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What says..

The school is proud of its sporting heritage and parents feel it is ‘taken seriously, but enjoyable’. An extensive sporting co-curricular: almost 400 girls and boys attend football club. The vibrancy of the science co-curricular dazzles, with a scientist and broadcaster, working as a scientist-in-residence, going into classes and curating a programme of Friday science lectures, not to mention the roof-top observatory...

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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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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

Headmaster

Since 2010, Dr Gary Savage MA (Cantab) PhD FRSA (40s). Having studied history, he topped this off with a PhD on the French Revolution. With a CV comprising the best names in education - he was under master at Westminster School, master-in-college and head of history at Eton - some parents wondered whether he would introduce a fearsome new academic regime on arrival, but one immediately realises this would not be his style. Instead he set out to ‘engage the community to have more academic confidence’. And how? ‘Let them breathe more, set the tone and create opportunities.' To this end he has introduced the sixth form governors' research project prize; and, fittingly for an arts-loving head, the headmaster’s review prize for years 9 and 10, where they write a critical review of a play, book or exhibition, hoping to inspire all ‘to enjoy London critically’. His message to teachers has been to take their own enthusiasm and ‘impassion kids, not just teach the syllabus’.

He grew up in Suffolk, attending his local state school, and still supports Ipswich Town football club. Married for 25 years; he and his wife, who works in TV, spend much of their down-time in Berlin. With an office decorated in Hague blue featuring a vibrant neon artwork from one of the pupils, we found him to be charming, passionate, energising and the most stylish head (spotted emerald green tie) we’ve yet to meet.

The parent view is equally impressed; the adjectives they find to describe him are ‘dedicated, determined, approachable, hard-working’; ‘caring and committed’ and ‘impressive, forward thinking, open-minded and inspirational’.

Academic matters

In 2017 at A level 77 per cent of grades were A*/A, and at GCSE 92 per cent were A*-A/9-7, which sees the school ahead of its Dulwich Foundation single sex rivals. Leading the way this year at A level were French, art, art history, Greek, drama and philosophy. An impressive 74 per cent of grades were A*/A in maths as were 80 per cent in English.

There are six year 7 classes per year. Typically around 23 pupils per class rising to around 24 for year 9. Classes are smaller for GCSE courses in years 10 and 11. Upper School (sixth form) teaching sets vary from 1 to 14 depending on subjects.

The vibrancy of the science co-curricular dazzles, with a scientist and broadcaster, working as a scientist-in-residence, going into classes and curating a programme of Friday science lectures, not to mention the roof-top observatory, but we noticed A level biology and chemistry performing a notch below humanities subjects for the past three years. The head comments that science entrance to university is strong. Computing and DT are currently low points. At GCSE the sciences are far stronger. Maths is setted in years 8 and 9 and pupils gained a stunning 96 per cent A*/A in maths IGCSE this year.

The Alleyn’s Learners’ programme in years 7 to 11 aims to empower pupils to understand how they each learn so that they can utilise this as they progress to GCSE. It’s all about ‘developing life-long learners as well as well-rounded people,’ says the head.

One period per fortnight for Spanish, German and French initially. Those choosing three creative subjects also study philosophy and history of art. Triple and double science depending on aptitude. The school is alert to what might be too much pressure. No early GCSEs in year 9 and no more than 10 subjects. One parent blessed with academic all-rounders said: ‘possibly too light (if anything) on homework, rather than too heavy, but very acceptable workload.’

There are two pathways in the upper school – one to four A levels, the other three A levels plus an AS. Sixth formers may be tempted by choices including psychology, art history, classical civilisation, politics, informatics, Greek and drama and theatre studies. We hear of students finding their academic passions in which case hard work ceases to be a chore. Sixth formers are given the platform to succeed with university applications: a subject specialist to comb over personal statements, extension societies. They are encouraged to have opinions and learn to hold their own (and rise to our more left field questions with ease). A large cohort of Oxbridge applicants strengthens aspirations and builds success.

Over 100 academic and support staff members have been with the school for over 10 years. A parent told us: ‘I believe the teaching staff are very skilled, the teaching is varied and interesting. The school manages to engender a very strong work ethic’. And pupils comment: ‘People do work hard and to a high level; the quality of teaching means you never feel under-prepared.’

We have heard of the odd dyslexic child from the school heading elsewhere due to an increase in pace towards GCSE (although the school has no record of anyone leaving for this reason), but the school currently supports around 150 pupils with identified SEND and points out: ‘We very carefully track the progress of our boys and girls with dyslexia, to ensure they receive the support they need, and they do very well indeed at both public exam points’. Classroom differentiation and six week courses in small groups focus on study support and some one-to-one is provided. A mother with two dyslexic children said: ‘They have felt hugely supported and encouraged by staff and fellow pupils and are thriving.’ A tiny minority with EAL needs.

Games, options, the arts

The school is situated in the midst of 30 acres of lush playing fields with the Shard and the City just a glimmer in the distance. Every pitch imaginable, plus a newly refurbished 25m pool. The school is proud of its sporting heritage and parents feel it is ‘taken seriously, but enjoyable’. An extensive sporting co-curricular: almost 400 girls and boys attend football club. By the third week of term when we visited, 300 pupils had already represented the school at a match. A similar number play netball and hockey. Water polo makes more than a splash. As ever, some sports dominate and some feel their particular passion is sidelined. Teaching staff have known sporting success: the deputy head, a former GB hockey captain still coaching at national level, is typical. D of E and CCF are popular - one often sees pupils in camouflage conducting exercises on the sports fields.

Similarly, most art teachers are practising artists. The art studios on the top floor didn’t show any stunning displays at the time of our visit, instead there was an appealing art college air with paint spattered easels and overalls in rows.

Some 550 individual music lessons per week, taught by 40 visiting music teachers. A significant number of grade 8+ musicians attending junior conservatoires on weekends. All manner of choirs including gospel, jazz and barbershop.

In years 7 and 8, pupils follow a carousel of two terms drama and one term dance. Students appreciate how lucky they are to have the Michael Croft Theatre, a wholly professional flexible space where lower, middle and upper schools put on a production each year. ‘Music and drama are outstanding. Lots of opportunities for a range of talent,’ said a parent. House music competitions are hotly contested. Musical alumni include Dobrinka Tabakova (composer in residence BBC Symphony Orchestra), Benjamin Wallfisch (Oscar-nominated film composer), Florence Welch (of Florence and the Machine) and Jessie Ware.

Most clubs included in fees. The school buzzes until the final bell at 5.15pm when everyone is expected to be off site. Fantastic mentoring culture sees sixth formers instigating and leading clubs and societies, where they give talks in whatever their passion and career aspiration, such as law, politics and medicine.

Background and atmosphere

If the school seems both snazzy and contemporary ‘part of a global 21st century’ it is, but it’s also one with a heritage – two years away from celebrating the 400th anniversary of the charitable foundation on which it stands. Traditional elements, such as the well-supported alumni society, thrive. Commitment to bursaries and playing a role in London Academy of Excellence, Tottenham, continue the community spirit of the founder. Buildings of every type dot the campus. A splendid, lofty, panelled Great Hall bears portraits of former headmasters and is used for assemblies. The Edward Alleyn building, red-brick and plenty of glass giving views of the playing fields, houses classrooms, a lecture theatre and a coffee shop sixth formers refer to as Costa. The latest remodelling in progress is the new curved red-brick lower school building for years 7 and 8.

One parent talked of ‘a unique energy I didn’t feel in any of the other schools we considered’. Others feel the atmosphere is ‘quite simply happy’, ‘and most important of all not obsessed with exams.’ One family felt ‘it is an overwhelmingly kind community where you are allowed to be yourself and to excel in your own way, without necessarily conforming to any norm.’

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

The head’s latest speech saw a recommitment to well-being, providing a safe environment in uncertain (political) times. He confirms his aim is for a ‘holistic, kind, relaxed school at ease with itself’. Parents universally single out the pastoral care for praise: ‘Unbelievably amazing!’ said one. Another: ‘My over-riding impression is that there is very little bullying, and kids (and young adults) are taught and encouraged to be respectful of one another.’ This is repeated at every turn. The co-ed nature of the school means there are relationships between pupils, but everyone seems to take the environment totally in their stride as a preferred norm and there are always people to talk to: ‘you never feel stranded’, tutors ‘have your back’ they tell us.

Pupils and parents

Will you fit in? Families are often ‘city people, third sector, journalists… Londoners,’ says the head. Accordingly this is a cosmopolitan bunch: pupils speak over 30 different languages at home, with a tiny few overseas nationals. One parent ensured we’re entirely in the picture regarding parents: ‘decent, obviously quite posh’. Prepare to be part of a community – ‘involved’ crops up frequently.

What kind of child would be happy here, we ask parents? ‘Curious, independent and confident – but it is also a great school for children who are less confident because the school culture is so kind and accepting,’ is representative. Upper school students wear business attire; our female guide negotiating the stairs niftily in platform wedges approved of the degree of latitude given.

Entrance

By far the largest entry point is 11+ when there are 135 places on offer and over 700 applicants annually. Candidates are assessed in English, maths and reasoning (verbal, non-verbal and spatial), and a confidential report is sought from the current school. Candidates who fare well are invited to return for a small group activity and one-to-one interview, and this is key as it gives pupils a chance. Over 300 are interviewed and the school takes a balanced split from state and primary applicants and those with different aptitudes. Adjustments for demonstrable SEND.

One third of the intake is drawn from Alleyn’s Junior School pupils who are all guaranteed a place. Pupils come from both preps and primaries, most very local, so Dulwich, Herne Hill, Streatham, Clapham and Wandsworth. But the huge Foundation coaches that line the road at pick up time shuttle children from far further afield including Bermondsey, Croydon, Beckenham, Chislehurst and Kensington and Chelsea.

Only 10 to 20 enter at 13+, with similar entry requirements. For the sixth form there are 15 to 20 places on offer; all candidates sit general papers that test their skills in critical writing, qualitative and quantitative reasoning regardless of their A level choices. The competition will be 100 strong.

Exit

Almost all to first or second choices of university. Most popular destinations recently: Bristol, Leeds Manchester, Durham, Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial, UCL, Edinburgh and Exeter. In 2017, 16 to Oxbridge, 11 medics and eight to art college. Six took up places outside the UK.

Money matters

More transparency than we often see regarding the financial commitments involved for prospective parents: spelling out the cost of school lunches and sports gear. Most scholarships are worth around 25 per cent of fees for the academic, sporting and musical. Application fees are waived for any children receiving free school meals. All bursaries are means-tested, with a focus on fewer but larger bursaries. Some 84 pupils currently receive bursaries and 70 per cent of these are fully funded. There even may be help with uniform, travel and school trip costs.

Our view

A vibrant, 21st century school built on solid values where excellent grades seem just part of a broader and deeper education towards confident young adulthood.

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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
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia
Dysgraphia
Dyslexia
Dyspraxia
English as an additional language (EAL)
Genetic
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
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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