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Parents attracted by its reputation for a liberal, stimulating environment, with its history as a direct grant grammar school and perhaps less pretension than some more traditional public schools - ‘We weren’t interested in putting our children through a system that gave them an over-inflated view of their position in society,’ said one parent. Pupils tend to be ‘charming, articulate, incredibly polite.’ Has produced an unusual number of well-known actors, musicians and writers. Ex-pupils include…

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What the school says...

Founded in 1619, Alleyn's is an academically selective school that has been fully co-educational for nearly 40 years, and sets high academic standards for all its pupils. The School is known for its excellent pastoral care, and for encouraging pupils to engage in the widest possible range of co-curricular activities. Our most recent inspection report comments that the quality of pupils personal development is outstanding by the time they leave and is a great strength of the school.

Alleyn's provides a broad academic education, both for its own sake and to meet the demands of universities and other institutions of higher education. At the same time we also seek to nurture personal qualities of initiative, independence and leadership, and attach great importance to the development of other interests and skills, whether cultural, sporting, adventurous or a combination of all three.
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What the parents say...

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2015 Good Schools Guide Awards

  • Best performance by Boys taking Latin at an English Independent School (GCE A level)

2016 Good Schools Guide Awards

  • Best performance by Girls taking Biology at an English Independent School (Level1/2 certificates)

Other features

All-through school (for example 3-18 years). - An all-through school covers junior and senior education. It may start at 3 or 4, or later, and continue through to 16 or 18. Some all-through schools set exams at 11 or 13 that pupils must pass to move on.

What The Good Schools Guide says


Since 2010, Dr Gary Savage MA PhD Cantab (40s). Previously under master at Westminster School, joining after 10 years' teaching at Eton, where his roles included head of history, community service coordinator and housemaster of the scholars’ house. A historian of 18th century France, has a passion for watching sport (Ipswich Town supporter – he grew up in Suffolk and was state school educated) and for the arts. Has taught himself German, and he and his wife Natalie (a television and film producer) have a pied à terre in Berlin. Would like to encourage in his pupils his own appetite for learning.

‘Imaginative….very charming…a good hand on the tiller,’ say parents. Certainly a suspicion that he is more elitist in outlook than his predecessors, and parents fear that the school’s liberal, creative ethos may be lost. Not so, he insists: ‘I want our pupils to do very well in public exams – but emphatically not by turning Alleyn’s into a hothouse. I want to expand horizons intellectually and socially without diluting or compromising the Alleyn’s ethos. I want to work with not against the grain’.

Academic matters

Used to be the junior partner of the Dulwich triumvirate of schools in academic terms. No longer: the increasing popularity of coeducation and a more selective entry has helped its rise up the league tables. 2016 saw 90 per cent A*-B and 70 per cent A*/A grades at A level; 92 per cent A*/A at GCSE. Maths much the most popular A level subject, as one would expect, but otherwise a good and broad spread of arts and sciences.

The head is ‘passionate about non-examined academic enrichment’. He has instituted the Governors' Research Project Prize, which is awarded for a piece of sixth form research – prize-winning subjects have ranged from an anthropological study on ape/human divergence to one on the mating habits of arachnids. He is encouraging a wider range of visiting speakers (the Guide listened to a fascinating talk by a Médecins Sans Frontières nurse; A C Grayling and the Archbishop of Canterbury have been other visitors), and has appointed a KS3 co-ordinator focussing on thinking skills - ‘I want to celebrate the life of the mind without compromising our buzz, busyness and happiness’.

Everyone is screened during year 7 to help identify any learning difficulties. At the end of the year, staff get together to decide who is likely to need extra support or an ed psych assessment. Full-time learning support co-ordinator can give individual term-long learning skills courses to those who are struggling. ‘They’re very quick at picking up when things are not going right,’ said a parent. ‘We get detailed reports, and I really feel they’re on the case.’

Part of the Southwark Schools Learning Partnership, which involves staff and students from 11 state and private schools sharing experiences and working together to improve teaching and learning. Now developing links with the state Sydenham and Forest Hill sixth form.

Games, options, the arts

Has always been viewed as the most liberal and arty of the local independent schools – and, of course, attracts many families from the creative professions. ‘Fabulous’ theatre (named after a post-war English master who set up the National Youth Theatre) hosts lower, middle and upper school plays as well as many sixth form and visiting productions each year. Full time stage manager, and students help with lighting and sound. ‘The standard is amazing,’ said a parent. ‘They’ve really brought out my son’s talents’ - though inevitably it can be hard for lesser mortals to get parts in shows. ‘But in the sixth form there’s much more scope and they can put on their own performances,’ said a student.

Large numbers play instruments - flourishing orchestras, choirs and ensembles taking part in masterclasses and performing at ‘astonishingly high standards’. Very impressive art, with many taking it to A level and a very high proportion of A* grades. Not a school that is sniffy about media studies, which has its own well-equipped studio with the latest high-tech editing equipment. Food tech is a GCSE option and there's a popular cookery club.

Enviable sports facilities include floodlit netball court in the centre of the quad and floodlit Astroturf, alongside sports hall, swimming pool, acres of playing fields. Sport for all but excellence too: whether the 1st XI footballers who recently reached the final of the Independent Schools Football Association cup; the U15 Girls’ football team reaching the semi-finals of the English Schools’ Football Association (ESFA) national cup; the girl who plays hockey for England; the extraordinary water polo teams (boys and girls have reached the national finals in every age group and the U14 girls were national champions for several years running); or the cycling club which meets at the Herne Hill Velodrome. ‘There’s so much on offer that everyone finds something they want to do,’ said a pupil.

Volunteering is important - ‘They take it very seriously’ - and houses raise funds for their own chosen charities. CCF very popular – opportunities to try gliding, go camping, do adventure training, learn radio communication – as is D of E, with large numbers at all levels. Huge numbers of overseas trips: eg football tour to Germany, geography society expedition to Iceland, religious studies trip to India.

Background and atmosphere

A direct descendent of the foundation Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift, set up in 1619 by Edward Alleyn, wealthy actor and proprietor of taverns, brothels and bear-baiting pits. Part of the foundation funded Dulwich College; in 1882, the upper and lower schools split, with the lower becoming Alleyn’s Boys’ School. It became a public school in 1919 and a direct grant grammar school from 1958, until that status was abolished in 1975. At that point it became independent and went co-ed. Other schools within the foundation include JAGS and several state schools.

Pleasant setting in between chic Dulwich village and trendy East Dulwich. Unpretentious red-brick facade of four-storey main building masks the main site, with its landscaped quads and acres of playing fields. A continuous development programme has, most recently, resulted in the dramatic Edward Alleyn building with its theatre, lecture room, sixth form area and Costa coffee bar, plus refurbed RV Jones science building with rooftop observatory and a new lower school building. Large sports hall, music school and excellent library.

Parents attracted by its reputation for a liberal, stimulating environment, with its history as a direct grant grammar school and perhaps less pretension than some more traditional public schools - ‘We weren’t interested in putting our children through a system that gave them an over-inflated view of their position in society,’ said one parent. Generous bursaries help the social mix.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

A very happy place, say parents, with good pastoral care and good communications - ‘Any questions get answered immediately’. The head concurs: ‘When things go wrong we deal with it carefully, kindly and robustly. We have a strong pastoral set-up with many layers, and we all work together to ensure that any children with problems are helped. Everything else is secondary to this.’

Lower school – years 7 and 8 – has its own new building, providing a sheltered introduction to the senior school and, say parents, particularly good individual pastoral care. Year 9 upwards join houses, which give a family feel and opportunities for those who don’t make school teams/plays to compete in inter-house events, eg music, drama and sport.

Head reckons only a handful of bullying incidents a year – ‘It is a remarkable testament to the ethos of the place’ - and parents agree. ‘We’ve never come across any bullying. It probably helps being co-ed, but it is a very well-balanced place’.

Very few exclusions - ‘I’ve had to do a couple of suspensions – for low level disruptions and disengagement – but we can generally get them back on side. Sometimes children give you no room for manoeuvre and you have to say it’s not working. But we tackle these things educationally and pastorally from the beginning, and generally the children buy into this'.

Pupils and parents

More bohemian than the other Dulwich independents - ‘It’s always attracted pupils of journalists, rock stars and theatre people,’ commented a parent. The least multi-ethnic of the three schools, probably because high-achieving ethnic minority families tend to go for single-sex education. ‘I’d love to see us reflect more broadly the south east London community,’ says the head, ‘and I hope that a wider range of families will feel confident applying to us. I don’t want us to be a bubble community.’ Pupils tend to be ‘charming, articulate, incredibly polite,’ said a parent. Has produced an unusual number of well-known actors, musicians and writers.

Ex-pupils include actors Jude Law, Nancy Carroll, Jessie Ware, Simon Ward and Julian Glover and director Felix Barrett; musicians Florence Welch, Felix White, Gabriel Prokofiev and Ed Simons; scientists Prof John Isaacs, Prof RV Jones and surgeon Prof Lord Kakkar; plus Air Marshall Sir Christopher Harper, writers CS Forester and VS Pritchett and former Sun editor, Kelvin MacKenzie.


Main entry at 11, with 125 places and around 500 applicants. Reasoning, English and maths papers. Automatic entry for junior school pupils, but the occasional one who has been struggling may have a probationary year: ‘We try very hard to make it work. We will see it through if we possibly can’. Generally a third of year 7 comes from the junior school, a third from local preps and a third from state primaries. ‘We like to take as broad a range as possible, but they must be bright enough to flourish, to enjoy the pace and buzz of life here. We’re looking for those who will have a fabulous time.’ Around 15 places at 13, with English, maths and reasoning assessments. At both levels, two-fold interview process, in small groups and individually. Up to 20 places at 16 (but often fewer) - exams in three prospective A level subjects plus a critical thinking test.

Increasing popularity means that local families can no longer be confident of a place for all their children. Parents who went to Alleyn’s themselves sometimes irked to find the academic bar has risen above their reach, with places going to those from all points east, west, south and even north of the river.


Few leave after GCSEs. Nearly all year 13 leavers to university, including Oxbridge (21 offers in 2016) and medical schools. Popular destinations are Bristol, Edinburgh, Leeds and Durham. Several to art foundation courses, one or two to drama school or music college, a few to American colleges, otherwise mostly to top UK universities to do a huge mix of subjects ranging from natural sciences to social anthropology.

Money matters

Enviably well-endowed with funds from the Dulwich Estate and from the Worshipful Company of Saddlers, which pay for a generous staffing ratio and the ability to carry out a rolling programme of improvements. Some 30 pupils on 100 per cent bursaries and many more on 50 per cent upwards - school is fundraising to increase that number. Scholarships (maximum £3000 a year) for music, art and sporting as well as academic excellence.

Our view

Traditionally a liberal and creative school, beloved of south London media families, which is increasing its academic clout. Parents like the fact the children are 'well-balanced kids with lots to do’. One commented: ‘We really feel we landed on our feet - it’s a superb school.’

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Special Education Needs

The school works with parents, staff and external professionals to identify conditions relating to specific learning differences. The school has a Learning Support Coordinator who will give advice and support to students with specific learning differences to help them achieve their potential. Where appropriate external support can also be enlisted.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Aspergers Syndrome [archived]
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders [archived]
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Delicate Medical Problems [archived]
English as an additional language (EAL)
Epilepsy [archived]
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class
HI - Hearing Impairment
Hospital School
Mental health
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
Not Applicable
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
PD - Physical Disability
PMLD - Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty
SEMH - Social, Emotional and Mental Health
SLCN - Speech, Language and Communication
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
VI - Visual Impairment

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