• Radley College, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, OX14 2HR
  • Telephone: 01235 543000, Fax: 01235 543106





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Vision FAQ

We were delighted with the positive response to the event in October 2016 that we held in London; at that event, we asked for feedback and described the way in which we wanted to continue ‘the conversation’. This is not a short term process but rather a long-term vision; it is by its very nature organic, built on a series of values and principles, developing over time.

Inevitably, as we look to the future, people ask questions. Below are some of those that have been frequently asked, with our answers.

Parents are invited to attend a Q&A session about 'Our Vision for Radley College' on Friday 26th May at 11:45am, in the Coffee Shop.


Frequently Asked Questions

1. Radley is hugely successful. Why change it?

Radley is popular and doing very well. The list system is robust and provides a certainty of intake that is the envy of other schools; results are outstanding; inspection reports are excellent and there is an extraordinary loyalty from all elements of the community to what Radley has been and is. The ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ argument looms large. But Radley has always adapted to changing times and circumstances; it is essential for good institutions to do so. Sometimes the response has been boldly conservative (e.g. the decision not to adopt modular A levels in 2000) and sometimes boldly innovative (e.g. the 1980 BBC documentary); the key is to choose what to preserve and what to change, and to do so with confidence.

It is our responsibility, especially in a fast-changing global environment, to ensure that we are ready for the future. A greater breadth of intake and a more outward-facing approach in terms of how we educate will build on our current strengths and help us in that. We confidently believe that change can take place without any dilution of the core essence of what we are. We want Old Radleians to return with their own sons in a generation’s time and to see – and feel two things: that the Radley they love is alive and well, and that it is also a school at the cutting edge of educational provision. In other words, that Radley remains a great school.

2. What does ‘global citizen’ mean in practice?

Sound-bite phrases are dangerous and mean different things to different people. The Prime Minister’s association of the phrase with ‘citizen of nowhere’ is unfortunate and perhaps reflective of the concern some might have about what we mean by it. To be clear, we could not be more emphatic in our belief that Radleians should have a very strong sense of where they are from and for that core foundation to be rooted in their educational experience. Indeed, in an uncertain world of shifting perspectives, it is all the more important for such roots to be strong. For Radley, that is best represented by the values we have always espoused and by the symbol and centrality of Chapel. We are proud of our heritage, and all who come to the College will be expected to identify with it.

At the same time, we want a Radley education to prepare young men to be confident and competent whatever they choose to do, and to do it without losing their sense of responsibility for and compassion towards others. That is to be a good citizen and we hope that they will be able to do that in a global context. It is all too easy for us to forget the bigger picture . . . we mustn’t.

There are two key aspects. The first is to think in terms of the key skills required to navigate the challenges of the world successfully. We have identified six broad areas of competence that we wish to emphasise and are currently in the process of asking ourselves how we measure up in each area; this provides an important framework in which to operate and plan. The six core skills that we wish to nurture in boys are the abilities to understand, to communicate, to collaborate, to adapt, to serve and to lead. These skills will, we believe, equip Radleians in what might be described as ‘global competence’.

Secondly, there needs to be engagement with life beyond Radley. This might mean visiting new and different environments more regularly; it might mean greater exposure to ideas: visiting speakers providing a new perspective, an awareness of what is happening elsewhere, a virtual exchange with students from different backgrounds and the benefits that would come from a more diverse intake. We need to make sure that the experience of education for each Radleian includes each of these, and regularly.

3. Won’t a change in intake change the ethos of Radley?

No. Issues of ethos are much more than questions of intake. We believe the traditions and strength of the Radley ethos are summarised best by the collegiate nature of the community, by daily Chapel, by a beautiful campus and by the ongoing dedication of the Common Room to provide the very best of education, in partnership with the boys, the parents and the wider Radley community. None of that will change. The key is, as it is for all aspects of entry, to find the right candidates.

4. How will we find the most deserving candidates for scholarships and bursaries?

We will achieve this by a series of initiatives, each of which will be designed to attract a few top quality candidates every year through personal and bespoke relationships, each of whom can then be assessed effectively and prepared for a Radley education. We want to have a local, regional, national and international reach.

Examples of initiatives under consideration include:

  • Partnering with specific charities that identify with the ethos and traditions of Radley
  • Partnering with specific state schools to give opportunities to boys of talent
  • Bursary partnerships with Prep Schools
  • Subject specific initiatives to emphasise the Creative Arts and STEM subjects
  • A Young Leadership initiative, in association with industry
  • OR linked bursary programmes, using the ‘Radley for Life’ network
  • Relationships with sports clubs, gifted and talented networks, and already existing contacts the College has in the local community e.g. the Choristership scheme
  • Effective use of website and social media presence
5. What percentage of the school will be on scholarships and bursaries?

A distinction should be made between scholarships (awards given in recognition of merit regardless of income) and bursaries (awards given to allow boys of talent otherwise unable to access a Radley education to do so). Scholarships will continue to be available to all though the financial reward will remain limited unless means testing justifies further bursarial funding.

Bursarial funding will be according to need and so will include boys who need partial awards as well as those who need 100% fee support. In this way, we avoid the ‘hour-glass’ model where schools become places for the very rich and the very poor with little in between.

In terms of extent, we have the following clear ambitions:

  • The spirit of Sewell’s original vision of one in ten places to be free to be realised across the College by 2025.
  • Scholarships and Bursaries funding to provide 15% of College fee income by 2021 and to rise to 20% as soon as possible thereafter. 
6. What is the argument for increasing the size of the school? Will larger numbers not change the ethos and feel of the College?

In order to increase the number of scholarships and bursary candidates, there has either to be an increase in the number of overall places or a decrease in the number of boys who come to Radley through the traditional list system. As we want to preserve the nature of The List, we plan to increase the size of the school.  The planning of the College is therefore predicated on a size of approximately 750.

We believe that such a modest increase in year-group numbers – an approximate average of 150 rather than 138 – will not have a deleterious effect as long as, firstly, Chapel is maintained as a core daily activity for the whole community to come together and, secondly, the number in each Social does not increase. Consequently, we plan to build an eleventh Social and to extend Chapel.

The economic benefits of slight expansion are considerable over time, even with the associated infrastructure costs. An added benefit, therefore, of the decision to expand will be to allow more flexibility over scholarships and bursaries. Counter-intuitively, there may also be benefits in class size (as an illustration, we might have eight sets in core subjects for 150 boys rather than seven for 140 boys) and smaller subjects would be more viable at A Level, allowing more flexibility of choice. A small increase will not have a noticeable effect on selection for teams and access to opportunities - an important principle - and eleven socials is no more complicated than ten in terms of Inter-Social competitions. 

7. Has Radley done away with the List system? Where does the Warden’s List fit in?

The List – the system of registration from birth – continues. As long as a boy who is on The List satisfies academic entry criteria, he will be offered a place. The only change to this system is the timing of testing (now at age 11 rather than 13), designed to allow all boys to be interviewed as part of the process, for the test better to reflect actual academic potential, and to avoid the difficulty for parents and schools of the late Common Entrance ‘failure’. The substantial majority of boys coming to Radley will continue to come through this method. The List is currently closed up to 2026.

The Warden’s List has traditionally been used to allow an alternative route of entry for those not on The List. It has become increasingly competitive in recent years but is still misunderstood by many, particularly those outside the traditional Prep Schools. The Warden’s List will now be known as ‘Open Entry’ and will be a competitive process open to all candidates for the remaining places once The List testing has been completed. Candidates will be filtered by academic testing alongside a consideration of school reports with those successful in this being invited to Radley for interview. Successful candidates will be selected not merely by academic standard but according to their ability to bring something distinctive to Radley.

In addition to the above, the system of some places being reserved for non-registered scholarship candidates will continue. 

The adjusted admissions process preserves the distinctive nature of ‘The Radley List’ while extending to good candidates from any background the opportunity of a place at Radley.

8. Is the school becoming more 'academic' in its entry requirements?

The standard for 13+ entry will not adjust for candidates on ‘The List’. Indeed, for those candidates on the cusp academically, the introduction of the interview and greater emphasis on the school report allows a more rounded judgment to be made. Radley’s great strength of adding academic value will continue: we are very proud of the way in which we achieve superb exam results with a moderately selective entry. As there is with the Warden’s List currently, we expect there to be much greater competition for ‘Open Entry’ candidates and we will be looking for quality - measured by potential as much as prior achievement - in a variety of areas of school life, including the academic.

9. What proportion of the school will be boys from international backgrounds?

We believe strongly that to have a variety of cultural experiences and backgrounds can only help all boys as we seek to prepare them for the world in which they live. We already have boys from 24 different countries at Radley and will encourage other boys from an international background – however defined – to apply. We do not believe that quotas are the answer as it is more a question of effective integration than it is of numbers but we do not anticipate there being more than one or two per year group in each Social coming from abroad. 

We will actively seek boys who bring with them the experience and capacity to enrich what a Radley education is for all. As we do that, we will monitor overall numbers, ensure that there is a breadth of countries and ethnicities represented, and will interview all boys who come such that we can be as sure as possible that they are ready – linguistically, personally and attitudinally – to make the most of their time here.

10. Will there be an expansion of the Sixth Form?

We are currently looking at how the numbers might vary between year groups once an eleventh Social is built. Whilst that might mean a few more places become available for 6.1 entry, it is not anticipated that this increase would be significant and there is no suggestion of a sixth form house; we also have no plans to change the hurdle for entry into the Sixth Form.

We do believe, from experience, that boys coming into the 6.1 year can bring a new perspective that can be of great value and we would like each Social to benefit from that. At the same time, we are sensitive to the dangers of such an entry disrupting rather than enhancing the community; they need to be the right boys coming for the right reasons.

11. Will it be more difficult for my own son/grandson to get in?

No. The core academic criteria for entry are not adjusting.  One of the reasons for expansion is to allow there to be an adjustment to open entry and an expansion of the scholarship and bursary programme and at the same time for us to retain our approach to The List. There will be more funding available for families who are struggling to meet the fees, including those from OR backgrounds. Radley is very proud of the loyalty that it engenders in its alumni and is very keen for that to continue.

12. When does it all happen?

The launch event in October was deliberately broad-brush as it aimed to set the framework within which to operate over the coming years. Strategically, we must now work within that framework in annual planning; our intent is to measure ourselves against our aims and to report regularly to the whole community on that basis.

Planning is now underway for the new Social and the Chapel Extension and it is hoped that, subject to planning permissions and costings, both would be complete for use in September 2020. In terms of scholarship and bursary funding, there are plans to increase this substantially from 2018 entry onwards, with another step-change increase for the 2020 entry.

We will report at the end of the Summer Term on activities that relate directly to the Vision in terms of the curriculum and day-to-day College life. As one would expect, these interact with and complement the core activity we are engaged in and are simply about a school being as good as it can be . . . but we are committed to the curriculum not simply being about what goes on inside the classroom in pursuit of the requisite exam results but wider academic inspiration, social engagement, collective and individual experience.

13. How will it all be funded?

The three pillars of the Vision – People, Place and Purpose – all have cost implications: the expansion of Scholarships and Bursaries, the belief that we must offer a world class education in world class facilities, and the provision of opportunities to boys to engage with the wider world.

Council are fully committed to investing in quality staff and ensuring that we reinvest effectively in facilities to maintain our high standards in all we do. Fees are competitive, but high, and it is clear that there will need to be other sources of income to drive significant extension of our scholarship and bursary provision. 

As we made clear in October, there was a possibility we could sell two portions of land locally (neither of which affect the campus directly) for housing development, realising substantial sums, the income from which could be allocated to scholarship and bursary provision. Since October, that has progressed favourably and the Local Plan has now been signed off by the requisite authorities, meaning it is now extremely likely that the funds will be realised over the next five years or so. This is excellent news and allows us to plan ambitiously.

Even with such a head-start, however, there is a fund-raising imperative and we hope that the Vision provides a structure and an inspiration within which to achieve it. Our immediate target is £10m over five years and we have already made an excellent start . . . we will be telling you more about these plans and how we would like to encourage members of the community to become involved in the months ahead. But that is only the first target in a much bigger picture if we are to achieve our aim: to secure in perpetuity the levels of scholarship and bursary funding we believe will allow Radley to be the school we think it should be.

14. Why is Radley not being bolder?

Inevitably, there are those who feel there is too much change planned and we hope that the above has been of some reassurance. Equally, there are those who have come back to us since October and suggested that we are being a little unambitious.

There are several answers to this. Firstly, things take time. A new Social in 2020 delivers the first results of a 750 strong school in 2025. That cannot be done more quickly. Secondly, options that might have been welcomed have been rejected - e.g. getting rid of The List system, co-education, ending the tradition of daily Chapel – simply because we do not think them to be right for Radley. Thirdly, we believe organic change within an ambitious and coherent strategic framework, is the best approach.

That said, we think our plans are bold. We want to make sure that a Radley education is one of the best in the world. We want to ensure that it is open to as many boys as possible from a variety of backgrounds. And we want all Radleians to become outstanding young men who will go on to have a positive impact: wherever they are and whatever they do. These are exciting times for the College.

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