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  • Latymer Upper School
    237 King Street
    W6 9LR
  • Head: Susan Wijeratna
  • T 020 8629 2024
  • F 020 8748 7523
  • E [email protected]
  • W
  • Latymer Upper School is an English independent school for pupils aged 11 to 19 with a linked junior school, both located in Hammersmith, west London. It educates over 1,300 boys and girls and was founded by Edward Latymer in 1624.
  • Boarding: No
  • Local authority: Hammersmith & Fulham
  • Pupils: 1,270; sixth formers: 419
  • Religion: Not Applicable
  • Fees: £24,222 pa
  • Open days: Contact school registrar or see website.
  • Review: View The Good Schools Guide Review
  • ISI report: View the ISI report
  • Linked schools: Latymer Prep School

What says..

The academic pace is dizzying. Rounded and grounded these kids may be, but they are all also unashamedly high flyers. ‘It can be a miserable experience if you’re not able to keep up,' acknowledges the head, ‘which is why we discourage tutoring for the entrance test.’ Only maths is set (from year 8)—no need for the rest. Seven classes per year group, 24 children in each, all working at full tilt. ‘My daughter was in the bottom maths set,' a mum told us, ‘and it was still charging along at break-neck’. Teachers are energetic and ...

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What the school says...

Latymer Upper School 11+ entrance examination in January in Maths and English followed by interview for those children who pass the exam. Means-tested bursaries up to 100% of fees.
Scholarships and awards for music available at 11+ range from free tuition on up to two instruments to 40% reduction of fees.

Around 35-45 places are available for Sixth Form entry every year, for boys and girls. For further information see the school website. Means-tested bursaries, up to 100% of fees and scholarships in art, music, drama are available at Sixth Form.
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Cambridge Pre-U - an alternative to A levels, with all exams at the end of the two-year course.

School associations

Round Square - a network of 40 schools worldwide that share ideals such as internationalism, adventure and service.




What The Good Schools Guide says


Since September 2023, Susan Wijeratna, previously lower master (senior deputy head) at Eton College and before that, deputy head (pastoral) at St Paul’s Girls’ School. Read geography at Birmingham. Her stellar CV reflects her career progression at high profile and internationally renowned schools - co-ed, single sex, day and boarding. These include Epsom College, Eastbourne College, St Benedict’s and Haberdashers’ Boys’ School. Her interests span sports (she is a QPR season ticket holder) and the arts (she is a governor and chair of the academic committee at the Royal Ballet School).


Of the 170 places available at 11+, 40 are snapped up by the school’s own onsite prep (these children are not required to sit the upper school’s entrance exams). Over 1200 candidates vie for the remaining 130, half from local state primaries, half from the private sector (a whopping 80 prep and primary schools send children here). Maths and English papers (no longer reasoning, which favoured children who were tutored) taken in January of year 6, with successful candidates invited for interview. Parents say there’s more competition for boys’ places than girls’ (fewer boys’ options in the area). No 13+ entry. At 16+, the odds don't go down much: over 200 candidates sit for 30-40 places. They submit their year 10 report, sit school’s own exams, plus interview for the chosen. Nine GCSEs including maths and English are expected, with at least a 7 in the subjects (or related subjects) they wish to study.


A 'handful' move on after year 11. Career and university advice is phenomenal. Two advisors are laser-focused on helping children produce tip-top uni applications: nearly 90 per cent get thir first choice. Bristol and Edinburgh are the most popular destinations, with others to King’s College London, Warwick, Manchester, Bath and UCL. In 2023, 19 to Oxbridge. The school has also hired a dedicated international university specialist to assist youngsters applying abroad. Over a third of sixth formers express an interest in uni abroad and the pandemic has only increased this (‘They’re stir-crazy!’).

Latest results

In 2023, 93 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 75 per cent A*/A at A level (93 per cent A*-B). In 2019 (the last pre-pandemic results), 92 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 70 per cent A*/A at A level (91 per cent A*-B).

Teaching and learning

The academic pace is dizzying. Rounded and grounded these kids may be, but they are all also unashamedly high flyers. ‘It can be a miserable experience if you’re not able to keep up,' acknowledges the school, ‘which is why we discourage tutoring for the entrance test.’ Only maths is set (from year 8) – no need for the rest. Seven classes per year group, 24 children in each, all working at full tilt. ‘My daughter was in the bottom maths set,' a mum told us, ‘and it was still charging along at break-neck.’ Teachers are energetic and firing on all cylinders. Parents say there are ‘no duds’ among them; can’t think of another school we’ve heard this said about. Children say they go the extra mile. ‘I’ll be so sorry to leave them,’ said an upper sixth student.

Key aspects of the school’s innovative curriculum include the global goals course in year 9 that critically examines the 17 sustainability targets set by the UN. This leads nicely into the UCAS-accredited world perspectives, which has replaced the 11th GCSE in the middle school. It’s a creative course exploring global political issues; pupils love it and parents delight in their children ‘watching more news’ and ‘talking about bigger issues at the dinner table’.

Single-handedly battling to make language learning great again – years 7 and 8 juggle compulsory Spanish, Mandarin and Latin simultaneously, while German or French is added to the mix from year 9. A few parents thought it was all a bit much (‘you can’t learn a language with one lesson a week’) but more than a third of the year group sits Latin GCSE; double figures sit ancient Greek. No watered-down dual award GCSE science either. Three shining separate sciences for all, though pupils are allowed to drop one of these (very few do).

GCSEs only offered in hardcore academic subjects – no film studies, classical civilisation or PE here. And - the big news - from 2027, the school is saying goodbye to GCSEs altogether, except for English and maths. Instead, pupils will do the school's home-grown qualifications created specifically to provide 'stretch.' They will take a combination of traditional subjects and shorter courses and will be assessed by interviews, vivas and projects, as well as written exams. The school claims the new curriculum will reduce stress and anxiety and has been devised in consultation with employers, universities, alumni and educational professionals. ‘This reform will prepare students better for the world of work and for life outside the school gates,’ says the school, whose decision has been reported across national media.

Maths is the most popular A level subject, by far. Well over 100 take it - twice as many as the next-most-favoured subjects (physics and chemistry). Sixth formers take four 10-week ‘elective’ mini-courses on top of their A levels and some add an EPQ. Electives allow staff to teach their enthusiasms and have included subjects as diverse as play writing, proteins and urological disorders, rhetoric, and legal studies. It’s a full, rounded curriculum with a ‘liberal artsy’ feel, that makes students especially attractive to US universities, say staff.

‘A very unlazy school,' said a parent. ‘It doesn’t slop around and cut corners’. A few parents grumbled that school reports were not as frank as they might be. Number or letter grades have been dropped in favour of teacher comments. ‘The school felt formal grades put too much pressure on the kids,' said a mum with a roll of the eyes. Technology is naturally woven into the curriculum and all pupils are supplied with a Chromebook.

Learning support and SEN

Here, it’s called ‘academic mentoring' rather than learning support (to reduce stigma) and it’s open to all (‘You don’t have to have a learning difference,' explained a student earnestly). Pupils can visit the department for one-to-one sessions at no extra cost, whether they have severe dyslexia or just a piece of challenging homework. Up to 15 per cent receive some kind of help here. 'We want to be inclusive in every way,' says the school, 'and that includes neurodiversity.’ All children are screened for learning issues in years 7 and 9 via computerised tests. Currently 337 pupils are on the school’s learning difficulties/disabilities register. Buildings are well adapted to meet the needs of physically disabled students with lifts, stair lifts, ramps and automatic doors.

The arts and extracurricular

‘The arts aren’t considered an alternative to academia here,’ said a pupil. ‘There’s room for people to excel in both.’ All pupils take DT, art, music and drama to the end of year 9 and then choose, although we wonder how they decide as all are done so well. Fine art is outstanding, housed in huge art studios with fabulous light. Imaginative artwork in just about every media is displayed throughout the school. The female head of DT (still a rarity in the 21st century) runs a department bursting with modern tech, including 3D printers, while the classrooms smell reassuringly of wood and glue.

Each week 740 individual instrumental lessons are taught by 40 visiting music teachers to 575 pupils in air-conditioned, soundproofed, purpose-built rooms. Music students range from complete beginners to diploma standard, and several pupils attend RCM junior department lessons on Saturdays. Sixth former Isaac Harari was a percussion finalist in the 2020 BBC Young Musician competition. We watched a year 7 music class that involved every single child lustily playing some sort of instrument – from maracas to electric keyboard to violin. Lovely recital hall, with organ, converts into a cinema.

Renowned for its drama, the school has a 300-seat galleried box theatre with folding seating, plus other studios. We were so absorbed watching two sixth form drama scholars rehearsing Pinter’s The Lover that we had to be dragged away kicking.

The generous 90-minute lunch break leaves loads of time for clubs. Which is just as well as over 150 are on offer, from ‘D&D’ (Dungeons and Dragons – we had to ask) to the biology book club – ‘In year 7 I tried a different club every week in my first term,’ enthused a pupil we spoke to. Chess is growing, feeding through from the prep – ‘It was a perfect lockdown activity.’ Also a good range of outside speakers. ‘There’s something for everyone,’ said a parent whose shy child had got very involved in debate.

Community service runs strong. Latymer partners with over 200 local schools to offer music, debate and hard-to-access subjects to over 1000 children. The Latymer-inspired Attain tutoring programme offers catch-up support to children who have fallen behind in their education as a result of Covid-19. All of year 12 takes part in community service as part of the Latymer Diploma – one sixth former we spoke to helped run a Latin club at a local primary school; another served food at a homeless shelter.

The beloved and elaborate activities week is a Latymer tradition going back over 70 years. In the penultimate week of the summer term, all pupils (except those who did public exams) participate in a week-long activity, most of them residential, many of them with an element of service or challenge. The range is immense, from cooking in Paris to a writer’s retreat in Devon, to surfing in Ireland (much screwed-up by Covid, of course). Feels like something you’d find at Scotland’s Gordonstoun rather than this edgy urban powerhouse. Even weirder, in 2016 Latymer joined Round Square, the international schools association founded by education idealist Kurt Hahn (who founded Gordonstoun, Atlantic College and Outward Bound, and also inspired the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme). DofE is popular among these Latymer city slickers, with almost all students in year 9 signing up to bronze and around 45 students a year continuing to gold.


Famed throughout the western (London) world for rowing and swimming – these remain the school’s sporting strengths and are pursued with much vigour and success. Rowing becomes an option from year 9 and has only three requirements – commitment, commitment, commitment. ‘Rowing is a real community, it’s like joining a family,' a pupil told us, eyes shining. ‘The rowing programme gave my daughter a home in the school and a whole support structure,' said a dad. ‘You’re pushed hard but it’s also fun,' said a sixth former. ‘It has to be fun if you’re going to be motivated to attend 6.30am sessions!’ ‘It’s a perfect co-ed sport,' said the new head of sport who describes herself as ‘a massive believer in coeducation’.

All children have one lesson of PE and one afternoon of games per week. Games are played at Wood Lane, a 20-minute bus journey away. Main boys’ sports are rugby, football and rowing; hockey, netball, rounders and rowing for the girls. Plans afoot to increase the co-ed aspect of several sports and offer some gender-neutral teams. Children we spoke to were in full support: ‘There’s less lad culture with co-ed sport,' a pupil explained. Plenty of C, D and E teams, with enjoyment of sport valued as much as sporting prowess (top talents are encouraged to play for outside clubs to supplement school training). Kids say sporting arch-rivals are nearby St Paul’s for the boys and Godolphin and Latymer for girls.

Huge range of alternatives to team and ball games. It all fits into the school’s emphasis on wellbeing and mental health: ‘Exercise is the cheapest and most effective antidepressant.’ Gorgeous sports hall, with swimming pool, classrooms, a range of smaller studios and a gym is reached via a gleaming, modern underground passage beneath the A3, adorned with larger-than-life photos of sportspeople, reminiscent of Heathrow walkways.

Ethos and heritage

Founded by rich merchant Edward Latymer in 1624 to educate and feed ‘eight poore boies’. the school moved several times before settling in its present Thames-side site in 1863. It remained single-sex until sixth form admissions were opened to girls in 1996; the remainder of the school became mixed in the first decade of the 21st century, and coeducation is now one of its biggest selling points. ‘Since they’re co-ed, they don’t need to buddy-up with other schools, they’re a world unto themselves,' explained a parent.

Main entrance is along the unremarkable urban backdrop of King Street, with the grounds unfolding into every nook and cranny of space eventually leading down to the river. Not immediately recognisable as a school, passersby often mistake Latymer’s stained-glass, cross-topped main hall for a church. Dating from 1890, the school hall can now only squeeze in two year groups and is used for assemblies and special events like the Christmas and activities fairs. Paintings of former headmasters (‘old white men,' a pupil explained) have been mostly replaced by a row of video screens portraying thriving modern Latymerians, reminiscent of the advert screens you see when descending into a tube station, or the magical moving photographs from Harry Potter.

Lots of light wood and huge windows feature in the newer buildings, the most exceptional of which is the science and library block, the sort of resource many towns would be proud of; the head librarian was shortlisted for School Librarian of the Year 2021. Open 7am to 6pm, many children use the library while waiting for parents in the afternoon (school day ends at 4pm with some clubs and sport thereafter). Oddly open to the science hallway above - noisy during lesson changeovers. Never fear, the supervised sixth form study space next door offers a truly silent retreat (shiny new sixth form centre offers even more study space).

Outside, the place hums like a bustling medieval marketplace. Expect inevitable queuing and logjams at changeover times, as a result of 1,400 students squashed into a smallish site, but the airy and tastefully planted piazza absorbs many students with ease. Active student council oversees committees on ecology, activities, tech, wellbeing and food. Speaking of food, the school lunches are atrocious and some children bring packed lunches (new caterers are starting soon). Two traditional tarmac playgrounds (one shared with the prep).

Some sensitivity here over Latymer’s undeniable reputation as ‘the cool school’. ‘It’s a millstone around our neck,' admits school. ‘It gives the impression that children here are exceptionally outgoing, sociable and confident – that’s just not so. Board games is one of our most popular clubs! We are an urban school; people come to school by tube and bus. We’re in touch with the world beyond the school gates. We’re diverse. We’re inclusive.’ The children said it best: ‘It’s cool to be clever.’

‘It’s a very, very politically correct school,' noted a mum. The head boy and head girl who showed us around had been renamed with the gender-neutral term ‘school captains’, and the school was celebrating Empathy Day when we visited. Issues arising from the Black Lives Matter movement feature large – ‘We spent a year decolonising our curriculum,’ the head told us with no hint of irony. One year 7 we spoke to said her favorite thing about the school was the opportunity given to pupils ‘to educate’ their peers. ‘If I forget to say they/them, I’m shot down in flames,’ admitted a bemused parent. ‘They’re very strong on all that.’

Unpretentious: no funny names for things or ludicrous uniforms. But small fish can find the big pond a bit daunting. Several parents said things like, ‘My daughter was in all the plays at her primary school but never got chosen at LU,’ or ‘My son was in the A team at his prep, but is lucky to get into the Bs here.’ All children do seem to grow into the school and find their niche, but it can take a few terms.

Incredible list of alumni, including Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, Lily Cole, Christopher Guard, Imogen Poots, Mel Smith, Gus Prew. Also Walter Legge and Raphael Wallfisch, and Pete Townsend’s dad, who was expelled. Then there’s Kulveer Ranger, Keith Vaz, George Walden, Joshua Rozenberg, Andrew Slaughter, Heston Blumenthal, Dr Hilary Jones, Simon Hughes, Bill Emmott, Grace Chatto (of Clean Bandit), Jack Lawrence-Brown and Harry McVeigh (White Lies) and Arlo Parks. ‘If you’re lucky, you get to meet one of them at a prize-giving,’ said one pupil.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

In spring of 2021, Latymer loomed large on the Everyone’s Invited website which listed allegations of peer-on-peer sexual assault and sexual harassment in schools. The effects of this bombshell can be felt throughout the school. ‘Media coverage encouraged the idea that girls are cowering here pursued by boys,' recollects the school witheringly. ‘Pupils and parents were upset and simply did not recognise this description.’ They point out that girls actually outnumber boys at Latymer, and girls now hold their own in all subjects including maths and sciences. Further, they say, the problem of sexual harassment is a national one, not located in particular schools or even mainly in schools at all. ‘It’s like bullying - every school has it, what’s important is how you deal with it.’ The school also notes that former Latymer students happened to be among the first to reply to the online site, mainly owing to friendships with the site’s founder. Later, the site began to anonymise comments, effectively throwing the early mentions under the bus.

All the parents we spoke to, bar none, felt Latymer had been unjustly tarnished: ‘It was horrific because they actually do so much work here to educate both kids and parents on consent, gender and healthy relationships.’ Many children were baffled by the testimonies, but older pupils we spoke to felt some good had come from the revelations: ’More progress was made in seven days than in seven years. It was a real turning point,' said a pupil. ‘Not that there were problems, but it allowed us to have discussions in form groups and lots of other conversations. They weren’t just trying to protect the reputation of the school – they tackled things head on.’ A number of changes have ensued ranging from the practical (installing modesty barriers on floating staircases) to the esoteric (a year 10 discussion on toxic masculinity).

Mental health a priority here. ‘There’s not a lot of hand-holding. No one is stroking you and telling you how wonderful you are,' said a parent. Most pupils rise to the challenge; three school counsellors offer a ‘safety net’ for those who don’t. ‘The counselling and pastoral care are outstanding,' said the mother of a girl who had struggled with an eating disorder. ‘The school was so quick to react.’ There’s also a full-time social worker negotiating between school, home and CAMHS. The only other mainstream independent school we can think of that employs a pupil welfare officer of this kind is Christ’s Hospital. (Christ’s Hospital is also the only non-specialist independent school to offer more bursaries than Latymer, and there is significant overlap in the schools’ views of their mission.)

Inclusivity, a hallmark of the school, extends to its behavioral policies. Exclusions are exceptionally rare – the most recent were in 2007 and 2018 – and even then the school helped the children get a fresh start at good schools elsewhere. Pupils should be expected to ‘lose their place’ if caught with drugs. But, as ever with Latymer, draconian punishments are few, and the school prefers a supportive approach when possible.

The uniform seemed to be in mid-evolution when we visited, with pupils wearing a mishmash of old (cool) and new (drab). Girls can now wear trousers, and the tie has been dropped in the middle school, but pupils strive to eke out their old-style uniforms for as long as possible, and we saw some girls’ skirts shorter than at any independent school we have ever visited. New more-gender-neutral, sustainable and simpler games uniforms have also been introduced. No uniform or dress code for sixth form, within reason (‘no pyjamas!’).

Pupils and parents

Around 90 per cent from within a three-mile radius, most of whom arrive by tube, bike or on foot. Modern, cosmopolitan families, lots with international backgrounds, often from the US or Europe (in 2020 11 children sat GCSE Italian, all earning grade 9s, despite the school not actually offering lessons in the subject). The school describes families as ‘committed to social justice’. Up to a point. Mark Carney, a former Latymer parent, recently gave a talk to a school finance and legal professionals networking event.

Diversity and individuality are highly prized, and the bursary programme mixes things up a bit. ‘They’re surrounded by kids from very different backgrounds. There’s no sense of entitlement – not everyone goes skiing at half term. It’s a massive plus,' said a parent. BAME student numbers are on the rise, though black students we spoke to felt they’d like to see ‘more kids who look like me’. Pupils describe themselves as ‘academic, but not nerdy’.

Money matters

The school offered 96 bursaries when the previous head joined in 2012; now there are 240, equating to one in five of the upper shcool. By 2024 – the school’s 400th anniversary – the school aims to have raised £40 million and to provide bursaries to a full quarter of its pupils. We’re not talking window dressing – the average bursary covers 80 per cent of fees; many cover the whole shebang.

A few non-means-tested scholarships also exist – 11+ academic (usually a one-off £1,000) and music (a meaty one of a 40 per cent fee reduction, others up to 20 per cent, a few pupils may receive a ‘music award’ of free tuition on two musical instruments); 16+ drama (40 per cent), music, art and sports scholarships (nominal amounts).

The last word

An astonishing school floating on an urban astral plane above most of the competition. ‘There’s a buzz,' said a parent. ‘It’s not set in tradition, it’s in the now and leading the future.’ ‘You can find your passion and run with it,' said another. Suits organised, motivated, self-starters, but never fear – if your Latymerian isn’t like that upon arrival, they soon will be.

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


Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia Y
Dysgraphia Y
Dyslexia Y
Dyspraxia Y
English as an additional language (EAL) Y
Genetic Y
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class Y
HI - Hearing Impairment Y
Hospital School
Mental health Y
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty Y
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment Y
Natspec Specialist Colleges
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability Y
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty Y
PD - Physical Disability Y
PMLD - Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty
SEMH - Social, Emotional and Mental Health Y
SLCN - Speech, Language and Communication Y
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired Y
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty Y
VI - Visual Impairment Y

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