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Has its own garden – a haven in the north London urban jungle – where the youngest pupils grow vegetables, build, dig and have story time when weather permits. Staff described by head as ‘a perfect mix of experience and youthfulness,’ with a great balance of male and female staff. Parents generally agree that ‘the teaching staff really make the school'. Musical pursuits ‘very popular,’ says head, with two-thirds of all pupils learning an instrument and half of that number learning two. Compulsory recorder in year 2 and between six and eight musical recitals every year...

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What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since 2011, Mr Ben Walker BA PGCE CELTA. Educated at Lochinver House (head boy in 1977, badges proudly displayed in his office on a cut off blazer lapel), St Albans School and Reading University where he read English. A teacher by vocation, followed a non conventional path to his current position, joining retail group C&A as a management trainee after university. Realised after a year that the commercial world was ‘not really for me’ and took a PGCE at the Institute of Education. Spent 13 years in inner city state secondary schools, rising through the ranks, before he and his wife decided in 2002 to sell up and move the family to Kenya to carry out development work. They spent three years there starting a school, coordinating health care projects and working as Church Mission Society partners. Towards the end of that time, took a post at St Andrews, Turi, a prep school for expats and wealthy nationals, which led him, on his return to the UK in 2005, to the role of deputy head at Swanbourne House in Buckinghamshire. Came full circle and joined Lochinver House as head six years later.

Calm, engaging and a natural communicator. Married to Jill, deputy head at Glendower School in Kensington, with three children. Feels he inherited ‘a good school with a few challenges,’ the largest of which was to ‘encourage celebration of the 13+ journey.’ Promptly surveyed heads of top schools including St Albans School, Merchant Taylors’ and Eton on the matter to strengthen his case, and has set about communicating to parents the merits of prep school until 13 from thereon.

Governors say he has made the school calmer, achieving ‘stronger achievement of values’ and giving it a ‘stronger sense of spirituality.’ Parents agree and add that he has also given the school a ‘more academic feel.’ Popular with pupils, perhaps because of his qualities as an educator, or perhaps because of ‘headmaster’s hot chocolate’, a weekly Friday event for those who have received the most house credits for their efforts that week, or ‘head’s pub lunch,’ a termly treat for one deserving boy chosen from each of the three houses.

Entrance

Currently oversubscribed and ‘gently’ selective. Candidates at 3 and 4 assessed informally in small groups (‘a fun day,’ say parents) to check suitability and potential. Boys entering higher up the school, some from state primaries and some new to area, spend a day at the school with a ‘buddy’ and are tested in numeracy and literacy, with competition often stiff for these occasional places. Maximum class size 21.

Exit

Around 80 per cent stay to year 8, with the usually less academic remainder taking different 11+ paths to avoid the Common Entrance hurdle (‘they can benefit from a longer run in to GCSEs,’ says head) or leaving for financial reasons. A few to selective state schools. Leavers go on to a variety of independent schools, including Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School, St Albans School, Merchant Taylors, City of London, UCS, Haileybury, Aldenham, St Christoper, St Columba’s, Mill Hill, Oundle, Stonyhurst, Charterhouse.

Our view

Tucked away in residential suburbia, Lochinver House won’t seduce you with its good looks, but in true ugly duckling style it could well win you over with the functionality of its bijoux eight acre site, a warren of practical facilities, all aimed at squeezing excellence out of its young charges.

Pre-prep block unlikely to win any beauty contests but has its own small library and the walls are cheered with loads of art and written work by its young residents, as well as a ‘giving tree’, which gives a clue to the supportive nature of the school, with kind deeds posted as leaves on a daily basis. Also has its own garden – a haven in the north London urban jungle – where the youngest pupils grow vegetables, build, dig and have story time when weather permits. Play times are spent in the enclosed adventure playground (made less alluring by proximity to car park) or, for reception, in their dedicated outdoor play area away from the rough and tumble of older boys.

The star attraction from the boys’ perspective is undoubtedly the huge astroturf that multi-tasks as play area, sports field and cricket pitch (although not for A and B teams for fear of nearby windows). Sports fields are split between the main site and additional space across the road, offering plenty of options for matches and games practice. For older pupils, there’s a lovely eco garden, complete with bug hotel and swamp-like pond, home to ‘loads of newts and snails,’ according to boys. Other stand out facilities include a theatre, used for assemblies and the many school productions and recitals, a light and bright dining room and modern, well-equipped science labs. The senior music room recently benefited from an injection of cash, now boasting a suite of gleaming keyboards for aspiring musicians to get their tech fix.

Parents and pupils largely local with intake reflecting the north London multi-cultural mix and the majority professional, often dual income, families – ‘very grounded.’ A small proportion have English as an additional language but generally do not require additional support. Fees considered excellent value. Not only are they amongst the lowest in the area, but also include almost all trips and excursions, moderate learning support requirements and many after school clubs. Extremely active PTA organises the usual fundraisers – balls, fêtes, bazaars and quiz nights - and parents say this gives the school a really family orientated feel, ‘one of the school’s greatest strengths.’

‘Very strong’ language offering according to head, with French from year 3, Latin from year 5, a two year Spanish course in years 5 and 6 and Russian offered as an extension subject for the brightest in years 5 and 6. St Albans school reportedly considers Lochinver boys amongst its best linguists and has created an accelerated class almost exclusively for them when they arrive in year 9. IT, music and games taught by specialists from reception up. Setting from year 3 for maths, year 5 for French and from year 7 for sciences. School retains two form entry format to the end of year 6, with years 7 and 8 splitting into three smaller classes, including an accelerated group. Verbal and non verbal reasoning has recently been introduced to the senior curriculum to ensure boys are given best preparation ahead for exams.

Staff described by head as ‘a perfect mix of experience and youthfulness,’ with a great balance of male and female staff. Parents generally agree that ‘the teaching staff really make the school,’ with just the odd grumble about a job share in the junior school having an impact on teacher/pupil relationships. Majority of classes held in form rooms until year 5, when boys start to move around school for specialist teaching in all subjects – ‘brilliant preparation for my next school,’ said one. Good scholarship output with around seven most years to a variety of next schools.

No statemented children but a number supported in various ways by a ‘highly qualified’ full time SEN coordinator plus team. Head is proud of the level of support they give as a primarily academic school to lost sheep. Special adjustments also made for gifted pupils with those in senior years encouraged to undertake independent project work to stretch their abilities - ‘children’s specific needs are met,’ according to parents, although some muttered about lack of recognition for less academic boys: ‘all the awards go to the clever ones.’

Musical pursuits ‘very popular,’ says head, with two thirds of all pupils learning an instrument and half of that number learning two. Compulsory recorder in year 2 and between six and eight musical recitals every year – ‘We try to create a balance,’ says head. ‘Parents want breadth.’ Plenty of opportunities for the thespian community to shine too, with performances for all year groups and a major production each year, recently Wacky Soap, with almost everyone getting involved either on stage or behind the scenes.

Head also proud of school’s sporting prowess: ‘we punch way above our weight.’ In addition to the usual competitive suspects (rugby, football and cricket), boys are also able to sample the likes of sailing, golf and Taekwondo and report that sports day is ‘very competitive.’ A-C teams throughout the school for major sports, so ‘almost everyone gets a chance to play,’ say parents. A plethora of after school clubs on offer from year 5 upwards, such as horror film making, debating, model making and, for prospective new age men, cookery and touch typing.

Good happy vibe (‘it feels like my family,’ said one year 8 boy). Boys in years 3 to 8 are reading buddies to little ones in reception and year 1 and the popular house buddy system from year 3 up galvanises vertical relationships up and down the school, with other initiatives such as the pupil-run ABC (Anti-Bullying Council) in place to deal with the usual friendship issues and playground problems. Parents ‘feel supported’ when problems arise and report that they are generally dealt with proactively and in collusion with home.

A health centre building was recently opened, adding an extra dimension to care.

Morning assemblies complimented by house tutor group sessions for boys in years 6 to 8 with daily discussions covering topics such as self-awareness, British values, democracy and friendship, aiming to prepare them for the world at large and strengthen inter-year relationships at the top of the school. Two head boys elected by teachers and supported by house and vice house captains (one for each house). Immense leadership opportunities on offer for elected prefects, with the head boys' charities (chosen from a selection in a school ballot) raising up to £20,000 each year for good causes.

Head sees wrap around care as ‘an important part of what we do,’ and offers a free early morning club from 7.45am, tea time club running to 5.30pm (including tea for those that want it) and homework club (both charged as extras) for older boys, in addition to the array of extracurricular activities that keep boys at school after hours. School minibuses ferry children from Finchley, Southgate, Totteridge, Hadley Wood and Barnet directions for a small daily charge, mornings only.

Special Education Needs

Lochinver House School has a Learning Support Unit that provides assistance to boys that require extra support in the school. This unit works closely with all members of staff to provide the necessary support required. The SENCO can provide screening/ assessment to assist with any difficulty the child might have. The Learning Support Unit works closely with parents and outside agencies should this be necessary.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Aspergers
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia
Dysgraphia
Dyslexia
Dyspraxia
English as an additional language (EAL)
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
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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