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Languages include compulsory Latin from year 8, and Gratin (not as we originally thought, a cheesy topping for a cauliflower cloning experiment, but an amalgam of Greek and Latin) from year 9. DT another highlight; one excited student, no more than 12 years old, described how he ‘felt like a big kid’ as he made an ‘ergometric and anthropometric’ handle for a ladle as a rather charming surprise for Mother’s Day. Wider sport options now aim to ‘catch all’: mountain biking in Epping Forest, rowing on the Lea, and…

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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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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.

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Since 2016, Simon Marshall MA, MPhil, PGCE. Having done the rounds of the leafy London villages of Wimbledon (KCS, head of English) and Hampstead (UCS, deputy head academic), Mr Marshall added an international flavour to his experience when he became head of the English College in Prague. Impressed by the richness of the broad-based multilingual education there, one of his aims at Bancroft’s has been to emphasise that ‘what students learn outside the classroom is as important as what they learn within it’. Not one to boast about the school’s academic achievements, he wears his – and the school’s – confidence lightly: ‘Education is about more than just results,' he says, ‘it’s about educating the whole child and making the most of the opportunities on offer.' ‘Teamwork, collaboration and the value of making mistakes’ are equally, if not more, relevant skills to prepare for the world of work. Recognising that this is not at the expense of academic excellence, teachers and students are fully on board with a more holistic approach – and the majority of parents too, thanks to Mr Marshall’s democratic leadership which pervades the whole school: consult, listen, build trust. Parents tell us how he is ‘super-engaged’, ‘knows exactly which child belongs to which parent’, and ‘masterfully surveys and directs the school, even from the touchline’. His ‘supreme competence’ inspires confidence. No surprise then that parents appreciate the ‘complex, wide-ranging and exciting environment’ where, Mr Marshall says, ‘not to sign up for anything extra is not a choice’.

Mr Marshall, himself a graduate of an arts-based education, is also the consummate all-rounder he aspires to nurture: choral exhibitioner at Cambridge (MA classics), followed by an English degree and MPhil in 18th-century studies from Oxford. Not to overlook the importance of keeping fit, he is a keen mountaineer and runner. After Prague he returned, with his wife Eleanor, to the familiarity of a home in east London.

Joe Layburn, head of prep since 2012, is equally passionate about a rich and varied curriculum. He wants the prep school to be a place where ‘children love to learn and staff love to come to work'. ‘If everyone is happy, good things flow.' Acknowledging, as in the senior school, that academic excellence is a given, Mr Layburn wants to build confidence and resilience in his charges. He is a hands-on head: closely involved in the assessment process, taking assembly, teaching German after school, accompanying children to the school farm where they get muddy and are taken out of their comfort zone. ‘Bushcraft is as important as maths,' he says, ‘risk-taking is celebrated.’ Parents are universally positive: ‘He knows every child by name’, ‘leads from the front with no airs and graces’, ‘the level of care, enthusiasm, and charisma is very unusual’. Prior to teaching, Mr Layburn wrote a trilogy of children’s books (‘an itch I had to scratch’) and was a TV journalist. ‘There is no news story as positive, creative and exciting as a day in the life of a prep school head,’ he says. He is married with three grown-up children, two of whom, a doctor and an actor, were educated at Bancroft’s, and one at a special needs school.


At 7+, about 60 children into the prep. Children visit on two separate occasions and are tested in reading, writing and maths. ‘It’s children’s motivation that matters,’ says the head, ‘not feverish tutoring.’ At 11+, all the children from prep automatically transfer, and a further 60 (out of around 500 who apply) come from state and independent schools after sitting a competitive exam, including an online reasoning test. Taking student voice to another level, sixth formers are also involved in the assessment process. Some 25 places are available at 16+ for which applicants sit an online aptitude test of around 45 minutes, along with two one-hour exams (in subjects they hope to study at A level or which relate to them), plus reference and interviews. The school is constantly re-assessing the selection process to move away from a laser-focus on grades to 'a reflection of wider experience and broad potential’.


Around 10 per cent leave after GCSEs. Typically, over 70 per cent go to Russell Group universities and 10 per cent per year to Oxbridge (11 in 2023). London Universities (UCL, LSE, Queen Mary, King’s, Imperial) are a traditional favourite for those who prefer to stay closer to home, along with Manchester, Nottingham, Leeds, Bristol, Bath, Durham, Warwick, Anglia Ruskin, Liverpool and Exeter. Medicine (nine in 2023) and economics ever-popular, but an increasing number to humanities and arts courses (including art foundation). One or two students per year (and growing) secure degree apprenticeships with banks, engineering or accountancy firms which cover all fees through university and guarantee a job at the end of it.

Latest results

In 2023, 89 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 67 per cent A*/A at A level (89 per cent A*-B).

Teaching and learning

Ambitious parents and bright children set the scene, arriving full of expectation, as one parent put it, ‘of speed, pace and depth’. The traditionally strong STEM subjects are ‘brilliantly taught’ by teachers who are equally aspirational and ‘still have a joy for life and learning’: physics ‘excellent’; maths, the only subject to be set from year 7, ‘strong and strict’. Overarching understanding of how the sciences work together evident in the impressive high-octane go-kart project; this electric car reaches eye-watering speeds of 40mph on a battery which lasts 45 minutes, guaranteed to get the adrenaline pumping, not least of the headmaster, as it zooms round the grounds. Also guaranteed to set hearts racing is the very popular F1 club: a miniature car, powered by a CO2 cartridge, manufactured using CAD tools. Students proudly showed us their certificates demonstrating individual successes in this international STEM competition for schools.
Languages include compulsory Latin from year 8, and Gratin (not as we originally thought, a cheesy topping for a cauliflower cloning experiment, but an amalgam of Greek and Latin) from year 9. Uplifting to see German being taught in a traditional way with an emphasis on grammar, although not in the target language, on the day we visited. At GCSE the range of options across the board is wide and flexible; option blocks are designed after pupils’ choice, not before.

Art, traditionally a less popular choice at GCSE and A level, sees consistently outstanding results; quality, range and scale of artwork impressively displayed from ceiling to floor. A delight to watch pupils study their face in a mirror, with some surprise, as they drew their own self-portrait. DT another highlight; one excited student, no more than 12 years old, described how he ‘felt like a big kid’ as he made an ‘ergometric and anthropometric’ handle for a ladle as a rather charming surprise for Mother’s Day. ‘Teachers have trust in you to use real tools,’ he said, as we watched pupils saw, sand and polish.
Automatic progression from prep to senior school demands rigour but has also created useful space to include philosophy and outdoor learning within the prep school curriculum. We watched a year 3 class sitting on the floor questioning the morality behind The Three Robbers by Tomi Ungerer. ‘We’re building up to the big question,' said the teacher, deadpan: ‘Is stealing right?’ Outdoor learning takes children to neighbouring Hainault Forest where they ‘get muddy, plant hedges, build shelters, and build resilience too’. DT and drama are also now given extra curriculum time. From the youngest age Mr Layburn says pupils are ‘encouraged to be curious, as they naturally are, and to ask questions'. An easy relationship between the heads and shared facilities make for comfortable continuity from prep to senior.

An enrichment course in years 7 and 8 is also designed to spark intellectual curiosity with philosophical questions like ‘What is it to be human?', ‘What is power?’, while an entrepreneurial programme for year 8 includes a module on decision-making. This holistic approach is continued into years 9, 10 and 11 when there is more reflection and target-setting, ‘empowering students to think about the uniqueness of their achievements and how they learn’. Learning for Life (erstwhile PSHE) sees lively debate on topics such as social media, #MeToo and financial literacy. ‘We need to trust kids to make their own mistakes, this is how they learn for life,’ says a member of staff who has wholeheartedly bought into the idea of a more relevant, more contemporary curriculum.

Learning support and SEN

School aims to identify as quickly as possible, through screening and tracking, any pupil who requires learning support or who is potentially under-performing. Additional help will vary: one-to-one support or group study skills or revision clinics at lunchtime. ‘Our tutors and housemasters are so available, by email or text, and care so much,’ students tell us, and they are not shy in asking for support if they need it: ‘Teachers help unpick the problem and help us develop strategies.’ The learning support team told us that ‘kids accept, even celebrate, different ways of learning’, including the ‘not insignificant’ number of neuro-diverse children. One parent rejoiced that school dealt with her son’s ADD ‘brilliantly’. ‘They gave him strategies to help which meant he didn’t get into trouble for being disorganised.' An impressive 41 languages are spoken at home and extra support is given to EAL students as necessary.

The arts and extracurricular

The music departments, prep and senior, are vibrant and collaborative. Thirty peripatetic music teachers offer some 450 lessons a week. ‘Music is truly a pleasure not a chore,’ said one satisfied parent; ‘my children genuinely love being part of it.’ Opportunities range from fledgling garage bands - ‘they provide us with instruments most kids wouldn’t dream of’ - to the annual showcase concert for ‘truly outstanding musicians’ and the top-notch Sinfonia orchestra and Bancroft singers at Drapers’ Hall. Singing lies at the heart of music-making from the prep school up, starting before the school day begins. As one parent so knowingly put it, ‘teenage boys croak their way through and they’re still having a cool time’. We saw music, dance and drama come together in a show-stopping rehearsal of musical Crazy for You, and similarly Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals was a collaboration of music, dance and spoken word - one of the performances specifically for the disabled and local community, another for the prep and local primary schools. ‘There is always something wonderful and exciting going on,’ says one parent, ‘nothing is closed.’

There are clubs and societies to suit all tastes. ‘Sea scouts is very popular for those who like sailing, kayaking and, above all, getting wet,’ according to one parent, who wonders how the fantastic leaders survive their own survival course. If that doesn’t float your boat, DofE is also popular; ‘the heroism of the relaxed grip’ or, as another parent describes it, ‘Dump them in Snowdonia for five days and our urban teenagers return more confident and resilient.’ CCF is huge: army and RAF sections are run by sixth form and overseen by the school CCF staff with occasional support from external military training teams. ‘Take these academic kids out of their comfort zone, get them dirty and tired,’ says one gung-ho dad; ‘they do the outdoors stuff really well and literally hundreds of students benefit from it.’ Sea scouts and CCF play a big part on Remembrance Day, parading into the school grounds and laying wreaths at the prominent school memorial. The wreaths remain in the cloisters all year round - a poignant reminder to these agile young minds of the cost of war.


Need to let off steam before the day begins? Try the 8am daily morning mile round the running track, open to all pupils and teachers from the prep up. Or, if that’s not early enough, the early swim at 7am! The 4.5-acre site also enjoys large playing fields, including two rugby pitches and a vast sports hall. Swimming, in the 25m pool at the heart of the school, is compulsory to year 10. It is taught to a very high standard by a coach whose ‘total immersion’ methodology is not just about getting wet but engages both body and mind. Rugby, cricket and hockey are big (all girls in years 7 and 8 represented the school last season). West Grove playing fields, owned by the school, are a 10-minute coach drive away, with tennis and netball courts, cricket pitches and clubhouse. ‘You can’t blame the facilities for lack of participation,’ said one parent of a sport-reluctant adolescent. ‘Teenagers just won’t get out of bed on a Saturday morning to play rugby if it’s not their thing.’ Wider sport options now aim to ‘catch all’: mountain biking in Epping Forest, rowing on the Lea, and the boxing gym are all popular off-site alternatives. CrossFit, climbing, street dance, even competitive cheerleading, buck the traditional contact sport trend.

Ethos and heritage

Founded in Mile End Road in 1737 (now the site of QMC) after Francis Bancroft bequeathed a sum to the Drapers’ Company ‘to establish a school for one hundred poor boys aged between seven and fifteen’. The Drapers’ Company remains a trustee and still has an active connection with the school, including helping fund assisted places. The school moved into the current imposing red-brick building, designed by scholarly architect Sir Arthur Blomfield, in 1889. The fine neo-Gothic quad, with dining hall, chapel, library, and classrooms is impressive, especially for Hogwarts enthusiasts. The school became fully independent and co-ed in the 1970s, and the prep school was added, on the same site, in 1990. The courtyard building is an attractive later addition: atrium, outdoor sitting area, sixth form centre and new dining room that accommodates all seniors. Impressive range of food – breakfast club from 7.50, sustaining bacon butties for early morning swimmers and healthy lunch options including casseroled tofu on the day of our visit.

The beautiful Victorian chapel, with fine organ and stained glass, promotes the ethos of mutual respect in this diverse community. Fortnightly services for different year groups focus on shared concerns, and the students we spoke to seem to appreciate the time to explore the bigger ‘meaning of life’ questions. The multi-faith/no-faith approach to ‘worship’ allows students a reflective space; and time, perhaps, ‘to stand and stare’.

The sixth form centre is a pleasant, open space where students can study, grab a sandwich or have a game of chess - relaxed but purposeful - and strategically placed next to the expertly-run careers service where help is at hand to think ahead and to make A level choices with an eye to the future. A university admissions workshop to help students focus on what universities are looking for is shared with eight local schools. Old Bancroftians, parents and outside speakers are all welcomed in to talk to sixth formers about their work or to share their life experience. Preparation for the world of work is never far away.

Student voice is louder and more democratic than ever. Congress reps, voted in by sixth form, among others, meet to articulate ideas from the year groups they represent and, judging from what we heard, are eloquent, confident and make things happen. No surprise that sixth form congress have a say in staff appointments. ‘They know what they’re looking for and what is going to work for them,’ we are told with the same air of assurance.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

Students in need have a number of options: the school nurse is a ‘delightful safe pair of hands’, the three school counsellors are available for self-referral or to be referred to, and the form tutor, head of year and housemaster or mistress are all there ‘if a student is worried for themselves or for a friend’. The house system provides an overarching support group: house competitions, breakfasts and house family evenings - ‘a joyous demonstration of everything about the school, from talented musicians to wannabe rockers in sunglasses’.

The pastoral team are friendly and well established within the school and we heard universal praise from parents and students alike. Students are very aware of their own wellbeing; they monitor it in a termly questionnaire, along with friendship and other personal issues, and talk about it in tutor time.
Inclusion and diversity are celebrated: we were told about International Women’s Week, an assembly on homophobia, raising awareness of African heritage, the Jewish lunch, and Taal (meaning ‘the beat of life’) – an energetic celebration of pan-Asian music, drama and dance run by the Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and Sikh societies. The flying of a rainbow flag on Pride Day raised a few eyebrows among the parents, ‘but GenZ demands something different’; the IdentiTEA society is a safe space for any student questioning their own identity. Parents told us how happy they are that their children’s friendship groups reflect the multi-ethnic intake of the school.
The headmaster accepts that his students are generally hard working and well behaved rather than reactionary and rebellious: ‘I don’t really care about haircuts,’ he says, with a reassuringly liberal touch, ‘but any form of bullying, notably racism, is absolutely not tolerated.'

Pupils and parents

Largely local intake, but also from the wider area of north and east London: Stoke Newington, Enfield, London Fields, Ilford and Romford. Good transport links - both bus and Central Line, with minibus shuttle from Loughton underground station. Home Run app encourages car-pooling. Traditionally a strong Jewish element from the businesses around Mile End, now a vastly diverse multi-ethnic, multi-faith intake. Old Bancroftians feel a big pull of allegiance, loving the traditions and broad offering. Some Bancroft’s teachers are former students themselves, and some have even taught current parents. Parents generally ‘hugely supportive’ in offering work experience and career advice. Others ‘more transactional', working very hard to pay for grades and outcome. PTA welcomes those keen to get involved: wine tasting, comedy nights and musical events all on offer.

Money matters

Academic awards are offered at 11+ and 16+, with no financial remission of fees; music scholarships cover tuition in one instrument. Echoing the founder’s wish, the Bancroft’s Foundation offers a number of means-tested assisted places, based on performance at 7+, 11+ and 16+, to pupils whose parents could not otherwise afford the fees.

The last word

A contemporary, forward-looking school, with traditions but without entitlement. Academic excellence a given, it is the opportunities offered outside the classroom which ultimately set Bancroftians up for life. Social and ethnic mix is a reflection of the world we live in where tolerance, kindness and courage are perhaps as relevant as outstanding grades. A wide-ranging education - a means to an end, rather than an end in itself.

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

Who came from where

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