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  • Ibstock Place School
    Clarence Lane
    London
    SW15 5PY
  • Head: Christopher Wolsey
  • T 020 8876 9991
  • F 020 8876 9915
  • E [email protected]
  • W www.ibstockplaceschool.co.uk
  • Ibstock Place School is an English independent day school for boys and girls aged 4 to 18, located in Roehampton, south-west London. The school educates over 950 boys and girls and was founded as the Froebel Demonstration School, with connections to the Froebel Institute.
  • Boarding: No
  • Local authority: Wandsworth
  • Pupils: 1,017; sixth formers: 186
  • Religion: Non-denominational
  • Fees: £20,145 - £25,785 pa
  • Open days: October, November, March and May - see school's website for further details.
  • Review: View The Good Schools Guide Review
  • ISI report: View the ISI report

What says..

Lots of outdoor learning, especially early on – we saw be-wellingtoned year 1s off to forest school across muddy ground in own Bluebell Woods, undaunted by the rain. Older prep years see a gradually more ‘serious’ approach, ‘although I’m not sure children do,’ head of prep reflected. Expectations are high (and largely met) in senior school, although head stresses that ‘it’s hard-wired into the place that education is about so much more than just stellar grades.’ Creative thinking, for example, seen as way of unlocking potential and fostering intellectual agility. Pupils encouraged to become reflective learners as a result of co-curricular. Able mathematicians, for example, develop their problem-solving techniques in...

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What the school says...

Ibstock Place School entrance criteria:

Prep School : Group assessment for Kindergarten (Reception); Year 1 through individual assessment; Year 3 (7+) assessment in Reading, Maths and Reasoning. Occasional places available in other year groups (except Year 6).

Entry into the Senior School at 11+ is by online CAT test and learning workshop. Successful applicants invited for written entrance papers in English and Maths. Reference requested from current school. Occasional places available at 12+, 13+ and 14+ entry points. Sixth Form entry is by assessment/interview and GCSE results. ...Read more

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Curricula

Cambridge Pre-U - an alternative to A levels, with all exams at the end of the two-year course.

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

Headmaster

Since 2021, Christopher Wolsey, having first arrived in 2007 as head of humanities, working his way up via head of sixth form and deputy head. Degree in history and philosophy from Lancaster, PGCE from Nottingham and a master’s in education from Buckingham. Started out at William Hulme’s Grammar School before moving to Churcher’s College, Hampshire, as deputy head of sixth form and thence Westcliff Grammar School for Boys in Southend as head of history and politics.

Dapper, calm, caring and humorous, he is a man of vision and aspiration, relishing ‘restlessness’ as one of his favourite words. ‘I want to improve in every way, I want more of what we do. In every way I want more.’ A big fan of marketing initiatives too: ‘I want what I see every day to be better known, more brand recognition. This is a vigorous, vibrant place.’ Keen for school to be local mixed ‘school of choice’ and to sharpen the image of school not as separate pre-prep, prep and senior: ‘We so completely see ourselves as all-through.’

‘He’s pushing forward on initiatives which had been treading water,’ say parents – so far, re-decoration of pre-prep and prep, installation of a climbing wall and irrigation of pitches. Not in the least intimidating, he is popular with pupils who feel ‘you can just chat to him, like a normal human being.’

Married with two children, he cites classic cars and travel among his passions. A keen debater too, driven by desire to produce decent, agile members of society able to deploy skills and talents in ‘ever changing world.’

Entrance

Main entry points are 4+ and 7+. ‘Relaxed’ assessment for the former in January before autumn start, consisting of group activity and assessment of language development. More formal assessment at 7+ includes English, reasoning and maths. Registration soon after birth encouraged. In senior school, around 80-90 join in year 7, making up 60 per cent of the year group (rest come from prep). Online CAT tests and learning workshop (where ability to work with peers is tested), together with reference from previous school. Those selected sit formal maths and English exams in December. Around a dozen join at sixth form, when applicants need 59 points across their best nine I/GCSEs, and also take CAT tests, plus interview with head, head of faculty or head of sixth form. Worth enquiring about occasional places in other years.

Exit

Prep pupils sit senior school entrance exam - although there’s automatic entry in all but exceptional circumstances to stop years 5 and 6 being ‘all about cramming’ and ‘unnecessary stress.’ Those very few who might not benefit from the ‘safe passage’ into senior school are handled ‘delicately,’ confirmed one parent. Increasing numbers (around 85 per cent in 2023) stay for sixth form, with renewed drive to embed this. Early and sensitive flagging up of those who might be better off elsewhere. Over two-thirds of sixth form leavers to Russell Group universities. Bath, Manchester, Southampton and Durham recently popular. Sometimes a few to Oxbridge. Pre-Brexit sprinkling to other European countries hoping to be revived and reinvigorated. Support available for US and international university applications, although school typically only sends one or two to US every year (two in 2023 – to University of Tulsa and Bates College). Unusually strong MFL department results in sizeable number reading languages but wide range of courses embarked upon. Three medics in 2023. Pupils buoyed up through sixth form by school’s own careers and higher education fairs.

Latest results

In 2023, 74 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 54 per cent A*/A at A level (81 per cent A*-B). In 2019 (the last pre-pandemic results), 73 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 60 per cent A*/A at A level (88 per cent A*-B).

Teaching and learning

Originally considered unconventional because of its Froebel origins, but now resolutely mainstream with 'undercurrent of tolerance,' which school says is demonstrated by high level of pupil involvement. Lots of outdoor learning, especially early on – we saw be-wellingtoned year 1s off to forest school across muddy ground in own Bluebell Woods, undaunted by the rain. Effective and discreet tracking starts at outset. Older prep years see a gradually more ‘serious’ approach, ‘although I’m not sure children do,’ head of prep reflected. Specialist teaching in art, music and PE from kindergarten. French from year 3. Mature use of well-equipped lab, maths set from year 3 and Latin offered from year 6. Huge award wall, emblazoned with deserving names for public recognition. Parents discouraged from discussing results - we heard that most respected this. Creative learning includes team baking in the kitchen. We saw a warm, happy group of children clustered around a teacher reading them a story. As we approached, one small girl rushed to give the head a cuddly welcome.

Expectations are high (and largely met) in senior school, although head stresses that ‘it’s hard-wired into the place that education is about so much more than just stellar grades.’ Creative thinking, for example, seen as way of unlocking potential and fostering intellectual agility. Pupils encouraged to become reflective learners as a result of co-curricular. Able mathematicians, for example, develop their problem-solving techniques in ‘infinity club’. Green pen time affords opportunities to redraft work, having reflected on teachers’ marking, and to set own targets post exams. Setting from year 8 in maths, science and English. Most take 10 GCSEs, with two languages at GCSE no longer compulsory ‘to broaden options later’ – instead, one is picked from French, German, Spanish or Mandarin (‘we have the oldest Mandarin programme in the UK, I think,’ deputy head told us) with the option of another. Pleasing retention of Latin - perfectly suited to vast number of bilingual children in a school proud of its ‘internationalist outlook.’ Dance, drama, computing and music popular, all with dazzling results. We saw a hands-on science lesson in action, with pupils creating interesting bubbling concoctions. Meanwhile, vigorous debate took place in an English lesson and more basic Spanish was being imparted to those starting GCSE ab initio. High levels of participation and engagement, with pupils formulating articulate and relevant interjections in all the lessons we dropped in on.

Sixth form established in 2005, ever evolving and growing. Over 20 subjects include drama and theatre studies, business and management, computing and psychology. Maths, economics and biology most popular, with strong competition from languages, psychology and history. Best results in Spanish, German, English, history, geography, chemistry and drama. All complete an EPQ. Strikingly attractive sixth form space and café conducive to civilised socialising and study. Quasi-university feeling. Effective, reassuring and seductive set-up for parents who might not want their children moving into less structured further education.

Pupils appreciative of academic support: ‘The clinics are really helpful,’ said one pupil, ‘and you just go when you want, the teachers will always help you.’ Peer mentoring also valued - engenders mutual respect and friendship across years. Good advice around subject choices too – both for A level and university. Includes Early Application Society for Oxbridge and medic wannabes who recently attended Brighton UCAS Discovery Fair. Pupils are encouraged to ask themselves practical and realistic questions about subjects they choose: how much reading is involved? how often will you be preparing essays? etc. Emphasis on skills being transferable. Pupils’ independence prized and cultivated, as no bag policy bears out: up to them to plan day’s requirements. Invitation-only groups and clubs for the more able or with particular talent. One parent spoke with relief about the absence of unnecessary pressure and told us that the pupils ‘all get to where they should be.’

Learning support and SEN

Around eight per cent of pupils on SEN register (well below the national average), including dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, ADHD, autism and visual impairment. About 50 receive one-to-ones (costs extra) but school does not favour withdrawal from lessons. One boy told us he ‘felt really encouraged’ by the department, while a parent said that, thanks to dedicated staff, her anxious child ‘on the spectrum’ had been carefully nurtured into higher education. Four full time staff, covering both prep and senior, together with two part-time and visiting OT and speech and language therapists. Original buildings not conducive to mobility issues, though new school and prep school could accommodate this. Two EHCPs when we visited. Around a third of pupils are bilingual – around 60 with EAL but only a dozen needing support.

The arts and extracurricular

Range of clubs and societies (currently 130 across prep and senior school) mind-boggling: Arab culture, debating, African Caribbean Asian allies, robotics, table tennis, Pride, Amnesty, bee keeping, wall climbing and everything in between. ‘There’s always something you can do,’ said a pupil. For parents and staff too, there’s yoga club, book club and sports club. Imaginative library schemes in both prep and senior schools include reading challenges, literary group and book club. Award-winning school magazine makes excellent and challenging reading. Debating highly cherished. ‘It’s important young people should speak confidently.’ Large numbers do DofE - around 30 obtaining gold. We liked the sound of ‘try it week’ which demands that children in senior school try a club they would not normally choose.

Spectacular music from the start. Three lessons a week from pre-prep and instrumental lessons available from year 3. Heavy prominence placed on performance. Amusing armadillo practice rooms littered around grounds. Vivacious and charismatic heads of music in both prep and senior. Desire ‘to elevate rock, pop and jazz’ but ‘not at expense of classical.’ Carol service at nearby St Michael’s, Easter service and prize giving in transformed school gym/hall. Music on the Lawn – think mini-Glyndebourne. Thriving parents’ choir of 50 plus, as well as IPS singers numbering over 100 pupils and staff) which tours every year, and Schola Cantorum comprising over 40 children.

Drama imaginative. High-spec, magnificent theatre home to frequent school wide, as well as lower senior, upper senior and inter house productions. There’s still a buzz about recent production of We Will Rock You. For those not aspiring to tread the boards, heaps of technical and backstage opportunities, all encouraged and esteemed. Strong pupil-led emphasis. Dance, with own dedicated studio and newsletter, notably formidable. ‘I love the fact that you can do any type of dance you like,’ commented one boy. Fact the computing teacher is also a dancer attests to truly multi-disciplinary approach.

Stunning art from outset. We saw enthused prep class working towards annual art project: clay coral reef, to which all - from kindergarten to year 6 – contribute. Culminates in 3D structure. Art literally part of fabric with unique and striking wall decorations, eg history wall and geography wall. Several art rooms for seniors (one dedicated to sixth form), plus DT room bursting with equipment. Thought-provoking artwork adorns school throughout.

Plentiful opportunities for exotic (Azores, Tobago for example) and tamer trips.

Sport

Universal acknowledgement that sport has been ‘revamped.’ ‘There’s been a real push,’ according to one mother. Football, rugby, netball, hockey, athletics, tennis and cricket main sports, ‘but there’s a massive range now,’ said a pupil, with carousel system up to year 10 ensuring children sample full gamut from boxing to tchoukball and archery. An older girl reported fast-growing mixed sports, notably on cricketing field: ‘It’s so great we can do the same things as the boys now.’ New partnerships with Rosslyn Park, Chelsea FC and Harlequins. Opportunities for F team members open with lots of inter house competitions. One boy, however, felt outside achievements should be ‘more praised - it’s too inward looking sometimes.’ With a view to redressing this, head has introduced termly achievers’ lunches. School’s own pool (all swim from year 3) stimulates much success in water polo. Facilities include vast sports hall and school pitches, ‘though we still have to use Barn Elms as they’re just not big enough.’ New climbing wall.

Ethos and heritage

Head describes grounds as ‘one of the most beautiful and elegant campuses in southwest London.’ We agree. Site straddles busy road, connected by school’s own footbridge; failure to use this attracts automatic detention. To west are principal school buildings in handsome gardens. To east are art and sports areas. Aesthetics intrinsic - walking into the school feels rather like walking into an elegant country house – probably because it was just that, belonging to the Duchess of Sutherland. Pioneering Froebel institute for young children has now morphed into traditional, ‘restless’ all-through school of 1,000 plus.

Any thoughts of school merely occupying tiny corner adjoining Richmond Park soon dispelled by realisation that grounds are mammoth. More than comfortably accommodates previous head’s bold and substantial building programme which, centrally, includes so-called new school. This is a crisp, clean, bright, spacious, and strikingly uncluttered, building. We have rarely seen such tidy school. Result of no bag policy, partly designed to avoid inflicting back trouble on future generations and partly to instil a sense of organisation.

Veritable ancient meets modern, nature meets artifice. Lavishly planted gardens, peppered with urns, happily house areas of artificial grass. Dreary and drizzly conditions failed to dampen drift of vivid, bright, cheer. Particularly palpable in pre-prep and prep, occupying own building nestling in middle of grounds, but present too in senior school. In main building, in dark depths of an underground bunker, lies brand spanking new digital innovation hub. To describe this as cutting edge understates its sharpness. Ingeniously designed to accommodate coding, robotics (to national competition level), podcasting, green screening, rocket league activities (new to us) and much more, it is an evolving space. ‘It’s all moving so fast,’ said head of innovation, ‘it must be adaptable.’ Plans for an e-sports arena well-advanced. We sensed next decade already upon us.

Impressive prep and senior libraries. Lower one seems to wend its way uninterrupted throughout entire prep building, snaking along cheerfully decorated corridors and into classrooms. Upper one is worthy of any public library and pleasantly appointed for teenagers. We were impressed by level of usage.

Food fit for a five-star hotel. Delicious, well balanced, and beautifully presented. We enjoyed an excellent paella, having resisted the temptation to add the parmigiana di melanzane - and about four other dishes.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

Pre-prep and prep gentle and nurturing. Emphasis on collaboration and consideration. Motto is kind, curious, courageous. Children gauge their feelings on a moodometer. ‘I would tell my teacher anything,’ beamed a prep school pupil, saying they ‘really care.’ Strongly embedded house system ‘more meaningful than in some schools,’ we heard. Together with vertical tuition groups in seniors, issues ‘are picked up quickly,’ confirmed a parent. Admirable links established with The Soke, offering access to panoply of fully-trained mental health professionals. Open to parents and staff as well. Counselling service in peaceful wellbeing haven, next door to pristine first aid centre. Children can self-refer. TeenTips also accessible. Daily pastoral time. Staffroom recently relaunched with wellbeing in mind, and upskilling now to the fore. Mentoring scheme for the disorganised.

Open, unfazed approach throughout, with frank references to transgender pupils, EDI workshops, some run by parents, raising money to buy tampons, all par for the course – amongst pupils and staff alike. Staff visibly active in promoting diversity. Uncommonly active too in promoting community relations. Partnerships with local Re-Generate scheme (helping youngsters to become employable), Racquets Club (affording access to sports equipment), local primary schools (helping visually impaired children and organising musical outreach projects), local care home… the list goes on. Much praised operation delivering food during pandemic. One father glowed with ‘the phenomenal community service opportunities’ his son was being offered. ‘They just shepherd the child to turn into a well-balanced citizen.’

Discipline described by parents as ‘quite strict’ lower down; higher up, a sixth former reckoned ‘the teachers really help you think things through.’ More carrot than stick, but low tolerance of low-level disruption: ‘Most people want to learn,’ said a mature pupil. ‘You wouldn’t really want to break the rules,’ another told us; music to head’s ears. He himself epitomises measured, reflective approach. Less than five permanent exclusions in the last decade; around one or two suspensions every year.

Pupils and parents

Most families affluently low-key – ‘a normal lot’ declared one. Fair few celebrities over the years but categorically not a selling point. Overwhelming majority local – within five miles. Free bus service from Barnes Station attracts a few from further afield. On arrival, we saw long, uninterrupted, meandering hoards making their way to school on foot or by bike. Extensive and secure bike park. Valiant efforts by school to alleviate rush hour congestion but driving to school not our recommendation. Vital PTA active in second hand uniform department, careers’ evenings and Christmas fair, amongst other frequent activities. Parents talk of an authentic home-school relationship. ‘More parental involvement’ recently noted, ‘reflected in the governor line up’. Most families double income. Wraparound provision from 7.30am to 6pm consequently treasured.

Children we spoke to were polite (almost all holding doors open), passionate and persuasive. Nobody feels they have to fit a mould. ‘I don’t fit a stereotype and I don’t want my pupils to,’ said a head of faculty.

Money matters

Fees average for the area. Music, expressive arts, sports and academic scholarships available at 11+, 13+ and 16+. Awards too for critical thinking and innovation, STEM and newly instituted impact scholarship, all available at 11+, 13+ and 16+, to encourage pupils ‘to make an impact on society.’ All worth 10 per cent fee remittance. Bursaries, up to 100 per cent, from year 7 (four to five per year).

The last word

This is a school with a mission. Often considered a hidden gem, it is resolutely determined to shuffle off that constraining coil. Well-turned out and well-adjusted pupils are not the products of a stressful pressure cooker but of a mixed, unbroken journey in a glorious setting. As concluded one member of staff, ‘Ibstock is doing really, really good things.’

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

The School can offer short term support on a fees-for-service basis.

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

Who came from where


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