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The classics department is outstanding, with Greek, Latin and classical civilization all taught, as well  as -  more unusually – Sanskrit, which is available at GCSE but no longer A level (although some go on to study it at university – especially popular for Oxbridge applicants). Despite being cloistered in Olympia, the school does surprisingly well on the sports front – all praise to the very hard work of the PE department. As such, has no problem catering for sporty girls. Girls flex their thespian muscles with…

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What the school says...

We offer an education which nurtures and enriches the physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual development of our pupils. Our happy, united atmosphere provides the ideal environment for every girl to discover her own unique combination of strengths and talents and 'to be the best she can'.

St James girls are industrious, open-hearted and courageous; they work together, enjoying others' successes as well as their own. They achieve the highest academic standards and are also encouraged to develop strength through self-discipline and an ability to live according to an intelligent understanding of what is wise and true. Regular opportunities for stillness and quiet enable them to learn to be at ease with themselves, to appreciate the value of being fully present and to develop their ability to concentrate.

Our teachers have excellent subject knowledge and give their time generously to support the well-being and development of their pupils. Relationships throughout the school are extremely positive and are characterised by a spirit of love, trust and mutual respect.
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What The Good Schools Guide says


Since September 2023, Emma Bell, previously deputy head at Tudor Hall in Oxfordshire. Prior to that she was head of sixth form at Stratford Girls’ Grammar School.

She has a degree in modern history from the University of Cambridge and an MA from the University of Oxford, plus a PGCE from the Institute of Education, University College London. She initially trained as a strategy consultant but after travelling and volunteering with homeless and refugee families she realised that education was her vocation.


There are 170 applicants for 30 places; the remaining 18 places tend to go to girls from the prep school (around half of girls from the prep transfer directly to the senior school). External applicants come from a mix of preps and state primaries (around half each). These include Bute House, Chiswick and Bedford Park, Fulham Prep, Heathfield House, Hurlingham, Kew Green Prep, Larmenier and Sacred Heart Primary School, Pembridge Hall, Notting Hill Prep, Ravenscourt Park Prep, Redcliffe School and the Falcons School for Girls. Main north-west feeders include Maple Walk and St Mary’s School Hampstead.

School is part of the London 11+ Consortium, with assessments in cognitive reasoning, English comprehension, maths, problem solving and synthesis skills. There's also a common reference form. Odd spaces higher up. Entry criteria for sixth formers is at least five GCSEs at 9-4 and a minimum of a 7 for subjects to be taken at A level. They also sit school's verbal reasoning exam and need to submit a personal statement.


Up to a quarter leave after GCSEs, often for larger or co-ed schools, both state and boarding. Popular recent destinations after sixth form include Bristol, Durham, Falmouth, Leeds, King’s College London, UCL, Nottingham, St Andrews and Warwick.

Latest results

In 2023, 58 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 40 per cent A*/A at A level (68 per cent A*-B). In 2019 (the last pre-pandemic results), 76 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 56 per cent A*/A at A level (79 per cent A*-B).

Teaching and learning

The classics department is outstanding, with Greek, Latin and classical civilisation all taught, as well as - more unusually – Sanskrit, which is available at GCSE but no longer A level (although some go on to study it at university – especially popular for Oxbridge applicants). Girls from the prep take it until the end of year 9; those who join from year 7 take it in the first term, after which it is optional. The root of many eastern and western languages, staff say it’s great for grammar and offers a wealth of metaphysical thought. Plus, say some of the girls, it marks you out as interesting. One parent whose eyebrows disappeared into her hairline at the thought of Sanskrit on the syllabus now speaks of the merits for girls in learning a different philosophical system.

These unusual ‘extras’ can lift excellent teaching into something inspiring. Philosophy and spirituality are imbued in the day to day, with girls pausing for a minute or two at the the beginning and end of each class (with inevitable reports of scuffles and giggles), and some sophisticated ontological teaching - especially from the history, RE and English departments. While one parent observed it was ‘a bit of a hodge-podge what with Anglican hymnbooks, Sanskrit and various religious things,’ girls report fascinating ethical discussions, and being given tools to question moral issues.

Academically, the school achieves strong results. ‘We expect to get a grade to a grade and half higher than the predictive data,’ says one head of department. IGCEs in physics, Sanskrit, biology, chemistry, history and mathematics (these departments say they prefer the syllabus, which they believe offers a wider scope of learning than the current GCSE syllabus). The rest – art and design, classical Greek, Latin, music, PE, drama, religious studies, English language and literature, French, Spanish, geography and food nutrition and preparation – are GCSEs. There is an option to do a BTEC in applied IT, which is popular. Small sixth form – around 50 across both years – with 22 subjects offered, including classical Greek, Latin, Hinduism, RS, sociology and psychology, alongside art, biology, chemistry, mathematics/further mathematics, physics, history, history of art, English literature, Spanish and French. Classes are small, particularly in sixth form, where there can be as few as two or three girls per subject.

The staff-pupil ratio is high – 41 teachers, 14 of whom are men, to 262 pupils when we visited, although we did hear criticisms from parents about a higher turnover of staff than they’d have liked and certainly some stalwarts have left recently. On the other hand, the teachers are known for their commitment, which chimes with the assiduous attention to pastoral care. Teachers take on a variety of roles, pastoral and mentoring as well as educative.

We were impressed by some of the girls’ analytic abilities over and above schoolwork. A year 7 girl gave an insightful breakdown into the technical aspects of a Disney film, including its storyboard and animation. Another’s passion for the Percy Jackson stories was a tonic. ‘If you join at the junior school, your time is even more beneficial because you really understand Sanskrit, and the ethos of the school,’ a former pupil told us.

Learning support and SEN

Around a quarter of the girls have mild to moderate learning difficulties – which is a high percentage – and the school feels that the size of class and level of academic support, including extra teaching and clinics, provides significant assistance. One parent estimated that 50 per cent of her daughter’s class had extra time in exams, and ‘Academic results are really good, considering they take so many kids that are SEN.’ School says the figure across the school for SEN is 30 per cent.

The arts and extracurricular

Art is popular. The department produces accomplished work – exquisite oils and pen and inks were on display - and a number of girls go on to foundation courses or university degrees in the subject.

Girls flex their thespian muscles with annual musicals; Mary Poppins was a recent vibrant offering, as was the school decamping to Leighton House to stage Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. The girls’ and boys’ schools join together for a leavers’ ball (and a joint musical fundraiser to finance it), concerts and a biennial musical. One parent, a professional in the music world, said the summer concerts where both schools performed together were ‘fantastic and unusual, and had real heart and soul’.

Choirs are the backbone of the musical offering, with a junior and a senior choir, orchestra, grade 5 music theory and, of course, private instrument lessons available.

The school has recently refurbished its home economics kitchen, and the girls regularly cook meals and serve them to residents from a local nursing home. Popular extracurricular trips include a geography trip to Iceland and a history trip to Berlin.


Despite being cloistered in Olympia, the school does surprisingly well on the sports front – all praise to the very hard work of the PE department. As such, has no problem catering for sporty girls, with an outstanding lacrosse team, ISA netball, excellent results in cross country and a successful football team, as well as the usual sports of athletics, rounders, gymnastics, cricket, handball and volleyball. The lacrosse team recently won the county lacrosse tournament (four lacrosse players were on the England talent pathway and a year 9 girl had been selected to trial for the U19 England team when we visited), and two girls represented Wales and Scotland in lacrosse at the home internationals. The school also won the ISA regional cross country competition for years 7/8 and 9/10. The U15 football team recently won the Queen’s College tournament and the U18 football team won the St Paul’s Girls’ indoor tournament. Self-defence, karate, kickboxing, yoga and dance also available, albeit extracurricular. Athletic girls will be recognised and stretched here, says a parent of one star pupil, ‘even though the school doesn’t promote itself as a sporty school’.

There’s a sports hall on campus and outdoor netball court, and girls from year 10 upwards can pay to use a local gym nearby. Otherwise sports days and outdoor events go to King’s House sports grounds in Chiswick or the Linford Christie Stadium nearby. Professional sportswomen come and speak to the girls, with recent speakers including Jess Grimson, Team England’s top female beach volleyball player, and Jasmine Joyce, a Team GB and Wales international rugby player.

Ethos and heritage

Located down a quiet road in the shadows of Olympia, the main gate leads into an attractive gated courtyard. Up until year 12, the seniors share this site with the prep school, with senior girls turning left rather than right on entry. Classrooms smack of the Victorian (building opened as a school in 1874, then was rebuilt in 1936) with wooden desks, although of course there are whiteboards too now. Labs are well equipped and modern, there’s an excellent art studio, and well-appointed hall. It is light and pleasant, but some parents have concerns about a lack of outdoor space, although there is a netball court and the girls use the playground during breaks.

The sixth form building is a couple of streets away in a large terraced house filled with classrooms, breakout rooms, study spaces and a good-size common room. Here, girls are largely autonomous, although they return to the main school for assemblies, certain classes and meals – and clearly love their independent life a few streets from the main school.

When the school was founded in the 1970s, it was very much part of the School of Economic Science movement that had built up momentum since its origins in 1937. The idea behind SES was an exploration of the world's great religions and philosophies and what it is to be fully human in a spiritual way. Although the school has actively distanced itself from the SES, the legacy of this ethos lives on through the school, albeit evolved. Food has always been vegetarian (originally due to the SES links, although now the main benefit is ‘a huge saving in CO2 emissions'), which appeals to many parents. It is simple and nourishing – with pizza a popular option.

We found girls to be articulate, reasonable and supportive of one another. Especially suited to quieter academic types that respond to a gentler approach and who embrace the meditation time at the beginning of the day and after lunch. Such girls, say parents, ‘blossom’ here. One parent reports a girl joining in sixth form and finding ‘it was like going home for her. She won an award for being an all-round good egg.’ Phones are handed in daily for years 7 to 11, although the staff are ‘cheered by the sanguine attitude’ of the girls to social media, observing ‘different generations respond in different ways’. Sixth formers can keep their phones.

Alumnae include actor Emily Watson OBE, Emma Mulqueeny OBE, Sahana Gero MBE, interior designers Anna Jacobs and Anna Glover, writer Lucy Crehan and Natasha Tomalin-Hall, creative director of You Magazine.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

Particularly strong on mental health, with school adept at spotting signs of disturbance and involving parents and support teams. School has a network of professional support from art therapists to SEN advisors, a mental health training mentoring scheme between older and younger girls, and even a dog, Huxley, ‘for emotional support’ that the girls love. Staff are proud of the work the school does in supporting the girls’ emotional wellbeing – all part of day-to-day conversation for the girls – and has led the school in its membership of the Girls on Board scheme, with a focus on navigating the waters of girls’ friendships. Parents speak of friendship groups as ‘thoughtful, caring, clever and confident’. The mantra used by these staff of ‘Is it true, is it necessary, is it kind?’ is a good one for girls who might be tempted to gang up on each other. One parent reported that ‘she had never seen teachers with such a high level of commitment’ to the girls. It’s worth noting, though, that one parent reported more girls with problems than you might hope for, but perhaps this is simply because the girls’ problems are being recognised.

Pupils and parents

Over 40 languages spoken at the school, with families from Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Pupils find it ‘easy to settle in’, with St James a ‘refreshingly different space to be themselves’. Vegans, yogis and life coaches are represented in the parent body, alongside the more usual private school coterie of bankers, accountants and lawyers. Parents are invited to a ‘back to school’ evening when they are ‘taught’ by the staff, which is a hugely popular event, as is the Christmas Fair when the courtyard and school are transformed into a glorious grotto, filled with trees, cakes and goodwill. One parent felt it’s a shame the school is sometimes overlooked – like others, she encourages her friends to visit the school as well as ‘the Godolphin and Latymers’ because her daughters are so happy there.

Money matters

Means-tested bursaries awarded to 10 per cent of current pupils. All current and future parents may apply.

The last word

St James has a special place in the panoply of west London private schools. It offers exceptional pastoral support and many girls benefit from the school’s holistic and nurturing approach. For some, the emphasis on care, compassion and classical education may make it feel slightly staid, but for others it offers an excellent crack of the academic whip in a supportive intellectual environment.

Please note: Independent schools frequently offer IGCSEs or other qualifications alongside or as an alternative to GCSE. The DfE does not record performance data for these exams so independent school GCSE data is frequently misleading; parents should check the results with the schools.

Who came from where

Who goes where

Special Education Needs

St James Senior Girls' School offers an education, which draws out and magnifies the unique talents implicit in each individual. An environment is provided which enriches the intellectual, emotional and spiritual development of a pupil in an atmosphere which supports unity and is conducive to the happiness of all.' Ethos and Aims; Senior Girls' website. Within this environment, pupils with mild to moderate LDD/SEN thrive and achieve good results. Pupils,come from a wide range of backgrounds and are accepted from both the state and private sector. The School has experience of working with pupils with dyslexia, dyspraxia and specific learning difficulties but maintains an open attitude to looking at supporting the needs of pupils outside those areas.The School's policy of keeping the same Form Teacher, where possible, with a class from Years 7-11 provides an opportunity for pupil and teacher to establish good relations. This enables all pupils, but especially those with LDD/SEN to feel that their particular circumstances are understod and supported. Pupils, once settled, are then prepared to take risks - they are willing to try new methods and stretch their goals. Experiencing success enables pupils to develop confidence and a sense of self-worth. 09-09

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia Y
Dysgraphia Y
Dyslexia Y
English as an additional language (EAL) Y
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class Y
HI - Hearing Impairment Y
Hospital School
Mental health
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
PD - Physical Disability Y
PMLD - Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty
SEMH - Social, Emotional and Mental Health Y
SLCN - Speech, Language and Communication Y
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
VI - Visual Impairment Y

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