Skip to main content

What says..

There’s plenty of tradition – interspersed with surprises. Yes, there’s a school dog (sometimes several) but also a rescue axolotl (called Lovalotl). Houses are conventional (animals) but many class names are not. ‘The Upper Hydras are in their last week at school,’ reads enjoyable newsletter headline. Similarly, uniform list itemises blazers (with crest) and a school duffle coat, then hits you with the ‘iconic’ baseball jacket, optional from year 4 upwards, in bright yellow and blue combo (handy for school trip head counts). Every parent we talked to…


Read review »

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

Proprietor and co-principal

Since 1999, Ms Lucy Meyer BSc, MPhil (Cantab). Ms Meyer (‘Lucy’ to all – first name terms used throughout the school) has qualifications in psychology of education (Reading and Cambridge) and has also written articles and books on maths and trained 11-plus SATs examiners.

After accepting that destiny lay in teaching (first in immediate family to stray from sanctioned careers of law and medicine), first post was in an Ealing state school, followed by six years at a Hampstead independent, both primers in their own way in how (and often how not) to teach.

Legacy from step-grandmother would have paid for ‘a really lovely racing car’. Instead, fortunately for pupils, decided to start a school. It’s run by a tight-knit and long-standing team. Ms Meyer’s husband is in charge of all building work, currently transforming former bodged-up office building close to Latimer Road into spacious new senior school opening 2024.

Co-principal is Aaron Williams, a psychotherapist (practises under a different name – so you won’t find him in any directories). ‘We’re fairly inseparable,’ says Ms Meyer. ‘He’s not there a lot but a solid and considered sounding board for the school in general,’ says a parent.

Debbie Thackeray, the aide-de-camp/teacher/bursar/nutritionist/school historian has known Ms Meyer since childhood and appears to have almost telepathic insights into her thinking, while SENCo is a former neighbour. Dynamic and whole-heartedly committed to the children in her charge (we heard many stories of thoughtful, caring kindness to individual families), Ms Meyer’s leadership is energetic, hands on and robust.

An exhilarating ride for staff. Will be expected to pitch in (rota was in place on our visit to cover reception duties while full-time employee is on paternity leave). Must be courteous and committed. ‘Should be asking about the curriculum, not their rights [at interview],’ says Ms Meyer.

Parents say she’s a highly visible and reassuring presence and a great queller of anxieties – theirs and their children’s. ‘[Pupils are] so eager to do what she asks… it’s amazing.’ Resilient, too. ‘[Must have] sheer stubbornness to be able to run a school like this for as long as she has.’ To pupils, she’s ‘hard-working’, ‘helps us a lot’, ‘never gives anyone homework’.


Numerous possible starting points. Three nurseries, one on same site as the school, two others (not visited) nearby, take pupils from four months to pre-reception – though many families currently opt for other local primary schools (there are no pupils in current reception year). Accept pupils at any age if places, with year 7 the most popular entry point. Sixth form planned to open in September 2025 – admissions arrangements to be finalised.

No formal entrance exam. Instead, invite children for interview and visit (sometimes several times). Will consider candidates out of chronological year group. Look for motivation – ask about passions, what best/worst days look like. Doesn’t have to be startling. ‘Could be about having sausages or doing maths – it’s about their reaction,’ says Ms Meyer.

Once have made a commitment to a child, including those with additional needs, ‘We will try to stick with them.’


Can be prepared for exams at any point, some for the 11-plus, though majority now go to state schools (such as Holland Park). At the end of GCSEs, most have either moved to state or independent sixth forms or tutorial colleges.

Latest results

In 2022, tiny first ever year 11 cohort, when just 15 per cent of GCSEs achieved grades 9-7. Even tinier in 2023 when just three pupils sat GCSEs. Better things anticipated in 2024.

Teaching and learning

Distinctive but perfectly mainstream (though competitor schools known to sidle up to parents in the street and try to persuade them otherwise, says Ms Meyer). All academic bases, though, are thoroughly covered. Approach is ‘holistic’, ‘genuinely child-centred’, say parents. ‘Speak to pupils at a higher level than teachers normally would,’ says one. ‘Parents at other schools don’t get the direct input that we do.’

Yet expectations are clear. If work isn’t completed, ‘School makes them realise that this is their future, it’s about letting themselves down,’ says a parent. Similarly, there’s much tracking and plenty of exam practice for senior school pupils. ‘Very serious about GCSEs’ (and have achieved some seriously good results in previous years).

Core subjects are tackled from every angle. Literacy a huge deal, supported with excellent library, say parents (packed for the move when we visited), and regular and enthusiastic reading for pleasure. Secondary school specialist supports pupils where English is an additional language, while pupils in years 10 and 11 are trained to listen (with supervision) to younger readers. ‘A lovely thing,’ says a parent.

Public speaking a real strength, with pupils taking on (and sometimes beating) larger schools in debating competitions, using assemblies to hone their skills – pros and cons of homework, uniform and Covid jabs all recent topics. Parents confirm children are highly articulate. We can vouch for it. Primary pupils, asked by us what they’d change, started chanting ‘collective responsibility’ which took us – and bemused staff – by surprise. Down, apparently, to cancellation of outdoor play on day of visit by bad weather – taken, wrongly, as a punishment.

These are pupils who take it for granted that they are listened to. A bored guitarist might be presented with a mandolin to try, specialist books on journalism acquired for budding writer. And while languages have fixed points – French from nursery, Latin from year 3 – there can be considerable variation by cohort: Mandarin and Russian (taken as GCSEs) and Spanish, Italian and Afrikaans have all featured.

Similarly (and unusually), astronomy offered as a GCSE (own telescope). Some pupils may take GCSEs early (only if suitable for the child, won’t be at behest of a parent) or add extra subjects – can be well into double figures. Range variable and impressive, recently including drama, film studies, business studies and Latin – same freedom and flexibility will apply in sixth form.

Low-stress Christmas concert by nursery pupils (some too overcome by parents’ presence to sing, others belting out every single word, all encouraged to do the best they could) set the tone – collaborative and unstressed. We listened to year 11 pupils helping each other work through a practice GCSE English language paper and year 9s making science-themed paper chains featuring festive pylons and cooling towers, classes so small (as few as 12 for youngest, no bigger than 16 at junior age and 18 in senior school) that teachers can simply sit down and help one-to-one.

‘We want our children… to be interested… and interesting people to be around,’ says school. Arrange regular trips (often by public transport to make the most of excellent tube and bus links) as well as a whole-school residential to the Isle of Wight, while homework, though set, isn’t overwhelming (some mopped up during longer school day which runs to 4pm for seniors).

Teachers can also personalise the syllabus to the cohort – catnip for the dedicated. History curriculum, for example, has had a substantial makeover – more international and including appealing themes like villains in history. ‘Picks out the interesting bits,’ says Ms Meyer.

Learning support and SEN

Website describes culture as ‘quirky, open… all about including, not excluding which benefits all students’. But stress that officially support mild needs only and that what there is is limited – visiting speech and language therapist, no OT offered on site, two mental health leads.

Have supported pupils with high-functioning autism, physical/sensory difficulties and complex medical needs. Four pupils with EHCPs at the time of our visit, a further eight with additional needs. While they can accommodate ways of working that other schools might not, in the rare instance of a child requiring a full-time learning support assistant in the classroom, they would be a discrete presence – children must be able to play a full role in lessons and function ‘without too many adjustments and cope with the environment, including transitions between lessons’.

Says no to pupils whose behaviour would be too challenging, or who would not be able to access an approximately age-related curriculum: ‘If a child would not be able to cope in another mainstream school without extensive, full-time support, no reason to suppose that this would be the right environment for them.’

The arts and extracurricular

Don’t stint on ambition. Music homework might be writing song lyrics. Art teacher (also musician), resident polymath, exudes creativity from every pore of his sunflower-strewn dungarees (row of unnervingly convincing Cyborg masks made entirely from cardboard stares down from art room ceiling). Wows parents. ‘Totally amazing,’ says one. A great believer in letting children take the lead, he oversaw a much talked-about year 9 film-making project (based on school staircase that took you back in time). Pupils gave up evenings and holidays to the project, film premiered in a local cinema. Younger pupils, desperate to do the same, have pitched their own ideas. ‘It’s all about working on something bigger than yourself,’ says art teacher. ‘More powerful tool than I could ever have dreamed of.’

While clubs are offered, take-up has not fully recovered since pandemic-related decline. Current offerings are football, Lego, maths, chemistry, biology and chess. Charged for where run by outside firms, otherwise free. Also involved in community kitchen project at local hospital, growing and harvesting own crops.


Not the obvious choice for the super-sporty (facilities ‘rubbish’ says one parent, frankly) but better things widely anticipated once new senior school has opened, close to Westway’s many activities. In the meantime, do their best with limited outdoor space (true of many other independent schools in the area, parents point out) and many families supplement by arranging additional activities after school (some individual successes outside school in eg squash and fencing).

Outdoor learning up to year 3 (local nature reserve). ‘Like children to come back slightly muddy.’ Make good use of nearby park and adventure playground. Bring in specialists – PE and football coach – timetabled lessons for all often with mixed age groups, especially at senior school level, with rotating sports programme (football followed by archery).

Ethos and heritage

Began as single nursery. Now up to three in W8 and W10, taking from four months to rising five. Nourishing, welcoming – all the school’s values set out in miniature. Prep school opened 2000, on one floor of a 1970s red-brick block set in the hinterland north of Notting Hill – charming and desirable, if not quite squillionaire territory.

That building now sold for development and while a new senior school building in nearby Latimer Road takes shape, the whole school (reception upwards) is based in a single building in St Charles Square, formerly just for seniors, additional space offered by church in return for urgent refurbishment. Careful segregation of primary and secondary pupils (large metal gate that separates them is getting a fake ivy and green paint makeover which will effectively soften current slight custody suite vibe).

Regardless of age, however, ‘I wanted to create a school where every child feels valued,’ says Ms Meyer.

There’s plenty of tradition – interspersed with surprises. Yes, there’s a school dog (sometimes several) but also a rescue axolotl (called Lovalotl). Houses (nursery upwards) are conventional (animals) but many class names are not. ‘The Upper Hydras are in their last week at school,’ reads enjoyable newsletter headline. Similarly, uniform list itemises blazers (with crest) and a school duffle coat, then hits you with the ‘iconic’ baseball jacket, optional from year 4 upwards, in bright yellow and blue combo (handy for school trip head counts).

Bar occasional communications black hole – ‘Some of the teachers are very good at communicating… others aren’t,’ says parent – some rather dated online school literature and a ‘That mailbox is full’ message if you phone out of hours (‘no idea how to empty it but we’re changing phone providers,’ we’re told) – it’s positivity all the way.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

Size simultaneous blessing and curse, say parents and children. Limited pool of friends can make things tricky if there’s a falling out. Even with the option of staying on for A levels, pupils we spoke to in years 10 and 11 would prefer to move on after GCSEs. Benefits are massive, however, including many delightful small touches, like choosing a gift from the birthday bucket. As pupils at the large senior school next door lined up in silence after break (some windows here overlook their playground), contrast with those here forming a spontaneous, pleasantly chatty crowd to add their views to those of our tour guides was very marked.

Atmosphere of ‘courteous informality’ between teachers and pupils – first names all round – helps children ‘understand nature of respect and adopt empathetic and respectful attitude’. Forward-thinking policies include one on ChatGTP (sanctions for cheats, responsible use and critical thinking encouraged), though the most complained about is the complete ban on phones which applies to all, some adult visitors showing a less than best version of themselves when presented with locker key and ultimatum.

Every parent we talked to spoke of feeling part of a family (often with nicer siblings) and it’s civilised here, from distribution of house points – ‘No publish shaming – we never compare children [by saying] who got most’ – to freedom to talk on the stairs – ‘because we’d let adults do it,’ says Ms Meyer. ‘Children all look after each other, your year group is irrelevant,’ says a parent.

Kindness matters and it’s also taught: ‘I don’t think any of us are naturally kind,’ says Ms Meyer. Nasty looks or comments are challenged, sensible rules enforced (whole class must be invited to birthday parties so nobody feels excluded), and positive role modelling among staff is a regular feature (‘I’m very happy to hug a member of staff in front of the children,’ says Ms Meyer). If behaviour falls short, may result in detention but it will always be ‘made really clear what has happened and discussed’.

Firm where needed, though. Zero tolerance for physical aggression or verbal abuse from either child or parent. Can result in instant, permanent family exclusion. Leeway, though, for new pupils. ‘If they have been at a big state school it will take two weeks to start being a child again,’ says Ms Meyer. ‘May try to push boundaries – but we have very nice boundaries so children can start being who they are. It’s not about beating the system but about collaboration.’ Will talk to children who have made poor choices away from the classroom. ‘Don’t label them as bad, always a chance to make things better.’

Impact of approach ‘hard to quantify’, says staff member, ‘but when you see older kids helping younger ones with homework they’re struggling with, not because they’ve been told to but because they want to… can’t help but think that it must be down to things we’re doing right.’ Parents shared similar stories of kindness shining through – such as competitors in recent sports day race turning back so a straggler could win.

Pupils and parents

Not on the radar of Notting Hill financiers, but otherwise all sorts – creative types to scientists (recent careers talks featured a dentist, rocket scientist and civil engineer). Many parents work full time and praise ‘fantastic’ wraparound care. Regular coffee mornings, ice- and roller-skating, school known to arrange ad hoc after-school drinks for new families.

Pupils meet you as equals, unfazed by strangers, engaged and interested. Proactive, too – known to organise own playdates. ‘Some children are quiet, others demonstrative, some with disabilities but everyone gets on together,’ says parent. Small class sizes felt by all to be a boon – though we were told many times that the school deserves to be better known and bigger.

Money matters

Many bursaries in the past (to local children) and will be again but not well endowed and funding is currently at capacity.

The last word

Neither alternative nor a soft touch but a genuinely inclusive, perfectly mainstream school, underpinned by a personalised approach, small classes and a pragmatic kindness that helps everyone in the school community, from pupils to axolotls, to thrive.

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

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.