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What says..

The IB philosophy and emphasis on tolerance and global understanding is reinforced everywhere in the school with big signs bearing the IB ethos (inquirers, reflective risk-takers, etc). Kids are divided into houses - Pioneers, Artists and Visionaries - and are awarded ‘sparkies’ (which refer to the IB philosophy of igniting the sparks of genius). Every wall is full of original and creative student art and photographs, and there are posters with quotes from Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela...

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What the school says...

Dwight School London aims to provide a secure, well-ordered and happy environment with the learning process at its core, offering the finest possible education for all pupils in order for them to reach their full potential. Serving a cosmopolitan and diverse North London community, great importance is attached to respect, understanding and empathy with everyone's cultures, religions and backgrounds.

Students are accepted for entry at any time throughout the school year. Diploma Programme applicants would be expected to have five or six GCSE passes, with B, A or A* grades for subjects to be studied at Higher Level. Students follow the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum, starting at aged three with the Primary Years Programme, the Middle Years Programme at age 11 and the IB Diploma Programme at age 16. The school recognises that students can have a variety of different learning styles. The Quest Programme is designed for students who need help developing strategies to assist them to study effectively. An EAL programmes supports those lacking English language fluency. Through one to one tuition from specialist staff, students can reach their full potential, further enhanced by the schools teacher-student ratio.

Students physical development is considered as important as academic development and the schools sports fields provide excellent facilities for football, athletics, hockey, tennis and softball. Matches and tournaments between local schools are regular fixtures.
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Curricula

International Baccalaureate: diploma - the diploma is the familiar A-level equivalent.

International Baccalaureate: middle years - middle Years is a programme for ages 11-16.

International Baccalaureate: primary years - primary years is a programme for ages 3-12.

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

Head of School

Since January 2016, Alison Cobbin BA Dip Ed MBA (50s). Brought up in Australia and qualified as an English and history teacher at Macquarie University in Sydney. Moved to London in 1995 with her husband and then three young daughters; after a career break, joined Dwight (then Woodside Park School) as, variously, English, games and theory of knowledge teacher, IB coordinator and upper school principal. Moved to a SE London independent school as pastoral deputy head before returning to Dwight as head of school: ‘I came back because I had made a shortlist of all the things I wanted from a school, and when this job came up it ticked all the boxes.’

The boxes it ticked were: co-ed, not too big, International, non-selective, and most importantly did the IB. Alison says once you’ve been to a school which upholds the values of the IB, it’s very hard to go back: ‘The IB is built on such a different philosophy - its broad base is so different. It’s more collaborative than the English education system and does more than just work towards getting into the best university.’ To which Andy Atkinson (upper school principal) adds: ‘The IB is not subject to government changes and grade inflation – you know that if a person achieved 40 out of a maximum 45 several years ago, that would still hold true many years later with the exception of the odd curriculum change.’ We were sold.

The new leadership team of the upper school - Alison Cobbin and Andy Atkinson - have been called an exceptional team and inspiring to staff and pupils. One parent told us: ‘Andy is a very strong character and has a real vision of what he wants to achieve. The profile of the school has definitely improved since they both came on board, as have the results.’ Andy’s international credentials are impressive. He was previously director of the two International Schools of London, and has taught extensively abroad. However, he says: ‘There are not many IB schools like Dwight. It’s a unique school in north London. Some of the kids are a little bit different, a little bit eccentric, and some are happy for the first time about coming to school.’

However, this is very much a leadership team of three. Lower school principal Matt Parkin BEd DipEd NPQH has been at the school since 2007. He has taught in the UK, USA and Indonesia and one could say has had a pretty colourful background in education. Following a seven year stint working in the state education sector in Devon, Matt was part of a start-up school in Houston, Texas. In the five years he was there he increased the school from 50-strong to 400. He was then offered a post to teach at ‘one of the best schools in Asia’ in Jakarta, Indonesia, which had an outdoor swimming pool, a theatre and a multi-media centre. As much of a draw as that was, Matt yearned for a school with an international outlook back home. ‘There are not many of them around, and a job came up at Dwight, so I took it.’

Academic matters

Runs the IB programme at all levels. Year groups in lower school divided into two parallel classes with a maximum of 20 in each. Lots of child-inspired batiks, pottery and art help create a vibrant atmosphere. IB learner profile is displayed everywhere. IB primary years programme (IBPYP) well linked with the national curriculum, which keeps inspectorates happy and ensures children are well grounded with an international mindset. All lessons in each half of term based around one aspect of the curriculum. Specialist teachers for music, art, PE, French and EAL. Homework important and can be done at after-school club.

In 2018, average IB point score 30 (out of possible 45). One or two students each year opt to take a Dwight High School Diploma, earning IB course certificates rather than the full IB diploma. Average class size in upper school not normally more than 15, although we spoke to one pupil who had just three others in her geography class. ‘It’s great! Almost like one-to-one tuition.’ Good results for IB middle years programme exams with several top students getting more than 60 points out of 70. One parent said the only downside of the IB from her point of view is that ‘if you are weak in a certain area – such as maths or languages - you can’t drop it, as you need to take one subject from each of the six subject groups.’ However, there are choices within these.

Dwight also offers Pamoja Online courses which enable Dwight IB diploma students to take a wider range of courses while experiencing the kind of online learning that is increasingly common at university level. School says: ‘These courses are fantastic. They are based in Oxford and provide a quality programme which is strictly monitored. There are over 50 different nationalities at Dwight and it’s not always feasible to accommodate everyone, so these courses are a great online alternative. It is the equivalent of an IB course online.’

French is introduced in lower school, Spanish and Mandarin added as an option in upper school. Other languages considered on request at additional cost. (One Portuguese teacher does a lesson via Skype.) RE is not an IB subject, but world religion is. Photos throughout the school buildings depict many school trips, dramatic and music performances and community service activities, suggesting that a lot of learning is regularly extended out and about. After-school homework club for those who want extra help.

Through the QUEST programme (at extra cost) the school can accommodate a range of learning needs, with the support of specialist teachers. EAL (also at extra cost) regarded as essential for children who lack English proficiency - two to five lessons a week, one to one or in a small group depending on needs. A mother tongue programme is available for Japanese pupils – the second largest group in the school (about 10 per cent) and some other languages (no extra charge is made if four or more students are in the same group and level). IB diploma students must be completely fluent in English.

A dedicated SENCo for the roughly 14 per cent on the SEN register: ‘Because of the nature of this school, we’re not equipped to deal with many pupils with very diverse needs.’ But parents do say that what they like about Dwight is that it suits a great variety of children. 'I wanted a school where all of my children would be well served’.

Teachers are international and IB-experienced. Over 60 per cent come from overseas: ‘London is a bit of a destination for teachers. For those not from abroad, they look at their IB training as a fantastic experience.’ Parents speak enthusiastically about the teaching staff and their willingness to help and respond quickly to any parent concerns. One pupil told us: ‘The teachers here are great - you can talk them about anything, even after school.’

Games, options, the arts

Games obligatory once a week for each year group – the school has its own sports field 10 minutes away by minibus and uses other local sports facilities. They compete not only with local and national schools but also with international overseas schools. One pupil told us. ‘I love the sports here, there are lots of options and the school is even planning a trip to Venice to play beach volleyball.’ Parents say they like the variety of sports on offer – not only the traditional ones but a wider range: rugby, football, basketball, track and field, sailing, ice skating.

Lots of after-school clubs and extracurricular offerings. Strong music – about 15 per cent learn an individual instrument; there are rock, jazz and chamber groups. The choir has sung at London’s 02 in Young Voices, and for some lucky pupils, the 'highlight of their life’ was performing with the Dwight New York choir at Carnegie Hall. Other clubs include cartoon club, sewing club, origami and magical maths.

For the last period on Tuesdays, the pupils do mixed age group activities including community service projects. This helps to develop relationships across the ages, reinforcing the 'Dwight family' concept.

Lots of outings to concerts, theatres and galleries as well as trips home and abroad. Year 6 students spend a week at the Dwight School in New York, some year groups in upper school have their activity week in Normandy (practising the French that they have been learning since they were 3) and some of them go on exchange to the Dwight School in New York. Older students are developing a community service project in Nepal. They raise funds and students and staff travel there to do volunteer work. The arts dept has been to Vietnam to study music and dance; they have also visited Hollywood, India and Cuba.

Model United Nations conference is also popular. This year saw the school representing Saudi Arabia.

Background and atmosphere

The school was originally founded in 1972 by Dr Stephen Spahn, chancellor of the Dwight School in New York. Previously known as Woodside Park and North London International School, the school changed its name in a rebranding exercise to Dwight London School, to heighten awareness of its association with the Dwight family of schools that now has campuses in Seoul and Shanghai, with Dubai opening imminently. 'Dwight family' is a term used by staff and families alike. Dwight London has an advisory board of local parents and others who lend expertise and guidance and serve as a supportive sounding board for the principal in the strategic planning of the school.

The school is on four sites in two locations. Lower school is in Woodside Avenue. Kindergarten and reception based in their own little house, The Lodge, with its own garden for play. Part-time options are available and there's a wraparound care programme from 7.30am to 5pm for the lower school.

Years 2 to 5 in the main building here have good sized, light classrooms with washing lines displaying student work. Each child has own drawer for storage. Computers everywhere. Media resource centres, a small library collection; great gym, which doubles up as the dining hall. Healthy food served from the kitchens next to it (where meals for the kindergarten are also prepared). Photos of all the year 6 students displayed in the passage with their personal blogs. Good music room and lovely art room. Whilst we were there we saw some wonderful examples of art which had been selected for the Dwight Travelling Art Show - a yearly event where the top 20 chosen art pieces make their way around the different Dwight campuses of the world. Well-equipped library with Harry Potter translated into an assortment of languages.

A recent popular addition to the school is the Dwight radio station which is broadcast online: ‘This is another way we feel pupils can demonstrate their learning, without it just being test test test.’

Year 6 has a separate eco-building with easy access to the specialist classrooms and playground; school has green flag eco-schools status. If we were being finickity, we would say that the interior could do with a bit of sprucing up – a new lick of paint. The red, white and blue colours of their motif (which is painted virtually everywhere), becomes a little bit wearing on the eye after a while.

Playground not huge but much use made of local park for cross-country runs and scientific experiments plus compulsory swimming once a week at a local pool. They also regularly use the school's own playing fields a short bus ride away.

The upper school is in the former Friern Barnet Boys’ Grammar School and in nearby Jubilee Hall. The main building has recently been refurbished and is clean, bright and welcoming, making very good use of light throughout. The administrative offices and faculty room share the same corridors as the classrooms, which must strengthen the sense of community. Every wall is full of original and creative student art and photographs, and there are posters with quotes from Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, who we learned are the role models for the three upper school student houses.

The Jubilee Hall holds more classrooms, two science labs, the upper school library and a pleasant canteen open throughout. This looks out onto an outside playground where students engage in a bit of exercise during break or lunch, and a small world garden beyond with picnic tables and benches. The school admits that conditions are a little crowded, and they are on the lookout for new property in the area.

In recent years the Dwight community has collaborated to help families have a 'soft landing' when they arrive in London. A handy Welcome to London guide written and updated annually by the parents is found on the website with tips for families living in north London. Lots of welcome and goodbye rituals for students coming and going. There are also a variety of ways that rising year 6 students are supported as they move to the upper school. It's all part of the school's intention to give everyone a Dwight Hug. One parent told us: ‘We were given a really warm welcome when we arrived and were immediately put in touch with the Parents' Association. The parent network at Dwight is fantastic.’

The individualised approach we heard so much about from parents was evident during our visit. We were shown around the school by an extremely theatrical and colourful student (who we definitely thought should be on TV) - and many others we spoke to were equally as quirky, interesting and slightly eccentric, with amazing back stories. Another seemed to be a science whizz who showed us her extraordinary end of M5 personal project (a culmination of their IB middle years) - and had created a working Enigma machine with morse coding etc.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

The IB philosophy and emphasis on tolerance and global understanding is reinforced everywhere in the school with big signs bearing the IB ethos (inquirers, reflective risk-takers, etc). Kids are divided into houses - Pioneers, Artists and Visionaries - and are awarded ‘sparkies’ (which refer to the IB philosophy of igniting the sparks of genius).

Kids seem happy, and although there is a uniform there are various options, so they can choose how casual or dressy they want to look. Parents love the small size of the school. ‘It’s a massive advantage. Everyone is known, everyone can shine and blossom.' One parent we spoke to who has home schooled her child for a while said that Dwight is the first school her son has been happy at: ‘This school has literally been our saviour. I love the IB ethos in tailoring the work to your child’s needs – it’s so much more of a progressive approach.’ The school recently introduced a vertical tutoring system, which encourages pupils to get to know other pupils from different year groups

Parents assure us that they were not aware of any incidents of bullying. With students from so many different cultures, school says it 'comes down hard on any form of bullying.’ Drugs ‘not an issue’ either: ‘the pupils that come here from abroad are often fairly naive and not part of that London culture.’

There is an LGBT community and a ‘safe room’ offered to those, who, for whatever reason, need to hang out alone for a while. ‘For some pupils, this is the first time they have been able to express who they really are. This is often not the case in their home country.'

Door to door minibus service offered which collects pupils from as far afield as St John’s Wood etc.

Pupils and parents

Dwight has a larger British student body than most other international schools in London (some 30 per cent), which seems to make it easier for international families to integrate into the local community. The impression from parents and from our visit is that there is relatively little sense of the ‘expat bubble’ in this international school. Long term families who joined the school in earlier incarnations (pre-IB) say they have been very pleased with the introduction of the full suite of IB programmes, and the interesting international experiences and friendships that Dwight’s growing expat community brings. While they do see the turnover of families as a factor, many of these friendships endure and lead to exciting trips during the holidays to visit old friends who have moved on.

Entrance

Parents describe the school as ‘selectively inclusive’. In all of our conversations (with parents and staff), no one emphasised ‘academic results’. Though most enter in September, since the school serves expats, there are students entering throughout the year, from abroad and from local state schools. Interview and report from previous school only real requisites, as is a commitment and understanding of the IB programme. Interviews sometimes done via Skype.

Exit

About 75 per cent of lower school pupils move on to the upper school; some leave after the IBMYP, moving abroad or to sixth form colleges. University counselling programme in year 12, but it seems parents often start earlier, commenting they’d like to see a bit more attention to this area. Sixth formers mainly to university, a lot London based (eg King's, Goldsmiths, Westminster) with others to eg Scotland (Dundee and Aberdeen), to California and Waseda, Japan in 2018.

Money matters

Tuition is marginally less than other international schools in London. Extras include school trips and activities such as Model United Nations and some after-school activities. Good range of means-tested scholarships for families with an income of up to £120,000 pa (more if you have two or more children). These are awarded not for pure academic ability but for ‘demonstrating the characteristics of the IB learner profile’. Also offers bursaries of between 25-50 per cent for children of visiting academics and NGOs. These are all available to current as well as new families.

Our view

Dwight is a school where the education of the ‘whole child’ and the learning journey genuinely appear to be as important as exam results. A brave but rewarding choice for London born children (‘none of my friends had heard of Dwight before', said one parent) - those looking for something a bit different and outside of the English curriculum. And a safe bet for International students who want the benefit of the IB in a more localised setting. The school does all it can to provide each student with opportunities to pursue their individual interests, all within the IB context. ‘It’s a kind school.’

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

We are a small mainstream school with specialist provision for the teaching of a wide range of students with moderate learning difficulties, who are supported in an inclusive provision through both in-class and withdrawal support as needed .

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia Y
Dysgraphia
Dyslexia Y
Dyspraxia Y
English as an additional language (EAL) Y
Genetic
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class Y
HI - Hearing Impairment
Hospital School
Mental health
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty Y
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty Y
PD - Physical Disability
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 Y
VI - Visual Impairment

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