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Broad curriculum, based on 4D approach to learning (metacognition, character, skills and knowledge), delivered both through digital learning and outdoor education. ‘It’s so satisfying to be outside,’ said one pupil, fondly recounting tales of woodland adventures on Wimbledon common. Inside, we saw highly interactive lessons - in English, children were engaged in vigorous debate while year 5s practised entertaining tongue twisters in French. The 10 Thomas’s values - beginning with kindness and ending in being ‘givers, not takers’ - adorn walls throughout. Emphasis on producing decent pupils is seminal...

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Since 2022, Ben Thomas, who came back after a previous stint of 18 years as head. Attended Eton, then Durham University (English), followed by short spell in the City before joining Thomas’s Clapham as form teacher. After a year, took on headship of Thomas’s Kensington, thence to Battersea. Stepped aside in 2017 to build up the school to an all-though institution. When nearby property deal fell through, senior school went ahead at Putney Vale, currently to age 16. Correctly sensing feeling that ‘eyes had been taken off the pre-test ball,’ Mr Thomas thought it wise to return. Good move, agree parents. Immersed in education from young age (his mother started the nursery school when he was 2 and the Thomas’s empire grew from there), he says he takes ‘a generational long-term view - what should education look like in the future? I find that really fascinating.’

A dynamo – albeit a composed one - of energy, he exudes kindness and reassurance and does not shy away from tackling difficult issues, critically the dismissal of one of the school’s deputy heads in 2022, who had been at the school for two months and has now been convicted of child sex abuse abroad over the internet (there is no implication that any abuse of children at Thomas’s ever took place). Parents are satisfied that he ‘confronted it head on’ and that the school had carried out ‘every check it should and could.’ They clearly like and respect him: ‘He’s so open and honest,’ ‘I have so much faith in him,’ ‘He’s very good at communication.’ Staff equally keen: ‘You’d never think he owned the place.’ ‘He just lets you get on with it and will support all new initiatives – if he thinks they’re good.’

His office, close to the main entrance, is warm and welcoming, as well as ordered, clean and crisp. Large French windows opening onto playground, offer ideal observation post. Regretfully no longer has time to teach (English), but ‘he’s always around,’ confirmed a parent. Very much the case during our visit - he even stepped in to serve coffee to prospective parents. Children like that he takes school service every Thursday at nearby St Mary’s, as well as ‘the funniest assemblies,’ told us one. Keen to know all children by name, he found this a challenge after his absence, but one he has plainly surmounted.

Married with three children in their 20s. Loves music.


Registration for the 66 reception places opens in the September following child’s first birthday. List closes when numbers reach 180. Entrance into reception not by formal testing but ‘discovery sessions’ (assessment via group-based activities) in November before entry. No point in trying to prepare, say parents – you just can’t. Strong sibling priority, in keeping with family ethos. Don’t despair if you only get onto reserve list: London demographics frequently free up spaces. Around 25 places become available at 11+, two-thirds snapped up by Thomas’s Kensington. Assessment in ‘discovery days’ in January of year 6 for all other applicants. Informal interview, online test and group discussion, plus positive recommendation from current school. Offers made in February. Always worth enquiring about occasional places.


Around 25 leave at 11+ (more girls than boys), all swiftly replaced by newcomers. Both at 11+ and 13+, around two-thirds to day schools, the rest (30 odd) to boarding schools. ‘There’s been a real flip over the last 10 years,’ says head, ‘it used to be the other way round, with two-thirds to boarding schools.’ Girls at 11+ mainly to St Paul’s, JAGS, Alleyn’s, Woldingham, Putney High, and Godolphin. Boys at 11+ to Brambletye, Lambrook, Ludgrove, Cheam and other prep schools. Huge range of destinations at 13+, including Brighton, Wellington, Marlborough, Charterhouse, Cranleigh and Bradfield (boys and girls); Dulwich, Eton, King’s and St Paul’s (boys); Benenden, Downe House, Sherborne Girls and St Mary’s Ascot (girls). In 2023 a third of leavers headed to Thomas's Putney Vale. Advice around senior school much lauded by parents: ‘You’re clearly told what’s what.’ ‘The school really knows its stuff.’

Our view

Once you’ve got past the predictable congestion on the narrow road at drop-off and pick-up, the school – though ‘big and busy,’ as one staff member puts it – feels ordered and friendly. Housed in a former purpose-built Edwardian board school, visitors (having handed in their mobiles to be stowed in lockers) are welcomed into a large, bright entrance combining the sturdy solidity of its origins with gleaming new additions. Lime clearly a favourite Thomas colour, with an emphasis on aesthetics throughout.

Outdoor fulcrum of school is the courtyard haven. Constantly in use, it has an unexpectedly calming effect - a far cry from the enormous bustling AstroTurf playground, peering onto inner-city skyscape, with its exciting playground furniture and multiple water fountains. Still, there’s a quieter playground area for those in search of a bit more peace, and it can be discreetly divided into two to avoid collisions between big and small. Twice daily sessions here help release excess energy.

The three classes of 22 children are shuffled every two years, rising to four classes in year 7. Broad curriculum, based on 4D approach to learning (metacognition, character, skills and knowledge), delivered both through digital learning and outdoor education. ‘It’s so satisfying to be outside,’ said one pupil, fondly recounting tales of woodland adventures on Wimbledon common. Inside, we saw highly interactive lessons - in English, children were engaged in vigorous debate while year 5s practised entertaining tongue twisters in French (this and Spanish are the main languages taught although years 3 to 6 also have ‘language and culture’ lessons, in which they explore a range of different languages). Classics from year 7. ‘I just love the languages here!’ enthused one boy. Well-stocked libraries (upper and lower) cosy and comfortable. We saw children lounging on colourful sofas, devouring well-thumbed books. While nobody would suggest the school hothouses, head confirms that it has upped the ante on pre-tests at age 11, while retaining a balance with everything else. Parents think he has achieved this. Specialist teachers from year 4 with setting in maths and English - ‘discreetly done,’ said a parent.

Recently expanded learning enrichment department boasts separate heads for lower, middle and senior. About 25 per cent of pupils are on the SEN register, boosted by one-to-one literacy and maths support (costs extra) by specialist teachers trained to minimum of level 5. Visiting OT, physio and SaLT therapists. ADHD, autism, dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia all catered for. Parents say the department does a ‘fantastic job’ at ‘instilling confidence,’ and say there’s no stigma – ‘The children just think it’s normal.’ Large number of bilingual children (mainly European), with around 25 receiving EAL support.

While the school could possibly feel overwhelming to tiny newcomers, there is a nurturing atmosphere from start. Children in reception allocated a year 2 buddy. Teachers warm and cuddly. We saw one pupil sprint to his former teacher, arms outstretched. ‘They know the children so well, they’ll do anything to make life happier,’ said a parent. One was encouraged to bring her anxious daughter in early, ‘just to settle her in - it’s worked wonders.’ Reception begins gently, first fortnight mornings only. Classrooms, manned by teacher and TA, colourful and purposeful, with interconnecting doors, rolled back when we visited.

The 10 Thomas’s values - beginning with kindness and ending in being ‘givers, not takers’ - adorn walls throughout. Emphasis on producing decent pupils is seminal to head: ‘Unless they’re good people, we’ve failed,’ he says. ‘Be kind’ is the poignant and simple message here, and literally cast in stone above an entrance. School at vanguard of wellbeing and mindfulness since inception, and head reinforces that he wants ’children to take the education they’ve had out into the world to make it a better place.’ Leads by example, being trustee not only of Thomas’s Foundation (aiming to offer enriching education to all, in Nepal and local community) but also chairman of Katherine Low Settlement (fostering community spirit in Battersea to reduce isolation.) Partnership with Fulham primary led to establishment of Thomas’s Academy, firmly boasting unicorn brand. ‘The children here need to understand the wider world,’ insists head – and, on the whole, they seem to. Short shrift given to those who forget manners, with head telling us of ‘one sad day’ when a local resident reported that several pupils failed to say ’thank you’ in a local shop - ‘They’ll be hearing about it.’ Weekly church service sees different years enacting stories from Bible, though school not overtly religious.

As nurturing lower years cede to more formally structured higher years, charming blue and red uniform cedes to more conventional blazer and trousers or (sometimes very short) skirt. Children in years 7 and 8, currently shuttling between Putney Vale and Battersea, return to base from September 2023. Recent upheavals undoubtedly ‘ruffled feathers,’ pointed out a parent. For those who weren’t contemplating the school as a senior school, ‘it wasn’t really an issue,’ but others ‘went completely crazy,’ contended another, ‘and I can see it would’ve been annoying.’ Stability now seems set to return.

Children’s artwork hangs everywhere. Tonal animal portraits particularly pleasing. Drama prominent from reception, who put on much-cherished nativity play. Year 5 manage their own production, producing own music, drama, dance and words, happy result of carousel timetable, ensuring children experience whole gamut of creative arts. For those not keen on spotlight, masses of behind-the-scenes opportunities: ‘Everybody does something.’ Magnificent old hall morphed into a fully-equipped capacious theatre, which pupils appreciate: ‘We’re so lucky to have it - I just love the drama here,’ said one, pointing to the remaining props for recent Frozen production. Music buzzes. Almost two-thirds learn an instrument (available from year 1). Unicorn choir for all which, together with myriad other choral options, culminate in auditioned Songbirds and senior school choristers. Recent tour to Italy supplemented frequent domestic appearances, at Albert and Cadogan Halls, to name but two. Ensembles and orchestras abound.

Sports curriculum now unisex – and all the better for it, say parents. Either onsite or at Barn Elms, hockey, rugby, netball, football and cricket are played by all. Swimming at Latchmere Centre on alternate weeks first two years, once a week thereafter. A-D teams fielded, though some feel more matches could be played in year 3. ‘But things really ramp up in year 4,’ said one. Extracurricular sport includes tennis and athletics. ‘I really wanted a basketball club,’ smiled one year 6 boy, ‘and I got it!’ ‘The school really listens,’ agree parents.

Active PTA, with a rep in every class and further dedicated reps for food, sports, event decorating, books etc. ‘My highlight is the summer fair,’ voiced one, ‘Parents volunteer for all sorts of activities, dress up, read stories, anything, it’s such a family day.’ Parents describe the school as welcoming, with many going in to read. Involvement not obligatory, however - ‘You can be completely involved, or not at all.’ Staff appreciative of the school – always a good sign. ‘It’s such a great place to work,’ one loyalist reported. Impressive number of former pupils return as TAs.

Bright, white (with lime again!) dining room offers self-service lunch, about which a few murmurs - ‘It’s just not very varied,’ explained one pupil. ‘But things are improving, though,’ reckoned another – and new contract caterers have been appointed. Those doing lunchtime clubs eat early, appreciating eating ‘with the little ones.’ Other clubs, from knitting to netball, and film to fencing, optionally available before or after school. Late finish (some not until 6.30pm), followed by over an hour’s homework, can seem daunting but many relish it: ‘You do so many different things with so many different years.’ Annual residential trips, many abroad, and numerous sports trips. Recent acquisition of chalet in Austria set to boost these further.

This is a local school. Many parents (and even more nannies) walk their children in. ‘You see everybody along the way,’ said one. Fleet of liveried buses bring children from further afield. Characteristic London diversity – everyone from royalty (remember Prince George and Princess Charlotte went here) to mere mortals, the majority being grounded, professional dual income families. One father reported a ‘country school’ feel, complimentary for school surrounded by high rise blocks.

Money matters

Fees the norm for the area. Thomas’s Foundation offers bursaries from year 7. Recent sale of minority interest expected to secure financial future and creation of mixed all-through school.

The last word

A prospering and purposeful school, buzzing with vigour. Children are assured, communicative and relaxed and are eager to live up to the school’s aim of taking what they learn out into the world to try to make it a better place. After recent turbulence, we feel assured the ship is now steady and that fair weather lies ahead.

Special Education Needs

Our school in Battersea (London) ensures that the broad curriculum offered is fully accessible to children with special needs/specific learning difficulties. In the light of evidence about a child's particular needs, provision may include: appropriate and effective classroom management plans; ongoing consultation with parents and pupils; developing and maintaining links with other mainstream and special schools; alerting all teachers and support staff to the child's needs; helping the child develop appropriate practices for taking down and recording information eg using laptops; and providing alternative sources of information. Nov 09

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
English as an additional language (EAL)
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class Y
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
VI - Visual Impairment

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