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One teacher, who has seen the school’s evolution, commented on the strength of the school’s small community ethos, which seeks to provide a haven for children who might struggle in a larger, competitive mainstream environment. The size of Burlington House, specialised teaching and carefully chosen curriculum allows students to thrive, ‘If you put them in the right courses’, the Principal told us, ‘They can do wonderfully well’.

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What the school says...

Burlington House School has three sites in Hammersmith & Fulham.
A Prep site for years 3-8, a Senior site for years 9-11 and a Sixth Form site for year 12-14. At Burlington House School, we deliver a bespoke education for every pupil, developing and expanding their unique talents and helping to bring about positive change to their self-esteem. Please note that our specialist teaching is focussed on "the dyses" eg dyslexia, dysgraphia, etc. We do have some pupils with ASD, but this is not our specialism. Our sister schools Abingdon and Holmewood are completely focussed on pupils with ASD . We offer a mainstream curriculum in a specialist setting, with a strong focus on attaining GCSEs and progressing forward to further education. This consistent academic focus is balanced with our consistent specialist pastoral support. Pupils are supported, physically, emotionally and academically in order for them to reach their true potential whilst with us at Burlington House School. We have small classes, 10-12 pupils, to allow teaching tailored to individual pupils based upon their EHCP or recommendations of learning. Our aim is to support pupils by exploring and tapping into their potential and their performance. We have Learning Support Assistants in the classroom to assist with provision besides the class teacher. We aim for our pupils to thrive and feel comfortable in our learning environment. We develop and nurture self-esteem, skills and natural abilities. ...Read more

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What The Good Schools Guide says

Executive Principal

Since 2019, Koen Claeys BA (GLSE). As part of a degree in geography, German and English, in his native Belgium, was sent on placement to a UK school. Relocated with his wife in 2002 and took a teaching post in a west London state school, Lampton Academy, before moving to St James Senior Boys’ independent school, with responsibility for managing special needs provision. In 2017 he joined the Cavendish Group of SEND schools, taking the reins as head at Bredon School, Gloucestershire, before stepping in as principal of what was then The Moat, a small, respected dyslexia-specialist school for 11-16s in Fulham.

We were charmed by his line, ‘I am in this country as a foreign speaker’, as evidence of his empathy with dyslexic children, and weren’t fooled for a moment that it had been a disadvantage. Claeys is courteous and considered, not an archetypal empire-builder, but he has taken on an ambitious expansion project, adding a sixth form in 2020, an extra prep department in 2022 and plans to open a whole new secondary school south of the river. Undeterred by Brexit (‘a cold shower’) and Covid (‘I didn’t miss a day of school’), he has overseen a re-branding to Burlington House School: ‘From a small school, The Moat has become a really established site in London. We have done it on the back of the really good work of the last 25 years,’ he said.

He has also overseen a programme of staff training to equip all his teachers and assistants with a SpLD qualification. Still motivated: ‘We all love teaching but we are making to these pupils an ever bigger difference, it’s heart-warming.’ Parents ‘love him to death’ and tell us, ‘He is always very genuine.’ His aspirations are high – ‘to become the number one school in London for specific learning difficulties’. Parents felt, ‘The school is in good hands.’ So did we.

Head of Prep School: Nicola Lovell
Head of Senior School: Matthew Potger
Head of Sixth Form: Steve Proctor


A school for specific learning difficulties: dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia. Social communication difficulties occur with some presentations of SpLDs but school stresses, ‘Staff aren’t trained for autism’ and they don’t offer one-to-one shadowing by a LSA. An application starts with reports (EP, EHCP and school report) to the registrar. ‘We get a lot of paperwork we say no to,’ we were told. Next, in lieu of an interview, two in-class ‘acquaint’ days when literacy, numeracy and therapy needs are assessed. Entry to sixth form considered on a case-by-case basis.


Before the new sixth form site, pupils left at 16 for local FE colleges (including Kingston College, Richmond College, William Morris College and West London Free School) for a range of academic and practical subjects including art, media and IT courses. Burlington’s own sixth form offer extends the students’ chances to year 14. First graduates are due soon to a range of places at university, FE colleges and apprenticeships. We heard of a student heading off to do theatre lighting/sound training, a passion developed during the school play. Few leave in the lower years. ‘We don’t necessarily offer a return to mainstream,’ head of prep school told us.

Latest results

In 2022, 80 per cent 9-4 at GCSE, including maths and English; 100 per cent pass at BTEC; 100 per cent pass Entry Level certificates.

Teaching and learning

The ethos of a through school from age 8 to sixth form, but subdivided into three sites for prep, senior and sixth form, and offering specialist teaching for specific learning needs. Each department ensures a small, nurturing community, with characteristics to suit age levels and specialist support not found in mainstream. ‘They really take the time to learn what works for each student,’ one parent said.

The recently added prep includes years 7 and 8, giving children two extra years to build confidence and resilience. Head is Nicola Lovell who brings a wealth of experience with her from The Dominie dyslexia specialist school (‘she’s brilliant’, parents recognised). Classes are petite and may combine year groups (from four students in the youngest class, with numbers increasing to 13 in year 7) and each has their own form room for the day, and class teacher. Specialist subject teachers and clinicians travel from the senior school for PE, science and therapies (this is a school that makes the staff move round, rather than the children). The emphasis is on core skills in literacy and numeracy, with children learning the fundamentals of reading, spelling, handwriting through phonics in the younger years and topic-based teaching further up the school.

In a year 4 class, we were shown a fine newspaper article on the disappearing Sudanese white rhino, a topic that cleverly combined English composition, handwriting, geography and conservation. The teacher had inspired the student’s pride in her work, by repeated revising and polishing, at times using IT support (laptops and an interactive white board) alongside traditional longhand practice. Practical lessons (drama, art, PE, food tech) inform the curriculum. ‘There’s lots of art,’ said one mother, also enriched by outdoor learning in the local parks and gardens. ‘A maths topic involved counting aeroplanes over the Thames,’ Lovell told us. Tube trips to the riches of the metropolis include Tate Britain and the Tower of London. One parent wished for a few more.

Senior school students (KS3 and KS4) enjoy larger classes split into ability groups for maths and English, numbers in sets varying according to students’ levels, but not exceeding 10. ‘I think the difference is the small groups - I think the teachers are listening to him,’ one father said. The lower school follows a varied curriculum, rich in hands-on learning activities such as art, drama, music and DT. There is no let-up of the care given to literacy and numeracy – all students have a laptop, and are taught to touch-type; all staff have (or are working towards) an SEN specialist qualification and make use of visual and multi-sensory resources. One youngster told us, ‘No-one could ever read my writing in year 7, now I’m good at handwriting.’ Another said, ‘When I first got here, I struggled to read, now I don’t struggle with it, I just learned more and gradually did it.’ We saw year 9s watching a video about the effects of the Christchurch earthquake - eight pupils sat at a seminar-style table with laptops. The discussion was so informal and engaged, we were tempted to pull up a chair.

Students work towards the GCSE level maths and English in year 11, but teachers monitor progress for some who may be more suited to functional level awards. A range of 15 GCSE subjects includes science, art, music DT, ICT and Spanish. A one-year fast track English language GCSE allows able pupils to take English literature too. Study skills are woven into the curriculum; ongoing PSHE helps to develop focus and social skills.

The newish sixth form occupies a site in Hammersmith, and offers a smorgasbord of subject choices to tickle all tastes and levels including A levels, AS levels, BTECs, GCSE re-sits and work experience placements. A distinct adult-vibe emanates from the place. ‘The seminar/university-type experience is what we are trying to create,’ said dynamo head of sixth form, Steve Proctor. Students are encouraged to develop personal and life skills alongside the academics to prepare them for higher education and work. We met students compiling portfolios for A level art and photography, creating video games for media BTECs or training as barristas on the school espresso machine to boost employability. Seating arrangements vary from pairs of desks in a more formal classroom style to open plan adaptable spaces or a large lecture room with interactive whiteboard. Proctor is energetic and enlightened, epitomising an old-head-on-young-shoulders leader. ‘Nationally, this country has a huge way to go in getting young people with special needs into employment. Ninety-five per cent of students with EHCPs not in employment is a disgrace.’

Learning support and SEN

Learning support is integrated into the teaching, learning and curriculum at every juncture, whether in training the many teaching assistants (with a British Dyslexia Association qualification) or in supporting speech and language needs with several in-house therapists. ‘Each kid has to lean to self-regulate,’ said one mother, ‘[the school] understands the little time-outs and quirks they need to get them through the day.’ No one-to-one support in class, but we heard of physio sessions before school and saw an occupational therapist delivering individual therapy in a well-equipped studio, both for children with EHCPs and others who will benefit. Imaginative thinking is key to engaging the older years. ‘Some of our students are reluctant readers and would refuse to read any book but they won’t refuse to read, say, Japanese animé books,’ Proctor tells us. The enrichment programme is carefully chosen to complement the student’s learning. The PE teacher combines mindfulness, yoga and meditation with core PE lessons. The youngest pupils enjoy a sensory circuit using OT equipment twice a week and the older children are encouraged to take part in DofE activities to develop self-reliance and confidence. ‘Some of our children, due to anxieties, don’t go out, let alone into the countryside,’ the DofE tutor told us. Residential trips include a ski trip to Italy, ship-yards in Portsmouth and surfing in Cornwall.

School was open throughout lockdown for a few vulnerable children; most worked from home with the help of Google Classroom, which had already been established as a learning resource. ‘They managed it well,’ said a parent. ‘Some of the teachers went far and beyond - the PE coach made them send in a video of scrambling across a homemade obstacle course.’

The arts and extracurricular

‘Creative arts has been key to my approach,’ head of senior school, Matthew Potger, explained. ‘Pupils will find a way to show you their strength if you let them do so.’ Art was evident in the designated art studios, but less round the walls (low-arousal décor, we concluded). Two prep school guides described the printing techniques used in their fruit-themed artwork, and showed us the pots waiting to be fired in the school kiln. In the senior school we saw laptop designers working on 3D projects, while below in the DT studio an array of mechanical moving toys, made from wood, awaited final touches. ‘DT is really great, lots of tools,’ we heard.

Drama and music are used creatively in the prep and lower school timetable, with a large staff who develop role play, improvisation and composition. From year 10 students can take drama or creative media production GCSE and are taught the rudiments of film production, with talks from professional directors. Prop-making, costume and lighting enthusiasts contribute to the several showcase performances and Christmas productions (Mary Poppins was a big hit, we heard). Individual music lessons include piano, guitar, drums, and singing. In the sixth form, the temptations include African drumming, set design, special effects make-up. Establishing links with a local music venue provides a showcase of the school’s band, as well as work placement opportunities to learn front-of-house skills.

An enrichments fair at the start of each term allows students to choose from a menu of end of day sessions (after-school clubs are restricted due to difficulties with LA transport) including Lego, chess-club, debating, bread making, cooking and puppetry. We heard two pleas for more after-school enrichment. ‘At the moment, it’s not the best, but it will develop,’ said one mother, with another adding, ‘A little bit more variety - if they could take a poll and see what kids are interested in…’. We were assured by staff, that this was on the cards.


PE teacher collaborates with OTs to deliver a range of games and activities developing co-ordination, team skills and resilience. At the prep school stage, this involves circuits, gymnastics, balls and biking in a large gymnasium as well as using nearby Bishop’s or Hurlingham parks for tennis, athletics and field games. Senior students have use of a ‘cage’ basketball and football pitch on site, and use of off-site facilities such as a climbing wall. ‘My son likes individual sports,’ one mother told us. ‘He learned to use all the cardio-fitness machines at a gym close-by.’ Sports GCSE appeals to students who are playing regular, competitive sports outside school. All students, however sport or cold-averse, benefit from low-stimulus ‘walk and talk’ sessions and the playground equipment of Bishop’s Park.

Ethos and heritage

What began in 1998 as The Moat - a school for five pupils with dyslexia in a disused middle-school building at the edge of Fulham Palace - blossomed and grew, like its leafy surroundings, into an all-through centre of excellence for specific learning needs. The school now occupies three very different buildings: youngest pupils are in a newly refurbished townhouse at the bottom of busy Fulham High Street; senior school expands into a low-level purpose-built block hidden behind the plane trees of Bishop’s Park; and sixth form occupies stylish repurposed offices west of Hammersmith. Sleek décor and up-to-date furnishings, including cool adjustable desks, give a uniform look. The beauty is that all three locations can be accessed without the need to struggle through Fulham traffic, either by strolling past the gorgeous Tudor house and nurseries of Fulham Palace, or cycling on a school bike along the Thames path.

Despite expansion, one teacher, who has seen the school’s evolution, commented on the strength of the school’s small community ethos, which seeks to provide a haven for children who might struggle in a larger, competitive mainstream environment. The size of Burlington House, specialised teaching and carefully chosen curriculum allow students to thrive. ‘If you put them in the right courses,’ the principal told us, ‘they can do wonderfully well.’

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

Anxiety issues intensified during Covid and saw an increased uptake of the school’s counselling sessions. Anyone can refer (teachers, parents, pupils) for a confidential session with one of two school counsellors in an inviting room of squashy sofas and games. The school has a ‘no phone’ policy, but notwithstanding there are issues with eating, relationships and online safety to talk through. One parent singled out ‘confidence building’ as the school’s special ingredient: ‘My son was broken and the school has given him the confidence to get out there and try new things.’ We saw conflict resolution discussions in PSHE, using examples from Extinction Rebellion; gender and race issues are also themes of the curriculum. A system of form tutors, pastoral leads, and learning mentors is in place for students’ benefit, as well as a school code of conduct. ‘It’s not a list of things you don’t do, it’s put in a positive way,’ we were told. ‘Where bullying issues arise, it’s almost always more complicated, stemming from social communication difficulties. Recognising this makes it much easier to deal with,’ head of senior school remarked. Rewards include ‘art picture of the week’, ‘student of the week’ and a whooping, knee-slapping celebratory gathering on Friday morning.

Therapy and staffing

A large team of clinicians - two OTs, two SLTs, a therapy assistant and an (unqualified) therapy dog - work closely with staff and students. All pupils, not solely those with EHCP requirements, are screened on arrival for language needs, and can access therapy, as individual, group or in-class provision. And there’s a dedicated parents’ evening to meet the clinicians and discuss therapy progress. ‘It was really helpful for him not to have multiple things to attend outside school,' the parent of one boy sighed.

We met staff who had been at the school for decades, others were poached from specialist centres and some who had arrived as juniors but worked up through professional development to senior roles.

Pupils and parents

Dressed in a blue/grey uniform (house polo shirts add a touch of colour to PE), students arrive from over 20 different local authorities in and around London. ‘It has a huge radius so it’s difficult for the kids to meet for playdates,’ a parent complained. The students we met were positive about their learning experience, and modest about their progress: ‘I used to have problems with focus,’ said one. One mother told us that Claeys had brought improvement in ‘the kids’ attitudes - we still have some way to go’. Students were not over-confident but willing and happy to chat to a visitor. They judged the quality of the food as ‘pretty good’ (we thought it was tip-top: delicious fish stew and rice, followed by a yoghurt-fruit dessert). Parents knew who to contact with an issue: ‘They were very understanding,’ one parent told us about resolving a personality clash in class. ‘It was done very well’. Parents can email form tutors, phone the main office or contact the head directly. Praise for the school’s efforts at introducing new parents: ‘They brought us parents together as a school, with drinks evenings early in the term’, ‘The school has supported us to make friends’ and ‘I cannot praise the school enough’.

Money matters

Approximately 60 per cent are in receipt of EHCP funding, others are self-funded.

The last word

Burlington House is fast becoming London’s gold-standard for specialist education. It has built on the sure foundations of the dyslexia-specialist teaching of The Moat School, with a creative curriculum and expert training, to create a supportive through-school for a range of specific learning needs. Burlingtonians make sure and steady progress from prep to sixth form, with a big confidence boost to continue to the finish line.

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.

Who came from where

Who goes where

Special Education Needs

Burlington House School is a specialist co-educational day secondary school for the education of SpLD learners. Form groups have a maximum of 12 pupils. Learning Support Assistants are linked to form groups to provide support with literacy, numeracy and organisation. The School makes extensive use of information technology to support learning; all pupils are taught to touch-type and supplied with a fully featured, wireless-enabled laptop to use in lessons and at home. The School has the services of speech and language therapists, occupational therapists and counsellors. Where necessary 1:1 support is provided for literacy and numeracy. The vast majority of staff have a specialist qualification in the teaching of SpLD learners as well as a degree in their subject specialism plus teaching qualification. All the LSAs are encouraged to train and in-house training is regularly organised. The approach of Burlington House School is to have the structure and aspirations of a mainstream school, whilst using the approach of a specialist school. Everything is structured to support the learning and success of the SpLD pupil. Great emphasis is placed on the development of self-confidence and language skills. There is an extensive extra-curricular enrichment programme to help support this.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia Y
Dyscalculia Y
Dysgraphia Y
Dyslexia Y
Dyspraxia Y
English as an additional language (EAL)
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 Y
PD - Physical Disability
PMLD - Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty
SEMH - Social, Emotional and Mental Health
SLCN - Speech, Language and Communication Y
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty Y
VI - Visual Impairment

Who came from where

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