Word on the street….a candid look at the pre-preps around NW8
As a starting point, the Good Schools Guide is a great resource for anyone just feeling their way around private school education. There are also great websites which offer information on the relevant schools like,
the Good Schools Guide also have a website for which you have to subscribe and can be found at,
and there is also the Independent School Show held around the 10th and 11th of November each year down in Battersea. More details can be found at http://www.schoolsshow.co.uk
In this post, I have attempted to give parents a more insightful look to the schools in the surrounding areas, on a more personal level. The statements made below are all simply opinions voiced by different parents with children at the different schools and should not be taken to be statements of fact. Please bear this in mind when reading the article below. Every child is different and every school has good points and points upon which they can improve. Please understand that sometimes while one school may come across as not being suitable for one child, it may be the perfect school for another. This tends to be true even of siblings within the same family.
The opinions expressed below, are from parents who have had different experiences at the different schools either at open days or by actually having a child attend that particular school and are just that. Opinions. They are not necessarily representative of the school’s ethos or policy and it is always best that if you are interested in a school or have questions about a particular school that you call up the school and arrange a visit and/or a meeting with the school to clarify.
While the views represented below may seem biased in one way or another, please be aware that the comments have been gathered from talking to numerous mums with children at each of these schools, by spending hours on forums and collating information and opinions from mums expressed on those forums and from personal experience. The reason that I have presented them here together is so that interested mums can find as many opinions and views as possible in one place and not have to trawl through lots of different websites and forums in order to get information on any one school. I have tried to include as many views as possible. Please feel free to agree or disagree and voice your own opinions below. I am sure that parents considering these schools will be very grateful for any feedback given.
Number of children: Approximately 382 boys and girls
Headmaster: Benedict Dunhill (2015 – present)
Entrance: Non-selective at nursery level. Registration fee of £250 to be submitted with the application form.
Word on the street: Abercorn in St John’s Wood takes children in at nursery level and goes all the way up to 13+. While it doesn’t have the greatest reputation academically going up the school, a lot of parents who are in London for short spells end up registering their children there as it is not as selective as the other prep schools in North London and it is easier to join at different levels in the school. The transient expat community find it useful and the fees which are higher than most reflect this. However academics at the nursery level and reception years do not seem far behind those of the more selective schools. Parents are very involved with the school and there seems to be a culture of inviting all the class parents to each other’s houses etc which is excellent for developing a community spirit. After school clubs start at Reception. The non-expat parents are seen often looking at 7+ options but in general seem content with the school.
Number of children: 430 girls and boys (Junior school) 1,350 girls and boys (Senior school)
Headmistress: Mrs Coreen R Hester
Entrance: Selection is based on school reports, recommendations from teachers, standardised test scores and interviews. A tour of the school is invited. The school has a rolling admissions policy so children can enter at any stage.
Word on the street: The American school has an excellent reputation with regards to both academics and pastoral care. They have great facilities and new students are given buddies so they dont feel left out or homesick. There is quite a lot of transition though in the school as most families are expats so they generally tend to stay only for around three years or so. The lower school uses a projects approach to learning and students are encouraged to challenge themselves. The school caters to those interested in the International Baccalaureate and its non-traditional approach to education is seeing excellent results. Heavily oversubscribed and referrals are sometimes sent in from the highest offices in the States in order to try and secure a place. The school itself is warm and friendly and the teacher to student ratios are impressive. Furthermore, the facilities are amazing and the range of clubs on offer is equally varied. The emphasis on learning support also is extremely encouraging with 32 trained staff members on board and permanent SENCOs. Well worth the extra couple of thousand for parents who can afford the fees. Bursaries are however on offer as well.
Number of boys: Approximately 295 boys.
Headmaster: Mr Paul Keyte (2010 – present)
Entrance: At Reception. Open morning, register your interest, then bring your boy in for an assessment. Only pay the registration fee when registering your son for his assessment.
Word on the street: St Anthony’s in particular are known for their caring and nurturing approach. The school has an excellent academic record that seems to better itself each year. They have basketball courts and a swimming pool and very good sized play areas which is a huge plus for a school in the area. The teaching staff are caring and warm and their art and music teachers in particular, are inspirational. The head, Paul Keyte joined recently (3 years ago) and is an extremely charismatic and enthusiastic headmaster, keen to improve and develop the school and its reputation in the area. He challenges the children with philosophical and very interesting questions and cares a great deal about the boys as is evidenced by the way in which the junior boys run and gather around him on sight, clamouring to get a word in with him. The school is definitely on the up academically and seems to be attracting quite a few who in recent times have been turning down the more popular schools in favour of it. Currently a large proportion of boys from the St Mary’s nursery end up at St Anthony’s but the school does also accept boys from other nurseries as well. It is a Catholic school but is welcoming of all faiths. Exit results in the last few years are developing well and are now comparing very favourably with both Arnold House and The Hall and the school has boys ending up at St Paul’s, Westminster, Highgate and UCS.
Number of boys: Approximately 250 boys.
Headmaster: Mr Vivian Thomas (2006 – present)
Entrance: At Year 1. Register between 1st and 2nd birthday, attend an open evening, followed by a parent – headmaster chat and finally an assessment of the child.
Word on the street: Arnold House prides itself on being a family school and has a lovely warm, friendly atmosphere. The boys are polite and confident and usually conduct tours themselves. Pastoral care at the school is very good and the school comes across as caring and nurturing with a focus on helping boys to become well rounded individuals. There is an emphasis on extra curricular activities. In particular, the school music department is very well regarded. The headmaster, Vivian Thomas is everything you expect from a headmaster of a school like Arnold House. Fantastic personality, warm, welcoming and very confident both in himself and in his position in the school. He has been the headmaster since 2006. Both he and Ms Penny Williams, the Admissions secretary are excellent representatives for the school. Exit results are consistent with a large exodus to St Paul’s and Arnold House retains its reputation as an excellent school. There is no decline in the numbers that apply and it has often been cited that Arnold House is the school that most North London mothers dream of sending their sons to. The school get roughly over 350 applications for 36 places. It must be borne in mind though, that of the 36 places, a large number is allocated to siblings and alumni which don’t leave many open to those unconnected to the school.
Number of children: Co-ed.
Headmistress: Angela Barr (2009 – current)
Word on the street: Considered a very good West London school. Feeds into Pembridge Hall. Head teacher, Angela Barr was the head teacher at the Lower school of Pembridge for 11 years previously. The school is part of the Alpha Group of schools which means that they will share sports events, music events etc with other schools that are Alpha plus like Wetherby and St Anthony’s. French and music start at reception. Good sized playground. Children are taught to tell the time through play at playtime.Very international school. Lots of school trips arranged through the year.
Number of children: Approximately 210 girls
Headmistress: Ms Jenny Finlayson (2016 – present)
Entrance: Parents should download the application form and send it in with the registration fee of £100. Preference is given to Roman Catholic families but children of all faiths are welcome. Once a place is offered, a deposit of £2,000 must be paid. For children under 5, admission is not selective. Boys can stay up to the age of 7.
Word on the street: St Christina’s takes boys only up to age 7 although girls can go on until the age of 11. Academically excellent, it comes across as being a very caring and nurturing school. The children seem extremely happy and are very well mannered and courteous. The only comment that can be made is that the nursery seems to have very large class numbers which doesn’t bode well if you have a child with more needs at the early years level. They have a gifted and talented registry and if children are identified as such will be given the necessary extension work to keep them stimulated and challenged. Although it is considered more a “hidden treasure” than a “trendy” school, this seems to bode well for the school as the academic standards and the extremely polite children show the school in a very favourable light. It should be also be noted that as one parent put it, although they do take boys till 7, the school is essentially a school for girls.
Number of girls: Approximately 235 girls
Headmistress: Ms Carrie Symes (2016 – present)
Entrance: Registrations should be handed in well in advance. Girls are accepted at 4+ and 5+. Girls accepted at 4+ will be those born between September to February and will be taken in at reception and girls accepted at 5+ will be those born between February to August and will be taken in at Year 1.
Word on the street: St Christopher’s also has a friendly, warm head and the girls who do the tours are polite and amazingly confident. St Christopher’s comes across as a school with a lovely atmosphere. The best thing about the school for a lot of mums is the absence of a categorising of girls according to ability and segregating them into ‘sets’ which seems to be commonplace in a lot of the other schools. Academics have been excellent and the exit results have been impressive. Around 300 applications are entertained for 38 places. Among the impressive exits are, St Paul’s Girls, North London Collegiate, Haberdashers Girls and South Hampstead among others.
Number of children: Approximately 600 boys and girls
Headmistress: Mrs S Piper (2011 – present)
Entrance: Mainly through the Oak Tree Nursery where children enter at 2.5 nappy free. Children from the nursery are automatically accepted to the school. Others sit an assessment at 4+.
Word on the street: At Devonshire House the hand holding is slightly less than at other similar schools although the teachers come across warm and friendly and are very keen on getting the children to hit the ground running. The new Headmistress (who transferred from King’s House School) is much liked and the parents seem to be in agreement that she has done wonders for the school. However, school trips are not top priority at Devonshire until the upper school and the school is owned (as is Lyndhurst) by a private individual. It is a traditional school and the class numbers generally do not exceed 18 to a class. In recent times, there seem to be quite a few celebrities who favour the school as well. It is generally well received academically. Exits are generally fairly good with girls going to South Hampstead, North London Collegiate, City of London Girls, Queens etc and boys exiting to Haberdashers, Harrow, Mill Hill, Highgate and so on.
Number of boys: Approximately 470 boys.
Headmaster: Mr Chris Godwin (2014 – present)
Entrance: Option of entering at Reception or Year 1. Register before the 1st birthday. Attend an open evening, parent chat with headmaster and head of the junior house, assessment of boy.
Word on the street: The Hall is generally considered to be best school in the area academically but has a reputation for being less nurturing. If your son can settle in what some might describe as a competitive environment The Hall could set them on the path to a stellar academic career, but reports that if they need more nurturing in the early years they may not find they get this and could become unsettled and fall behind was the general reputation some time back. However, this seems to have become a thing of the past under Mr Godwin’s direction. He is keen on changing the image of the school. Mr Godwin is doing his best to make sure that the school is viewed not only as one that has excellent exits, but also one that encourages and supports its students to achieve their potential wherever their talents lie. There is a difference between this and being perceived as a hot house and Mr Godwin has indeed made it a priority to ensure that the reputation of the school does change accordingly. As is the case with most schools though, there are certain children who do very well and there are those who don’t and it is important to bear this is mind when putting forward applications to the school. Ms Anderson and the staff are extremely adept at picking the right child for the school and there is always movement on waiting lists. Parents with children at the Hall are firm in their praise for the ethos and the academic excellence the school is reputed for.
The unfortunate thing is that parents seem willing to do whatever it takes, including tutoring 2 and 3 year olds with a view to getting a place at the school which isn’t necessarily the best approach and may result in a result that is not always best for the child. In terms of places, 32 boys are offered places at the Hall at Reception and a further 22 at Year 1. Exit results remain impressive with the highest numbers going off to St Paul’s, Westminster and Eton.
Number of children:Approximately 271 boys and girls
Headmistress: Mrs Andrea Taylor (The school was started by Mrs Taylor’s mother in 1949 and Mrs Taylor became involved in the school and then helped expand it)
Entrance: Non-selective. Age range is from 2-7. Early registration as soon after birth as possible is encouraged.
Word on the street: Although Hampstead Hill only goes up to 7+ the teachers and the Headmistress are personally involved with every child’s development and comes across literally, as a home away from home. Absolutely great academic results and very well regarded school. A truly lovely little school and it is amazing that they retain their warmth and nurturing atmosphere and still achieve excellent academic results. The school is open for 51 weeks and is open from 7.45 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. which helps the London professional parents no end. Although the hours are long though, the children are happy and nurtured and very well prepared for the 7+ exams. Parents love the school and in particular praise no end the wonderful head who is known on occasion to take a child home and take care of the child until the parent is able to pick them up. This along with the open plan set up, really does seem to make the school a second home for the children.
Number of children: Approximately 370 boys and girls
Headmistress: Ms Melissa Remus Elliot ( Head teacher and Co-owner)
Entrance: Non-selective. Age range from 3 to 13. Early registration is key as siblings get priority. First step is to complete a registration form. The registered children will be invited to spend a morning at the school. If they are a good fit, a place will be offered but if there is an uncertainty, children have sometimes been asked to come for a few days. The nursery takes in children from the term in which they turn 3. .
Word on the street: Heathside is a small school but with a great community feel to it. Small class sizes at 15 children per class. Parents are very involved and the school has a real family atmosphere. Parents teach, help with library duty, run clubs, help out with organising festivals etc. There seem to be a lot of friendships that have been built inter-year as well as across parallel classes. All sports teams are co-ed and the children have a wide array of clubs to choose from. These include Mandarin, mad science, capoeira, yoga etc. The school doesn’t take students with behavioural or serious special needs and will also not take an autistic child as they are too fast paced and active. However, the children are of mixed ability and there is plenty of help with scattered little nooks for children to be coached in when necessary and parents feel that all children regardless of ability are encouraged to learn and helped along. Although it is not a traditional school, the exit results remain excellent with a majority going to Highgate, UCS, Belmont etc.
Number of children: Approximately 176 boys.
Headmaster: Mr Pascal Evans (2015 – present)
Entrance: Early registration is absolutely key and applications are made to the Headmaster. Parents will be invited to the school with their sons to visit at least two years before their son’s year of entry. Age range from 4 – 13. Entry is in the September before their 5th birthday.
Word on the street: Hereward House has a well deserved reputation for being an excellent, academic North London school. Good class sizes at 18 children per class. The new Headmaster who transferred across from Westminster Under this year, cares passionately about the well being and intellectual development of the students. Having been the Director of Studies at Westminster Under for 10 years, he brings with him a wealth of experience and parents find him approachable and down to earth. Parents have mentioned that they are confident he knows how to get the best out of the boys. Music has a strong emphasis and almost all the children play at least one instrument. In addition to out door play within school grounds, the boys also get play time on Hampstead Heath and Primrose Hill. Specialist teachers teach music, French, art and drama from reception onwards. Parents feel that their sons are stretched appropriately and the less able pupils are helped rather than managed out and the school has a lovely family feel to it.
Number of children: Approximately 70 boys and girls.
Headmistress: Mrs. Dimitra Louskas (2007 – present)
Entrance: Once parents attend an open day, registration forms will be accepted from interested parties. Early registrations are advised as forms are accepted on a first come first served basis. You will then be invited to an informal meeting.
Word on the street: Although comparably small in size, St John’s Wood pre-prep has a sturdy reputation for academics and is very well regarded by the prep schools around. Places are on offer from the age of 3 onwards and children are expected to be toilet trained when they join. The school goes up to 7+ and clearly places importance on creativity as well as academics. A lovely touch, is the voicemail message for the school general number which plays a message recorded by a Year 2 boy. Class sizes remain small at between 16 – 20 children per class and are supported by teaching assistants throughout the school. There are a variety of after school clubs and also specialist teachers for subjects like music, french and so on.
Number of children: Approximately 625 boys and girls
Headmaster: Robert Lobartto (2015 – present)
Entrance: Early registration is advised as the 40 reception places are allocated on a first come first served basis.
Word on the street: Pupils do not sit formal exams until Year 10. However parents state that the school operates an individualised teaching approach and are in general very happy with the ethos of the school. There are however some who feel that the relaxed approach to discipline, lessons and homework could be more formalised. Good special needs support is available either individually or in groups. The school takes a holistic approach to teaching and are big on creative arts (special emphasis on photography), den building, sports (mixed ability teams), and lots of outdoorsy extra curricular activities alongside screenwriting, pottery and a vast number of others. The approach to discipline is fairly lax and children are expected to take responsibility and act sensibly. The school does not have a uniform nor a dress code. “Children who attend, are those unlikely to be troubled by the need to earn a living” seems to be a recurring statement on a popular forum.
Number of boys: Approximately 168 boys
Headmaster: Mr Andrew Reid (TBD – present)
Entrance: At reception. An application must be submitted along with a £100 registration fee. A boy is invited for an assessment following which if a place is offered, parents are liable to pay a term’s fees and a deposit.
Word on the street: The assessment though not academically challenging, sports large numbers. Furthermore, there is no particular attention given to an individual child even on entry and while some kids will be fine with that, there are those that won’t be. Another point to note is that the teachers sit around the periphery with clipboards in hand which probably would not go a long way in making a child feel comfortable. The headmaster however does try to foster an atmosphere of kindness and honesty. The school is owned by the same family (Loveridge) who own Devonshire house but does not seem as popular as Devonshire is, with parents. It is generally seen as a local school for local families. There are parents with boys at the school however who are happy with the atmosphere and the size of the school and whose boys thrive there. It is a non-denominational school and has been described by parents as a small but lively school for local boys.
Nukmber of children: Approximately 183 Boys and Girls.
Headmistress: Mrs Sarah Gillam (2012 – present)
Entrance: Non-selective at Reception. Thereafter, informal assessment based on child’s school reports and on spending half a day at the school to ensure we can meet their needs. Registration is accepted upon receipt of a completed form and the fee of £100. Offers are made on a first-come, first-serve basis, based upon when a child has been registered. The school operates a sibling priority offer process. A deposit of £1,350 is payable within 2-weeks of a formal offer being made to secure a place. The offer process typically begins in the October before a child is due to start Reception class. If the place is for the immediate future and there are places available, an offer will be made straight away. Fees for the academic year 2015-16 £2,846 per term.
Word on the street: Maple Walk is very much a hidden gem and has been flagged among the top ten best value prep schools in London by the Good Schools Guide. It is a warm and friendly school with a good focus on academics. The headmistress is very hands on and has an in depth knowledge of Ofsted reports and ISI reports and is happy to discuss these with parents. The girls who show you around are confident and clearly love the school. They have excellent pastoral care and their results compare quite favourably with the other North London prep schools. All in all, definitely one to watch.
Number of children: Approximately 300 girls
Headmistress: Ms Harriet Connor-Earl (2016 – present)
Entrance: Names must be put down at birth. Places are offered first to siblings and then Catholics and then to non-Catholics. Entry can be at 2 years and 9 months. Not selective. Boys leave at the age of 6.
Word on the street: St Mary’s is definitely top of the list on the caring and nurturing side. They have an extensive outdoors which is rare for a school in London and in general parents are very happy with the academic standards and pastoral care. They have excellent exit results and is definitely on the up. The girls are polite and friendly and there is a general feel that the older ones take care of the younger ones. The brighter students do seem to be stretched with access to more activities especially during lunch time while those who struggle have on average 3 special needs teachers to help them. The school remains a firm favourite with the Catholic parents in the area and many boys at St Anthony’s have siblings at St. Mary’s. It does accept students of all faiths but will give preference to Catholic families. Exits are in the main to South Hampstead, City of London, North London Collegiate, Highgate, Haberdashers and quite a few with scholarships.
Number of children: Approximately 180 boys and girls.
Headmistress: Ms Julie Kirwan (2000 – present)
Entrance: Early registration is key as the school is very popular. Registration forms will only be accepted after parents have been on a school tour. Age range from 2 – 7.
Word on the street: Mulberry House school, is a popular 7+ schools in the area. Strong academics result in most of the children gaining admission to the prep school of their choice. The school is open 47 weeks of the year, and offers child care services from 8.00 a.m. to 5.45 p.m. to make things easier for working parents but this is optional and the regular school day is between 9.00 a.m and 3.30 p.m. and children are expected to attend for 40 weeks. Lots of inspired extra curricular activities like growing flowers, potatoes etc to math challenges, from pop art to building tropical snowmen. The children seem happy and busy and parents are pleased with the level of academics. Well regarded among the prep schools in the area and further out. Children receive specialist music training from the age of 2 and drama from the transition class onwards. All in all, a sound academic school, with impressive exits.
Number of children: Approximately 205 boys and girls in the nursery school; Approximately 185 boys and girls in the junior school.
Mrs Christine McLelland – Nursery & Pre-Prep School
Mr Brodie Bibby – Prep School
Mrs Georgina Masefield – Senior School Hampstead
Mr Jonathan Taylor – Senior School & Sixth Form Canonbury
Entrance: Starting at playgroup and moving into nursery and then onto Reception. Most of the children are siblings. The nursery takes 30 out of 120 applications. Reception also takes a similar number from a similar number of applications.
Word on the street: Northbridge though favoured by the previous generation, does seem to have lost its edge somewhat. It has been viewed in recent times more as a commercial business and parents have mentioned that the ability to pay fees seems to be top of the list on the selection criteria. However, parents whose children attend the school seem quite happy and content with the school. There does seem to be very high class numbers (between 20-25) though, which probably does not make for much individual attention to the children. However, there are parents who have expressed the view that their children are very happy and although the school is a little chaotic, it is more creative chaos than anything else. The work children are given however does seem to be of a higher level than that of some of the other prep schools in the Early Years.
Number of children:Co-educational. No. of children to be confirmed.
Headmistress: Jane Cameron (2003 – current)
Entrance: Non-selective at Reception but entry to Year 1 is assessed.
Word on the street: Very good pastoral care. Children seem to cheer each other on. Good parental involvement. Excellent music and most children join choirs, orchestras, ensembles and many play an instrument but sports not as good. Excellent SENCO. Will do one on one help and guidance at an extra cost. Lots of clubs to join. One thing unusual and a very good idea is that the winter children and summer children are split into two groups. Reception and Reception Cubs. Reception Cubs are the summer borns who are given more time to get used to school life. Another plus is that Jane Cameron, the headmistress used to be the headmistress at the very prestigious nursery, Acorn and parents feel has brought some of that ethos to the school.
Number of children: 410 girls
Headmaster: Henry Keighley-Elstub (2012 – present)
Entrance: Non-selective. Places allocated on a first come first served basis. Common theory is that registration should be pretty much straight out of the delivery room. However, the school is now keen to dispel this myth. It doesn’t matter what day of the month your child is born. Applications are processed by calendar month. Each month is divided into three and an equal number of girls are selected from each third, the rest go on the waiting list.
Word on the street: The school is very popular and is part of the Alpha group. Solid and much sought after, it is as a result, heavily oversubscribed regardless of the fact that it is a larger than average school with 3 classes of 20 children each. It is linked to Wetherby and the upper and lower schools flank the Wetherby school building on either side. The new headmaster, (previously deputy head of Wetherby) has brought a much needed change and parents are very happy with how the school is progressing. The big complaint which was the lack of communication between the school and the parents is now being addressed by the current head. The girls themselves are beautifully spoken and very well mannered. Confident and passionate, there is a lot of of encouragement and emphasis on public speaking and there are 10 year olds presenting their inventions to audiences of over 400 people. Lots of awards and prizes and opportunities to develop confidence and character. The girls are given a great deal of exposure to the arts and benefit from the well recognised LAMDA programme which covers music, art and drama. In the words of the headmaster, it is a girl’s school but not a “girly” school. The emphasis on sport is growing and girls are sent outdoors in all kinds of weather, no longer treated with kid gloves and kept indoors at the threat of rain. The education has been termed as lightly Anglican but very English. Destinations include, St Paul’s, Francis Holland, Godolphin and Latymer, Morehouse etc.
Number of girls: Approximately 170 girls.
Headmistress: Mrs E Webb (2016 – present)
Entrance: Non-selective at Reception stage. All parents are interviewed by the Head.
Word on the street: Queen’s in Portland place is also a great school for girls and is similar to Arnold House in the parents it attracts. Traditional but warm with great academics is pretty much the consensus. The school is small but traditional and is generally well regarded academically. Although the school has no outdoor play area, the younger girls are allowed into the gardens opposite the school. Girls are divided into sets depending on academic ability at core subjects. While the school has been praised for having high academic standards, some parents do decide to take the 7+ option in favour of more competitive schools. There is a good focus on extra curricular activities and exits in the main are to Channing, City of London, Latymer etc.
Number of girls: Approximately 170 girls
Headmistress: Mrs Christine Smith (2008 – present)
Entrance: Register soon after birth and pay £100 deposit. Parents visit the school and write to confirm their interest. Priority is given to siblings and alumni and the rest of the places are filled by the Head who meets with each parent.
Word on the street: An excellent alternative to South Hampstead. Pastoral care is very good and the school has a focus on personal development. The reviews are a real mix and I think a lot of it is down to what each parent experiences when they meet the head. If you haven’t got in though and are keen on the school, it may be worth noting that they do have a “special list” for those interested enough to call back. It is an academic school and the head is well liked by the current parents. The teaching is practical and relevant and exits are impressive. There is a gifted and talented list and a good special needs department. There is a good emphasis placed on music and art and drama. It is a very family oriented school and most of the families are local. Girls are however streamed on academic ability. Exits include North London Collegiate, South Hampstead, Channing, Highgate etc and girls are prepared extensively for the 11+ exams.
Number of girls: Approximately 250 girls (Junior school).
Headmistress: Sandrine Paillasse (Acting Head) / (Junior School head – Mrs Gabrielle Solti)
Entrance: Register your child between birth and the September of the year they turn 2. Two years before she is due to enter the school at age 4. Assessments are in groups of 12 and if selected your child will be recalled and reassessed in a group of 4.
Word on the street: South Hampstead has a great academic reputation but it doesn’t boast a caring and nurturing approach. Although the Headmistress is reported to have stated quite frankly that summer borns do badly at the 4+ assessments, as do bi-lingual children and made it quite clear that the school caters to over achievers a few years back, the school seems to have changed its approach somewhat and parents say the classes have a mix of girls with very different personalities. There have been some concerning reports in the past, but current parents are fierce in their praise of the school and are adamant that much of the school policy has changed. The school continues to be hugely popular due to its academic reputation and is heavily oversubscribed. Like The Hall, it is a school that will suit some children down to a tee but is not a school for everyone. It is up to the parent applying as to what kind of academic environment they decide to choose for their child. Most, apart from a few exits to UCS, remain all the way through and enter either excellent universities in the U.S. or end up at Oxbridge.
Number of children: Approximately 100 boys and 80 girls.
Head master/mistress: Simon Trevor-Roberts (Senior school) (1999-present) and Amanda Trevor-Roberts (Junior school)
Entrance: Parents tour the school soon after birth and the school registers the fist 100. The first 50 are invited for an assessment. Each intake takes children born in one calendar year.
Word on the street: Trevor Roberts tops the list for academics and pastoral care. They too are extremely difficult to get into though and early registration is key. The intake consists of 9 boys and 9 girls and half of the intake is taken up by siblings. Parents feel that their children are extremely well taught and the school is skilled in bringing out the best in a child. They teach the children the basics before moving on and the approach is very well regarded. The school is not particularly geared for special needs although they do sometimes take siblings with mild dyspraxia or dyslexia. A lovely school with a general disregard for competition endears it to parents who prefer their children are happy playing sport and learning rather than competing. Regardless, the school has exemplary exit results and children are confident and happy with a very high academic standard. The school is also favoured by many celebrities which makes it a draw (or not) for parents wishing to register their children.
Number of children: Approximately 130 boys
Headmistress: Dr Zoe Dunn ( 2015 – present)
Entrance: Two entries. Registration should be in January 18 months prior to admission. Most places go to siblings or to those with connections to the school.
Word on the street: Although the registrar at UCS is quite candid about the likelihood of success with regards to applications from those unconnected to the school, the school itself is not necessarily representative of that attitude and does make offers to those not connected. So it may be worth registering regardless of connections . The school can only cope with mild special needs. The school is regarded as having a strong focus on academics, drama and sport and has large grounds complete with a swimming pool and gym on site. Entrance at 4+ however does not guarantee an automatic entrance to the Junior school and boys will be required to sit the 7+ exam.
Number of children: Approximately 130 girls.
Headmistress: Ms. C.E.F. Gay ( – present)
Entrance: Registration forms to be sent in with fee. Children can be registered at 3+ or 4+ at the first instance. No assessment if entering at 3+ but there will be one at 4+ . For the 3 year olds, it will be a staggered week graduating to a proper week on their 4th birthday. Age range is 3 years to 11 years.
Word on the street: Traditional, small school. Children in general seem happy but it is not noted for being one of the more nurturing schools. Many parents claim that children who don’t achieve above a B+ are not looked upon favourably by the teachers. But the importance of discipline is clearly seen when a visitor is taken around the school with the girls immediately standing and wishing them. (Similar to St Christina’s). Premises are spacious and well kept and the school would probably suit the right kind of child as is the case with most schools. Exits also are good. As with most schools, there are many fans of the school and there are many who are not. Visiting to see if it suits your child is probably the best way forward.
Number of boys: Approximately 245 boys.
Headmaster: Mr Mark Snell (2008 – present)
Entrance: Non-selective. Places allocated on a first come first served basis. Registration must be straight out of the delivery room to secure a place.
Word on the street: Wetherby has in recent years especially, developed an academic reputation that is gaining strength. With the creation of Wetherby senior school, there is now provision for boys to carry on to 18 without changing schools. Most families tend to live locally though recently parents are coming from further afield. Three mixed ability classes with approximately 21 students in each year and young teachers. One minus is of course that there are no outdoor play spaces for the children but instead the younger ones are allowed our for two 15 minute breaks in the communal square. Exits in recent years have improved greatly and it does now get boys in to Colet Court and Westminster Under. Favoured by the Royals and many celebrities, it attracts a great number of applications from all parts of London. Registration timing is key though as it operates a first come, first served basis and parents are known to run straight from the delivery room (within hours of a son being born) to hand in applications. Registrations are accepted on the telephone or via email but must be directed to the Registrar.
These are just a smattering of schools around North London. There are still many that have not been reviewed here like Highgate school, Haberdashers both for boys and girls and so on. It would be great if mums and dads who have kids at these schools were to add their thoughts on these schools. Also, please feel free to agree or disagree with the above reviews. It would be great to get a discussion going both about these schools and/or other schools that I may have left out. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the subject.
If you need any more detailed/specific information though, please feel to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Mums In The Wood. July 2015.