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Confidence flying high after inspectors declared the school ‘excellent’ across the board for the first time in February 2020 – head admits he shed a tear. Long seen as an academic back-up in a competitive area, Radnor’s ‘caring and compassionate’ approach to results has been vindicated. ‘We may not be first choice for parents who want A*s across the board’, but a careful balance of encouragement and pressure seems to be working. Indeed, we found Radnor parents to be ambitious for their children, while retaining a healthy sense of humour about it all. Many seemed relieved to have found a school where…

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What the school says...

Radnor House provides an outstanding co-educational experience for 11 to 18-year-olds in an ambitious, dynamic and fast-paced school in Twickenham. It opened its doors in September 2011 and now enjoys a roll of over 450 pupils from ages 11 to 18. We are small enough to know every child well and big enough to offer an environment where all our pupils can take advantage of a host of opportunities, both inside and outside the classroom.

Our core values are courage, excellence, perseverance and respect, which genuinely form the guiding principles by which our community operates. We also ask everyone to work hard and be kind during their time at school, doing their best as often as they can and seeking to treat others with dignity and decency.

The school was judged as ‘Excellent’ in all categories in its latest ISI inspection in February 2020. With the proposed move to Kneller Hall giving us the chance to extend our offering in all areas, it seems entirely reasonable to say that Radnor House is an excellent school with an exceptional future, and we would be delighted if your child and your family could be part of it.
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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.

Sports

Rowing

What The Good Schools Guide says

Principal

Since 2017, Darryl Wideman. Previously head at Silcoates School in Yorkshire and taught at Millfield and Fettes. Read ancient and modern history at Oxford; still teaches a year 12 class. Grew up in Surrey and pleased to be back in the area - lives nearby with his wife and daughter, now at university. Loves reading, gardening and spending time at his house in France – ‘I must sound terribly boring.’ Far from it, we found him very engaging, with more of a twinkle in his eye than one might expect given his straight-talking approach. ‘Perhaps I’m not fluffy enough for some,’ he says, though most admire his ability to make decisions and deliver on them. ‘Doesn’t pander to the south-west London mums,’ we were told, though he dismisses any stereotypes about this affluent part of the world: ‘It’s a myth that they’re more demanding than elsewhere – parents are parents wherever you go.’

Refreshingly open about Radnor’s changing place in the landscape: ‘In the early days they sometimes came because they couldn’t get anywhere else,’ he says, but now ‘we punch above our weight.’ Proud and supportive of his staff. ‘My job is to get the very best out of everybody in this organisation, children and grown-ups.’ Accepts that exam results will always be regarded as a measure of a school’s success but seems confident that Radnor’s results will continue to improve without needing to apply more pressure.

Entrance

Main entrance points into years 7 and 12. Reports and references from current school are important. There are around 100 places available in year 7 – entry dependent on informal group interview in the autumn term preceding the written English and maths tests. Year 12 hopefuls submit a personal statement and are then interviewed by director of the sixth form, principal or senior team member.

The intention is to gain a rounded view of every candidate while not making the process ‘too gruesome’, though we heard that it’s getting more competitive. Applicants from other Dukes schools have an unofficial edge. Siblings are given priority but only if the school is otherwise the right fit, and more than one parent to whom we spoke was nervous that their younger son or daughter would not make the cut.

Exit

Around 40 per cent leave after GCSEs, mainly to bigger local sixth forms. University destinations reflect the range of the intake, with 60 per cent to Russell Group. Exeter remains popular (‘south-west London on sea,’ one parent muses), plus Edinburgh, St Andrews, Durham, LSE, King’s College London, UCL, Nottingham, Bristol, Bath and York. Specialists support those on medic or Oxbridge ‘pathways’ from year 11. They don’t push it, though: ‘We’re hitting the right names but not trying to bump our reputation by squeezing pupils into universities that aren’t right for them,’ says Mr Wideman, and parents agree that ‘nobody is traumatised by the UCAS process’. Growing experience with school leavers’ programmes and apprenticeships at eg KPMG and Dyson.

Latest results

In 2022, 62 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 48 per cent A*/A at A level (77 per cent A*-B). In 2019 (the last pre-pandemic results), 40 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 27 per cent A*/A at A level (52 per cent A*-B).

Teaching and learning

Confidence flying high after inspectors declared the school ‘excellent’ across the board for the first time in February 2020 – head admits he shed a tear. Long seen as an academic back-up in a competitive area, Radnor’s ‘caring and compassionate’ approach to results has been vindicated. ‘We may not be first choice for parents who want A*s across the board’, but a careful balance of encouragement and pressure seems to be working.

Indeed, we found Radnor parents to be ambitious for their children, while retaining a healthy sense of humour about it all. Many seemed relieved to have found a school where results are one part of a bigger picture - ‘I know that her A*s will not come from being over pushed,’ said one. There’s no denial that there’s a (relatively) broad range of abilities here; the emphasis is on getting the best out of every child, regardless of their starting point. The secret? Young, approachable, engaging teachers who stretch rather than push – as one biology teacher remarked to his year 11 class, ‘This is way beyond GCSE, but it’s interesting, right?’ (Yes, it was.)

At A level, take-up is always strong in maths, with social sciences like economics, geography, psychology usually popular (given the small cohorts, numbers vary year by year). As ever, just a few opting for languages – a handful doing French or Spanish A levels. EPQ growing in popularity. Happy to run an A level even if only one or two are taking it – individual teaching not unheard of. No doubt the refurbishment of the sixth form common room and creation of more dedicated sixth form teaching rooms will entice more year 11s to stay.

Pupils and parents gush about the teachers across the board – ‘brilliant’, ‘sensitive’, ‘beyond fantastic’ – nobody had a bad word to say. One, bowled over by her daughter’s improvement in maths, told us, ‘She has gone from saying “I can’t do it” to “I can’t do it yet”.’ Parents trust the teaching staff but are pleased nonetheless to be able to email them directly to check in on progress. Classrooms are small (‘cosy,’ pupils told us) but immaculate, with stimulating displays everywhere; one English classroom had quotes from Shakespeare written all over the windows in whiteboard pen. Marking is meaningful and encourages children to reflect on teacher comments.

Unencumbered by 11+ exams, junior school pupils enjoy a fairly carefree existence. On a scorching September day, new year 5s were scampering around on the terrace carrying enormous numbers. Learning about decimal places? Maybe. Having a lovely time? Most definitely. There’s ‘lots of baseline testing’, though, we are assured. These children, and their parents, know just how lucky they are to have escaped the local 11+ rat-race. Funnily enough, although they are now part of a senior school one feels that these children have been allowed a couple of extra years of childhood compared with their peers at pushier local preps.

Small, welcoming library hosts outside speakers and an annual Harry Potter quiz as well as providing a quiet spot to escape with a book at lunchtime.

Learning support and SEN

Around 12 per cent of pupils have specific learning support requirements, generally mild dyslexia, dyspraxia, hypermobility. Majority are supported in class – teachers adapt resources and use scaffolding as appropriate. Extra English and maths in a small, welcoming classroom at the top of the school for individuals or groups who would benefit from some extra tuition. No capacity for further specialist intervention in terms of space or staffing.

Those with mobility issues will struggle: set over four floors, the school has a lot of stairs and narrow corridors.

The arts and extracurricular

A packed extracurricular timetable offers something for everyone, particularly in the younger years. Wide-ranging clubs include ukulele, ornithology, chess, puzzles and gardening (run by Mr Wideman, obviously). Healthy balance of traditional with more high-tech: fashion and textiles on the one hand, robotics and coding on the other. Cookery run by the school’s chef in the actual kitchen. Recent introduction of vertical houses a sign of the school’s new maturity - spelling bees, creative writing, sporting competitions and debating all present chances to win house points.

Approach to music, art and drama is characteristically inclusive. The small theatre-cum-hall hosts civilised ‘soirées’ a few times each term, when parents get dressed up to enjoy musical performances and canapés - we were charmed. Lots of opportunities to perform besides this, eg choir sings annually at Hampton Court Palace. School has invested in web-based music software to support those who want to work on their compositions from home. Around a quarter of pupils take individual music lessons.

Drama encourages collaboration and builds confidence. School’s own small studio theatre is a good space for rehearsal and small performances. Two large-scale productions a year take place at local venues such as St Mary’s University or the Waterman’s Arts Centre. Senior production of Little Shop of Horrors was a box-office hit - year 7s made up the whole backstage crew. Successful LAMDA programme. Drama offered at GCSE and A level.

Ambitious art department make the most of their limited space. Much evidence of creative thinking, for instance hosting virtual exhibitions using whizzy new software to display student work online. We enjoyed colourful displays of children’s work throughout the school - all quite traditional, lots of painting and felt-tips rather than anything particularly high-tech. Lots of extracurricular art for those that want it including a popular digital art club. No DT – there simply isn’t the space. Art offered at GCSE and A level and photography as an A level.

Sport

Rugby and football for the boys, netball and hockey for the girls. Mixed cricket teams lower down the school. Main competition is other local co-eds - wouldn’t be fair on anyone to be playing the big single-sex schools. Every year 7 plays on a team at some point. It’s definitely the taking part that counts, though they do win too - U12s rugby team undefeated last season.

Rowing is big, with regional and national regatta successes recently - unsurprising given the riverside location, though the boathouse itself is located a few minutes away alongside Eel Pie Island. Year 7s get to have a go on dry land and are allowed out onto the river from year 8.

Recent partnership with Teddington Cricket Club has enabled super new development a few minutes’ drive away. Scandi-style pavilion is straight out of a Condé Nast feature with its pine floors and stained black wooden cladding; the café inside advertises oat milk and babychinos. Lots of nets for the children to practise in and a beautiful pitch with views beyond into Bushy Park. Mixed cricket in years 5-8 is characteristic of the ‘get involved, have fun, make friends’ approach. Annual parent-staff-children fixtures in both hockey and golf suggest that Radnor families really buy into it.

We encountered mixed feelings about sports provision, though. With a small, co-ed intake it’s difficult to field a competitive team. Parents seemed a tad relieved that everybody gets to have a go; no first XV alpha mentality. Pupils are active and there’s certainly enough sport going on to satisfy most. Meanwhile, your budding Jonny Wilkinson can get his fix elsewhere - lots seem to play at local clubs on a Saturday.

Ethos and heritage

Very clear ethos, underpinned by four core values – courage, excellence, perseverance and respect. We were pleased that everybody either referred to them or was able to recite them without batting an eyelid.

Founded in 2011 by David Paton, a former teacher at nearby Harrodian School. His departure in 2016, and then a change in ownership to Dukes Education in 2019, prompted many parents and staff to question whether the school would become more businesslike, losing its core values and charm. ‘Radnor parents have had a lot of change,’ Wideman says, but he is now excited about building on strong foundations. New ownership has brought new opportunities and more cash, but he still has his freedom - ‘there’s no micromanaging’. Parents impressed that the owner of Dukes (Aatif Hassan) came to meet them early on. As an alumnus of Radnor’s predecessor on its current site, Hassan seems personally invested in its success.

New site too – well, for senior school anyway, when it moves to Kneller Hall. Inside, the 60,000 square feet will include studios for art, textiles and design and dedicated music and performance areas, along with greater facilities for science and technology, plus an ecological corridor – sounds intriguing. New sports facilities will include new sports hall, extensive playing fields, all-weather pitch and MUGA.

For now, the school occupies an unusual and completely blissful site right on the Thames. The main building is Pope’s Villa, a neo-Tudor pile built on the site of Alexander Pope’s original house (demolished by a subsequent owner). The school still has access to the wonderful gardens next door which they use for science walks and quiet reading sessions.

The building’s history plays a part in the school’s identity today, with houses named after Pope and three of his literary contemporaries. Our tour guides were not totally au fait with Pope’s work, but were far more knowledgeable on the Easter egg hunt held in Pope’s (suitably spooky) grotto each year.

We could have sat on the school’s sunny riverside terrace all day, surely one of the most idyllic spots around. We half expected somebody to bring us a gin and tonic; no wonder parents rave about the summer drinks parties. All are welcome at the school’s café, which boasts the most impressive range of Pukka teas we have seen. Parents congregate here after drop-off or come to meet a member of staff over coffee. Younger siblings at school elsewhere are brought here for a hot chocolate before pick-up.

It may be very comfortable, but there is no sense of entitlement. Charity boards prominently positioned in the reception area show how this term’s chosen charities support those within the school community, including current pupils with chronic illness. This kind of intimacy speaks buckets for the kindness and warmth that pervade the school.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

Parents, pupils and staff all sang the praises of the pastoral care and in particular how flexible the systems are. We too were impressed. A weekly bulletin to all staff highlights any individuals who are struggling, ‘just so that we can all keep an eye on them’. Friendship issues are dealt with swiftly and proactively. That there are only 60 children in a year group allows for strategies that can be adapted to meet the needs of the situation or the individuals involved. A couple of parents became quite emotional in describing to us how sensitively the school had handled difficult situations. The lack of bullying and acceptance of differences suggests that the big-happy-family vibe actually works.

PSHE, known as ‘reflections’, runs throughout the school. The usual issues are addressed with an encouraging emphasis on life skills including self-reflection, discussion, listening etc. We met year 12s slightly hysterical after a ‘horrifying’ session on household finances. Good to see sixth formers actually engaging with PSHE.

Inclusivity comes naturally at a school which a remarkable number of pupils have joined from places that were too big or tough - a lot seem to have arrived in need of some TLC. We found a high level of empathy amongst pupils we spoke to, who seemed to be an emotionally intelligent bunch. There’s no LGBTQ+ society, as is now the norm in a lot of schools, but we felt that there would no stigma attached to setting one up and that at Radnor it might actually be quite cool to be different.

Similarly, discipline does not seem to be a worry: ‘there’s simply nowhere to hide’. Staff seem to know every pupil by name, making it much easier to maintain a sense of calm and order without being draconian. Uniform goes downhill a little as pupils get older but nobody seems to mind too much. Sixth formers look smart and feel grown-up in their ‘business attire’. We saw a lot of co-operative teenagers who were happy to tuck their shirts in when told.

Pupils and parents

The pupils we met were chatty and good humoured, delighted to be given the chance to talk about their school. Confident without a hint of arrogance, and charming in a down-to-earth and rather endearing way. Not growing up too quickly. Boys outnumber girls at the top end of the school but year 5 intake is now exactly half and half. Some are from wealthy backgrounds but many have parents working hard to fund private education. Around half arrive from local state primaries and many have considered Radnor alongside local comprehensive or grammar options. Minibuses bring children in from Ealing, Wimbledon and Chelsea, though the huge majority live nearby.

Money matters

A small number receive bursary support. There are no big endowments to fund this as might be found at an older school but they are doing their best.

The last word

Loving and warm, less frenetic than some of its neighbour schools but no less stimulating. Happy children do well: a cliché now, but in reality much harder to achieve than it sounds. Competitive A*-seekers and champion goalscorers should look elsewhere - we found pupils, parents, staff and leadership working together to build a school that provides something a bit different. Radnor may not yet be a name that’s dropped at dinner parties, but given the collective satisfaction of parents who have discovered it, it can only be a matter of time.

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.

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