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A very industrious feel to the place, but none of the anxiety of a hothouse. ‘They help children to extend their ambition in every way,’ said one parent, ‘but without getting het up.’ The school also hums with music (the Young Voices choir was practising when we arrived – a very joyful sound). A wind band, a strings group, a young voices choir, jazz band, and lots of beat and drumming, and masses of music technology. There’s a special art day every couple of years with visits from…

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What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmistress

Since 2013, Mrs Marianne Austin (60s). Read geography at Durham and then spent two years at Sheffield doing an MA in town planning before becoming a chartered accountant, working at the (then) Coopers and Lybrand. Initially fired to teach when her daughter began nursery here, she arrived at Kew College in 2002 and has never looked back. (‘I love the school and believe completely in what we’re trying to do’). Has taught in years 2, 4 and 6, became deputy head in 2010 and three years later took over the reins. Mrs Austin exudes calmness and warmth, and a determination to support and empower all constituencies including her staff, whose professionalism and commitment evidently help to inspire her own. ‘We obviously want the children to feel secure and happy’ she says, ‘not least because we want to foster a culture which allows them to take risks. And that’s a life skill for which the need will never go away.’ Loves travel and skiing and spending time with her husband and daughter and with her family in Ireland.

Entrance

Children can start in the nursery aged 3 – there are two classes, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Get their names down as early as possible – any time from birth. There’s no examination or interview, though prospective parents are required, as a condition of entry, to attend an open morning to get a feel for the place. Priority is given to siblings, and to the sons and daughters of ex-pupils. Mrs Austin says this does not occasion resentment ‘because it’s transparent’. Clear belief that, so long as parents are invested, this is a school in which almost any child can thrive. ‘My daughter came from the state sector,’ said one parent. ‘There are no airs and graces here, but terrific values.’

Exit

Everyone leaves at 11, many to the big hitters in West London, usually with good number of scholarships. Mostly day - boarding very seldom on the radar. In 2017, Kingston Grammar and Ibstock Place most popular destinations. Pupils also to Notting Hill and Ealing High, Hampton School, Putney High, Latymer and Surbiton High.

Our view

Warm-hearted and effervescent learning environment. Staff are guided by the national curriculum, but teaching and learning go way beyond. In the nursery and kindergarten years, a clear emphasis on social skills and physical literacy, but of also being gently led into reading, writing and elementary maths. By the time children move into the infant house in years 1 and 2, ICT and science have become more fully integrated, and the children are becoming exposed to more specialist subject teaching. French (emphasis on lots of lovely sounds) actually begins in nursery, and ‘understanding the world’ introduces younger children to what will later become science.

Reading is huge here. Right from the start reading at home is encouraged. From year I, a 10 minute spell of nightly homework is also expected and, by gentle incremental steps, this is increased as children get older. A very industrious feel to the place, but none of the anxiety of a hothouse. ‘They help children to extend their ambition in every way,’ said one parent, ‘but without getting het up.’ Particular praise for thorough marking - ‘lots of red and green ink, full of attainable target-setting and constructive comments,’ said parent. Learning support is sensitively managed, with a SENCo and assistant ‘The specific needs of children change,’ says the head. ‘Sometimes it’s just a bit of anxiety’. Other issues, such as dyslexia, need longer-term support. But all children, however much or little help they receive, are fully integrated into the life of the school. Occasionally there are those with more significant needs, and every attempt is made to support them.

The school is housed in two big Victorian houses – classic west London stuff. ’We’ve been lucky,’ says head. ‘The original buildings were gifted to us by our founder’ – something which has allowed the fees to remain at a relatively modest level compared to some. Now a third big building has been bought just alongside, home to year 5 and 6 pupils and to the art department from September 2017. A further consequence will be the rehousing of the library - ‘right at the heart of the school, as it should be’, says Mrs Austin.

Although the present site is on the edge of being cramped – packed lunches on site are essential - there’s no sense of crowding. Timetables have been carefully worked to minimise bodies having to jostle, and classrooms comfortably accommodate classes of never more than 20 children. There’s no sense of claustrophobia – rather of light, of bustling creativity and of calm good relationships. At the back, just across the school playground is the Octagon – a purpose built block dating from about 2000 which houses younger pupils.

Masses of sport – football, rugby, netball and athletics especially, and plenty of swimming – with plenty of fixtures with other schools. ‘It’s lovely to win,’ says the head, ‘which, fortunately, they often do. Sometimes, of course, they don’t - and that’s education.’ There aren’t any rolling acres here, so there’s a coach ride for everyone on a Tuesday and Thursday afternoon to sports grounds only five minutes away.

The school also hums with music (the Young Voices choir was practising when we arrived – a very joyful sound). A wind band, a strings group, a young voices choir, jazz band, and lots of beat and drumming, and masses of music technology. There’s a special art day every couple of years with visits from the specialists at the V&A. Clubs, in and after school, have that same determined outreach – not only those with a digital and IT base, of course, but masses of dance and even one for Lego.

Pastoral care is taken very seriously. Every Monday, the head meets with staff and their first item of business is identifying pupils who present concerns. The school has identified a range of structures best calculated to serve the children’s interests – a house system, of course (excellent for games) but also heads of year who liaise closely with form teachers to ensure a full and up-to-date flow of information and insight. Lots of outings, of course, and older children might take longer school trips – year 5 were at Hooke Court in Dorset during our visit. The school is evidently proud of its traditions as well as of its routines – Founder' Day each spring is a major jamboree, and allows pupils to come together with teachers and other friends of the school.

The policy of teachers of other years visiting all parts of the school frequently helps accustom young children to faces which might otherwise be unfamiliar. Before moving to a new class, there are ‘transition’ days to help acclimatise, and that extends to opportunities for parents to hear the reflections of parents with older children who’ve already made the journey. It’s easy to spot the confidence which flows between the different constituencies here. The recessional at the end of each day eloquently combines pupil safety with a gentle exercise in toujours la politesse.

The wholeheartedness of the children (very apparent) is suggestive – they seem to have imbibed a confidence and optimism from other pupils and teachers and also, no doubt about it, from their families. This is a school in which the parents’ investment – emotional, social and financial – reflects a deep commitment to education in the fullest sense. Parents are big fundraisers for the school (the school minibus and a massive investment in the library are recent examples). Mrs Austin is emphatic that the exchange of confidence and goodwill adds immeasurably to the potential of the school. ‘Children all feel part of the bigger picture,’ said one parent. ‘I don’t know quite how they do it, but it’s exceptional. They think beyond themselves, and it spills over into everything.’

Special Education Needs

Our qualified SENCo assesses any child referred by the class teacher and will then advise the teachers how best to help the child using multi-sensory strategies and prepare the Individual Education Plan. The IEP's are in place to help the child achieve their full potential and strengthen their confidence.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Aspergers Syndrome [archived]
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders [archived]
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Delicate Medical Problems [archived]
Dyscalculia
Dysgraphia
Dyslexia
Dyspraxia
English as an additional language (EAL)
Epilepsy [archived]
Genetic
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class
HI - Hearing Impairment
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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