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  • Eltham College
    Grove Park Road
    SE9 4QF
  • Head: Mr Guy Sanderson MA (Oxon) PGCE
  • T 020 8857 1455
  • F 020 8857 1913
  • E [email protected]
  • W
  • A mainstream independent school for boys aged from 11 to 18 and girls aged from 16 to 18 with a linked junior school
  • Boarding: No
  • Local authority: Bromley
  • Pupils: 784; sixth formers: 258 (62 girls)
  • Religion: Christian Inter-denominational
  • Fees: £19,134 pa
  • Open days: Whole School Open Day: Saturday 19 September 2020, 9.30am to 1.00pm. Sixth Form Open Evening: Tuesday 6 October, 6.00pm - 9.00pm. 11+ and 13+ Visitor Mornings: Wednesday 6 May 2020, 10.00am - 11.30am and Thursday 8 October 10.00am - 11.30am.
  • Review: View The Good Schools Guide Review
  • ISI report: View the ISI report
  • Linked schools: Eltham College Junior School

What says..

Despite the increase in size, boys and parents refer approvingly to the school so often as ‘small’ that we check the pupil numbers. The atmosphere is peaceful but buzzy indoors and out; students engrossed in lessons or off to play sports with huge kitbags. With regards to having a go, the school aims for all boys to represent the school in an activity. Glad to see the girls as well as boys have a tug-of-war in the…

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What the school says...

Eltham College is a school rich in history, variety, vitality and care. Throughout its history, students from Eltham College have been recognised for their scholarship and commitment to serving others; they have gone on to give leadership and service in many areas beyond school life.

The aim of the school is to provide a balanced and stimulating education based on Christian principles and practice. Founded in 1842, originally for the sons of missionaries, it is now a day school for 570 boys and 60 Sixth Form girls in the Senior School, plus 200 boys in the Junior School. The school is set in over 60 acres of playing fields and is unique in that it has excellent facilities yet it is small enough to care and every pupil is known and valued as an individual. It is committed to academic achievement of the highest standards, but its yardstick is always the individual's potential. Students are encouraged to perform at their highest level both academically and in the breadth of school life. In the range of activities here, from sport, through outdoor pursuits, to our justly celebrated music, art and drama, there is scope for everyone to realise that potential. There is a purpose built sports centre on site housing a 25m swimming pool and indoor cricket centre. The school also has a new library and, most recently, a dedicated music school and hockey astroturf.

The school has over 25 musical groups performing regularly both in and out of school, a busy drama schedule in the performing-arts centre and regular international travel across all areas of school life. Standards in sports and games are high and there are national and regional representatives in many sports. There is a substantial commitment from pupils to local community service and charity work plus there are a wide range of vibrant clubs and societies.

Please note from September 2020 Eltham College will be welcoming girls for entry into Year 3 and 7, as well as our existing Sixth Form entry.
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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


Since 2014, Guy Sanderson MA (Oxon) PGCE (40s). Studied PPE and then modern history at Trinity College, Oxford. Having started out as a stockbroker in the City, he followed this with a stint at the UN High Commission for Refugees in Pakistan and Afghanistan before teaching at a series of academic independents – St Paul’s, Whitgift, City of London Boys’ School and Reigate Grammar, where he rose to head of sixth form and deputy head.

His office, newly decorated in tasteful grey with fresh flowers and framed photography of the boys in action, is a small sign of his modernising intent and ambition to make the school one of the country’s best independent schools. However, it is important to him to be able to do this in his own time in his own way and not to be straitjacketed by targets. The parents we heard from seemed pleased the school is being given something of a shake-up. One confided: ‘The head is clearly very driven and personally career oriented. From my perspective this is no bad thing. If he does well it will mean that the school has done well.’ And: ‘Determined to improve the school’s academic standing, modern in his approach… he knows the pupils and is interested in them individually.’ ‘He is not, however, afraid to say no and stand steadfast by his principles.’

In tune with this dynamic image, Mr Sanderson tweets encouragement to the far-flung corners of Elthamians’ daily activities. Boys will find his door open at lunch times and he’s delighted to find they drop in to suggest ideas for new clubs or initiatives. Year 7 boys are invited to his office on their birthday for a doughnut. In answer to our question as to whether there should be a head girl as well as head boy, he says that it is simply a case of the best person for the job and in the case of this year that means there is. With a wife who is a FTSE 100 headhunter it’s a topic of debate.

Mr Sanderson relocated from rural Sussex with his wife and three children. A keen skier and open water swimmer, for the past two summers he’s swam the Bosphorus. The family lives in a house overlooking the playing fields, together with the chickens, but not the pigs, from Sussex.

Head of junior school from September 2020, Vikki Meier, currently deputy head. Before that, sat on senior leadership team at Chigwell School, overseeing pastoral care for the junior school having previously led and taught prep science. Also spent several years as a boarding houseparent for sixth form students. Ran a scout troop for several years, spending many weekends and holidays on camps both local and international, and she has led science, photography and quiz clubs too.

Academic matters

In 2019, 85 per cent of grades were A*-A/7-9 at I/GCSE; 68 per cent A*/A at A level (93 per cent A*/B). Senior curriculum wise very trad but with a careful eye to future global employment prospects. More academic subjects have been added and the less academic such as sports studies removed. Timetabling isn’t completed until each boy’s preferences are accommodated.

Most students do single sciences at IGCSE and the short-course RS. A level additions are economics, psychology, government and politics, pure and further maths, unusually geology (a 30 year tradition) and recently introduced computing. Maths is the most popular A level and mathematicians throughout the school regularly compete nationally. Years 8 and 9 have been finalists in UKMT for the past three years. There are very strong student numbers in economics: currently the second largest A level cohort. A glittering array of highlights from the science department. The physics department is recognised as a centre of excellence by the Institute of Physics with stellar grades; most recently a chemist was in receipt of the prestigious Roentgenium award; year 10s were also finalists in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s challenge in Kent. The school regularly produces Arkwright scholars who go on to study engineering at the country’s most desirable destinations. One Eltham geologist scored the highest geology A level mark in the country, losing a mere four marks.

French, German, Mandarin and Spanish are introduced from Year 7. The head has appointed a new head of classics, introduced ancient Greek to complement Latin and says all language appointments will be either Oxbridge graduates and/or native speakers. Italian is available and Russian off timetable. Whilst French holds its own with several studying French alongside their chosen degree subject at university, Spanish is the second most popular language. Of nine recent Mandarin GCSE passes, only one was a native speaker, though A level Mandarin is only available off timetable to native speakers.

Lower School class sizes average 22 and Sixth Form classes average 8 but with smaller teaching sets in all languages, maths, science and some creative subjects. A quarter of teaching staff have been at the school for over 10 years but the head says this is a changing picture. Keen to develop staff, he devolves leadership, empowering them to run with their own project ideas if it will benefit the school. One of our guides said of the teachers: ‘They’re all passionate about their subjects; lessons are very interactive’. The head tells us of a lesson he witnessed recently where the boys were studying glaciation using edible food stuffs. Parents are aware of teaching standards being consciously raised. For the most able, there is a head of academic scholarship running a programme of debating, lectures from outside speakers and encouraging boys to prepare and deliver papers to their peers.

There is a full-time learning support department. All new pupils are screened on entry for possible difficulties. The school says that the majority of cases are quite ‘mild’ and most support is within lessons. A dyslexic pupil described the school as: ‘Nice atmosphere. Positive, helpful teachers’.

Despite the hard-working atmosphere and desire to up the academic ante parents do not feel there is too much pressure – the extracurricular provides relief from academic work, year round rather than annual testing is a relief, with not too much holiday homework and sufficient time left within the year for revision.

Pupils are carefully prepared for university exits, including a new focus on US universities. A pathways programme ensures pupils are en route and prepared for possible careers, making use of the network of Eltham alumni for work experience placements.

Games, options, the arts

No doubt that almost everyone is sporty but that seems to be mostly by dint of encouragement and breadth of opportunity. Rugby is the school’s big thing: England U16 champions for two consecutive years, winner of the U15 Kent 7s and 13 county players. Winners of U15 and U16 county cups in hockey and cricket. Players of international standing are in good company, with a couple representing England in fencing, a GB skier and three England internationals and last year’s U13 England chess champion. Coaches are often national players but the head stresses to them that they must have an interest in teaching not just the elite but ‘the grass roots’.

Plenty of opportunities to try new things such as climbing or sailing. For those with a lighter interest there are clubs and societies for table tennis, basketball and pilates. With regards to having a go, the school aims for all boys to represent the school in an activity. Glad to see the girls as well as boys have a tug-of-war in the annual house competition.

The school is proud of its musicians who achieve exceptionally well academically with the last few years, consistently delivering an Oxbridge place or two. Around 65 per cent of pupils learn an instrument. One parent told us: ‘I was particularly touched to see my child play a string instrument in his first term as we are not a particularly musical family.’ Choral singing is a high point. Ensembles, choirs and orchestras play across London. Recently parents were treated to performances at Ronnie Scott’s, the Barbican, St John’s Smith Square, the Royal Albert Hall and beneath the hull of the Cutty Sark.

This is the first school we’ve visited with its own art gallery. The Gerald Moore Gallery houses school and external exhibitions. The exhibitions assist students to achieve offers from top graphic design, fine art and architecture courses. All the art teachers and technicians are artists and pursue their own practices and an artist-in-residence has a studio within the department.

Drama is on the curriculum for all years 7 to 9 and is available at GCSE and A level. The drama department produces a major musical every year – recently Les Misérables with student-led orchestra. Students also directed, acted, managed and teched a production of Richard III. Those jaunting to Edinburgh for The Fringe were rewarded with 5* reviews in the national press for their performance of Sweeney Todd. Plenty of distinctions in LAMDA exams.

Clubs and societies often seem to be extending in tone but Dixieland band, 'magic: the gathering', slick sticks, run for fun, Fair Trade and Morris dancing caught our eye. Those looking forward to a far-flung expedition may need a head for heights with past destinations including Nepal and Borneo whilst students tackle DofE from bronze to gold.

Background and atmosphere

Originally founded as a boarding school for the sons of missionaries, boys attend chapel twice a week as part of a strong Christian tradition with caring for the community still an important part of the school’s ethos. Since moving in 1912 to this elegant 18th century mansion with a columned entrance, surrounded by 70 acres of green fields, it has grown in size, stopped taking boarders and girls have been part of the sixth form since the 1970s (and will soon join the lower school). Despite the increase in size, boys and parents referred approvingly to the school so often as ‘small’ that we checked the pupil numbers. The atmosphere is peaceful but buzzy indoors and out; students engrossed in lessons or off to play sports with huge kitbags.

Apart from the elegance of Central Hall, now housing the humanities classrooms in style, with its beautiful wooden boards of Oxbridge scholars and charming sepia photographs of sports teams gone by, the school comprises a collection of blocks in various states of repair. The science block is so delightfully retro we expected to bump into the Enigma Machine at any moment. However the new Turberville Building has extended the sixth form centre out into the playing fields (mirroring the students’ imminent transition to university) and also provides new language classrooms, a new mathematics suite of classrooms and a well-being centre. The DT facilities comprise a series of large professional-looking workshops with a laser cutter, 3D printer and a CAD-cam suite. The library is large and well-resourced with books, journals or ebooks, with a separate sixth form area up a spiral staircase.

The school’s most famous alumnus is Eric Liddell, the Olympic athlete who won gold in the 400m at the 1924 Paris Olympics, forever immortalised by Chariots of Fire, hence the namesake sports centre, which provides on-site indoor cricket nets, a 25 metre pool, dance studio and fitness suite. In addition £3.5m is earmarked to further develop the sports facilities including a new pavilion, second Astroturf and 3G rugby pitch.

We asked to meet a few sixth form girls, curious to hear about their experiences. Those joining from girls’ schools spoke of wanting to find larger teaching groups for their A level subjects. Whilst all felt slightly nervous on arrival, they don’t feel in a minority, as the numbers suggest. They spoke of finding the boys welcoming, the atmosphere competitive academically, offering them different points of view, but less ‘cliquey’ and more relaxed socially.

Will accept girls into year 7 (and year 3 in the junior school) from 2020, becoming co-educational throughout by 2024.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

The school as a whole receives glowing praise for its pastoral care, the front line being form tutors. One mother told us of the care and consideration her son received during a difficult time at home. Co-curricular clubs run pre- and post-school, whilst a breakfast club allows parents to dash for the commute. A careful and detailed anti-bullying policy and zero drug tolerance. Incidents are not unheard of but parents report that they are swiftly dealt with. A fairly strict, disciplined environment with quite a long list of sanctions available to teachers to keep efforts up to scratch academically.

The deputy head is the head of pastoral care. Parents universally praise pastoral care here, one going as far as to describe it as ‘exceptional’. This is certainly one of the best resourced pastoral care teams we have encountered: two qualified nurses, counsellor and chaplain. Boys waved to the nurse during our tour. When we quizzed the head as to the school’s consideration of the kind of mental health issues variously affecting girls and boys today he was engaged and had recently returned from a conference on the subject.

There is a recently appointed head of transition to ease in year 7s. Form tutors, the pastoral front line, are described as ‘accessible and generally very quick to respond to any concerns’ and now stay with boys for their lower school and then middle school years. Communication between school and home is felt to be excellent.

We raised the news stories still to be found on a Google search of the school concerning the conduct of two teachers. The incidents were before the current head’s time and concerned activities outside of the school but have resulted in a review of safeguarding and DBS checking procedures for staff.

Pupils and parents

The majority of students come from within a five mile radius, taking in Blackheath, Greenwich, the Isle of Dogs and Surrey Quays but also south to Bromley, Chislehurst and Sidcup, Orpington, Farnborough and West Wickham. Far fewer with different languages spoken at home than we see in central London schools. Working parents are catered for: pupils could be in school from 8am purchasing breakfast in King George’s Hall, whilst the library is open for after-school study until 5.30pm, not to mention myriad activities taking pupils until the end of the day, often with no extra cost. Parents were described to us as including ‘multi-millionaires’ and the ‘down to earth’.

What kind of child would Eltham suit? Parents mention ‘all-rounders’ and ‘bright, motivated, independent children who will rise to a challenge’. The head says there is no Eltham student; it will simply appeal to those who want to make the most of opportunities.


Academic standards are high and entrance is by selection based on academic merit and on an assessment of the pupil’s likely positive contribution to the school. Everyone needs a good reference, and computer adaptive verbal and non-verbal reasoning is now a feature of testing at every stage. The majority of pupils come seamlessly through from the junior school and 40 to 50 external pupils join at 11+, with around five (including girls, from 2020 – still twice as many boys for now, though) competing for every place. External candidates take entrance papers in English and maths. Those with SEN needs may be allocated additional time. New 11+ joiners hail mostly from local preps including: The Pointer School, Blackheath Prep, Breaside, Heath House and St Olave’s but also a varity of local state primary schools. Only a few joining at 13+ but it is an increasingly competitive entry point. Candidates sit papers in English, maths and a modern foreign language or Latin.

External candidates to the sixth form take an exam and if successful are interviewed. In recent years girls have arrived from the local GDST schools and St Ursula's Convent, amongst others. Candidates sit papers in two subjects of their choice. Offers made are subject to a minimum of six 9-7 grades at GCSE including the four subjects of further study.


Around five per cent leaves after GCSEs. Common university destinations include Nottingham, Durham, Exeter and Bristol, so one can be pretty confident of attaining Russell Group aspirations. Five to Oxbridge and seven medics in 2019. Popular courses include engineering, geography, history, maths, politics and psychology.

Money matters

A generous number of scholarships on offer at each entry point, which could be for academic ability or music, sport, art and drama – the financial reward varying from the token to the quite substantial. Everyone sitting the entrance test will be considered for academic scholarships, with further requirements for music, art, drama and sports scholars. Fewer than 10 per cent of pupils are in receipt of means-tested bursaries, which could range from a helping hand to 100 per cent of fees.

Our view

With an energetic head on the case and money being spent in bringing the facilities up to scratch, plus the imminent advent of girls joining the main school, it could be a wonderful place to find a niche and increasingly achieve great things: heading in a more academic direction than of late but still extremely sporty.

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.

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