OMS Senior School at Forest Farm

The students take part in a workshop led by a visiting Public Health Engineer who has recently returned from The Congo

The students take part in a workshop led by a visiting Public Health Engineer who has recently returned from The Congo

The senior school at Forest Farm offers an unpretentious alternative education for children and their families who want a different kind of learning experience to what mainstream or traditional schooling provides. We are no-nonsense in our approach:

  • Our approach to learning: make it active, make it relevant and make it worthwhile.
  • Our approach to assessment: measure what really matters, and use this to inform open and honest discussion of individual progress.
  • Our approach to relationships and behaviour management: respect children, truly listen to them and treat them with kindness.

Our children make good progress, achieve grades to be proud of and leave OMS as free-thinking, caring and creative people.

By the end of Key Stage 4, pupils achieve good GCSE and IGCSE results in a wide range of subjects, including English and mathematics.
— Ofsted
Click for a quick guide to OMS / a summary and story 

Click for a quick guide to OMS / a summary and story 

We know that it is important for children to leave school with good qualifications, and we make certain that this happens. But we also know that a human being is more than a collection of letters attached to their name and that a child’s worth is not measured in GCSE certificates. We want students to leave Forest Farm with a care for others and for their world, and with the intellectual, emotional and social skills to achieve their dreams, whatever they may be.

Our beautiful rural setting, small size and progressive ethos alone set us apart from the myriad of other school options in Oxford. State education has been compared to factory farming of children: our children live free range. Private education often looks to tradition and conservative guiding principles, but we are innovating every day. 

Distinctive and Innovative Features

A key feature of Forest Farm Senior School is the close collaboration between teachers, management and learners. There’s a warm extended family feel and we continually work to assess and better meet the children’s needs.
— Judith Walker: Principal
Apples from the coppice, the school's 2000 tree forest planted in 2008

Apples from the coppice, the school's 2000 tree forest planted in 2008

Just a small sample of the distinctive and innovative features of the school include:

  • Project-based learning - Up to 30% of the timetable is taught through project-based learning.  Project Based Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to a complex question, problem, or challenge. We have projects based around design, STEM, outdoor learning and expressive arts.

  • Mixed-age classes - children move through the school when they are ready, not when the calendar tells them to. Many subjects include students of different ages - from 11 to 16 - in the same lesson. 

  • Courses matched to learners. Our small size affords us the opportunity to match subjects and exam boards flexibly to the needs of the cohort. What this means in practice is that each year we carefully consider the students we have in each class, and design an academic programme around what best suits them.  

  • Weekly school parliament at which every student is given an empowered voice to discuss the runnings of the school and make democratic decisions about life at Forest Farm. This is so much more than a school council, with children given real respect and responsibility for decision-making.

  • One-on-one general support sessions with a learning 'coach’.

  • One-on-one Learning support sessions for children needing extra support to help them succeed in lessons, especially English and those with dyslexia and EFL.

  • A system of (often informal) restorative justice for resolving conflicts: an approach that seeks to reduce harm and prevent re-offending rather than punishing for punishment’s sake.

Classes and Subjects

We have four senior school classes - S1, S2, S3 and S4 - although in many lessons the groups are mixed in a variety of combinations. In S3 and S4 students are following qualifications - usually GCSEs.  Currently our classes study the following, but our flexible nature means this is subject to change in future years:

S1 and S2

  • Subject-based learning: English, Maths, Science, Combined Humanities, History, Spanish, Design Technology, PE and Art and PSHE.
  • Project-based learning: Design, STEM, Express-Music and Drama and Outdoor Learning.

S3

  • Subject-based: English, Maths, 21st Century Science, History, Geography, Spanish, PE, Art, Computer Studies, Music and Drama.
  • Project-based: Design technology, Photography and 'Express' .

S4

  • Subject based: English, English Literature, Maths, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, History, Geography, PE, Art and design, Computer studies, Music and Drama.
  • Project-based: Design technology, Photography and 'Express'.

Project based learning is by its very nature responsive to the interests of the learning, but the key features of the projects are as follows:

Science lessons at Forest Farm are fun, hands on and challenging to every individual

Science lessons at Forest Farm are fun, hands on and challenging to every individual

  • Design: focused on the design process - planning, making, evaluating and re-drafting - and typically with craft-based outcomes.

  • STEM: STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. These projects therefore tend to have aims and outcomes related to these themes. Finance, forensics and waste are example focuses for STEM projects.

  • Outdoor learning: this is all about engaging with the natural world. Projects include planning a harvest festival, raising chickens and building a weather station.

  • Express: Express is about performance and the expressive arts - it is the main means through which children at the school engage with music, drama and dance. Express projects usually end with a public performance.

Forest Farm is a truly different kind of school, where every child really does matter and where senior school is about getting ready to be a genuinely fulfilled, productive and happy adult.

Seniors Update Autumn Term 2016

2016 Exams

We are so pleased and happy for our students' exam results who left at the end of the summer term. They have all got into colleges and 6th forms of their choice. We wish them luck with their higher education. 

There were quite a few A and A* grades but the crucial thing from our perspective - all of the students met the challenges that they identified and we supported throughout the year.  

After School Clubs

All after school clubs will finish at 4:30.  

If your child is in school after this time they must be booked into after school club. Please book via the school website.

We will also be asking students to make sure they inform the staff who are running the club before they leave.  Would you please reinforce this with your child

S3 Options

We would like the S3 students to attend all lessons on their timetable until half term. After which we will consider letting students drop particular subjects that they don't want to take for GCSE on an student by student basis.  (They will of course have to do something educational in this time.)  We feel it is important for young people to give each subject a fair try with the GCSE subject teacher before making a final choice and hope all students will give every subject a good go at least until then. 

Staff members

Katie Townsend              -Deputy Principal

Adam Riley                          -Senior Curriculum Coordinator and Head of Science

Jessica Richmond         -English and English Literature

Vicky Harris                         -Mathematics

Adrian Dorantes               -Spanish and PE coordinator  

Letty Peppiatt                   -Humanities and Geography  

Olivia Packe                  - SENCO and additional English

Richard Ferguson         - GCSE History and S2 history

Susan Glaisher             - Music-GCSE, KS3 and primary.

Jess Elliot                     - DT-GCSE and all KS3

Claire Miller                -Biology-GCSE

Katerina Kalogerakis    -Photography-GCSE only

Emily Bartleman            -Drama-KS3 and primary

Melanie Young               -Computer Studies-GCSE, KS3 and primary

Here is some information about the new subjects children have chosen to do as GCSEs

Humanities and Geography-Letty Peppiatt

Humanities for KS3 is the study of human culture. It an be broken down into Religious education, Geography, History and Citizenship (which is mainly about identity) and can include topics like Human Rights, Conflict and co-operation and Prejudice.

Geography GCSE  is the study of the world in which we live; the Earth's landscapes, peoples, places and environments. The GCSE is separated into physical and human geography with a focus under both those headings on the UK. For Physical Geography we will study Tectonics. Weather, Climate, Ecosystems, Coasts and Rivers. In Human geography we will learn about Urbanisation and Sustainability, the Changing Economic World, Resource Management and we will go on a field trip and learn new skills and concepts in the field.

Design and technology- Jess Elliot

Design and technology (D&T) is a practical subject where students will learn to design and make quality products and develop their creativity and imaginations.

At Forest Farm we will try to include as many of the D&T disciplines as we can which include product design, food technology, engineering, systems and control, electronics, textiles and graphics.

D&T is a cross curricular subject allowing students to use other subject knowledge, such as mathematics, science, engineering, computing and art. 

History -Richard Ferguson

As trainee historians,  we investigate past politics, societies, cultures, languages, health, art, education, money, conflicts and more, look at how things have developed over time and connect the dots to understand how we got where we are today.

In history we study lots of different sources of evidence, and learn that events are often the result of multiple factors. 

History can also be inspiring. When we discover what people have achieved against the odds and how things can change over time, it can give us the motivation we need to succeed. as students of history, we ask two very important questions:why and how. This is key to sharpening our students critical thinking abilities, combining analysis, projects, essay writing and communication skills to help students solve problems and form arguments for debate.

We encourage our young historians to look at all the available evidence and come to conclusions, a lot like a good detective, which helps them learn to be organised and manage information.

The study of history primes our students analytical, writing, debate and detective skills, opening up a huge range of careers in; Law Politics, Business,  Journalism, Economics, Teaching, Academia, Social Research, Archaeology and Curation (museums, galleries, archives and libraries).-

Photography-Katerina Kalogerakis

Photography is the art and science of creating lasting images by recording light onto photographic film or on digital memory cards for digital or film cameras.

Far from being a mirror of an image, photography is a complex and problematic form of representation. Photographs are never just what one sees. Behind each photograph is a number of readings that relate to the expectations and assumptions we bring to the image we are taking, to the actual photo subject itself. 

The students need to read a photograph as text: a reading that needs to be unravelled. A photograph mirrors and creates a dialogue which is never neutral as the photographer carries his/her upbringing, cultural and social expectations onto the image taken. A photograph is as much a reflection of the “I” of the photographer as it is the “Eye” of the camera. 

In our photography class we will create images that look, question and analyse both photography and what is behind the images the students take. We start from the invention of photography to the traditional ways of creating images with film & paper. We will learn how to operate film cameras and how to develop films and create images in the darkroom. 

Through the images we will look into young people's perceptions of their own identities and how the media but also our surroundings are used to shape conceptions of oneself. 

The specific focus will be focusing on critical thinking, and rethinking perceptions, values and beliefs imposed on us by our surroundings. 

It will involve research of photographers work, short essays as well as thinking through, taking and printing their own photographs in order to create a body of work that reflects these ideas. 

The School and Montessori Education

The teaching in the senior school is inspired by Montessori ideals. Our ethos entails a genuine respect for our students as individuals and a desire to see them develop into well-rounded adults through freedom, coupled with responsibility, in their schooling. Teachers and students are on first-name terms with each other, and we seek to form meaningful relationships such that conflicts can be resolved through support and understanding (given firmly when appropriate) rather than compulsion alone.  Our pedagogy emphasises the importance of child-centred, interest-led education that enables students to acquire practical skills and knowledge that will be of use to them in the real world. Lessons at Forest Farm tend to be hands-on and interactive, with students encouraged to understand not only what but why they are learning. We have high standards for teaching and learning, and encourage our teachers to employ a variety of pedagogical approaches in lessons including:

This does not mean that every lesson must make use of these - we trust our teachers as professionals and believe in the great value of teacher autonomy.  We continually look for creative ways to make innovative developments in educational theory and practice part of everyday life at the school. 

We aim to equip young people with 21st Century skills such as teamwork, problem solving, critical thinking and time management. The students at Forest Farm are part of a community: everyone knows everyone. There’s a great deal of freedom and flexibility for young people to make decisions and find out where their skills lie. With these freedoms come responsibilities and the students demonstrate their ability with consistent positive contributions to our community and through their strong performance in public examinations
— Daniel Ardizzone: Joint Principal

A few images of Forest Farm Senior life.  Click on the images to see in more detail...


Alex enjoys working outside.  He helps us maintain the grounds at Forest Farm. His contribution is vital.  His achievements at Forest stem from finding a learning style that works for him.

Alex enjoys working outside.  He helps us maintain the grounds at Forest Farm. His contribution is vital.  His achievements at Forest stem from finding a learning style that works for him.

We are particularly proud of the school’s record in adding value to young people’s educational achievements. Remember - we don’t select on academic ability, we welcome students from a wide variety of backgrounds with a broad and diverse range of skills. That they achieve well at IGCSE is very rewarding
— Daniel Ardizzone

Use our interactive guide to options and costs here.  The system should show you which combination of sessions as possible and which options are available with the choices you make  HERE


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  • Our Method & Montessori:  more
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Teachers monitor individual pupils’ progress rigorously and respond swiftly to their needs by re- grouping them judiciously and adapting the curriculum. Pupils gain a good understanding of what to do to improve their work through constructive verbal and written feedback, detailed academic reports and the setting of learning targets.
— Ofsted