with modern families and day pupils can spend regular or occasional nights enjoying life in a boarding house. Boarders are drawn from local, national, and international backgrounds and they live with dedicated house-parents in family-style boarding houses. With an informality that builds trust and allows children to develop a sense of responsibility and respect for others, pupils are helped to become well-rounded, confident, independent, and motivated – all the attributes they will need to become socially adept and emotionally intelligent adults.
2020 Leavers: 55 pupils have been awarded academic or specialist scholarships to a wide range of leading schools including Eton, Winchester, Wycombe Abbey, Radley, Cheltenham Ladies College, St Edward’s Oxford, Harrow, and Marlborough College.
The Dragon’s reputation as a school where every child can find, explore, and develop their talents, has been well earned.
‘Old Dragons’ go on to be successful in many different fields – Sir John Betjeman, Dame Cressida Dick, Tom Hiddleston, Tim Henman and Emma Watson are just a few of the famous alumni.
Rising to the Challenge
The announcement of a new national lockdown in England necessitated major changes for the start of this new term. The school is operating a comprehensive and engaging provision of remote learning for its pupils with on-site supervision for around 70 children whose parents are key workers. Every child follows their full timetable of live academic lessons using the on-line platforms with which they are familiar, and so far, the school is positively delighted to have had positive feedback from parents:
“We are so incredibly impressed that not only are you managing to teach the children through a zoom environment, but you are also making it such an energising and fun experience.”
Ancient models of emotional, social, and spiritual support that can be found in all cultures and traditions, have been added in the nomenclature of the 21st century as Pastoral Care. At Dragon School, pastoral care is paramount. According to the school, this will be more important than ever during these challenging times. The children have regular form time with their tutors/class teachers and boarders see their friends virtually through house meetings with their house-parents.
Young Dragons also enjoy game sessions, take part in activities and challenges at home and individual lessons continue virtually for all those who learn an instrument. Dragon Quest is on offer to years 4 and 5 on Saturday mornings and the children select from a number of options to allow them to discover and develop a new interest. The inspirational Friday evening ‘Spectrum talks’ are made available for all Dragon families to enjoy as well as disco on Saturday mornings, which is a series of academically enriching lectures, talks and forums designed to extend and enhance pupils’ understanding of academic subjects in A–C block.
During the first lockdown, the Dragon family demonstrated great ambition, speed, and agility in setting up a virtual holistic curriculum for their pupils.
A representative of the school administration stated: “Just last term, some of our boarders remained overseas and learned remotely, which also gave teachers the opportunity to develop their remote teaching skills and expertise even further. We are confident that the community will again rise to the challenge of this situation with resilience and creativity. However, as soon as lockdown restrictions are lifted and it is permitted to do so, we very much look forward to being able to welcome back all pupils to School.”