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It’s an unusual independent school in some ways: there’s no uniform and it’s first name terms for all teachers, including the head. One parent told us: ‘I love this school for being individual with very individual ideas.’ This is a City school and parents know exactly what they’re buying into when they make the decision to send their children here. One told us: ‘I am able to drop my kids off on the way to work, which is one reason I chose this school. The other reason is that I noticed how happy and...

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What The Good Schools Guide says

Head

Since 2009, Caroline Lloyd (40s). BEd in geography from Exeter University (although her parents had wanted her to do a ‘proper’ degree). Her first job as an NQT was at Charterhouse Square School in 1994, straight after leaving university: ‘I was young, determined and desperate to be a teacher.’ Indeed Caroline (as she is known to staff and pupils), knew she wanted to teach from the age of 7 and ‘used to line up my teddies, pretending they were in class.’ However, she had a very specific idea of the kind of school where she wanted to teach and only five schools matched her criteria - Charterhouse Square being one of them.

During her 15 years at the school and prior to becoming head, Caroline experienced teaching in all year groups from nursery through to year 6. After leaving to start a family she returned six months later on a part-time basis as she ‘missed teaching so much’. In 2008, the school was purchased by Cognita and the position of head was advertised. Caroline says: ‘It was never my intention to become a head, but I was worried that someone new would come in and not see how special the school was’ - so she applied for the post. After so many years at the school her application was seen as a natural progression by both parents and children. One parent told us: ‘The school was good before with the previous head, but it’s great now. The children have just blossomed under Caroline.’ Another praised her for being such a consistently visible presence; ‘She knows every pupil by name and is naturally great with children. The school just seems to run seamlessly.’

Tall, attractive and immaculately turned out she could have been separated at birth from the Middleton sisters and would look quite at home sipping Pimm's at a polo match. Her boundless enthusiasm for both her job and life in general is infectious but don't be fooled, this head is no pushover and knows that some people might go so far as to call her a control freak: ‘I’m on the school door every morning and most afternoons. I feel that if communication is strong, we can get things sorted before they escalate out of control.’

One can’t imagine too many things getting out of control at this genteel school, which has had no permanent exclusions in its 25 year history; the head concedes that her main challenge is ‘managing over-aspiring parents.’ She says: ‘I’ve often had to remind parents that I’m actually on the side of the child, especially when they are being pushed too hard to get in to certain secondary schools.’

Entrance

Completely non-selective, entry is by lottery - unless you have a sibling who already attends. Twenty-six 3+ places offered each year and roughly 70 on the waiting list. No point planning the Caesarian or putting names down at birth, you can register up till the end of June the year before entry and a ballot is drawn on 1 July. Head says this comes as a shock for some parents: ‘who have been used to pulling out a cheque book to buy their way in' and concedes that 'It can make me pretty unpopular.’ Cheque book will, however, come in handy for £4,000 non-returnable deposit payable when accepting a place.

Exit

Most to high calibre selective London secondaries. Fierce competition for places at both (girls and boys) City of London schools and some pupils even pulled out early at age 7 or 10 by parents who think this will increase their chances of getting in. School says this is a shame and ‘can be disruptive.’ Other leavers to eg Channing, Francis Holland, Forest School, South Hampstead, North Bridge House and Queen's College.

Our view

Charterhouse Square School is located on the south side of historic Charterhouse Square in Smithfield, central London. The square was built on what was the site of a 14th century Carthusian monastery (an alms house and chapel remain) and also London's largest Black Death plague pit. The five-storey Victorian building occupied by the school, though smart enough, is easily missed among neighbouring offices and apartment blocks, but any lack of character, not to mention green space, is more than made up for by such a central location. This is a City school and parents know exactly what they’re buying into when they make the decision to send their children here. One told us: ‘I am able to drop my kids off on the way to work, which is one reason I chose this school. The other reason is that I noticed how happy and well-mannered the pupils were when they were out and about. I know some people think it looks more confined than other schools, but it works for us and my children are very happy here.’

Though it wouldn’t suit those who like to plan ahead, most parents seem to welcome the diversity and ‘range of abilities’ that result from school’s non-selective lottery-based entrance procedure. It’s an unusual independent school in other ways: there’s no uniform and it’s first name terms for all teachers, including the head. One parent told us: ‘I love this school for being individual with very individual ideas.’ Another said: ’Coming from a convent school background I was initially horrified about the idea of first name terms, but I have to say it works very well and makes the teachers far more approachable to the children, without diluting any respect.’

Head has worked hard to ensure that hers isn’t a one size fits all school: ‘When I came on board, early years was very formal and a bit of a hothouse. Drama was only every other week and there were no school trips. I think it’s about broadening the curriculum so that we can make sure that all pupils can excel at something.’ Parents wholeheartedly agree. Teaching described as ‘exceptional’ and ‘instilling a love of learning.’ Years 4 and 5 are taught together so that they have the same teacher for two years before the all-important year 6. They work on a two-year curriculum, with the exception of homework, and English and maths textbooks. They are also ability grouped. One parent told us, ‘I’m not really sure how it works - but the kids seem to understand it, so that’s the main thing.’

Designated SENCo provides one-to-one support and booster groups for children with SEN, which accounts for a handful of the school’s intake. The nature of the school building (five flights of stairs) may make it unsuitable for pupils with physical disabilities.

Pastoral care is paramount and school employs a number of highly effective strategies to help pupils feel safe. Older pupils can make use of classroom ‘feelings boxes’ to share concerns privately with teachers, and the ‘buddy’ system supports new pupils. Every parent we spoke to raved about this: ‘It’s a great system as it makes new children feel less intimidated and older children rise to the responsibility of looking after the younger ones.’

Our tour started in the early years foundation stage classes, nursery and reception. Nursery was having its annual ‘animal dress up day’ and we were greeted by tigers, bears and monkeys plus a couple of unidentifiable but colourful animals. Sweet little add-on area designed for role play was effectively outside, but covered by a canopy and surrounded by a high wall. This, we were told, was to prevent anything landing on the tracks of Barbican station, something that carries a huge fine (on an hourly rate). Thankfully, this has not happened so far.

Small but well stocked library from where children are encouraged to take books home nightly, and a carpeted school hall with beautiful white piano and colourful wall display of ukuleles. Extracurricular activities such as judo and table tennis take place here and all children have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument. ‘Informal’ Spanish also offered in the early years. One parent said: ‘I was amazed when we went on holiday to Spain last year, that my 5 year old daughter was able to communicate with a local in pidgin Spanish.’

Bright, neat, colourful classrooms were full of interested, happy and very polite children and the atmosphere of the school is extremely warm and friendly. Pupils who were leaving told us how they’ll miss Charterhouse ‘sooo much’, especially the teachers. ‘What I really like about the teachers is that they are all so friendly. Also, we are often asked to tick a box privately at the end of a lesson about whether we found the classes easy or difficult. If we are really struggling, we can sometimes get an extra private lesson.’

Despite the limitations of a tall and narrow building (‘I often had to walk up five flights of stairs when I was pregnant,' the head told us), children don’t seem to lack breathing space and fresh air. During the warmer months they spend their lunch break in the private Charterhouse Square gardens; when it’s cold and wet they play in the school’s ‘jungle’ downstairs. Organised sports take place nearby at Coram Fields or the Golden Lane Leisure Centre. Pupils do take part in inter-school sporting events, but no regular fixtures because of the issue of ‘bussing children around.’ One parent did say that this school is perhaps not the right option for the ‘extremely sporty child’, although another said that her two boys 'are extremely sporty and it meets their needs.' A highlight in the calendar is sports day: ‘It’s just such a joy, well handled and fun.’

No school meals prepared on site and no dining room because of limited space so until recently all pupils had to bring in a packed lunch. School has now organised for a company to bring in hot food in thermos containers, if the parents require. The head says: ‘This system works very well and the advantage is that parents know what their children like and can order accordingly.’ We are told the quality and choice is great, with meatballs, pasta, wraps, soups and stews on offer.

Lack of space may deter some, but Charterhouse Square is a wonderful option if you live and work in the City. This is a successful school and a happy environment in which pupils of varying abilities thrive and with comments such as: ‘My child loves every day of her school life!’ who could ask for more?

Special Education Needs

We aim to provide every possible opportunity to develop the full potential of every child. Children with special educational needs must be valued as individuals and should be encouraged to integrate with their peers, both socially and academically. They should have access to the whole school curriculum. At all times, consideration will be given to maintaining and enhancing the self esteem of children with special educational needs. In our school we aim to offer excellence and choice to all our children, whatever their ability or needs. We have high expectations of all our children. We aim to achieve this through the removal of barriers to learning and participation. We want all our children to feel that they are a valued part of our school community. Through appropriate curricular provision, we respect the fact that children have different educational and behavioural needs and aspirations; require different strategies for learning; acquire, assimilate and communicate information at different rates; and need a range of different teaching approaches and experiences.

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
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
VI - Visual Impairment Y

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