What’s going on at £38,000-a-year Radley College?

What IS going on at Rah Rah Radley? Teacher sex scandal, local fury over building plans and pupils paying for a flypast to denounce their modernising headmaster at £38,000-a-year school

  • Founded in 1847 by an Anglican priest, Radley is an exclusive all-boys school 
  • School warden Andrew Moule is creating controversy with his modern reforms 
  • He has replaced the school coat of arms with a new logo among other things  

Traditionally the end of the summer term at Radley College has been marked by the sort of high-jinks common in boarding schools since time immemorial.

On one occasion leavers set the fire alarms off late at night, on another the Islamic call to prayer was broadcast around the establishment at 5am. But in recent years the japes have become noticeably more personal.

Last year the end of term speech by recently arrived headmaster John Moule was disrupted by a carefully co-ordinated fireworks show. 

Every time he tried to resume, another rocket would soar into the air, further drowning out his words.

This time there was more aerial action in the form of a plane flying overhead. Behind it a huge banner was towed bearing the slogan: ‘Make Radley Great Again’.

Radley College in Oxfordshire (pictured) is one of the most exclusive schools in the country, but not all is well in education paradise 

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As before, the flypast was timed to disrupt the 47-year-old’s big moment. Not that it couldn’t have been worse for Mr Moule, known in Radley jargon as The Warden.

The leavers, who had each chipped in £5 to raise £750 to pay for the stunt, had heated discussions on what their message should say.Some wanted ‘Moule Out’, others the more prosaic ‘F*** Moule’.

Moderniser: Warden John Moule is pictured

In the end they plumped for their Trump-like slogan — fearing that the aviation company would balk at the other options.

But, while toned down, pupils and their parents say there can be no doubting the sentiment behind the stunt.

‘Make no mistake, this was a direct comment on the head and the changes he has made,’ a source told the Daily Mail.

‘It was driven by some really angry boys. They are very loyal to the school and hate to see its name in the papers — but at the same time aren’t prepared to sit around and do nothing.’

The charge against Mr Moule is that he is a moderniser who has brought in numerous unwanted, changes. 

His aim? Admirably, some will think, to open up the school to pupils who might not otherwise be able to enjoy such a privileged education. 

Among them are tweaks to Radley’s admissions policy, meaning parents can no longer guarantee their child a place by simply putting their name down at birth.

Instead, academic tests have been introduced at the age of 11, while a large programme of bursaries has been rolled out to encourage less well-off students to apply. Foreign students are also being targeted.

As part of the school’s rebranding, Mr Moule has been accused of tearing up school traditions by replacing its coat of arms with a new ‘corporate’ logo.

A number of popular teachers left following his arrival from Bedford School in 2014 and his tenure has also been marred by controversy.

In 2016, the school was at the centre of a sex scandal after a married history teacher was shamed by a love rival who suspected he had been conducting an affair with his wife, a head of department.

The traditional school logo has been replaced by a controversial new modern one (pictured)

Richard Jackson is said to have discovered that his wife Theresa, the head of history, had been cheating on him with Richard Greed, a fellow history teacher and head of rugby.

The cuckolded husband then destroyed his love rival’s collection of expensive wines, which was stored in the school cellar.

He also reportedly took the last remaining bottle and delivered it to Mr Greed’s doorstep, along with a brief note that is believed to have said simply: ‘You will need this.’

And the criticisms are not just confined to the campus.

The Mail can reveal that locals are up in arms over the school’s plans to sell off swathes of land for construction — bringing in £40 million for the school.

As well as a 240-home estate that has already been given the go-ahead, this would include building on a village recreation ground and knocking down its village hall.

‘We feel that Radley College is riding roughshod over the character of the area,’ said one fed-up villager.

‘This is a beautiful part of the countryside which is being pushed to saturation point by over-development. 

Before: Radley College used to have a traditional crest of arms for its school logo 

They proceed under the pretence that they are operating as some kind of altruistic force but in reality they are simply trying to sell off the Green Belt for private profit.’

Mr Moule’s plan to modernise the school — the Radley ‘vision’ as it is grandly known — was launched in October 2016 with a presentation at London’s Connaught Rooms and a glossy brochure full of buzzwords.

It was his intention, he said, for Radley ‘to raise its head up, look beyond its gates, become more international in outlook’ and to create ‘global citizens of the future’.

‘To do this, we must seek an increased number of boys from different backgrounds; boys with different outlooks and experiences, from different social, cultural and economic circumstances,’ he added.

All well and good but as Mr Moule has found to his cost, at any institution, let alone a British boarding school, change does not come easily.

Founded in 1847 by William Sewell, an Anglican priest, Radley College is a boys-only establishment located in countryside four miles from Oxford.

Old boys include former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion and the late comedian Peter Cook. 

Yearly fees for its 690 pupils are £38,325 — not including extras such as the £3 charge for a day’s beagling or the £4.75-a-term fee for the dry-cleaning of school gowns.

While not considered to be quite in the same league as the likes of Eton, Harrow and Winchester, Radley has traditionally provided a solid public school education for the nation’s upper classes.

‘Radley is a bit like a London club,’ said one prospective parent who recently toured the school.

‘It has its own ridiculous rules and they produce really ‘nice’ boys.’

Founded in 1847 by William Sewell, an Anglican priest, Radley College (pictured) is a boys-only establishment located in countryside four miles from Oxford

Another added: ‘It’s always been referred to as ‘Rah Rah Radley’ — turning out the sort of chaps who feel comfortable in mustard cords and loafers.’

But today’s public schools are under growing pressure to justify their charitable status and their role in society. At Eton one in five boys is now on some sort of bursary.

Meanwhile Marlborough College, a rival of Radley’s, has just appointed its first female head, Louise Moelwyn-Hughes.

At Radley, the plan is to increase the number of students on scholarships and bursaries so that up to 20 per cent of the intake is financially supported. These pupils would come from state schools or from families who struggle to afford the full fees.

In doing so the size of the school would grow to 750 pupils.

Mr Moule, who was educated at a comprehensive school in Telford and is married with three children, is also seen as keen to improve the academic performance of the school.

Traditionally, parents put boys’ names down at birth on something called the ‘Radley List’.

They would then be admitted by simply passing the Common Entrance, an exam taken aged 13 by those applying to public schools.

While the list continues, now all potential pupils have to pass an academic test at 11 before going on to sit the Common Entrance.

Those not on the list also have the opportunity to fill a number of places, subject to meeting strict academic standards.

The changes have not gone down well with some parents.

Last year’s leaver speech was interrupted by a ‘Make Radley Great Again’ banner in the sky 

‘The introduction of a pre-test aged 11 has worried many people,’ said the source. ‘Radley has traditionally been perfect for the late-developing boy, who would come in pretty mediocre and come out with glowing A-levels. That was the ‘value added’ of Radley. 

This guy has come along and completely done away with what made Radley so special.’

It is claimed that there has already been an influx of foreign students — mainly Chinese — higher up the school. While they are said to have found it hard to fit in, they are expected to improve the school’s Oxbridge entry rates.

There have also been other issues at the school since Mr Moule’s arrival. The fallout from the teachers’ love triangle rumbled on last summer after it emerged that while Mr Greed had kept his job, Mrs Jackson had left the school. 

It has been reported that having resigned, she then changed her mind — but was unable to remain. Mr Greed, meanwhile, continues to not only teach but now promotes Radley to prep schools and overseas students.

There was more controversy last summer when Radley was caught up in an exam ‘cheating’ scandal after a whistleblower alleged pupils’ work had been altered by a teacher. It was found to have committed ‘technical breaches’ in its GCSE art course, although the school insisted that no malpractice was identified nor pupils’ grades affected.

The modernisation of the school has also had an impact on more superficial levels.

‘He (Mr Moule) has done away with the school’s crest and its Latin motto and decided to have a new logo, as part of a corporate-style rebranding,’ another source complained.

‘I think it is his idea of modernising — ‘We must have a logo’. But the motto and crest were deeply important to the school.’

Radley College’s motto, ‘Sicut Serpentes, Sicut Columbae’, means ‘Be ye wise as serpents, and harmless as doves’. It is taken from the Bible and is at the centre of the crest.

The new logo takes just one element of the crest — the cross keys — in remembrance that the school is dedicated to St Peter, the traditional gatekeeper to heaven.

The changing intake to Radley also has financial implications for the school. It plans to build a new boarding house and to extend the chapel. It is also amassing a huge cash fund to cover the cost of the bursaries.

Again, this has caused even further controversy.

In the Twenties and Thirties the school increased the land it owned from 140 acres to almost 800 acres — the idea being to prevent it becoming a ‘suburban school’.

But parts of the estate, much of which was until recently designated as Green Belt, are now being sold off for housing.

‘At a time of great change has also come a great opportunity,’ Andrew Ashton, the school’s bursar, wrote last year in reference to two potential development sites.

‘The planning process, and preparing for responsible development, both take time. However we envisage the possibility of financial gains in excess of £40 million for the college, realisable over the next two to eight years.’

At the end of May, the first development of 240 family houses in Radley village was granted by the Vale of White Horse district council. Several years ago the land had been removed from the Green Belt by the council to facilitate the new housing.

Planning permission was granted despite objections from 30 villagers who warned that it would devalue their properties, increase traffic and change the character of the village. 

There were also protests from environmentalists who warned it would impact on badgers and destroy other wildlife.

Even more controversial are plans to develop a piece of land in the village owned by Radley College that is currently home to the village hall and recreation field.

The school has offered to relocate both and to give £800,000 to the village primary school so that it can double in size.

It has not gone unnoticed that Mr Ashton, the bursar of Radley College, is also a governor of Radley primary school.

Again, locals are not happy. Why, they ask, if Radley is so keen to help the local school couldn’t they just donate the money — rather than link it to the redevelopment of the village hall and playing field?

‘The village hall is really well used for children’s parties and local community events, the Brownies, the Guides, the Scouts, and the local parish council all meet there,’ said one villager. ‘It’s the epicentre, the heart of the village.’

Another added: ‘They have lots of money and they don’t like anyone saying ‘no’ to them. This plan is splitting the village and causing lots of anxiety to lots of people.’

Neither Radley College nor Mr Moule responded to a number of questions posed by the Mail regarding the planning issues within the village and the concerns of parents and pupils about the direction the school was taking.

With the summer holidays under way and with those behind the speech day stunt now having left the school, no doubt the head will be hoping for a peaceful few months.

But the true test will come next speech day. When all eyes will be not just on Mr Moule — but on the sky above as well.

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