Skip to main content

What says..

School is international but ‘not transient’ – parents simply describe themselves as forward-looking. Many are west London locals, most dual-income professionals. Teaching here is exceptional, with full immersion in both Mandarin and English, enabled by two teachers per class, one Mandarin and one English speaking. The only exceptions are PE and music, taught in English only. Learning serious but not unduly pressured. Teaching style is warm and compassionate – ‘very nurturing,’ said a parent. Not a whiff of...

Read review »

What the school says...

Kensington Wade is an award-winning bilingual prep school in west London for children aged 3-11. At Kensington Wade half the lessons are taught in English and half in Mandarin, giving children complete fluency in both languages. Our child-centred approach to teaching and learning creates a happy, stimulating environment where all pupils can thrive, along with strong academic achievement and exceptional preparation for 11+ assessments for progression to top senior schools. ...Read more

Do you know this school?

The schools we choose, and what we say about them, are founded on parents’ views. If you know this school, please share your views with us.

Please login to post a comment.

What The Good Schools Guide says


Since September 2023, Huw May BA BMus MA PGCE NPQH, who arrived here for his eighth headship from Eaton House Belgravia. Prior to that, was head of Eaton House the Manor pre-prep, Eaton House the Vale, Sydenham Junior School, Roedean Junior School and St Aubyn’s. He is also an ISI inspector. Following singing studies at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, he became a professional singer before being lured into teaching by a headteacher friend ‘just to help out’. While this is the first bilingual school he has led, he does have experience of bilingualism as a Welsh speaker. ‘No, I don’t speak Mandarin,’ he confesses, ‘but I’m attending classes every Thursday evening, along with some of the parents.’

We met him in his neat office overlooking the main landing, where we found him unpretentious, youthful and down-to-earth (and we loved his colourful, flowery tie). Throughout the day, we saw him moving about the school busily, instinctively picking up rubbish and sticking back a drooping wall decoration. At lunch, he helped the younger children and chatted to the older ones. Also teaches, currently financial awareness and debating. ‘Very hands on’ and ‘committed’, say parents, who can now come in every morning between 8am-8.20am. ‘Communication is key,’ he says. Staff full of praise too, not least the founding old-timers: ‘He’s always around, he really involves us.’ ‘He wants to know what we think and how we can make it work’.

He is proud of the ‘exciting buzz’ here, as well as the newfound space that has come with the new premises the school moved to in 2022. Next up is ‘changing people’s perception’, he says, pointing out that the school ‘is a traditional prep school with the added extra of developing linguistic and cultural fluency with one of the world’s oldest civilizations. It’s not a niche option, it’s got very broad appeal, and we have nothing to do with the embassy,’ he stresses. ‘Obviously, the current political climate doesn’t help but we can get the message out.’

Lives around the corner near the Thames, ‘where the wildlife is astonishing’, heading back to Sussex at weekends with his dog.


Into nursery the term of third birthday. First two-form reception in September 2023, with up to 40 places. These are offered following a stay and play session (including an assessment of general social skills, awareness of the wider world, engagement with storytelling) in the January before starting. Only one third of new starters have any form of Mandarin, with school firmly stating that children ‘do not need any knowledge of Chinese (or English, if Chinese is their first language)’. Occasional places higher up although prospects of entry into year 4+, without any knowledge of Mandarin, very slim indeed.


First year 6 leavers (2024) have had offers from Godolphin and Latymer, Francis Holland, Lady Eleanor Hollis, Eaton House Senior, Putney High, Wimbledon High, Kew House, St Paul’s, Knightsbridge, Notting Hill and Ealing, Streatham and Clapham, King’s College Wimbledon, City of London and St Augustine’s Priory. Several scholarships – academic, music and art – in the pipeline too. Not a bad start. Parents are told to ‘listen to their instincts – if a senior school does not feel right, move on’. Biannual senior school fair attracts 30-odd schools.

Our view

A newish school offering the full English national curriculum, alongside an integrated education in Mandarin. The result: bilingual, open-minded, tolerant and notably articulate children. During break, we heard effortless exchanges in both English and Mandarin, as well a delightful combination of the two: Englidarin or Mandarish, we speculated.

Housed in a purpose-built board school, Kensington Wade (name = original location + name of British Sinophile diplomat) occupies the top two floors, with Melcombe Primary located on the ground and first floors underneath. Logistics of shared site have been embraced, with timetables devised to avoid congestion (eg KW pupils start at 8am, Melcombe at 9am; Melcombe pupils finish at 3pm, KW at 3.30pm) and staggered breaks and lunchtimes. ‘We don’t really see them,’ remarked one child, ‘although I do wish they’d do more with the garden,’ said another. Interior benefited from a fresh coat of paint and renewed flooring when the school moved in, with cheerful results. Well-designed premises offer bright, capacious classrooms and other sizeable spaces. iPads, issued to every child, used alongside electronic whiteboards and paper flip charts. Ingenious painting of some cupboard doors also affords traditional blackboards.

Nursery children are in a separate building with its own outside space, sitting the other side of the large playground, colourfully marked out for various games, and boasting an entertaining Jungle Jim climbing frame. From reception, children are taught in their year group classrooms, with fluid movement between the two youngest years.

Teaching here is exceptional, with full immersion in both Mandarin and English, enabled by two teachers per class, one Mandarin and one English speaking. The only exceptions are PE and music, taught in English only. To ensure children have ample time for 11+ preparation, core subjects tilt towards two-thirds English/one-third Mandarin for older ones, while VR, NVR and debating (compulsory) are all conducted in English. Already small classes (maximum 20) thus benefit from two dedicated teachers whose skills are also deployed in their own specialist areas, with a year 5 teacher and English graduate running creative writing and 11+ Club classes for year 6. ‘It’s such an exciting place to teach.’

Learning serious but not unduly pressured. Teaching style is warm and compassionate – ‘very nurturing,’ said a parent. Not a whiff of the single-minded, driven hothouse. From year 4, specialist teaching in art and computing, always in both languages. No Latin or French but Spanish in year 5 which, we were told, ‘they pick up just like that’.

STEAM is big here, and has its own modern, vibrant room, complete with sockets which can be pulleyed up and down. Year 2s were learning about nutrition with VR goggles when we visited. ‘I went right inside the orange juice and found lots and lots of vitamins there,’ announced one girl. Artwork encompasses everything from traditional Chinese to ISA award-winning mobiles and exquisite still life work. ‘I’ve even managed to make this on the 3D printer,’ said a teacher, brandishing a KENWADE keyring. ‘Over to the children now.’

Just under five per cent of pupils are on the SEN register, with support offered by a visiting SENCo who comes in two days a week to provide in-class help, as well as group and one-to-one sessions (all included in fees). School happily caters for autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia, ‘although we don’t have them all at the moment’. School says some children who struggle with English find strengths in Mandarin and vice versa. Parents praise the unobtrusive help. ‘It’s just another focused lesson.’

Although music is taught in English, we attended a Chinese musical workshop which introduced entranced children to the sounds of erhus, yangkins and sanxians. Over 70 per cent of pupils learn an instrument, and perform regularly at informal termly concerts, as well as the annual house shout. Christmas carol singing led by the head. ‘He’s got the voice,’ said a colleague.

Each class leads an assembly once a term, with no shortage of names on the performance sign-up sheet we saw. The usual nativity play for reception to year 2, plus a production involving all from year 3 – we would love to have seen last year’s production, ‘Lights, Camel, Action’, which apparently included tangoing innkeepers. In the summer, all come together for a Chinese-themed production – this year, Journey to the West.

Clubs abound - most after school, a few at lunchtime. Musical theatre and STEAM very popular, with yoga and programmable robotics among others. ‘I wanted to start a school newspaper,’ said one boy, ‘so I did.’ Touchingly, even the bus service (four buses ferry to Fulham, Chiswick, Chelsea and Kensington) is known as the minibus club. After-school care until 6pm, in conjunction with Melcombe. Eco council gets good numbers and is working towards green flag status. Trips include – you guessed it – China (for year 6s). ‘I can’t wait to go, I’ve never been before,’ enthused one boy. Residentials for younger ones too, including year 3 trip to Dorset, year 4 to Juniper Hall and year 5 to the Isle of Wight.

Sport – all mixed – includes football, tennis, cricket, basketball, netball and hockey. All played on-site, in the gym and playground, with occasional outings to Bishop’s Park. Sports day in Holland Park. Pupils speak highly of the sports teaching, although a few lament that the small size of the school means there are not many teams or fixtures. Years 1 and upwards swim weekly over the road at Charing Cross Sports Club.

Emphasis on wellbeing made easier by smallish number of children and large number of staff. ‘Anything wrong is immediately noticeable,’ said a teacher. Parents feel the teachers ‘embody the pastoral care’ and children told us, ‘You’re free to ask anybody for help at any time’. Mutually respectful and casual relationships between children and staff a joy to see. Reading buddy scheme mixes the year groups, and circle time gets younger ones to reflect on behaviour, with zones of regulation for older children to identify and manage their emotions. ‘Never have I developed from scared to happy so quickly,’ said one boy about his arrival at the school.

School council is given an attentive ear. ‘We’re organising a talent show. Oh, yes, and we wanted more playground equipment, which we got,’ said one pupil. Recurrent gripe about quality of school food, but we enjoyed our baked potato with tuna and felt what was on offer was basic, but fresh and well-balanced. School colours of burgundy and gold fuse English and Chinese sartorial styles, resulting in one of the most elegant school coats we have seen, not to mention the Harry Potter striped tights.

School is international but ‘not transient’ – parents simply describe themselves as forward-looking. Many are west London locals, most dual-income professionals. Their involvement is welcomed and actively fostered through the PA. School hosts regular lectures for them and for members of the public on current issues in education. These have attracted the likes of Sir Anthony Seldon and Barnaby Lenon. Those we spoke to rave about the place: ‘It’s an educational dream come true.’ ‘The children have unusually broad minds and appreciate ambiguity, this is future peace.’

Money matters

Fees are broadly in line with comparable local schools. Scholarships (reduction of fees at school’s discretion) available to those ‘of exceptional ability’ in years 3 and 4, together with a few bursaries.

The last word

Bilingual, bicultural, biliterate – and unique. A confident establishment brimming with exciting prospects. ‘I want to extend the school to years 7 and 8 because I love it so much,’ said one pupil. Who knows, maybe they will one day This school is a beacon for the future.

Special Education Needs

Subscribe for instant access to in-depth reviews:

☑ 30,000 Independent, state and special schools in our parent-friendly interactive directory
☑ Instant access to in-depth UK school reviews
☑ Honest, opinionated and fearless independent reviews of over 1,000 schools
☑ Independent tutor company reviews

Try before you buy - The Charter School Southwark

Buy Now

GSG Blog >

The Good Schools Guide newsletter

Educational insight in your inbox. Sign up for our popular newsletters.