Open Days

Wednesday 24 November
Year 2 and Year 3 experience day on March 5, 2022. Our Year 5 experience day is on March 12, 2022.
We also offer bespoke taster days for pupils of any age, where they can spend a morning or afternoon at the school.

History of the School

Our Lady’s Convent School (the former name for OLA) was founded in 1860 by the Sisters of Mercy, a religious order which begun in Dublin in the early nineteenth century led by Catherine McAuley. This was the same year that Abraham Lincoln was nominated as President of the USA, British and French troops captured Beijing in the 2nd Opium War, the first British tramway was inaugurated at Birkenhead, Gladstone began using a red box to deliver the government’s budget to the House of Commons and Florence Nightingale founded the Nightingale School and Home for Nurses in London, the first secular institution in the world to train nurses.
Until recent times the Sisters resident in Abingdon, played a major role in the life of the school, helping to strengthen the ethos of integrity and warmth that are two of its special characteristics. Governance of the school is now devolved to a body of lay trustees and there has been a lay head for many years.
The story of the founding Sisters of the School, however, starts much earlier, on Michaelmas Day 1778 with the birth of Catherine McAuley in Dublin.

Our Students

Founded in 1860 by Mother Clare Moore of the Sisters of Mercy, Our Lady’s Abingdon (OLA) is an independent, Catholic day school, for boys and girls aged 7–18. The school welcomes pupils of all faiths and none who wish to benefit from its nurturing and outward-looking ethos. OLA offers outstanding pastoral care and a wide range of academic and co-curricular activities, ensuring that pupils are confident and engaged and leave school excited about their next steps in life.

Small class sizes allow staff to get to know every single pupil, giving them the support and encouragement they need to fulfil their academic and personal potential.

There are 330 pupils aged 11–18 in the Senior school and 40 pupils aged 7–11 in the Lower section.

Facilities and Buildings

Bright, spacious classrooms and an excellent library provide a pleasant ambience conducive to study and learning. Extensive grounds surround the buildings, providing an attractive setting in which pupils can play and relax during breaks. Sports facilities include football and rugby pitches, a multi-use games area, tennis courts, a sports hall, hockey and athletics provision and a 25-metre indoor swimming pool. The school has benefited from new dining rooms and a 70-seat cafe, with other recent building projects including a Design & Technology centre, an auditorium and library, the latest in ICT equipment and additional Science laboratories. The Music department benefits from new facilities to aid composition and support the wide variety of instruments taught in the school.


The school teaches a balanced range of subjects both academic and practical during the first three years. Latin is a core subject in Y7 and 8. Pupils usually take 10 or 11 subjects at GCSE, including English Language and English Literature, Mathematics, Science (Combined Science or Biology, Chemistry and Physics), Religious Studies and French or Spanish. Options are chosen from the Humanities to Classics and Physical Education. Three subjects are studied in the Sixth Form (OLA 6th), with many students taking the opportunity to take the EPQ (Extended Project Qualification) in the Lower Sixth. Some take Further Mathematics as a fourth A Level. The great majority of OLA 6th students go on to Higher Education, but some have also succeeded in gaining places on highly competitive professional placement programmes. There is also support throughout the school for pupils with special educational needs and for pupils for whom English is not their first language.

Co-curricular activities

The school provides an extensive programme of co-curricular activities including drama, music, art, public speaking and many forms of sport. Sailing is particularly popular. Buses run later on three evenings a week to accommodate these activities and to allow for supervised homework. There is also a strong commitment to local community schemes and an impressive record in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme. OLA has regularly been accredited with the British Council’s International School Award for the links it has fostered with schools in Uganda.

Fees & Admission

Through the school’s own Entrance Examination at 11 and 13 (WAIVERED FOR 2021-2022) ; pupils require at least 5 GCSEs at Grade 5 for entry to OLA 6th, with at least Grade 6 in the subjects they wish to study at A Level. Pupils interested in entering OLA 6th for whom English is a second language, must in addition have achieved a minimum level of 6.5 in IELTS for each category. Pupils may join in any year if a place is available with the exception of Years 11 and Upper Sixth. Pupils may apply for Scholarships for entry to Year 7, Year 9 and OLA 6th. Candidates may also apply for bursaries, which are awarded at the discretion of the Governors.

Charitable status. Our Lady’s Abingdon Trustees Limited is a Registered Charity, number 1120372, and a Company Limited by Guarantee, registered in England and Wales, number 6269288.

Governors & Staff

Board of Governors:

Chairman: Mr F Elturk, BSc
Mr G Ayling, MA
Dr L Bergmeier, PhD, CBiol, MRSB, FHEA
Mrs A Freeman, BEd
Revd J McGrath, STB, MA
Ms L Mills, BA, BSc
Mr F Peck
Sr P Roke, MA Cantab
Mrs H Ronaldson
Mr P Williams, MA Oxon
Dr Jacqueline Woodman, MB ChB, MRCOG, MA, MEd Ed, DPhil

Heads of Sections:

OLA 6: Dr E Lawson, BA, MA, PhD
Upper School: Mr A Jackson, BA, MSc, PGCE
Middle School: Mr J Cooper, BA, PGCE
Head of Transition: Miss S Page, BSc, PGCE
Lower School Coordinator: Mrs L Ainsworth, BA Hons

Leadership Team:

Head of OLA: Mr D Gibbons, HA Hons Leeds, PGCE, MMU

Chief Operating Officer & Executive Leader: Mr P Karian, CIPD
Deputy Head: Dr B Reynaert, BSc, PGCE, PhD
Assistant Head (DSL): Mrs C Sharkey, BA, PGCE
Assistant Head (Pastoral): Mr L Allen, BSc, PGCE

Heads of Departments:

Art: Mrs H Holden, BA, BA, PGCE, MSt
Careers: Mr C Sissons, BEd
Classics: Miss P Smith, BA
Design & Technology: Mr N Humphreys, BEd
Drama: Dr E Lawson, MA, PhD
Economics & Business Studies: Mrs L Webster, BA, Grad Dip, MEd
English: Mrs R San José, BA Hons Leeds

Geography: Mr A Jackson, BA, MSc, PGCE
History: Mr A Weekes, BA, PGCE

Learning Support: Ms S Martin-Morrissey, BA, PGCE, NASENCO
Mathematics: Mrs A Knight, BSc, PGCE
Modern Languages: Mme H Pang, MA

Music: Mr N Farrow, MA Oxon
Physical Education (Girls): Mrs M Barnett, BA
Physical Education (Boys): Mr L Allen, BSc, PGCE
PSHE: Ms S Martin-Morrissey, BA, PGCE, NASENCO
Psychology: Mrs J James, BSc, PGCE, GTP
Religious Studies: Miss S Campbell, BEd
Science: Mr A Easton, BSc, PGCE
Textiles: Mrs C Sharkey, BA, PGCE

Head of Admissions: Mrs R Knowles, BA, MBA
Head of Marketing: Ms K Sutton, CIM Dip
Head’s PA: Mrs J Braley, BSc, Assoc CIPD
School Business Manager: Ms T Wheatley, AAT
School Development Manager: Mrs Z Doy, FIOS