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  • Bancroft's School
    611–627 High Road
    Woodford Green
    IG8 0RF
  • Head: Simon Marshall
  • T 020 8505 4821
  • F 020 8559 0032
  • E [email protected]
  • W
  • An independent school for boys and girls aged from 7 to 18.
  • Boarding: No
  • Local authority: Redbridge
  • Pupils: 1,101; sixth formers: 235 (113 boys; 122 girls)
  • Religion: Church of England
  • Fees: £16,239 - £19,761 pa
  • Open days: Open Days for 11+ entry: Saturday 13 November & tbc for September. 7+ entry: Saturday 9 October, 16+ entry Wednesday 29 September
  • Review: View The Good Schools Guide Review
  • ISI report: View the ISI report
  • Linked schools: Bancroft's Preparatory School

What says..

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’; ‘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’.  Twisty, brick staircases and leaded lights which grab eager 10 year olds immediately – 'I chose it because it was like Hogwarts'...


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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

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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 2016, Simon Marshall (early 50s). Formerly headmaster of the English College in Prague and, before that, deputy head academic at UCS Hampstead and, in an earlier incarnation, head of English at KCS Wimbledon. A very calm and incisive communicator who has the underlying confidence to deal in nuance. He believes he has taken over a school which is already performing at a very high level, and his attention seems divided equally between maintaining all that is good, and trying to help all constituencies within the school think of themselves and their ambitions perhaps a little more laterally. No academic slouch himself, having read classics at Cambridge, where he was also a choral exhibitioner and did a PGCE. Thence to Oxford, where he took a degree in English literature and then a MPhil in 18th century studies. A keen mountaineer and runner, he enjoys gardening, music and theatre. Married to Eleanor.

One parent, steeped in the ancien régime, described him as ‘a great listener, sensitive to tradition, but definitely working in his ideas. He’s greatly liked, and the way he is celebrating arts and humanities is just what Bancroft’s needs.’

Head of prep since 2012 Joe Layburn, previously acting head. MA in German literature from University College London, followed by a 15-year career as an investigative journalist and TV reporter, primarily for Channel 4. Retrained as a teacher and joined Bancroft's Prep in 2004. A steady pair of hands, popular with staff, children and parents. Author of a trilogy of children's books. Married with three children; two were educated at Bancroft's from prep onwards and one at a special needs school. Keen on running, cycling and West Ham United.


At 7+ into the prep - oversubscribed by about three to one. Testing in English - reading and writing - and maths takes place on beanbags. Children seen (and offered doughnuts) in small groups with head and deputy - it's 'as informal and low key as possible'.

Some 60 pupils come up from the prep school to the senior school at 11. Around 500 apply for 65 additional places. ‘It’s nice to be wanted,’ says the head, ‘but we want to stay well away from complacency’. Entry at this stage has recently changed so that candidates sit a computer based reasoning test and shorter papers in English and maths. 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 7s at GCSE plus the usual references. Around 20 places at this level - very few (around 10 per cent) leave.


Around 90 per cent of the prep moves to the senior school. Up to 10 per cent leaves after GCSEs. Ten Oxbridge places in 2021; 18 medics. Most popular current destinations are UCL, King’s College London, Nottingham, Birmingham, Durham, Imperial College, Queen Mary University of London, Warwick and Edinburgh.

Latest results

In 2021, 96 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 88 per cent A*/A at A level (98 per cent A*-B). In 2019 (the last year when exams took place), 83 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 66 per cent A*/A at A level.

Teaching and learning

Notable results across the board. Many go on to study medicine or engineering at top universities. The head is emphatic about the hard work and deep commitment of staff, but places a big emphasis too on the work ethic of pupils. Maths and physics are stellar, and all the sciences excellent. Arts, languages and humanities results are, by any standard, very good. This slight asymmetry has less to do with teaching, about which all parties wax lyrical, than with the nature of the constituency: many families here are first-generation users of independent schools, and there is an emphasis on traditional ‘respectable’ professions. One gets the sense the head may be keen gently to nudge pupils into believing there are more destinies for themselves than they might sometimes imagine. ‘Bancroft’s boys and girls have such heart and power,’ he says, ‘such creativity and imagination.’

No obviously weak links at GCSE but maths and science again at the heart of success; computer science now an exam option. Perhaps rather fewer taking the more obviously creative subjects - art and music, for instance, or DT. Drama is now in the curriculum, but getting real momentum behind these is less about facilities (which are good) than about winning over sceptics. It all takes time. Modern languages have been the beneficiaries of this patient dedication. German, French and Spanish are all on offer from year 8; Russian becomes available in year 9 and Mandarin in the sixth form. A particular, enlightened feature is that subjects can be chosen not, as elsewhere, from 'blocks' but from the whole curriculum. Given that Bancroft’s is not a rich school, and that staff are required to teach an average 31 periods per week, this flexibility is all the more impressive.

A terrific learning environment. The library, revamped with a stylish mezzanine floor beautifully integrated into the whole, is a proper scholarly resource – a place where pupils actually sit quietly and read. Given that library is all too often a euphemism for 'IT suite' these days, this delving among books redounds greatly to the credit of both staff and pupils. The latter evidently appreciate the librarians– 'they are fantastic - they get in anything you need'. The sixth form has a quiet study area and the Great Hall is used, amongst much else, for societies, debates and visiting speakers. IT everywhere – lots of rooms with new PCs, including a tiptop language lab.

Prep classrooms busy, not over-orderly and relaxed – we wanted to look at the displays, all of which seemed interesting and not as predictable as they so often are. We also approved some of the interesting work in progress, especially the lesson on moulds – ‘We had to throw them away as they were beginning to smell,’ was a rueful observation. Year 6 has critical thinking lessons – ‘to expand our minds, to think out of the box, to widen our imagination,’ we were told, earnestly. We were impressed by the sensible ‘traffic light’ system whereby pupils assess their grasp of what they have learnt and where they need help.

Learning support and SEN

Learning support department screens all at 7+ and 11+. School has a dedicated SENCo and there are two part-timers in assistance. All new staff get some training in spotting those with learning difficulties but the head is mindful that all staff need encouragement to stay alert to those with learning difficulties: these will mostly be mild dyslexics and all will be given some kind of individual support – the precise nature of which depends on need, but may well involve one-to-one time. Lower sixth get help to 'develop individual learning skills'. 'They are wonderfully flexible over special needs,' said a parent.

The arts and extracurricular

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.' Thriving DofE. Over 200 pupils are involved in it with 30 taking gold – ‘doing my gold was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,’ said one girl, ‘and the best.’ Also a 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. HM particularly enthused (moved, really) by the recent TAAL production – a pan-Asian body run by the Hindu, Muslim, Buddist and Sikh Society, but involving pupils of all ethnic groups - which embraced dance and music of all kinds. ‘It was an explosion of energy and creativity,’ he says, ‘and it tells a big story.’ Vast range of instruments studied, with eight classical concerts each year. Jazz, rock and other genres all celebrated in addition to the main and chamber orchestras. A suite of Apple Macs to support composition. Two big drama spaces - the Great Hall and a fine performing arts centre. A recent triumphant production of Les Misérables but also Amadeus and Sweeney Todd. All year 7s and 8s do drama as part of the curriculum, and there is house drama production as well. Productions at Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Art, electronics and DT departments are buzzy spaces. Art is well displayed and the studios are wonderful oases of light and space, as well as excellently equipped. Excellent outcomes for the seriously committed – one recent leaver having secured a spot at Central St Martins. Pupils are given considerable latitude to be creative in design. After a period of staff turnover, DT is becoming more embedded and is now on offer for A level. Like so many schools, the cultural leap to move away from the old woodwork/metalwork shop mentality hasn’t happened overnight, but the head sees an emerging synergy not merely between art, DT and electronics but extending to physics and the sciences, with big potential growth in product design.


Sports are 'big' and well resourced. Large playing fields on site plus vast sports hall with 25m pool. Five minutes' drive away is school's own West Grove with pitches, courts, tracks etc. Strong in all major sports – hockey, rugby, netball, cricket and tennis. Achievement to match - triumphs in netball, rugby and cricket as well as tours in these and hockey to, eg, Canada, Singapore/Malaysia, South Africa and Barbados. Historic complaints that sport is too elitist have become less strident but not disappeared: ‘It’s too often the same brilliant sportsmen getting the limelight,’ said one parent. The school has taken these seriously and evolved B and C teams, along with soccer. There are practical constraints, not least finding the necessary facilities and fixtures with other schools. ‘I know they’re working on this,’ said one parent, ‘and not before time. It’s our one grouse about the school.’

There is a serious wish on the part of the head that sport should reflect the values the school is trying to impart. ‘We’re properly proud of all the sporting success,’ he says, ‘but we want to create ways in which the best kind of team experience is genuinely attainable to all who seek it. Sport should offer all our pupils a medium through which they can cultivate the kinds of strength and conditioning which will sustain them throughout their lives.’

Ethos and heritage

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. 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. Twisty brick staircases and leaded lights which grab eager 10-year-olds immediately – 'I chose it because it was like Hogwarts.'

Large Great Hall – typical of date and type. Excellent Courtyard Building with colonnaded atrium and sitting area, dining room (all seniors eat together, although the sixth form can exercise the option to eat in their common room). The food gets good press, too, in contrast to the dismal recollections of one old boy now a parent (‘I’m pretty jealous, actually’). Some 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'. Nice new physics labs and modern language rooms and DT suite.

Integral chapel one of the best bits (complete with much-loved chaplain who is, says a parent, ‘just extraordinary – you should hear what my children say about him. They leave chapel filled with fresh understanding about the need for mutual respect’). Each year group 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.

Prep is in two conjoined, inviting-looking, modern red-brick buildings at the lower right hand side of the main school playing fields – two-storeyed and with big windows. Newish science, drama, music and DT rooms, a good-sized hall with flexible seating – lots of IT and new laptops. The library, recently refurbished, is well stocked and a good mix of fact and fiction. Outside space good and super all-weather surface for littlies with monster chess set and apparatus - not surprisingly, 'Everyone loves coming out here.’

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

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.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

Unstinting and uniform praise for pastoral care is very rare, and yet this is what our enquiries to a range of parents and pupils revealed. 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’; ‘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.’

Staff respond especially to the wholehearted and aspirational nature of their pupils, who are so laudably devoid of a sense of entitlement. The system which facilitates such praise is based around form tutors – usually of between 13 and 17 pupils. There are also houses for competitive purposes. With 200 plus pupils in each, the heads of house and their deputies have a formidable challenge in knowing their charges.

The teachers seem also to believe pupils are overwhelmingly biddable and friendly. ‘Of course,’ says the head, ‘teenagers can make mistakes.’ Like every other school, helping youngsters to make sensible use of IT is a preoccupation for teachers and parents, but as HM says, ‘adults don’t always find it easy either.’ He is trying to encourage a pastoral style which can be more generally proactive and – it follows on – pupils find it easy and unthreatening to volunteer fears and anxieties.

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. Most parents first-time buyers who 'work very hard to pay fees'.

Money matters

Bancroft’s has always sought to keep its fees low. There’s been a hike recently which has led to some mutterings, but the HM says ruefully, ‘It’s always a dilemma. We don’t want to change our identity, but we must be able to plan for the long term.’ He feels some of the building projects of earlier times could have been better conceived had there been less of the short-termism which customarily happens when budgets are too tight.

A range of bursaries is available. Scholarships (music and academic for children joining at 11+ and 16+) no longer carry fee remissions (although music scholarships do include payment of music lesson fees). From September 2021, sport, drama and art scholarships also available, but again with no fee remission.

The last word

An outstanding school – bright children, dedicated staff, and one of the most remarkable heads we’ve met. Given all its strengths, it deserves to be much more widely celebrated, although a deep part of its charm (and virtue) is that boastfulness and self-advertisement is off-limits. ‘We can never repay what this school has done for our children,’ said one parent. We wanted to shout it out from the rafters – this place is superb.

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

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
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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