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Reading is taken seriously and a reading wall records numbers of books read by each boy during the term. For the group of pupils who reads the most, a huge bag of sweets awaits. Library is enticing: jam packed with adventure books and offset by jazzy mood lighting. Every Friday morning reception boys head for the forest school where they build dens, climb trees and jump in muddy puddles. Emphasis on impeccable manners: boys are expected to shake their teacher’s hand and look them in the eye as they say goodbye at the end of each day...

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What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since 2009, Greg Evans BSc MA PGCE. Was director of studies at Sussex House for five years and at Kings House Richmond for nine years before that. Early 50s. Genuinely loves his job and lives for the school. ‘I always put the boys first. I keep their interests front and centre when making any decisions,’ he explains. Wife is Icelandic, and they regularly escape to their place in Reykjavík. Teenage son and daughter. Self-confessed sports nut. Recently taken up spinning at the gym in an attempt to stay fit. Currently enjoying the challenge of learning the trumpet for first time. ‘I am not an empire-builder, but I like to think I have improved the place.’ Boys adore him; parents hold him in high esteem. An exceptionally dedicated head.

Entrance

Non-selective. First 18 to register are guaranteed a place. Siblings very rarely turned down – ‘there would have to be something spectacularly wrong, as family is at the core of what we do.’ Places generally fill up three years in advance with bulging waiting lists, so sensible to put names down as soon as possible. Not unknown for parents to check out the school before their son is born. Occasional places further up the school are snapped up quickly. ‘We could probably almost double in size tomorrow, but we wouldn’t be the same school. People come to us for a reason. We are the only single-sex, single-form boys’ prep school in south west London and we are not giving up that niche on my watch!’ states head.

Exit

Eton, Hampton School, St Paul's, Winchester, Wellington, Bradfield, Harrow and Dulwich College currently the most popular destinations, with others off in ones to eg Millfield and Sherborne. Head states, ‘We make sure that the boys go to a school that is suitable for them. I tell parents very plainly to their faces that if I think they are trying to send their son to a school where they are going to be unhappy, that this will effectively be a mental scar on them all the way into adulthood.’ Parents feel head knows their sons inside out and that he offers well-informed advice. Robust numbers of art, music, drama and sports scholarships. Vast majority stays through until 13; only a handful has left at 11 in the last few years.

Our view

School is located on a residential street in East Sheen, on the edge of Richmond Park. No rolling acres but school is creative with space it does have. The façade is not beautiful, though the new build for reception pupils is a great improvement on the Victorian privies that it has replaced.

Warm, happy, family feel to the school, but it is nevertheless ambitious. One form entry with 18 in reception, roughly 20 per class thereafter. One mother commented that its small size was one of its selling points: ‘Boys all know each other well and that gives them confidence.’

Junior and senior sections on same site, with plenty of interaction between the two. Older boys hear younger ones read and help them out at lunchtime. A healthy amount of hero worship goes on. Junior school considered to be gentle by parents, a place where little boys can be little boys. Every Friday morning reception boys head for the forest school where they build dens, climb trees and jump in muddy puddles. Some parents we spoke to felt that the transition from one part of the school to the other was hard: ‘It’s a big leap to go from such a nurturing junior school to a full-speed London prep at the end of year 3, but this has to happen at some stage.’

Emphasis on impeccable manners: boys are expected to shake their teacher’s hand and look them in the eye as they say goodbye at the end of each day. Head wants them to look back on their prep school with a sense of pride. ‘We send well rounded, polite but humble young men on to their next schools.’

House system is at the centre of the school. Boys are apparently more scared of getting a rocket from their head of house than the headmaster. ‘They don’t want to let the side down. We’re a small school and it is very apparent if you stick your head above the parapet. We have a sense of collective responsibility here’. Community spirit is important. Pupils play music at local care homes, clear the river bank of weeds and regularly raise money for charity.

No academic scholarship class ‘as it would be divisive and that goes against everything that we stand for.’ If a child is sitting a scholarship, then teachers put on supplementary lessons as necessary. Though uncommon here, head believes that tutoring is a mistake: ‘If your son needs to be tutored to the hilt to squeeze into a school then you’re doing him a disservice and you are setting him up for a fall in the future’. Head aims to deliver a bespoke education, ‘a Harley Street approach’.

Most able boys are well stretched, with setting in some subjects from year 3 onwards. According to one mother, the top set for Latin in year 8 certainly gallops along at a fair crack. One parent commented that ‘if your son is clever, he will do very well at Tower House. The average boy finds it a little harder.’ Another disagreed and felt that, given its non-selective intake, the school caters successfully for all abilities.

Reading is taken seriously and a reading wall records numbers of books read by each boy during the term. For the group of pupils who reads the most, a huge bag of sweets awaits. Library is enticing: jam-packed with adventure books and offset by jazzy mood lighting.

Currently 35 have some sort of mild special educational need, usually dyslexia. Small group booster sessions offered; 10 per cent receive individual support from full-time SENCo. Rare for a boy to need support throughout his time here.

Very successful on sports front. The envy of every other prep school in London with its access to the Bank of England’s beautifully manicured sports grounds, just a stone’s throw away. Excellent sports tuition from a host of specialist coaches. Head smiles, ‘We’ve moved away from the enthusiastic history teacher coaching the first XI!’ School is particularly strong at cricket, reflected in its eagerly-anticipated biennial sports tour to Barbados. All senior boys included, irrespective of sporting prowess. All boys from years 3 to 8 make a team of some sort. One father stated that ‘Tower House can hold its own with the great names in the prep school landscape.’

‘Art in every form is stretched and pushed here and it constantly amazes me. If you are creative you should come to us,’ states head. Inspirational art teacher is supported by two talented artists in residence. Fantastic DT – boys keen to get out the saws, vices and hammers at every opportunity. Music is thriving too and 80 per cent learns an instrument. There is something for everyone on the music front including numerous choirs and ensembles.

Drama deservedly gets the headlines. Head beams when he talks about the drama here: ‘I have the most gifted head of drama in the country. Boys will crawl over broken glass for him. He has ambitions for the boys which many other people wouldn’t even consider. We see how far we can push it’. To date, Tower House is the only school, prep or senior, that has produced a full-length feature film which premiered in the West End. Head explains, ‘We don’t try to replicate that every year, though, as it would take over and we’d get a reputation for being a bunch of luvvies!’ Head sees drama productions as being great team-building exercises as everyone can contribute, from the uber-confident thespian who delivers impassioned speeches to the lower-key boys who would rather focus on props or lighting. The current record is 91 boys involved in one performance. Here, as elsewhere, school lives by its motto of ‘an opportunity for every boy’. Starry ex-pupils include comedian Jack Whitehall and actor Robert Pattinson.

Pastoral care is a priority. School has ring-fenced well-being and resilience sessions every half term. Boys are encouraged to de-stress regularly, whether through yoga classes, practising meditation or running before school in Richmond Park. ‘We aim to give the boys the toolkit by which they can face the pressures of modern life’. Head has noticed outside pressures on the boys are increasing, not only academically but also on the co-curricular front, such as selection for sports teams and musical ensembles. ‘Parents sometimes over-expect,’ he laments.

Current clubs include debating, chess, touch-typing, sewing and maths games. One parent we spoke to felt that the clubs on offer could be more ambitious and less sport-centric.

Mostly professional families. Both parents tend to work. Excellent communication between school and home. Parents give talks to boys about their careers, in a variety of fields including medicine, law and journalism. Cosmopolitan mix, including significant numbers of Scandinavians and Spaniards at present. Head has introduced a grandparents’ day and thinks it is important to involve them in their grandchildren’s education, particularly as so many of them foot the fees.

Money matters

School aims to make fees as all-inclusive as possible, so parents do not have to keep reaching for the cheque book throughout the term. Unlike many schools, learning support lessons, clubs and residential trips are not seen as extras. Full and part funded means-tested bursaries available from year 3.

The last word

A remarkably inclusive school that feels like a traditional boarding prep. One mother commented that ‘it does what it says on the tin. It prepares them very well for senior school’. Another parent went further: ‘The headmaster and his staff have one single objective – that of educating boys to the highest possible standard, whilst nurturing extracurricular talent, instilling courtesy and the highest moral values.’ Undoubtedly, Tower House is thriving.

Special Education Needs

At Tower House we have a SENCo who monitors boys requiring learning support. Boys are withdrawn mainly from English for their English support lessons. Boys receive support lessons before school or during timetabled slots. Support lessons are taught 1:1, or in small groups according to the boys' needs. The SENCo liaises closely with staff, parents and relevant outside agencies.

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

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