Choosing a prep-school in London is often a daunting process and whilst you likely have some fundamental pre-requisites set in stone, we have listed a few points below which you might not have considered.
- Does your child fit the academic mould? Consider whether your child will need a good SEN department or particular support as a gifted, talented and able student. Look out for small class sizes, excellent pastoral care and enrichment classes outside of the curriculum.
- Consider the quirks of London traffic and means of travel. Despite being close as the crow flies the commute to school may take much longer than you expected. It is not unheard of for London students to commute between 30-60 minutes by bus, tube or car each way to school. Therefore, it is important to consider this ‘added time’ when selecting a school. The key is to do a trial-run one morning!
- Senior school plans? Make sure that the school will include preparation for the specific exams your child will sit, be it 11+, pre-tests or 13+. Look at the leavers destinations which will be published on the school website to see which senior schools they have a good track record preparing for.
- Who owns the school? Some schools are a part of much larger school groups. The ethos of the group can have a huge impact on the day-to-day running of the school. Well managed groups ensure their schools are well resourced and provide investment in staff, facilities and equipment; other chains can be too commercial and lose sight of the most important mesaure of success - delivering an outstanding education for their pupils. Family run schools tend to have a less corporate feel and often strongly reflect the values of the proprietor. Ultimately, you need to feel that the school is comfortable in its own skin, has a set of values that resonate with you and is one that you want to work with over the next five or so years of your child’s education.
- Extracurricular. Outside of academic pursuits, what does your child enjoy most? Most London schools have very little space and extracurricular activities can be limited. If this is important to your child, consider schools located less centrally or after-school clubs near to home.
- Parental involvement. What happens when things go wrong? How does the school communicate with parents and are parents welcome, if so when and for what?
- Before and after school care. Contemplate your own schedule within the context of the school day as well as the rest of your family’s timetable.
Read a snapshot below of some of our favourite London Prep Schools.
Fulham Prep School
Fulham Prep School is known for being one of the friendliest of the London prep schools. The school has a welcoming sibling policy, a curriculum that is not set rigidly in stone to the National Curriculum and a reputation for polite, assertive pupils. Though the number of pupils might seem big, Fulham Prep is split across two campuses (pre-prep and prep) meaning the size is not as daunting as they may first seem. As mentioned, the curriculum is refreshingly unique, introducing philosophy in Year 4 and Mandarin as a lunch time club.
Being slightly further from central London than some of its competitors, there is a little more space for an AstroTurf pitch and cricket nets, though the school’s real excellence lies in the music with four school choirs (not including the parent choir!). The other thing for which FPS has a reputation is the broad range of leavers’ destinations; unlike some schools which can funnel pupils into a select few, Fulham Prep prides itself on getting each child into the school that is individually right for him or her. It is a school which nurtures a very local, welcoming atmosphere.
Notting Hill Prep
Keystone loves Notting Hill Prep. Its headmistress is a well-known and well-established educational force of nature who has been at NHP since the beginning; she was urged by parents to open a prep school following on from her success at a nearby nursery where her ethos had been so well received.
The focus is on developing enquiring minds and independent thinking and not purely filling their heads with information for recital; there is a children's philosophy class and Maths lessons are often practical. Big on music with a performance at the Royal Albert Hall last year, sport is also impressive and they are currently building more facilities. Parents are very much encouraged to be involved in school life and some who are specialist in certain fields will give talks. Unlike many London junior schools, NHP continues until the age of 13, though very few remain until then and those that do are mostly boys.
A small, traditional, boys prep school with Catholicism at its core, St Philip’s is akin to a close family environment. Due to the nature of the school’s location (the heart of South Kensington), sport takes place off-site which is unfortunate but unavoidable for many London schools. However the spacious playground, which is the envy of other central London schools, more than makes up for the lack of sports facilities and greatly appeals to its energetic boys. Lessons are a mixture of traditional and technology-aided, giving a good balance. The religious element to the school is celebrated; each day starts with prayers and a hymn, the boys are prepared for their First Confession and First Communion and the chaplain visits at least twice a week.
St Philip’s boys are known for being polite, confident and at ease when talking with adults. Even though most boys live in a very close radius to the school, the majority shun the London secondary schools and instead go on to full boarding schools including Charterhouse, Eton and Wellington.
Westminster Cathedral Choir School
WCCS is one of Keystone’s favourite London prep schools. Boys here are bright and often extremely musical but headmaster, Neil McLaughlan, makes every effort to find each boy’s individual strengths. Teachers focus on building strong foundations, equipping boys with the tools to tackle any academic field. They teach boys ‘how to think, based on the trivium of grammar, logic and rhetoric’.
The WCCS choristers sing to a world class standard and they have eight different ensemble groups. Sport is excellent and takes place in Battersea Park or the school’s own large playground next to Westminster Cathedral. Pastoral care is outstanding at WCCS and the parents we speak to describe the staff as incredibly approachable. Boys seem lively, happy and game for anything.
Admission is by exam and preference is given to siblings of current students and practising Roman Catholic families.