Who we are

Call: 0800 368 7694 (UK) +44 203 286 6824 (international)

Email: consultants@goodschoolsguide.co.uk

The Good Schools Guide Education Consultants team is made up of our most experienced writers around the country. All our consultants have visited many schools and all have specialisms in eg boarding, the IB and special educational needs. All are parents, many are teachers or other experts in education. The team is managed by our senior administrator, Shari Lord and her assistants, Amanda Perkins and Kathryn Berger who will be your first contact. They will take your details and a brief summary of how you would like us to help you. Shari will then consult with the directors of the service, Susan Hamlyn and Bernadette John, to decide which member of the team will be best able to help you.

You will find brief introductions to the team below. You will also find links to articles that have been written by members of the consultancy team. Asterisks by consultants’ names mean that they are part of our SEN team.

Susan Hamlyn - director

Susan Hamlyn, director emerita of The Good Schools Guide Education Consultants, created and managed for six years the Good Schools Guide's team of expert consultants.  Prior to that she was senior editor of The Good Schools Guide for 12 years. Susan was also a Relate relationship counsellor. She continues to advise on all things educational and family-related in talks to parents and through advising individual clients.

Formerly head of English and drama at a London independent school, Susan has been teaching English to children and adults for more than 40 years in schools, colleges and one-to-one. She has been a GCSE and A level English examiner. Susan is the writer of numerous books on English at the 11+ level, including the best-selling 11+ English Revision Guide, published by Galore Park. She has written many other books, stories and poems for children and writes regular journalism for national press on educational matters. Susan is a regular contributor to The Daily Telegraph's educational "Ask the Expert" feature and is the education Agony Aunt for Angels and Urchins magazine.

Susan lives in West London and has two grown-up children. She has visited more than 150 schools for The Guide and has advised many hundreds of families. She has particular interests in girls’ schools, London schools and boarding schools. Her principal aim is to help ensure that children enjoy their childhood and their school years. “Happy children learn,” she says.

Click to listen to Susan Hamlyn, Director of the Good Schools Guide Education Consultants talk on scholarships and bursaries at the Independent Schools Show.

Bernadette John - director

Bernadette John, a director of The Good Schools Guide Education Consultants, takes particular responsibility for our special educational needs service. She has 20 years’ experience of SEN, gained both through work for charities, advocacy services, and government pathfinder organisations, and through raising her eldest child who has special needs following a premature birth. Her journey to find the right provision for him took her on a tour of schools in ‘just about every district in commuting distance of London’, through mainstream and independent specialist schools, and through education tribunals along the way. Bernadette advises on special schools and colleges across the UK. 

Her younger sons have been educated in a mix of state primary and independent prep schools, and at three of Kent's grammar schools. She advises parents seeking admission to grammar schools, and helps parents with appeals to grammars and other secondaries. She is also an advisor for mainstream independent and state schools across the home counties.

Bernadette began her career in journalism and was an award winning magazine editor. She continues to write freelance articles on education and travel. ”I love a big research project,” she says, “and enjoy using all the journalistic wiles to get the information you need. And I know at first hand the anguish parents suffer in trying to get the right school for their child. It’s out there somewhere and I’ll enjoy helping you find it.”

Shari Lord – senior administrator

Shari has worked as the administrator of The Good Schools Guide since 2005. Shari is the first person you will encounter when you contact The Good Schools Guide Education Consultants. Shari will take your contact details and a brief account of how you would like us to help you. Shari says, “A mother of three grown-up children myself, I feel I have an understanding of parents’ concerns about education and schooling and enjoy finding the best possible consultant for them.”

Amanda Perkins – assistant administrator

Amanda has worked for The Good Schools Guide during the autumn term for over four years, contacting schools and updating the database. She says she is thoroughly enjoying her new role working with Shari as an administrator for The Good Schools Guide Education Consultants. Amanda has three children, two still in education, and has experienced both state and independent schools as well as a few years in the French school system. Amanda’s youngest is currently starting GCSEs so she knows just what it is like to weather the angst this produces.  Having experienced the French Brevet in between, she is looking forward to the challenge and is sure this helps her empathise with the worries that parents have about their child’s education.

Kathryn Berger – assistant administrator

Kathryn has worked for The Good Schools Guide since 2010, helping on the Great Annual Edit which takes place each autumn. In 2015, she joined Shari and Amanda as an administrator for The Good Schools Guide Education Consultants. Kathryn has four children, two in primary education and two in independent secondary schools in Cornwall. She previously worked in the research sector at JP Morgan and Accenture in London and Reuters in Devon. Kathryn has a commerce degree and an MSc in Information Science. After moving to Cornwall she has worked as a school librarian. She is married to a teacher.

The Consultants

Susan Bailes

Susan taught English at secondary and preparatory schools for over thirty years. Until 2012, she was head of a successful non-selective, coeducational, independent preparatory school in Surrey. Susan began her career at St Catherine’s School, Bramley and, later, Guildford High. Both her sons went through the independent system and Susan became excited by the possibility of working in the preparatory sector after touring schools as a prospective parent. She has considerable experience of London day schools having been Deputy Head at Falkner House and senior teacher and Head of English at Durston House School for boys. She was Deputy Head and Head of English at Bute House, helping to prepare pupils and advise parents on the bewildering choices available to them.

An experienced ISI inspector, Susan has also undertaken an MA in children’s literature and has also been a GCSE examiner. She joined The Good Schools Guide Education Consultants team in 2012 as a prep school specialist and greatly enjoys visiting schools. “I am delighted to join The Good Schools Guide team” she says, “and I hope to make use of my diverse experience whilst encouraging and supporting parental choices so that the young are happy and fulfilled in the future. It is so important that we develop and nurture talents and abilities of boys and girls in both day and boarding schools, single sex and coeducational and ensure that each individual is matched to the right school.”

Janita Clamp

Janita was brought up in Bristol attending both state and independent schools. She studied English literature at York University and worked in trade and academic publishing for many years. Janita teaches English and undertakes freelance writing and editorial work. She lives in rural Oxfordshire and has two sons. The schools she reviews for The Good Schools Guide are mainly in the Thames Valley: Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Berks, Herts. However, she is one of the few people who reads each edition of The Good Schools Guide from cover to cover every year in her role as proofreader. “I don’t find too many spelling or punctuation errors,” she says, “but I have learnt an enormous amount about the wonderful diversity of schools we have in the United Kingdom – a great advantage when it comes to my advisory work. What I enjoy most about this work is the variety and the thrill of the chase, talking to parents about their children and the satisfaction of working together to match child and school.”

Elizabeth Coatman

Elizabeth lives in Sheffield and has taught English, mainly in independent schools and Further Education colleges, in various parts of the country, for over thirty years. Her children (one girl, one boy) attended a state primary, followed by either a comprehensive or independent school, so she has an interest in and experience of both sectors.

Elizabeth says, “I am a self confessed edu-geek and have found visiting a wide range of schools for The Good Schools Guide, for ten years now, fascinating and at times inspiring. My favourite part is talking to the pupils, always a delight. They have a much more lively time than I did, at a rather monochrome girls’ school in North London – I feel quite envious at times!” Elizabeth has advised a substantial number of parents looking for state schools all over England, with a particular focus on London and the Home Counties. She has helped families – both with choosing the best schools and with negotiating the seemingly infinite variety of admissions policies.

Sarah Drummond

Sarah Drummond is the co-founder of The Good Schools Guide. She has three grown-up children and lives in central London and Dorset. Following a career in the art world and subsequently as a fashion editor (on the Daily Express and Vanity Fair) she was a free-lance feature writer for a variety of newspapers and magazines (including the Times, the Evening Standard, the Observer, Harpers & Queen, the American magazines Architectural Digest and Mademoiselle). She was asked to write a book about schools and, with two fellow author-parents, travelled all over England, Scotland and Wales visiting schools to create The Good Schools Guide. Later, she set up The Good Schools Guide Education Consultants in response to requests from parents seeking help. Sarah is fascinated by all aspects of education, and by how we learn. She firmly believes that nurturing a child’s confidence is of paramount importance in choosing a school: ‘A self confident child is a happy child. And a happy child can learn.’

Sarah Evans

Former head of a leading independent school in Birmingham and before that, head of a co-educational boarding school in Saffron Walden, Sarah Evans has chaired a number of national education committees including establishing as an independent company and chairing the Independent Schools’ Teacher Induction Panel. She now chairs the National Induction Panel for Teachers in Academies and Free Schools and works as an educational consultant advising governing bodies on senior leadership appointments and leadership training.   

A Governor of four state and independent schools, Sarah is also a trustee for two Charities involved in social enterprise. She has advised her own family and friends extensively on educational matters! Sarah has been awarded the Tatler Award for Best Headmistress of a Public School, an IoD Midlands Leadership Award and an OBE for Services to Education in the January 2014 Honours List.

Sarah is a welcome and highly experienced member of The Good Schools Guide Education Consultants team and can advise parents on all matters to do with their children's education.

Sue Fieldman

Sue Fieldman has been with The Good Schools Guide for fourteen years and is one of our most experienced consultants. She has first hand experience of the crucial importance of school choice – her daughter has been through the British education system from age 3 -18 and is now at university.

Sue says she enjoys every minute of her work advising parents about schools. “There is nothing more satisfying than hearing from parents that their children are happy in their new schools – it makes all the hard work worthwhile.” Sue is used to helping people in various aspects of their life. Prior to working for the Guide, she was a national newspaper consumer journalist specialising in readers’ financial problems. She is also a fully qualified solicitor.

Lisa Freedman

Lisa is an experienced education consultant and education journalist. She writes for The Good Schools Guide and about education for The Financial Times, The Times, The Daily Telegraph and The Mail on Sunday. She holds an MA in Comparative Education from London University’s Institute of Education, where she is currently working on a PhD. A Canadian by birth, she is married with two teenage sons, who have been educated in both the state and the private sector.

Judith French

An Oxford graduate, Judith is a highly experienced Drama and English teacher, and over twenty-five years has worked extensively in both the independent and state sectors. She has taught in girls’, boys’, mixed, academically selective, non-selective, specialist and SEN schools, and has particular in-depth knowledge of schools in south-east and south-west London. As an actress, she specialised in theatre-in-education and community theatre, and toured to primary and secondary schools all over the UK in a huge variety of shows. She holds an MA in Performance Arts from Middlesex University, and continues to have a passionate interest in music, drama and dance education.

As well as writing for The Good Schools Guide, she is a commissioned playwright for BBC Radio, where her Sony-nominated work has won consistent popular and critical acclaim; she also regularly wrote and presented “Something Understood”, the BBC’s contemplative arts-strand for insomniacs. She is married with two sons, and lives in south east London. She says, “Putting together my teaching, my acting, and my work for The Good Schools Guide, I’ve been inside more schools and met more teachers than almost anyone I know, outside The Good Schools Guide experts, of course! I know how they tick, and I love using my experience to help parents make the right choice for their child.”

Anne Hadley

Anne Hadley has broad experience of education in the UK, having visited and reviewed schools in the south of England for The Good Schools Guide since 2012. She was a governor of a primary school and has two children currently being educated in the independent sector. She and her family relocated to the south of England three years ago so is well placed to understand the anxiety parents can feel in identifying the right school for their children in an unfamiliar area.

Anne was an employment lawyer for seven years, advising clients on their employment rights at often very stressful moments in their working lives. Finding the right solution for each particular client was crucial and she enjoys using these practical skills to help parents find the right school for their child.

Sophie Irwin*

Sophie has worked with The Good Schools Guide since 2000 as a writer and an education advisor for both mainstream and special educational needs. Her early career included founding and running a nursery and pre-prep school and providing 1:1 tuition for people affected by specific learning difficulties and ASD. Currently she works part time as an additional support lecturer/tutor with children and adults in an FE College. She has also worked for charity helplines and been involved with research and training projects in both the statutory and voluntary sector.

Sophie tells us, “My varied career has given me much experience and insight into today’s educational options and issues across all age ranges and abilities. I live in South London with my husband, two daughters and a dachshund. I enjoy the variety and flexibility of being part of The Good Schools Guide writing and consultancy team.”

Mary Langford

Mary Langford is a US/UK dual national who first moved abroad at the age of two. She attended eight schools on three continents, studying in French, English and Spanish. She attended the College of William and Mary (Virginia, USA) and the University of Texas graduating with a BA in Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies, and later an MA in International Education at the University of Bath. She has been a school head, principal, teacher and admissions and communications director at boarding and day schools in England, Switzerland, Greece, France and Spain offering IB, US, English, Spanish and Saudi Arabian curricula. For four years she was Deputy Executive Director of the European Council of International Schools (ECIS) where her responsibilities including managing 32 professional committees and ECIS certificate programmes for governors and trustees, senior leaders and teachers. She has served on 9 international school accreditations teams under the auspices of the Council of International Schools, the International Baccalaureate Organisation, and two US accrediting agencies, and has visited over 70 international schools in the Far East, Southeast Asia, North Africa, Europe, and North, Central and South America.

Mary has written, spoken and led workshops and training programmes on international schools, international education, and the impact of international mobility on families and children, and has served as a consultant for The Good Schools Guide International since 2007.

Ralph Lucas

Ralph joined The Good Schools Guide in 1995 and became editor in 2000. He has run The Guide since then and, although he still visits a few schools every year to keep his hand in, his main activities are drawing The Good Schools Guide together, education politics (he is an active backbencher in the House of Lords) and data analysis – as a former physicist, and an inveterate programmer, he has undertaken most of the work that underlies the online Guide‘s extensive distillations of schools’ information. Ralph says, “You are most likely to work with me if the questions that you face require data analysis as part of their solution.”

Grace (Malden) Moody-Stuart

Married with four children, Grace has extensive experience of schools. Educated at Bedales and Cambridge, she was born and brought up at Windlesham House School, where her parents, Charles and Elizabeth Ann Malden, were joint heads, and a direct ancestor was the original founder in 1837. Her eldest son was a pupil there. Grace was Assistant Director of Studies at Sussex House in Central London until 2012, where her responsibilities included advising parents about senior schools and preparing boys for admission to senior schools. All four of her children were at their local state primary school in Shepherds Bush, before moving to different West London independent and boarding schools, including Latymer Upper and Ravenscourt Park Prep. Grace has contributed to The Good Schools Guide since 2004. Prior to that she practised at the Bar for ten years. She has particular knowledge of schools in Central and West London.

Patrea More Nisbett

Patrea, who was educated at Cranborne Chase and the Sorbonne, is now Consultant Emeritus. She was one of the three founders of The Good Schools Guide and remains a source of huge experience and expertise.

Beth Noakes

Beth has spent the last decade or so visiting schools for The Good Schools Guide – mostly in North London. She has talked to countless heads, parents and pupils, seen lots of sports halls and science labs, rolling green acres and cramped tarmac playgrounds. Beth has also been a North London parent for 21 years, with children who at various stages went to inner London state primary and selective independent secondary schools. Beth feels, “The Good Schools Guide Education Consultants don’t work miracles but can sometimes wangle last minute interviews or exam places or suggest schools not on the radar of conventional consultants – generally because we’ve visited them or had children there, or know a woman who has. It’s particularly satisfying to get a follow up phone call from a once-desperate parent whose child is now happily ensconced in a new school.”

Charlotte Obolensky

Charlotte is the Deputy Director of The Good Schools Guide Education Consultants. She attended Queen Anne’s, Caversham and has a degree in Latin/French from Durham University.  She retains full membership of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and does some HR consultancy. She has 25 years experience as a school governor (state and independent) and has worked as a teaching assistant and a French tutor so, along with seeing her own children through schools, Charlotte has plenty of experience of UK education. Charlotte tells us, “The compensation of coming to the end of one’s children’s school days is the acquisition of masses of experience of schools – the good, the bad and the ugly, the state, the independent, the boarding, the day – I have done them all.  Writing for The Good Schools Guide since 2009 has given me priceless insights, great research skills and the guts to ask the awkward question, so I am delighted to be part of the The Good Schools Guide Education Consultants. I work mostly in south west England.

Mary Pegler*

Mary has a background as a Speech and Language Therapist, both in the NHS and private sector, with experience working in a special school for dyslexia. She has a particular sensitivity to finding the strengths and needs of the individual child. Her work takes her into a range of schools: Independent; State and Special provision; Primary; Prep and Secondary and she is familiar with the requirements of the National Curriculum. Mary says, “With three children of my own I understand the pressures on family life and how important finding the right school is. I have also lived through the agony and joy of the competitive entrance tests. Being a Good Schools Guide Education Consultant allows me to help parents at a worrying time with some practical help and reassurance. My advice about schools often involves my specialism of Special Educational Needs.”

Charlotte Phillips

Charlotte Phillips is an Oxford graduate and a former teacher (she was a music specialist at a South West London prep school for a decade), parent and consultant. She has also written on education and family life for The Telegraph, Times and Guardian, among others.

Her three children, one with SEN, have taken very different educational paths, attending 12 different schools between them with one child home educated through GCSEs. All have ended up doing well. The only thing that matters, she says, is whether a school is right for a particular child, something that glowing exam results and fabulous facilities won’t necessarily tell you.

As a veteran of some wonderful moments but some dreadful ones too, she enjoys putting her experience and knowledge at the service of other parents for whom finding the right education is not always straightforward. “Getting the right school for the right child is endlessly satisfying,” she says.


Catriona Prest

Catriona read history at London University and then spent eighteen years in headhunting before joining The Good Schools Guide in 2004. She lives in Kent and her particular area of expertise is schools in the South East corner of England, particularly Kent and East Sussex. She has extensive knowledge of the English boarding school system and has visited many schools around the country. Catriona particularly enjoys working for the The Good Schools Guide Education Consultants and says, “it is hugely satisfying and rewarding when a child is finally settled in a school. I very much enjoy being able to support a family through every stage of the process which often involves a house move or a move across the world.”

Melanie Sanderson

Educated in a mix of state, independent day and boarding schools, Melanie read French at London University before spending 12 years in the public relations industry, the last few as an agency director. Following a career break to bring up her sons, she developed a keen interest in education and schooling and started writing for The Good Schools Guide in 2013, quickly becoming a prolific reviewer of prep and senior schools in the home counties and outer London. Well-connected across the region, Melanie relishes putting her consultancy skills to good use to respond to families’ individual briefs, helping them achieve clarity in what can be a bewildering process of choosing the right school for their child. ‘Every school has a unique culture which parents are not always able to accurately pick up from the standard prospectus or school tour – particularly when the school is in ‘sell’ mode,’ she says. ‘It’s a real privilege to be in a position to really dig deep into what makes a school tick and then to use that knowledge to help families make the best decisions for their children.’

Mary-Ann Smillie*

Mary-Ann Smillie is a teacher with a Master in Literacy Learning and Literacy Difficulties from the Institute of Education, London and so has particular understanding of special educational needs. She has reviewed schools for The Good Schools Guide in the UK and abroad and, through The Good Schools Guide Education Consultants, helped many parents find schools that best suited their children. Her own three children attended both state schools and independent schools, in London, France and Italy and Mary-Ann now has responsibility for international schools and international education. But education doesn’t end there, she says, because ‘university applications can be just as complicated as finding the right school –  in our family one child went to a Scottish university, one an English university and one went to the U.S.A’. Mary-Ann is our consultant with special responsibility for children who are recognised as Gifted and Talented.

Rosemary Taylor

Rosemary has 25+ years of experience of working in education, including as a former Head of two Prep Schools. She is also a Governor of a 3-18 independent school and senior partner of a team of educational consultants working across the UK and in schools overseas. Rosemary says, “I am also a parent and clearly recall losing sleep over the school choices, from nursery, all the way through to sixth form and beyond…! My experience in the sector gives me a great deal of experience in advising parents and guiding choices, both in maintained and independent schools, and it has been my great pleasure, on a number of occasions, to guide and advise parents through what can be a difficult and daunting process.”

Click here to read an article on Prep School for Beginners by Rosemary.

Emma Vickers*

Emma has an MA in history, a PGCE and a diploma in Specific Learning Difficulties.

Having worked as a teacher for over twenty years, both as a class teacher and as a learning support teacher on a 1:1 basis, she has a wealth of experience of working in education. Emma has also taught English as a Foreign Language in Singapore to 16-18 year olds. Emma has a particular interest in dyslexia and dyspraxia and has been a governor of a special school in London. She joined The Good Schools Guide in 2012 and has visited and reviewed both mainstream and special schools, primary and secondary. Having prepared numerous pupils over the years for entrance exams to senior schools, she is aware of the pressures on them, particularly in London. Emma says, ‘There is nothing more satisfying than knowing that a child is heading for the right school for them.’ She lives in London and has three children of her own.

Sally Walker

Sally Walker has been the Geneva/Lausanne editor of The Good Schools GuideThe Good Schools Guide International since its birth in 2006.  Before Switzerland, she lived in Asia and the Far East and is a long term expat (over 25 years) so brings exceptional experience of that way of life to The Good Schools Guide Education Consultants. Sally worked on regional and national newspapers as well as a variety of magazines when in the UK. In Asia she worked for Dow Jones and Newsweek and, in the Middle East, for Time Magazine and Forbes.

Sally was a governor at the Geneva English School. She has a thorough knowledge of the International Baccalaureate Organisation’s four programs: PYP, MYP, Diploma and the new IBCC and she has close ties to the IBO, which is based in Geneva. She has provided an advisory service to many expatriates moving to Geneva and so understands the special needs of expatriate children. Sally has two children of her own who are currently studying at Oxford University, having gained the IB Diploma. She is passionate about the importance of a good education for all children. In her spare time, she’s a Cambridge University qualified English as a Foreign Language teacher.

Janette Wallis

Janette Wallis is a senior editor of The Good Schools Guide and advises parents around the world on UK school choice. She writes regularly about schools and education and is frequently quoted in the national press on education issues. She has 12 years experience with The Good Schools Guide Education Consultants helping families find the very best schools for their children. Janette previously wrote for The Economist and The Financial Times, held the education brief for the Diplomatic Service Families Association and has been a school governor. She has four children of her own.

Click here to read an article about Open Days by Janette.

And more…

In addition, we have a School Appeals Expert, Experts in University Applications in the USA and Europe and a team of Special Needs Experts. We can also offer a listening ear and expert, non-judgemental advice on any aspect of bringing up children if it is not easy to talk to friends and family.

Call: 0800 368 7694 (UK) +44 203 286 6824 (international)

Email: consultants@goodschoolsguide.co.uk

Your child – nothing matters more

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