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A friendly, happy, small school, Halcyon is one of the few schools in London to offer the IB middle years programme (MYP), which it does for the first five years. Most teachers have an IB background and are skilled in the delivery of its demanding curriculum. ‘Unlike GCSEs, which are knowledge based, it’s a framework rather than a syllabus, and you need to understand the criteria,’ says the head. ‘It’s very rewarding if delivered well, but you really need to be on point.’ Parents enthuse about...

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What the school says...

Halcyon is the only not-for-profit, co-educational, exclusively International Baccalaureate (IB) school in central London. Halcyon brings a high standard of life-readying education to one of the most culturally diverse, academically rich and historically important cities in the world.

Building on the foundations of the IB, Halcyon is an innovative, thinking community, committed to holistic teaching and learning; nurturing reflective, life-ready global citizens.

Beyond the standard IB curriculum, Halcyon offers innovative courses which include multi-grade settings in subjects such as podcasting, forensics and archeology as well as personal learning projects for students to explore their individual interests.

With a holistic and integrated digital learning programme, extensive student wellbeing programme and a commitment to the lifelong learning of its staff, Halcyon can truly describe itself as innovative, collaborative and community orientated.

Halcyon London International School is a qualified school for the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (IBMYP) and International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP). Halcyon is rated as Outstanding in all categories by Ofsted, accredited by NEASC in 2018, and recognised as an EdTech50 school in 2019.

Halcyon is considered a leader in the use of educational technology to support teaching and learning.
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International Baccalaureate: diploma - the diploma is the familiar A-level equivalent.

International Baccalaureate: middle years - middle Years is a programme for ages 11-16.

What The Good Schools Guide says


Since 2015, Barry Mansfield BA PGCE MA. Attended Thomas Mills Grammar School in Suffolk (whose other star pupils include Ed Sheeran), before a degree in modern and mediaeval history at Nottingham University and a PGCE (in history and English) at the University of East Anglia. After a brief stint teaching in the UK, he left to join an American school in Athens (where he met his wife). Together they travelled the world, working in schools in Nairobi, Dubai, the south of France and Jeddah. His first principalship was at Berne International School in Switzerland, followed by six years as head of the International School of Paris. He has worked in IB schools since 1992 and is ever more enthusiastic about them: ‘The IB allows schools to be brave and innovative in their curriculum and provide a challenging and enriching education.’

Joining the school shortly after it was founded, he leapt at the chance to start from the ground up. ‘It was quite a big risk, but such an opportunity.’ Quietly spoken and calm, his commitment and enthusiasm shine out, and parents praise his thoughtful but firm leadership: ‘He listens but doesn’t crumble to pressure.’ ‘He’s able to articulate the reasons for his decisions and doesn’t get defensive. If there’s a problem, he suggests an answer.’


The IB Diploma is an exacting programme, and the schools wants as many as possible to complete it, so entry is selective, but thoughtfully so. ‘We take the whole person into account.’ As well as considering school reports, teacher references and a pupil questionnaire, they ask parents to submit a written statement explaining why they want the IB. ‘Families are as important to us as students,’ says the head, who is looking for pupils who are motivated and curious and parents who will engage. ‘If I’m unsure whether someone is a good fit for the IB, I’ll discuss it with other staff. If you get it wrong, it can be difficult.’ Those entering the sixth form from English schools generally require strong GCSEs (grades 8 or 9 in HL subjects, 7-8s for SL). Admissions operates on a rolling basis, meaning new arrivals can be accommodated mid-year.


Results are impressive and leavers’ destinations reflect this. Warwick, Imperial, St Andrews and KCL popular in the UK, with occasional students to Oxbridge though none in 2023. Others to leading universities in the US – most recently to Dartmouth College, NYU, Tufts, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Canada and the Netherlands have historically attracted students from here. The in-house college counsellor works with students on a one-to-one basis from grade 9, supporting every aspect of university preparation from subject choice to campus trips. ‘They have a really well-informed counsellor able to negotiate the complex landscape while focussing on each student’s needs,’ said one parent

Latest results

In 2023, IB results averaged 34 points. In 2019 (the last pre-pandemic results), IB results averaged 31 points.

Teaching and learning

Halcyon is one of the few schools in London to offer the IB middle years programme (MYP), which it does for the first five years. Most teachers have an IB background and are skilled in the delivery of its demanding curriculum. ‘Unlike GCSEs, which are knowledge based, it’s a framework rather than a syllabus, and you need to understand the criteria,’ says the head. ‘It’s very rewarding if delivered well, but you really need to be on point.’ Parents enthuse about the quality of the teaching: ‘The teachers have been really strong and engaged - the head does a very good job of hiring people that suit the school.’ The head is particularly proud of his introduction of ‘cognitive coaching’, a method of mediating a conversation: ‘It’s an open-ended dialogue, which allows pupils to analyse, reflect back and take ownership and gives them confidence in their capacity to solve their own problems.’ Parents undoubtedly approve. ‘One of the things I really love,’ said one, ‘is the way teachers talk to the kids as though they have something to say. It seems to be much more like university than my own experience of schooling, where you were told off and told what to learn.’

Much of the work is project based and cross-curricular and, as much as possible, student-led, encouraging an appreciation of how learning is applied and developing skills like discussion and teamwork. ‘They have to think a lot more than in other systems,’ said one parent. ‘In a recent geometry project, for example, my son built a sculpture based on geometric principles, which also incorporated massive music speakers. It taught him about maths, music and art.’ Teachers set ambitious, tailored targets - ‘You’re given opportunities to challenge yourself, like entering the senior maths challenge,’ said one boy. ‘They want you to manage your own time effectively.’ Small classes (never more than 16) mean students don’t get lost or coast. ‘When they need more, they get more because the teachers are very good at differentiation,’ said one parent.

This is an outward-looking and future-looking education, and technology plays a major role with all teaching resources accessible online. ‘It’s a blend of technology and tradition,’ said one grade 9 pupil. ‘We still write quite a lot, but it’s more of a hybrid – it’s good at teaching us to use paper and electronics.’ Also good at preparing students for a world where the spoken word and visual expression is critical, with regular oral presentations, videos and multimedia work alongside essays. ‘Outdoor learning’, another important strand, takes place in Hyde Park, a 10-minute walk away, where pupils paint, act and conduct scientific experiments.

The IB diploma, taught in the final two years, is a rigorous, holistic curriculum, and students here particularly enjoy literature, languages, arts, social sciences and environmental science. Maths is a compulsory part of the Diploma; Mandarin and Spanish are offered as alternatives in the early years, with French added later. All Diploma students are required to take an exam in their ‘mother tongue’, and Halcyon employs IB-trained tutors to cater for anything from Finnish to Ukrainian. The traditional core can also be enhanced (at an extra charge) with IB-approved Pamoja online courses in subjects such as business management.

Learning support and SEN

Halcyon only accepts those they feel they can support effectively but are excellent at identifying and addressing mild learning difficulties. ‘When we lived abroad, my son’s dyslexia and dyscalculia were interpreted as lack of effort,’ said one parent, ‘but the school has adapted lessons and pedagogic style and, even in subjects he finds difficult like maths, he’s really thrived.’ A pupil praised the support she’d received for dyslexia – unidentified until she arrived. ‘They’ve been brilliant at helping me see what impact this has and how to organise my time.’ Small classes, bespoke support and self-initiated work all contribute. EAL also well supported.

The arts and extracurricular

The IB middle years programme requires all students to study an art form. ‘One of the elements I am happiest about is that the programme allows you to continue with the core academic disciplines, while still enjoying the applied arts,’ said a father, whose son was going on to specialise in art at university.

Music is something of a challenge, but curricular music comes in for high praise – ‘It seems to inspire,’ said one parent - and peripatetic teachers provide instrumental lessons after school. There is, however, no orchestra, just a small choir and a few bands, with soloists primarily gaining experience by playing at assemblies.

Plenty of drama, with a really ‘cool’ annual production and LAMDA exams available as an extra. Art praised by parents, who welcomed the fact that staff have a professional artistic life beyond teaching. ‘They’re current and engaged with their subject,’ said one.

Busy range of clubs and societies with the arts, politics and international relations well represented. Model United Nations is one of the largest, but knitting also on offer, as are academic clubs such as coding, architecture and medics society. The Exploration programme (for grades 6-9) allows students to try out four options a year in weekly two-hour periods, learning about everything from sculpture and robotics to mindfulness and sport. ‘There’s a new list each term,’ said one boy. ‘It’s a cool way to find out if you like something.’ ‘Student agency’ is encouraged. On the day we visited, pupils had organised a ‘diversity and inclusion’ conference, inviting an outside speaker and various local schools to attend. ‘It helps them to learn how we perceive the nature of truth and how we justify it,’ says the head. ‘That’s really exciting.’


No outside space and no dedicated gym or other games facilities, so perhaps not the ideal location for future Olympians. (A search for ‘sport’ on the school website brings up zero results). Swimming, football, volleyball and basketball, however, take place at a nearby leisure centre and in Hyde Park. PE (taught in the assembly hall) is compulsory twice weekly up to grade 10, an option thereafter. A reasonable spread of sports clubs broadens the range. Though the school is too small to field many teams, the pupils we spoke to did not feel deprived. ‘Basketball is getting better,’ said one keen participant. ‘We recently beat a big international school.’ Clearly, parents do not select the school for this reason. ‘I’d love there to be more sports,’ said one, ‘but I’m more focussed on child wellbeing and learning - and they do that brilliantly.’

Ethos and heritage

Set up by four parents, whose children originally attended another international school, the school launched in 2013 with just 34 pupils and still occupies its original premises sharing its teaching space (and tight security) with a central London synagogue. A modern extension provides bright classrooms, an art room and up-to-date labs, supplementing a large hall-come-gym and the building's original rooms. Diploma students have their own modern study centre - the Hub - a quiet, comfortable space with a teacher on call. It’s a workable if not ideal solution, and the board and head remain committed to finding a larger, dedicated alternative by 2026.

Parents like the IB because of its intellectual rigour, but they also choose the school because of its upbeat atmosphere. ‘I chose Halcyon because the kids seemed so relaxed and happy,’ said one. ‘I love the fact that my two come home and just spill over.’ For parents accustomed to international schools, the fact that it’s not-for-profit is a further attraction - ‘It comes with a different ethos and orientation’ - as is the tight-knit community. ‘Everyone wants to be involved – that’s important if you’re picking something outside of standard.’

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

Each student has a learning mentor, who stays with them throughout, and holds small-group mentoring sessions weekly. Mentoring groups contain one or two pupils from each grade, so the school becomes integrated across the age groups. ‘My kids have made really good friends; it’s like an extended family,’ said one mother. ‘It’s a tight knit-community, but not at all cliquish,’ said another. No rules, but ‘guiding principles’, which pupils themselves are involved in developing. Assemblies and discussions highlight issues such as bullying (‘non-existent,’ says Ofsted) and sexism. (‘Of course, you’ll find everyday sexism in any school, but the kids have a voice,’ says the head. ‘If someone complains, we deal with it honestly’.) In general, students are supportive of each other. ‘There’s a culture of excellence, but not competition. We’re all here to learn with each other.’

The wellbeing programme teaches ‘wellness’ as a set of ‘skills, dispositions, behaviours and habits of mind that can be practised and mastered’. All staff devote 10 per cent of their time to helping pupils learn to self-manage and self-regulate, develop confidence and resilience, while mindfulness training teaches them to cope with stress and upset. A wellbeing lead, trained in conflict resolution and mediation, is a member of the SLT.

No uniform except for sport, but pupils are expected to ‘come ready to learn’. A hot lunch – vegetarian, reflecting the school’s ‘sustainability objective’ and multi-faith intake – is prepared daily in its brightly coloured dining room. ‘The snacks are amazing,’ said one student, who remained non-committal about the rest of the offering. With the permission of parents, grades 7-9 are allowed off site once a week; grades 11 and 12, whenever they have a free period.

The school’s scale is largely considered a positive. ‘My son is very quiet and introverted, and we thought he needed a small school,’ said one mother. ‘Sometimes I worry that he would have more opportunities to form friends somewhere bigger, but he absolutely loves the fact that everyone knows everyone.’ Another commented: ‘In other schools my children have attended, I’ve found it difficult to connect, but here you never feel you’re just a number. The head will take a call and spend time with you. I love that.’

Pupils and parents

There are 34 nationalities represented, but the pandemic and politics shifted the mix. ‘Brexit reduced our traditional clientele.’ Numbers, which dipped during Covid, have returned to about 180, but with an increasing proportion of locals or long-term residents. (‘They turn up at education fairs and say that’s what I’m looking for.’) Families have often lived abroad or are ‘third culture’. New arrivals are supported by ‘buddy’ families, and a myriad of social activities. Pupils are mature, self-confident, courteous and friendly. ‘There are two paramount factors in why we chose the school - the academic staff and the students themselves,’ said one parent. ‘Both score top marks.’

Money matters

Not London’s cheapest option, particularly given its restricted space and facilities, but fees are in line with other internationals schools and, as a not-for-profit, invested back into the school. Generous bursaries available for ‘deserving, academically strong students’.

The last word

A friendly, happy, small school devoted to delivering the IB in the best possible way. Pupils are listened to and supported to strive and thrive, learning at their own pace, with no slipping through the net.

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.

Special Education Needs

SEN support is offered on a student-by-student basis: capacity is limited, and every student's needs are individual, so we do not have a list of needs that we can guarantee support for. Please enquire to speak to our Admissions Director about capacity to support a student's particular needs.

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