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As with many international schools, there is a refreshing naivety among the students. As one teacher put it, they are ‘not very street’. No big egos – far from it, students we met were attentive and inquisitive (which the IB encourages from its pupils). The school makes every effort to ensure that their transition from overseas is as smooth as possible, and their transition programme has won awards. The transitions programme supports families and students when friends leave, as well as supporting newbies, and also boasts a good family mentoring…

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What the school says...

Founded in 1972, International School of London (ISL) is a co-educational school for students age 3-18. An International Baccalaureate (IB) World School, ISL London offers the Primary Years (PYP) and Middle Years Programmes (MYP) as well as the IB Diploma. The IB programmes combine intellectual rigour and high academic standards with a strong emphasis on the ideals of international understanding and responsible citizenship.

ISL was one of the first schools in the UK to offer the IB diploma. Mother tongue language and literacy is an integral part of the curriculum and from Kindergarten through Grade 12 with students being offered between four to seven lessons per week depending on their grade level. Non-English speaking students are given support through Intensive English or English as an Additional Language (EAL) depending on student need.

Situated in Chiswick, West London, the School was purpose-built in the 1930s and has been refurbished with a library, science laboratories, kitchen, dining hall and multi-purpose auditorium.
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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.

International Baccalaureate: primary years - primary years is a programme for ages 3-12.

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


Since September 2018, Richard Parker. Initially employed in 2015 to head up both ISL Surrey Primary School and the ISL London campus. Due to financial constraints, the Surrey school no longer exists. Studied history at Cambridge, then worked as a criminal lawyer in the City until he had a change of heart. ‘I was witnessing expelled students and what happens to them post expulsion. This was the start of the problem - many of them then became involved in criminal gangs.’ Feeling powerless to change things within the law, he hoped teaching could make the difference. Was further inspired by a research project he carried out in Nicaragua, where he witnessed a 16-year-old boy running three literacy projects across three villages and saw the difference it made. Following teacher training at IoE, he taught at several London state schools before he and his wife moved to teach in international schools in Spain, Argentina, Hong Kong, Portugal and Brunei. Two children.

This jovial head teacher is well regarded by both pupils and students. ‘Extremely hands-on’ and ‘always around’ were some of the comments we heard. One parent was impressed that he helped with Covid testing during the pandemic: ‘Mr Parker definitely mucks in with everything.’ Also known to tap into his thespian side for school productions – he had a main part in last year’s school production of Matilda.

Still, a couple of parents feel that he is sometimes ‘too available’ and that his door should not always be ‘so open’. ‘His accessibility is great for pupils and parents to have their say, but the school is sometimes seen as too eager to please,’ said one. Perhaps the active and eloquent PTA is hard to ignore.


A rolling admissions policy to match the needs of relocating families. Eighty-six per cent of students have international passports, the rest have British ones (school says it is seeing an increase in enquires from British nationals). Initial contact through admissions team who work hard to ensure that visits run smoothly and questions are answered. School doesn’t expect applicants to have fluent English, but does expect behaviour they can manage and learning needs they can support. Registered as Tier 4 sponsors for visas. Interviews via Zoom if needed.


Majority stay in the UK, heading off to universities including Imperial, Edinburgh, Warwick, Queen Mary and City. Occasionally students head overseas – in 2023, to Northeastern (US) and McGill (Canada). An impressive 10 medics in 2023, no Oxbridge.

Latest results

In 2023, average point score of 33 for IB. In 2019 (the last pre-pandemic results), average point score of 32.

Teaching and learning

Often listed in the top 10 international schools in London, although good results are not obtained by hothouse teaching or rote. Instead, there’s a more informal setting that encourages students to take ownership of their learning: ‘Students are not just learning how to learn, but they are encouraged to think and question’, one parent told us. This is very much in keeping with the whole ethos of the IB.

The Primary Years Programme (PYP) ‘marks the start of a lifelong journey’ for those on the IB programme. Early childhood classes start full-time from age 3, and although these are long days for little ones the setting is nurturing. We saw bright and colourful classrooms with an array of visual and tactile things on offer to inspire the inquisitive mind. Maps on the wall help pupils ‘to think about where you are in relation to the world,’ as one teacher put it, while fun and useful equipment is on hand to assist with role play. Outside, there is a well-designed play area with plants, wooden toys, climbing benches and even a mini amphitheatre. Cheerful, well occupied children were running around during our visit, and we noted a high teacher to pupil ratio.

PYP class sizes vary but never exceed 22, and we saw TAs and extra teachers in many of the classrooms. ‘There is lots of support and help whenever you need it,’ said a pupil. The longstanding head of primary knows every child by name and is present and responsive. Much of the learning is student interest based and interactive, with peer-to-peer teaching and debate. The aim is for pupils not only to acquire knowledge but to have conceptual understanding, gain skills and develop beliefs and attitudes which they can demonstrate through responsible action. Parents describe the curriculum is ‘fairly child led’ and say the work is ‘well differentiated by ability’. However, some say native English speakers could do with more stretch. The end of PYP is celebrated with a personal project. The idea is for children to ‘choose what interests them in the world and take action.’ One student had done a project on homelessness and slept on the street for the night.

The language programme is a distinguishing feature of the school. Regular teaching in their mother tongue is the reason many parents choose the school. ‘It’s amazing - the school will try their best to find any language teacher they can for a student,’ one parent enthused. We passed several language pods outside - some with only five students inside. ‘We even have an Icelandic language teacher,’ says school. The library boasts an impressive selection of books in 18 different languages.

For the Middle Years Programme (MYP), students say more work and independence are required. The language programme continues at this stage, with its emphasis on global contexts and key concepts. The aim is to acquire skills to help with learning and life. Students we spoke to mentioned ‘critical learning’ and ‘thinking out of the box.’ Field trips ‘take the knowledge outside the classroom.’ Facilities are not extensive, but the school is well equipped. Two science labs, a new tech hub, plenty of laptops, a large well-stocked current library which includes newspapers and magazines, interactive whiteboards, and endless language learning rooms. The mother tongue language programme and intensive EAL continue where needed in middle years.

The IB diploma programme is housed in an elegant Victorian red-brick building some 10 minutes' walk from the rest of the school. The 70-odd students share a spacious, bright common room overlooking the small courtyard garden. The library is at the top of the building in a quiet study zone, with many students wearing headphones. A purpose-built art studio also impressed. Smaller classrooms cover the various IB subjects on offer – economics is popular, as are maths and psychology. Languages, unsurprisingly, are often taken at higher level IB as most students are multilingual. Exams take place every semester to ‘tool them up and teach them exam skills.’

The teaching staff – who reflect the student cohort in their diversity and languages spoken - are praised by pupils for ‘really taking the time to understand and encourage critical learning.’ Pupils we spoke to very much look forward to coming to school. ‘A more liberal approach to education’ was a sentiment voiced by both pupils and their parents. Teachers almost seen as older contemporaries, rather than figures of authority.

Learning support and SEN

Full-time SENCo (for both lower and upper schools) is highly praised: ‘My son really found himself here,’ said one parent of a dyslexic child. ‘They really care,’ said another. Students are offered two periods a week of support by SENCo and deputy, mainly for neurodiversity, communication, autism speech therapy and other specific needs. Outside professionals also brought in when required. ‘The school is very inclusive,’ we heard many times (again, in keeping with the IB ethos). ‘Our only restriction, unfortunately, is physical disability because of the layout of the school,’ the head told us.

The arts and extracurricular

There is an energetic and busy vibe to the school, with pupils engaging in different activities wherever we looked. Definitely something for everyone, and whilst perhaps a little hectic, had a cheery ambience. Drama is a biggie – we watched an improv and marvelled at the dedicated theatre space. Yearly musicals (last year Mathilda, this year Fame) are a veritable feast of students, teachers and even parents. Students are also able to say some lines in their mother tongue, which makes for a diverse production. Music popular too.

For art, classes are divided into three and students do a rota of visual art and DT with both hard and soft materials. Laser cutters and 3D printers, sewing machines and collage, mask making and woodwork. We witnessed wonderful art around the school and loved the cherry blossom installation made totally out of origami, by a Japanese student, as well as a Matilda display linked to their production last year.

A highlight for the pupils is the 'makers' space' where student-led technological creations take place. Particularly useful for end of grade 6 students to put together a project as a culmination of their primary school years (an IB requirement). We saw a fabulous guitar made out of recycled biscuit tins.

Lots of other extracurricular on offer, from coding and Minecraft to film production and ukulele for beginners. Many clubs led by students from the diploma programme, presumably in order to gain points towards the IB and to fulfil the community or action side of the programme. You get the feeling that teachers will bend over backwards to try and accommodate a child as best they can. One parent told us that her son composes music and used to play the piano in Lebanon where he is from. The school found out about this and let him perform at the graduation ceremony.

A dedicated Forest School programme is worked into the curriculum and a multi-lingual poetry in the park is also on offer. Overseas trips are back on post-Covid.


We wouldn’t be surprised if the new Gunnersbury Sports Hub is a clincher for many families deciding between schools. ISL were key partners in the project and claim on their website that it gives them some of the ‘best sporting facilities of any school in London.’ Among them are stunning floodlit artificial all-weather football pitches, grass rugby and football pitches, tennis courts and cricket grounds, plus an assortment of indoor courts and gym facilities. Brentford FC trains there – inspiration for any budding footballers. Students get access to the centre as part of their curriculum, and outside school hours membership is offered at a vastly reduced rate to ISL students and their parents.

At varsity level, the school fares favourably in tournaments with other international schools. Borough competitions also encouraged as a popular route to the London Youth Games. But all students are actively encouraged to enjoy sports, with dance, hockey, basketball, volleyball, football all offered. Gymnastics popular. Swimming every year in junior school, with kids bussed to Brentford Sports Centre. School currently has a champion golfer and an internationally ranked Norwegian squash player, and we spoke to a young chap in Brentford FC U18s. Parents feel that kids get an excellent sports education overall, partly because it is not structured around ‘a sport’ but are instead taught more general skills.

Ethos and heritage

The school was bought in the 1970s and was one of the first to offer all three IB programmes (PYP, MYP and DP). It is one of three schools owned by a Lebanese family who are still very involved, although there is an active board of governors too.

Set back from busy Gunnersbury Ave and its main intersections, it is not the prettiest location for a school trying to attract an international cohort. However, it is flanked by greenery from the nearby Gunnersbury Park, and is near enough to central London to satisfy. An older red-brick building with modern additions on two sides forms a U-shaped school around the playground/school bus parking area.

It is a school with a big heart and fundraising within the community is plentiful. Young people leave with a strong sense of charity and there is little evidence of entitlement.

School lunches delicious and prepared in house, with limited choice. We ate ours with a lovely group of students who opened doors for us and offered to clear up our plates.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

The school makes every effort to ensure that their transition from overseas is as smooth as possible, and its transition programme has won awards, based on testimonials of students and their parents when following their ‘journey.’ The transitions programme supports families and students when friends leave, as well as supporting newbies, and also boasts a good family mentoring system.

Three onsite counsellors for primary, middle and diploma years ‘to ensure that the basic needs of pupils are met.’ One parent pointed out that ‘it can be a tough and emotional time for young people joining a school midway through a term and several years into the school.’ But all speak of a 'warm atmosphere’, with school highly praised for its friendly welcome to the many new faces each year. That said, upping sticks and leaving at a moment’s notice is the reality for many of these students. And because of this, students share a common understanding that friendships can be cut short. Barely any incidents of bullying, although one parent did mention her daughter encountering a bit of ‘girl trouble’ - all dealt with swiftly and not ongoing, however.

School’s liberal outlook is a common trait of international schools. Parents like this, although one did say it could take a bit of getting used to for pupils coming from countries where ‘stricter rules might be the norm’.

Drugs don’t appear to be an issue - pastoral staff looked at us incredulously for even asking the question. ‘This has never been an issue for the school as far as we are aware, but being a London school, we also have to be realistic and we put in as much prevention as possible,’ the head of pastoral told us, adding, ‘We have pupils here from Oman, so it is not really the narrative here.’ He maintains that the worst thing ever found onsite in the sixth form diploma block was a ‘peach flavoured vape’.

Pupils and parents

The school boasts 60 nationalities, a major attraction for parents. Large numbers of Japanese, American, Italian, French, Brazilian, Spanish, Dutch, Russian, French and British. Also popular is the school’s location - near Kew, Chiswick and Ealing. Good for parents working in town. Door-to-door bus service available to every single student if required (at a cost). 'Strong' PA organises cookery clubs, outings (bourgeois pub crawls), welcoming and pairing up of established families with incoming families, as well as having regular meetings with school to both support and offer suggestions. ISL parents also helped people coming over from Ukraine.

As with many international schools, there is a refreshing naivety among the students. As one teacher put it, they are ‘not very street’. No big egos – far from it, students we met were attentive and inquisitive (which the IB encourages from its pupils). Their clothes too hinted of preppy rather than London cool. Yet these extraordinary young people are mature in so many other ways. One young student was sad at the inevitability of moving on for the third time when her dad’s contract runs out - ‘But at least I get to see many different countries and make new friends,’ she told us.

Money matters

Privately owned by a Lebanese family who have weekly updates and visit regularly. Fees are fairly hefty and often paid by employers. No extra charges for the mother tongue language programme (as long as there are at least five students), learning support, day outings and most clubs. Extras include transport, lunches, intensive English, and 'capital development fee'. No bursaries.

The last word

The perfect school for both those on a temporary UK visa and for permanent families. All are well catered for with the mother tongue facilities and the intensive English language learning, as well as the solid IB ethos. Ideal location for families wanting the benefits of green space with proximity to central London. A happy and convivial atmosphere and an understanding cohort of international teachers who 'get it'.

Special Education Needs

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

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