Our Lady's Abingdon
What it's like
Founded in 1860 by the Sisters of Mercy, it is situated on a single, spacious site with additional playing fields opposite. It has pleasant buildings and recent developments include ICT suites, a sixth-form centre, new laboratories and a refurbished 25m indoor swimming pool. The senior school, founded as a girls' school, is in the process of becoming co-educational; boys are accepted at age 11 and 16 from 2009 so will be in each year group by 2013. The junior school, on the same site, is already co-educational. It has a reputation for a friendly and caring approach and a strong Christian ethos. Small classes allow pupils to progress at their own rate. Examination results are good, and the value added element is high. It is strong in music, drama and art and there is a range of sports and activities. There is also a strong commitment to local community schemes and an impressive record in the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme and Young Enterprise.
Pupils & entrance
Pupils: Total age range 3-18; 541 day pupils (40 boys, 501 girls). Senior department 11-18, 400 pupils (mostly girls; boys only from 2009). Entrance: Main entry ages 3, 4, 11, 13 and 16. Own entrance exam and interview; for sixth-form entry, 5 GCSEs at least grade B (grade A in sixth-form subjects); plus IELTS level 6.5 if English is not mother tongue. Roman Catholic foundation but school welcomes pupils of all beliefs who wish to share its ideals and expectations. State school entry, 50% of main senior intake. Pupils also from a range of local prep schools and from own junior department (St John's Road, Abingdon, Oxfordshire OX14 2HB, tel 01235 523147).
Scholarships & bursaries
Academic scholarships and exhibitions, up to 50% of fees. Variable number of bursaries.
Head & staff
Head: Mrs Lynne Renwick, appointed in 2004. Teaching staff: 44 full time, 31 part time.
GCSE: 86 pupils in Year 11, all gaining at least grade C in 5+ subjects. A-levels: 36 in upper sixth, achieving an average final point score of 343.
All sixth form leavers go on to a degree course (3% after a gap year). 24% take courses in science, 29% in humanities and social sciences, 31% in arts, 16% in vocational subjects.
GCSE, AS and A-levels. 20 AS-level subjects, 19 A-level (plus 1 applied AS/A-level). Sixth form: Most sixth formers take 4 subjects at AS-level, 3 at A-level; general studies not taken but compulsory, wide-ranging enrichment programme. 14% take science A-levels; 25% arts/humanities; 61% both. Vocational: Applied A-level in ICT. Work experience available. Languages: French and Spanish offered to GCSE, AS and A-level. Regular exchanges (France and Spain). ICT: Taught both as a discrete subject and across the curriculum. 70 computers for pupil use (8 hours a day), all networked and with email and internet access. All take short course GCSE in Year 9.
Music: Over 30% of pupils learn a musical instrument; instrumental exams can be taken. Some 5 musical groups: orchestras, choral and chamber groups. Drama: LAMDA exams may be taken. Many pupils are involved in school productions. Art and design: Many pupils take GCSE, A-level. Textiles also offered.
Sports & activities
Sport: Netball, tennis, hockey, swimming, football, cricket, rugby, rounders, badminton, dance, gymnastics, squash, athletics. Year 11 and sixth form only: basketball, fitness, scuba, rowing. GCSE, RLSS exams may be taken. Activities: Pupils take bronze, silver and gold Duke of Edinburgh's Award and Young Enterprise (team recently won the JSP Cup for manufacturing). Community service compulsory at age 16, optional at other ages. Up to 30 clubs, including music, sports, sailing, synchronised swimming, science, art, environment, computer, etc.
Uniform: School uniform worn, modified in the sixth form. Houses and prefects: Competitive houses. Prefects, head girl/boy and deputy appointed by the Head following elections by staff and sixth form. School Council. Religion: Roman Catholic. All pupils join in daily assembly and Mass (once or twice a term). Social: Lectures and activities with other sixth forms; joint drama and choral societies. Model United Nations. Exchanges. Pupils allowed to bring own car, bike or motorbike to school (but no parking provided). Meals formal. School tuck and secondhand uniform shop.
School guidelines designed to make life happier and safer for all. Few set punishments; problems dealt with on a one-to-one basis. Unsatisfactory work may lead to a pupil being put 'on report'. Strong sense among staff, parents and pupils of mutual support and encouragement, in accordance with founders' aspiration 'to each according to their needs'.