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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 over 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 the three.
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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

Head

From January 2021, Jane Lunnon BA, the first ever female head of Alleyn’s. Previously head of Wimbledon High School for six years, where she oversaw the site redevelopment and expansion. After her education at North London Collegiate School and the University of Bristol (reading English), she began her career by dabbling in the world of marketing and research and enjoyed the excitement of a daily London commute until she saw the light, ditched the heels and the shoulder pads and became an English teacher. This, she quickly discovered, was the best job in the world - ‘getting paid to read books and talk about them’. She has had experience of both single-sex and co-educational environments, working at Wellington College and Prior’s Field School in a variety of roles including head of English, assistant director of studies, head of sixth form, deputy pastoral and housemaster’s wife. She is a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company Education Committee, a trustee of the Royal Springboard Foundation, a governor at Newland House and King Edward’s School, Witley and sits on the HMC Universities Committee. Her first book, The State of Independence, co-written with Dr David James, was published by Routledge in 2019 and examines the challenges and opportunities for independent education. She is now working on her second, Schools of Thought.

Her home life is pretty full-on. She is married to Neil Lunnon, who is also a head (of Fulham Prep). They have two children, Josie and Jamie, and a saintly cat called Tumbleweed. Her identical twin sister, Jenny Brown, is also head of an independent London day school, which makes for many interesting conversations over dinner.

Entrance

By far the largest entry point is 11+ when there are 150 places on offer and over 800 applicants annually. Prospective 11+ pupils can now come along as part of the admissions process for an Experience Alleyn’s afternoon, which is designed to offer a taste of life at the school with lessons in sport as well as academic classes. At exam time, 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. 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. For 2021 entry, applicants will take the ISEB Common Pre-test, an online test, due to COVID.

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.

No longer has a formal 13+ entry point. 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

Few leave post-GCSEs - just six per cent in 2020. Almost all to first or second choices of university. Large variety of destinations including Nottingham, Bristol, Leeds, Manchester, Durham, Imperial, UCL, Edinburgh and Exeter. Others to BIMM Music Institute and Royal College of Music. In 2020, 21 to Oxbridge, plus eight medics.

Latest results

In 2020, 94 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 82 per cent A*/A (95 per cent A*-B) at A level. In 2019 (the last year when exams took place), 89 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 69 per cent A*/A at A level.

Teaching and learning

Notably strong performances in A level modern languages, art, art history, Greek, history, biology and chemistry.

There are six year 7 classes. Typically around 25 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 two 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 rooftop 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 with stunning IGCSE results.

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 school.

After an initial introduction to linguistics in year 7 and a carousel of French, German and Spanish, pupils choose two languages to take forward into Year 8 and continue with at least one at GCSE. 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 three pathways in the upper school – one four A levels, another three A levels plus an AS in maths, English Language, or a Language qualification, the third three A levels plus the EPQ. 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.’

Learning support and SEN

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.

The arts and extracurricular

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 soul, jazz and close harmony.

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.

Sport

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. DofE and CCF are popular - one often sees pupils in camouflage conducting exercises on the sports fields.

Ethos and heritage

If the school seems both snazzy and contemporary, ‘part of a global 21st century’, it is, but it’s also one with a heritage – busy celebrating the 400th anniversary in 2019 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. State of the art lower school building is now home to years 7 and 8, with pupils and teachers raving about the open spaces and ambiance. Its versatile atrium has proved its versatility with a year 8 architectural exhibition as well as a number of pupil and parent gatherings.

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, inclusivity and discipline

The previous head’s recommitted the school to well-being and providing a safe environment in uncertain (political) times. He confirmed that the 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 overriding 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 school. 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.

We ask parents: What kind of child would be happy here? ‘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.

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 109 pupils currently receive bursaries and 65 per cent of these are fully funded. There even may be help with uniform, travel and school trip costs.

The last word

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.

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

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

Who came from where


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