Originally founded in 1584, the School is situated in the centre of the market town of Oakham and is reminiscent of a Cambridge college, with old stone buildings overlooking neat lawns and flower beds. Oakham is a full boarding school, but day boarding is also quite popular. Lessons take place in purpose-built blocks, where the well-stocked and computerised Smallbone Library is situated, with career rooms and a whole floor reserved for silent individual study. The new science facility provides space for studying biology, chemistry, physics and sports science all in one place. There is also a new auditorium with plenty of space for lectures. Chapel is compulsory twice a week.
Results are getting better and better, with 85 per cent of A*/B grades at A level, and 61 per cent of A*/A grades at GCSE. The School has offered the IB since 2000. Apart from all the usual subjects, AS/A2 offers business studies, economics, classical civilisation, PE and sport studies and politics as well. Oakham boasts impressive computerised language labs where students learn French from year 7 and German and Spanish are on offer from year 8. All students take at least one language at GCSE, but most of them takes two. The maximum class size is 24 students, but this number is much lower at A level and IB (ten or fewer). Pupils with learning difficulties are supported by the four full-time SEN members of staff, and the School prefers to provide in-class support rather than take pupils out of classes.
The School considers it very important for the pupils to achieve their full potential in every sense. There are more than 40 acres of playing fields at Oakham, a sports centre, an indoor pool, two all-weather pitches, squash courts and a fitness centre. The main sports are rugby, cricket, hockey and athletics for boys and hockey, netball, tennis and athletics for girls. Over sixty staff members are involved in coaching – twelve full-time coaches, twenty visiting coaches and around thirty common-room teachers.
The School hosts four main productions a year, along with the performances given by the visiting companies. Each house competes for the MacFayden Shield, given to the School by the Pride and Prejudice actor Matthew MacFayden, a former pupil. Six hundred instrumental lessons are taught each week and around eighty concerts are held yearly. When it comes to art, the School offers everything from life drawing, abstracts and sculpture to textiles and jewellery, including critical and contextual studies at A level. Each week, two afternoons are reserved for numerous activities, from aerobics and film production to stone carving and yoga. From year 10 students can decide on the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, CCF or community service.
Structure of students
Pupils are generally outgoing and enthusiastic, determined to make the most of their time at Oakham. Around 10 per cent of students arrive from abroad. Parents are very supportive of their children and they regularly attend many of their games. Some of the most notable former students include Matthew MacFayden, Greg Hicks, Katie Mitchell, Lewis Moody, Stewart Broad and Crista Cullen.
Pastoral care and discipline
The School’s sixteen boarding houses are scattered all around the campus, four of which are junior houses, ten are reserved for 13-17 year olds, and two are upper sixth form houses. The staff members in charge of the houses have teaching responsibilities, too. There is a useful “settling in” guide for the new students and parents are allowed to express their preferences for the boarding houses, but the School has a final say.
Rules are pretty clear at Oakham. Anyone who tests positive for drugs or admits to drugs misuse is faced with suspension or compulsion, while those who deal drugs are immediately out. Smoking and drinking are punishable as well. Every year, a head boy and a head girl are appointed, alongside twenty-two school prefects. Housemasters and mistresses, tutors, matrons, chaplains, medical centre staff and a school counsellor are in charge of those in need of advice or help. Uniforms are compulsory, as students are considered to be the ambassadors of their school.
Entrance and exit
Students come from more than thirty different preps and primary schools. Entrance exams in English, maths and verbal reasoning are taken at 11+. Lower school pupils are not required to take an exam in order to make it to the middle school. If they want to enter the sixth form, students need to have seven Bs at GCSE, with the minimum of Bs in the subjects they wish to study in the sixth form.
Some of the students leave the School after GCSE to take vocational courses or the subjects Oakham doesn’t offer. At 18 almost all pupils continue to higher education, with the most popular choices being Leeds, Edinburgh, Durham, Newcastle, Exeter, King’s College London and UCL and the top subjects business management, economics, the sciences, medicine, art and history.