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A warmer welcome to a school you will not find, thanks to the lovely receptionists – and this really sets the tone for this surprisingly informal school where girls thrive academically, and then some. When we visited, two whole classes were absent for enrichment purposes – one practising for a big drama production in the senior school and one on a visit to the BFI, all dressed in Roald Dahl-themed costumes, complete with face-paint. Inside, everywhere is carpeted, which makes for quiet corridors and a civilised feel. A sense of purpose and attentiveness pervades, but it feels as if the girls are having real fun too – and their work is ...

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What the school says...

Lady Eleanor Holles Junior School is proud of its ethos of excellence within a family atmosphere, and seeks to develop bright, happy and confident girls, who mostly join us at 7 from a wide range of independent and maintained schools. The majority proceed to the Senior School at eleven with a guaranteed place (with very few exceptions). Standards are high, and girls generally work in advance of their chronological age and standard year group.

Lady Eleanor Holles Junior School occupies a very attractive building, Burlington House, the classrooms are large, light and airy. There are superb specialist rooms and Junior girls make full use of the school's magnificent sports facilities including an indoor heating swimming pool. The school stands on a wonderful 23 acre site, and the girls enjoy their own play area, with a trim trail and climbing frame, and their own dining room.

There is a very wide range of lunchtime and after school clubs and activities. There include Drama, Tennis, Netball, Swimming, Gymnastics, Art, Latin, Chess, Gardening, Speech and Drama, Choir, Orchestra and other Music groups. Day trips, outing and visitors to the school are important ways of enriching the curriculum. Girls also have the opportunity to experience residential school visits.
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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

Head of Juniors

Since 2016, Paula Mortimer BEd (40s), previously head of St Christina's school in St John's Wood. A science specialist with a degree from Oxford, she has taught in preps and all-through schools, latterly as deputy and acting head of Channing Junior School. Also has experience as SEN coordinator. Still loves teaching. ‘I have no plans whatsoever to stop spending time working with children in the classroom,’ she says. A hands-on head, she is known for fostering honest, open relationships not only with staff, but with pupils and parents. Very committed to pastoral care. ‘For me, a role as head is all about ensuring children are secure and happy first and foremost, as that’s what makes them successful learners. They’re two sides of the same coin.’ Particularly keen to see children take risks in the classroom. ‘That’s how they learn.’

Head of whole school is Mrs Heather Hanbury (see senior school entry).

Entrance

School’s own entrance tests in English and maths at 7+, and top performers invited back for an activity session. About 48 places, split across two forms. Only two girls trying for every place, but don’t be fooled – the older they get, the faster the ride, so best for those who seem exceptionally bright and eager to learn. That said, they do take some borderline performers. ‘Some show high potential, but have not had the fire in their belly if, for example, they’ve been at a pre-prep that just drills facts into them. We are looking for what girls are capable of, not what they’ve already achieved – along with a can-do attitude.' Pupils come from a combination of primaries and many from pre-preps like Hampton Pre-Prep and Jack and Jill.

Exit

Some 80 per cent move up to the senior department - the school insists that in any one year, usually only three or four girls do not progress due to not being academically able. Thankfully, no exam separating those who get in vs those that don’t – instead, girls are assessed on the basis of their classroom work and school exams and offered a guaranteed place in year 5. The few who don’t make the cut get lots of support and extra help to prepare for tests to other schools and they may still sit the LEH entrance exam if they wish. Those who want to try for a scholarship also sit the entrance exams, along with the outside applicants. Those who do get a place, but decide to go elsewhere, opt for Tiffin Girls, St Paul's Girls’ or Nonsuch, with others going to Kingston Grammar, Sir Williams Perkins, St James Girls’ and St Catherine’s.

Our view

A warmer welcome to a school you will not find, thanks to the lovely receptionists – and this really sets the tone for this surprisingly informal school where girls thrive academically, and then some. Four or five thick, bound photo albums take up the entire coffee table in the reception area, packed with pictures of the girls at carol services, on school trips, doing drama productions etc – also giving a flavour of school life here, where enrichment and extracurricular is seen as important as the demanding classroom based learning. ‘My daughter recently told me she’s taken up chess – I knew nothing about it. Absolutely brilliant!’ said one parent. When we visited, two whole classes were absent for enrichment purposes – one practising for a big drama production in the senior school and one on a visit to the BFI, all dressed in Roald Dahl-themed costumes, complete with face-paint.

The school building started life as an attractive old house, although build-ons over the years mean that outside it is less aesthetically pleasing. However, unlike preps elsewhere, it has fabulous outside space – real space. A super garden area with excellent climbing frames and other apparatus, courts and pitches – much of it, of course, shared with the senior school.

Particularly valued by girls are the ‘hedge homes’ – little dens in the hedges abutting the brook separating the school from the grounds. Plus new tepee, which is used for story time and other activities as an outside classroom. The girls use pebbles for money and run these little domestic havens just as they would their brick and drainpipe equivalents.

Inside, everywhere is carpeted, which makes for quiet corridors and a civilised feel. A sense of purpose and attentiveness pervades, but it feels as if the girls are having real fun too – and their work is displayed in every corridor in witty, appealing and imaginative ways. Great cross-curricular approach too - if they learn about the ancient Greeks, they make Greek vases; if they learn about circuits, they design and make a working toy car. Arts and crafts and DT throughout are unusual and clever – girls showed us examples of 3D mazes they’d made, along with personally designed carry-bags, clever photography, moving toys and home-made slippers. Even the plastic plates they use at lunch (where food has mixed views from pupils, but mainly good) are each designed by a girl in the school. Particularly great excitement about the animated films the girls make, using their own clay and cut-out models, in year 5.

The wow-factor science lab is designed for interactive learning, with five hexagonal shaped high tables with Bunsen burners and plug sockets in the middle with six stools round each, plus state-of-the-art flatscreen Apple TV on the wall. ‘We recently hatched chicks in an incubator,’ girls told us. Library, which used to be small and barely adequate for this number of girls, has now been moved to a larger classroom-size space. Good traditional hall for productions, assemblies and younger girls’ gym, and they use the fabulous senior school theatre. Decent ICT suite.

Weekly music lessons take place in a good-sized dedicated room, while around three-quarters have private music lessons in the senior school. Junior choir (for years 5 and 6 – you have to audition), chorus (open to anyone), orchestra and string group (which has performed in Hampton Court). ‘My daughter adores her trombone classes – they really enthuse her,’ said one parent.

Drama is also much loved, as we saw for ourselves during a practice session in the senior school theatre. Big singing and acting voices for girls so small – a treat to watch. The school takes part in everything from poetry recitals to debating competitions to Shakespeare festivals. Superb sports (great preparation for the legendary sporting culture of the senior school) and girls are lucky to use many of the older girls’ facilities. In winter, the focus is on swimming, netball and gymnastics and in summer, on swimming, rounders, athletics and some tennis.

Back in the classroom, there’s very little setting, although girls are sometimes taught in smaller, mixed-ability groups if it’s felt it will aid their learning. French and extracurricular Mandarin are offered as languages, although the languages model is being reviewed. Specialist teaching in science, music, PE and computing from year 3, with everything else taught by the form teacher – then specialist teaching for everything from year 5.

Academically, this school holds a reputation of being a hothouse, which clearly infuriates staff and parents alike. ‘They are just little girls who have a growth mindset.’ The ‘growth mindset’ is a phrase you hear a lot here – with the school avoiding words like ‘bright’ and ‘intelligent’ like the plague. Homework seems fair – 20 minutes a night up to year 5, then 40 minutes. ‘The school understands that if you’re a working parent, you might not have time to do hours of homework – I applaud that,’ said one parent.

Mild SENs only – although note it’s not called that here, with them favouring LDD (learning difficulties and disabilities). Help just as likely to be for a spelling group that need short-term strategies as for anyone with dyslexia or dyscalculia, which means no stigma. Short-term bursts of intervention is the name of the game here, with a major focus on arming the girls with tools and techniques to keep up with the fast academic pace.

Pastoral care strong, with deputy head at the helm. They take a proactive approach, with lots of staff meetings to discuss, ‘Did you think what X did was out of character?’ ‘Did you think X has been a bit distracted lately?’ etc and they discuss it with girls if appropriate – and indeed parents, who they aren’t afraid of calling to ask if everything is all right. Likewise, parents feel welcome to call the school. Girls praise the strong system of buddies, including coach buddy, house buddies and peer mentors, who help people out in the playground if they’re sad. Lots of leadership roles (science leaders, head girl, house captains etc) and there’s a term of mindfulness teaching for year 5s.

Bullying minimal, due to zero tolerance attitude, anti-bullying assemblies, golden school rules, talks about making the right choices and – perhaps most innovatively – a contract that each girl signs every year. If they break the contract, the head shows them the document and their signature and they get a firm questioning session – girls consider this deeply shameful.

Misbehaviour negligible, with little need for discipline – forgetting homework and calling someone a bad name is the worst of it, for which you get a ‘sanction’, three of which in a half term mean you have to stay in during a breaktime. ‘You lose perspective of behavioural issues in a lovely school like this,’ said previous head.

Trips to interesting places – including the National Archives at Kew to look at Victorian prison records (after which they ‘used metaphors to write poems as if we’d been in prison’) and the Globe theatre, plus residentials to Surrey (year 5) and France (year 6).

Parents not all super-rich, with many parents holding down a couple of jobs to pay the fees. Lively PA. Most families live within a half-hour radius and arrive either on foot, by car or via the super-efficient coach system that is shared with both the senior school and neighbouring Hampton School for boys. Juniors get a coach buddy to make the whole thing less daunting.

The last word

Overall, we found the girls to be conscientious and bubbly (the ones who showed us round didn’t stop talking, such was their enthusiasm for seemingly every detail of the school) and happy learners. ‘My child loves going to school,’ is a phrase we heard time and time again – and we saw for ourselves the reassuring skips down the corridors and beaming smiles in the classrooms. ‘Anything you’d change about the school?’ is one of our common questions to parents, to which we twice got the answer, ‘Only that I didn’t get to go there myself.’

Special Education Needs

A fully-qualified SEN teacher is available part-time to work with individual girls or small groups as required. All girls are screened for Specific Learning Difficulties in Year 4 and further individual assessments are offered to any girl whose work or test results cause concern. Individual assessments with the SEN teacher are also offered at any stage if staff believe a child may need extra support.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
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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