Founded in 1997, Oxford Science Studies (OXSS) is one of the top revision schools in the UK, focusing on GSCE, A Level and the IB. Set up by Dr Mario Peters who was a junior research fellow at Oxford University studying rocket science – seriously, I’m not even kidding! – he started with two ad hoc pupils whom he taught Maths and Physics, before realising he was onto something and adding a second brain box Oxford PhD pal to teach for Chemistry and Biology. OXSS quickly gained a reputation as science revision specialists before realising – hey, why not teach all the main GSCE and A level subjects? So though they’ve kept the name Oxford Science Studies, they have for years offered top revision courses across more than 20 subjects for students from 14-19 years old who are working towards their GSCE, IGSCE, IB and A levels.
It’s hard to get hard data on how much revision courses help with results – the external factors are so immense – but there’s a 52% return rate for OXSS which is colossal when you think how many parents and children would use revision courses as a panic, one-time only buy. Even more telling is the fact that OXSS’s sister organisation, Oxford International College, which developed from the revision course, is the UK’s No 1 A Level College – awarded 2021 Top UK co-ed boarding school and 2021 Top UK Sixth Form College.
So something is clearly going very right.
OXSS offers 6 courses a year – two of which, the Easter Revision Course and the Summer School, are face-to-face only. On these two courses, pupils can take 1-3 weeks of study, either day only or residential.
The other four courses are for February, May (weekend courses) and October Half Terms, and Christmas/New Year, with a large degree of flexibility – currently offered online or face to face, and 1-9 days of study depending on the time of year. For a full list of offerings click here.
Student ratios are a maximum of 6 per group, but on average range between 1-2 students. There’s also the possibility of one-to-one coaching, which you can specifically book on set courses.
Like most educators, OXSS moved its classes online during Covid, and the success of that jump has now created a new, flexible hybrid offering depending on location (all face-to-face classes being in Oxford) and how the children prefer to learn.
For students in the Half Term courses, whether online or in person, the day runs from either 9.30am to 4.20pm or 10.20am to 5.10pm, and is dedicated to a single subject or paper so that learning can be immersive rather than hopping around and losing focus. Each day is split into 3 x 50 minute tutorials (50 minutes being the optimum time for concentration apparently), 3 x 50 minute exam practice sessions, 2 x 10 minute breaks and a 40 minute lunch. So basically – anyone with ideas of zoning or quietly bunking off, er, think again.
So far so serious. But OXSS’s trump card is its student-led interactivity as well the ability for students to practise what they’ve just learned. So forget the droning lecturer/lazy student dynamic and expect a more individual approach – students are actively encouraged to tailor the course to their specific needs by bringing in bullet points on where they need help, exam papers they’ve struggled with, questions they don’t understand and because the teaching here covers all exam boards (highly unusual, most revision courses have a let’s-hope-one-size-fits-all approach), the courses become highly bespoke.
Those taking the week long residential courses in Easter or Summer holidays stick to the same basic learning schedule above except for the addition of Study Skills classes – the practicalities of revising such as making timetables, and creating smart revision notes – stuff that sounds so simple and common sense to adults and literally for most teens Does. Not. Compute.
The residential courses, each offering a maximum of three subjects each week (so you could do a maximum of 9 subjects over the three week period), are held at the top-rated schools of D’Overbroecks and St Edwards, both in Summertown
Once the work ends, from 7pm there’s an Evening Entertainment Programme that includes cinema trips, sports classes, debate nights, pamper parties and hanging out with the other students on the course.
Are you already getting into a sweat thinking about your children off the lead in the city? No need, sister! On residential courses there’s a curfew of 10.30pm, a strict no mixing of boys and girls in bedrooms, wardens sleeping on site, and a full safeguarding policy. On all courses there’s an admin team on hand to help with any student needs – anything from first aid to academics such as needing more exam material, or confidentially discussing how they are interacting with their tutor.
For Half Term (Sat 19 – Sun 27 Feb), it’s £220 per day for small group tuition, or £320 per day for guaranteed 1-to-1 tuition. For Easter (from Mon 4 – Fri 22 April), it’s £889 per week, day only or £1254 per week, residential. And for Summer 2022, it’s £947 per week, day only and £1265 per week, residential. The dates for Summer School 2022 are from 25 July to 12 August.
WORD ON THE GROUND
I talked to one student, Gigi, who’s been with OXSS for three years. Describing herself firmly as a natural ‘C’ student, Gigi was full of praise for OXSS in helping her pull off A*/As and 3Bs for her GSCEs. A big fan of the residentials, she’s still in touch with the kids she met in her first year.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Those needing a structured and practical helping hand to understand their subjects and pass their exams. The bespoke approach is unusual amongst revision course providers, and the small class sizes will maximise success.
Not for: PE, DT and Cookery students. There are a broad range of courses on offer at OXSS but the massively practical subjects aren’t on the menu. The tiny class sizes leave nowhere to hide which might not suit your slacker!