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A truly impressive school, with twisty brick staircases and leaded lights which grab eager 10-year-olds immediately – 'I chose it because it was like Hogwarts', a unique selling point in Essex, to be sure. When asked what was good about the school, all the parents and pupils we spoke to said, as with one voice, 'the pastoral care' – we can’t recall such unanimity on any other school feature anywhere. Sports are 'big' and well-resourced. Achievement to match - triumphs in…

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What the school says...

Bancroft's is a lively and exciting community, filled with talented pupils who want to do well. Pupils consistently achieve the highest academic standards within a vibrant cultural environment. The school's tradition of excellence extends beyond the classroom; the opportunities it offers are many and varied: CCF, DofE, Scouts, sport, drama, music. The result is a busy school full of equally busy pupils. One of our fundamental beliefs is that as every child only goes through school once, it is the duty of the school to ensure that each child's experience is as good as it can possibly be. ...Read more

What the parents say...

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2015 Good Schools Guide Awards

  • Best performance by Boys taking French at an English Independent School (GCSE)

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 September 2016, Simon Marshall MA PGCE (Cantab) MA MPhil (Oxon), previously head of the English College in Prague. Highly educated: classics degree (choral exhibitioner) and PGCE from Cambridge, later studying English at Oxford and taking an MPhil there in 18th century studies. He has been head of English at King's College Wimbledon and deputy head of UCS. A keen mountaineer and runner, he enjoys gardening, music and theatre. Married to Eleanor.

Academic matters

Notable results across the board (in 2016, 89 per cent A*/A grades at GCSE) but maths is a star performer by any standards. English more of a spread, despite reports of some brilliantly inspirational teaching. Modern langs getting a boost – all year 7s learn German and Spanish; Russian is an option from year 9; Mandarin recently introduced. Greek and Latin have healthy numbers. Remarkable science results – especially in chemistry. History and geography also impressive. Few takers for art, music and DT – surprising, given the facilities – but a school which takes its academics seriously. No trendy subjects, though drama has seduced its way into the timetable and options list and programming introduced for year 8s. A particular, enlightened feature is that subjects can be chosen not, as elsewhere, from 'blocks' but from the whole curriculum. If they can manage it at Bancroft's, why not everywhere?

A level results similarly impressive – 90 per cent A*-B, 67 per cent A*/A in 2016. Maths and chemistry popular and successful. Demand for maths and sciences has led to creation of new maths room and science lab. Economics and geography good and, at this level, English also impresses. Greek and Latin survive, though the numbers taking modern langs are, we would suggest, a cause for concern, though may reflect the immense diversity of backgrounds here.

A place where serious learning happens and in which learning is taken seriously. The library, revamped with a stylish mezzanine floor beautifully integrated into the whole, is a proper scholarly resource – not something you see everywhere these days, when for 'library' you can so often read 'IT suite'. Pupils appreciate the library and its staff – 'they are fantastic - they get in anything you need'. Sixth form has a dedicated library and quiet study area plus university-type lecture theatre - used for societies, debates and visiting speakers. IT everywhere – lots of rooms with new PCs, including a tiptop language lab, which should give the languages a deserved boost.

Learning support department screens all at 11+. School has its first SENCo and all new staff get some training in SpLD. All on the LS register (mostly mild dyslexics) have an IEP and get some kind of individual support - the younger ones come out of different lessons each term and older ones get one-to-one. A TA in class helps those who are happy to be helped in that way. Lower sixth get help to 'develop individual learning skills'. 'They are wonderfully flexible over special needs,' said a parent.

Games, options, the arts

Sports are 'big' and well-resourced. Large playing fields on site plus vast sports hall with 25m pool. Five minutes away is school's own West Grove with pitches, courts, tracks etc. Achievement to match - triumphs in netball, rugby and cricket as well as tours in these and hockey to, eg, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Sri Lanka. Heartfelt pupil and parental complaints that sport is too elitist - 'if you're not in a squad, they don't give a monkey's' - seen by school as a priority and B and C teams have been developed, along with soccer. 'We are encouraging more staff to help so we can run more teams. It's something we need to work on.'

CCF is huge, very popular and enthusiastically pursued by those who surprise themselves by how much they get out of it, girls as well as boys - 'It's taught me how to get on with people I'd never mix with normally'; 'It's good that the sixth form help with it - you can have a bit of a laugh with them': not common in what is still, more or less, a London school. Thriving D of E and Sea Scout group with cubs and scouts.

Equally, steadily increased provision for arts across the school. Music and drama enthusiastic and popular - annual concert in Drapers' Hall the big annual event, with bands, solo performances and musical mix the main features. Vast range of instruments studied - music maybe more pop and jazz than classical, though we are told around eight classical concerts each year. Drama had a fillip with conversion of old gym to good, large studio and subject now on the curriculum at all levels. Not all musicals here, either - The Caucasian Chalk Circle and Macbeth among recent productions; year 9 and 10 performers taught to fence for their production of The Three Musketeers. Productions at Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Art, electronics and DT departments produce lively work - we liked the clever clocks, mobiles and the remote control cars and, within the remit of the task, pupils are given their head to be creative with the actual design. Art, exceptionally well-displayed throughout school, originates in one of two brand new studios with kilns and exhibition space - light, spacious and full of quiet artists. Nice ceramics. Art could and should be bigger here - perhaps textiles and photography (on the way), as more than a club?

Tons of trips and tours - though some parental gripes about not enough places on trips for eager applicants. Extracurricular stuff is good, though some cries for more from the inexhaustible.

Background and atmosphere

Founded in 1737 by the Drapers' Company on behalf of Francis Bancroft as a school for poor boys; moved to Woodford from Mile End in 1889 into the present large and imposing red-brick Victorian gothic revival building – clearly designed to impress, with serious scholarly credentials by architect, Sir Arthur Blomfield, also responsible for Selwyn College, Cambridge, The RCM, much of Charterhouse, The Bank of England, Wellington, Eton Lower Chapel etc etc, as well as an astounding number of parish churches. This is one of his more benign and attractive buildings, with towers, crenellations and oriel windows, a splendid central quad and admirably generous corridors which, though originally intended for 200 boys, still feel spacious for today's quadrupled numbers.

A truly impressive school with twisty, brick staircases and leaded lights which grab eager 10 year olds immediately – 'I chose it because it was like Hogwarts': a unique selling point in Essex, to be sure. Large Great Hall – typical of date and type. Excellent Courtyard Building with colonnaded atrium and sitting area, dining room (all eat together; good food, though popular vegetarian option can run out too fast for true veggie latecomers, we're told), servery and sixth form common room and café: large and well-used. Some typically dismal 1960s add-ons but much better later additions (such as enormous multi-purpose sports hall) and adjoining buildings, eg vast head's house now used for admin and offices too, with head's garden open to everyone for quiet time and 'well-respected'. Very recent physics labs and modern language rooms and DT suite.

Integral chapel one of the best bits (complete with much-loved chaplain who is 'lovely, a wonderful person for a chat, a laugh and advice – he takes salsa club'), into which everyone comes once weekly for an ecumenical service. Brass plaques to former heads and a vast stained glass east window set the tone for the services, which are inclusive in all ways, given the mix of pupils. Chapel also used for arts events - words and music etc, a classy extracurricular feature here.

Parental tributes to general efficiency of school and its communications. Sense of order, purposeful activity and common sense all-pervasive.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

When asked what was good about the school, all the parents and pupils we spoke to – lots – said, as with one voice, ‘the pastoral care’ – we can’t recall such unanimity on any other school feature anywhere. Tributes to the teaching staff, overall friendliness, care and attention given to individuals pour from everyone and are a delight to hear: ‘My teacher is amazing – he’s given me extra lessons every week. He’s ordered in around 30 extra books just to help me. They’ll help with anyone – not just the Oxbridge candidates’; ‘The teacher gave my daughter as much time as she needed when she was struggling’; ‘The staff commitment is excellent; pastoral care couldn’t be better’; ‘My children love it – they look forward to every day.'

Pupils and parents

From as far away as Potter's Bar, Winchmore Hill and Cheshunt, though most from between 10 and 20 minutes' drive away. Transport from local tube station to encourage pupils to look out of town towards green space for schooling. Vast ethnic and social intake - 'very well-handled by school,' say parents: around 30-35 per cent South Asian, 10-15 per cent Jewish, 40 per cent white. Most parents first-time buyers who 'work very hard to pay fees'.

OB notables include Dennis Quilley, Sir Frederick Warner, Sir Neil McFarlane, Hari Kunzru, Adam Foulds, Yolanda Browne, Andrew Saul, Anita Anand, Lord Pannick QC, Samantha Spiro and Mike Lynch.


At 11, 50 come up from the prep. Around 500 apply for 70 additional places. Tests in maths and English plus interviews. In practice around a third of those whose first choice is Bancroft's will get in. Umpteen feeders, though several from St Aubyn's, Loyola and Woodford Green Prep. Around a half from state primaries.

Candidates for the sixth form sit the school's own entrance exam in two proposed A level subjects, need six As at GCSE plus the usual references. Around 20 places at this level - very few (around 10 per cent) leave.


Around 10 per cent leave after GCSEs. Ten to Oxbridge in 2016 and 12 to study medicine. Other popular choices include Exeter, Imperial College, Bath, Durham and King's College London.

Money matters

Fifteen Drapers' scholarships offered annually at 11+ worth a quarter to a half of fees. No means-testing - based solely on performance at entrance exams. Also music scholarships worth half or quarter fees plus free tuition in one instrument. Several Francis Bancroft scholarship awards - means-tested but with a generous financial threshold, worth up to full fees, based on a sliding scale dependent on family income. Bancroft’s Foundation set up in 2012 to mark 275th anniversary has already raised significant amounts to increase means-tested provision – enough to fund six Foundation scholars.

Our view

A splendid school, catering for bright children and those who will seize opportunities. Deservedly over-subscribed. Brings glory to Essex well beyond its immediate catchment.

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Special Education Needs

Bancroft's is a highly selective academic school, and those who wish to join the school need to pass the entrance exam. However those who have passed the exam may have special needs, and the school will do all it can to help those who have had specialist diagnoses. The school does not offer diagnosis itself, but all 1st years are screened on entry. Parents are advised if there seems to be cause for concern. The Head of Learning Support collates all advice that pupils have received, and ensures that all other members of staff are aware of individuals' requirements. 10-09

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyslexia Y
English as an additional language (EAL)
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class Y
HI - Hearing Impairment Y
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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