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'The only 1:1 student / teacher ratio college in London'. Students are shoehorned into tiny classrooms (although class sizes are tiny too) and there is definitely an element of the unusual in the workings of this place, but there is also an academic wizard at play here. Each student has an individual timetable and the system is immensely flexible, which must make it a logisitical nightmare for the patient and hugely competent college secretary.  The teachers tend to be stars...

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What the school says...

Established in 1934, Westminster Tutors is one of the oldest tutorial colleges in the country, and is rated as 'Outstanding' in all areas by Ofsted. We are also at the top of the DfE Performance Tables for A levels in the London borough of Kensington & Chelsea.

Since 1934 we have built our reputation on our tutors and they remain our greatest asset today. Our student-teacher ratio is 1:1 and it is our policy to offer a balance of the brightest and best graduates from the top universities with highly qualified teachers who have many years of experience.

What sets us apart from other independent sixth form colleges is that we remain true to our tutorial college origins. Every student's programme of study is individually designed and classes are either one-to-one or in very small groups.

We offer GCSE, A level and retake courses, as well as private tuition and revision for a very wide range of subjects in almost all examination boards. We also offer Oxbridge preparation and are able to draw upon the expertise of our own teachers, many of whom are Oxbridge graduates.

Our students' results are impressive and almost all students go on to university, with over well over half of them going on to the top Russell Group universities each year.
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Cambridge Pre-U - an alternative to A levels, with all exams at the end of the two-year course.

What The Good Schools Guide says


Since September 2023, Sean Doherty, previously deputy head of school/director of studies at North Bridge House Schools. He read secondary education at the University of Alberta in Canada, then gained a master’s in science education at UCL’s Institute of Education and an MBA at Coventry University. Prior to his current position he was assistant principal (assessment) at Harris Academy Bermondsey and deputy head of school/director of studies at North Bridge House Canonbury School as well as acting head of school.


Maximum capacity of 45 students (this can fluctuate by a few yearly), of whom, in any given year, there are likely to be about 30 taking A levels for the first time and the rest doing retakes. Occasionally they enrol people in their early 20s who need to take different or extra qualifications for career or further study. Totally non-selective but students must show aptitude for and commitment to their chosen A level subjects. Majority of the intake are above average academically. They may have found it difficult to succeed in the competitive world of a large, hothouse London day school or have come from another educational system. ‘This was the only option for my son, otherwise he would have flunked out of education altogether,’ one parent told us. A pre-enrolment questionnaire and an interview with the head are required to assess the suitability of potential students and whether they would thrive in this very individual environment – as well as their previous academic performance

They do not take students who have been expelled for serious disciplinary breaches or those who have significant behavioural issues, but are sympathetic to anyone who might have struggled to stay afloat in a larger pond.


Non-selective intake but in 2023 79 per cent of students got into their first choice of university – 42 per cent of those to Russell Group institutions. The majority of people choose the school because they want to make a successful transition from A levels to a top university. This year one student headed to UCLA. However, students have left in the past to do BTEC because it was agreed that this was a better route for them. University application and support is outstanding, with former head teacher of Westminster Tutors, Virginia Maguire, still very much involved in the UCAS application process.

Latest results

In 2023, 32 per cent A*/A at A level (62 per cent A*-B). In 2019 (the last pre-pandemic results), 64 per cent A*/A at A level (86 per cent A*-B).

Teaching and learning

‘The only 1:1 teacher/student ratio college in London that we are aware of,’ says school, ‘which reflects the Oxford tutorial model. This is our unique selling point.’ They add by saying that tutoring is known as something ‘additional to school, but at Westminster Tutors, a single tutor teaches over the entire course.’

The majority of the teaching is one-to-one, but school tries to encourage at least two study groups a week (maximum of four pupils), as a ‘half-way house’ so that students do get some other interaction. However, it is also fine if a student doesn’t want this. Increasingly using a blend of one-to-one and small groups for those in years 12 and 13, although one-to-one only will always remain available on request.

A wide range of subjects on offer from classical Greek to physics and psychology and the school prides itself on being able to cater for obscure requests. For the more mainstream subjects there is a pool of tutors and the school endeavours to match pupil with teacher (which must be a logistical nightmare for the patient and hugely competent college secretary, not least because many of the tutors work elsewhere too). Teachers tend to be stars in their fields with a string of letters after their names that would make most of their profession blush. School recruits mainly by word of mouth and from direct applications, mixing very high-powered people close to retirement (school has recently hired two tutors in their 60s) or only wanting to work part-time, with younger artists, musicians, writers and PhD candidates.

Each student has an individual timetable and the system is immensely flexible - students can even work occasionally from home via remote tuition if preferred. Students praised the teaching and describe the tutors as 'really receptive to feedback; they interact, they don’t just talk at you.’ Parents described the teaching as ‘motivational’ and the flexibility ‘fantastic’. One parent said that due to her son’s ADD, he was unable to cope with too much extra stuff, so the school really pared back the timetable for him. ‘Scaffolding a timetable’ was a term we heard a few times both from staff and parents alike.

The net result of this highly individual (in every sense) and carefully monitored approach is results that exceed those of their competitors in the tutorial field and are impressive by any measure. ‘A phenomenal institution for the right person,’ one extremely satisfied parent told us.

Learning support and SEN

One of the prerequisites for acceptance to the school is that any young person with a mental health issue or with an EHCP has to have support externally. There is no dedicated SENCo as such on site, although two teachers have been fully trained to be mentors.

The arts and extracurricular

Art is everywhere (the hallways and staircases of the college look like the interior of a stately home), but this is not an ‘arty’ school – pictures come from the personal collection of David Game (of the David Game group – a consortium of private schools). However, art classes can be part of a pupil’s bespoke curriculum if this is a subject they are interested in and there is an in-house art teacher offering extracurricular lunchtime classes.

Art, music and English tutorials often include lessons in the real world of art galleries, concerts and stage performances (the location helps – being in the hub of all things cultural) and students can also access the larger premises of the affiliated David Game College in Aldgate: ‘We have students who have guitar and drum lessons up the road, and others who have film nights there as part of their course.’ Students can also be involved in school productions there if they so wish.

The bottom line is, students don’t feel like they are missing out. As one told us, ‘I didn’t come here to be involved in school productions or orchestras, I knew it was a small, personalised place and to be fair, I had made many of my friends before coming here so didn’t feel the need for that.’ Another added, ‘We do have extracurricular activities like ice skating and outings, but it is much less of a sensory overload than my last school, which I like.’


Bearing in mind that the school is above a row of shops in central London with no outside space and that the 40-odd students are not all here on a daily basis, it will not come as a surprise that sports do not feature as a significant part of the curriculum. That said, they try remarkably hard to ensure that students partake in at least one physical activity weekly. Gym sessions on the Kings Road (individual programmes designed for students), swimming offered off site; a five-a-side football team between staff and students; netball sessions and rounders. Staff and students play football, netball and rounders semi-competitively every term for the Westminster Tutors Cup. Other sports are available in competition with local sixth form colleges as part of the CIFE group of schools. For the very adventurous, there is yoga ‘with cats’ offered at their affiliated school. (Yup, that’s what we heard and we didn’t question further!)

Ethos and heritage

One of the oldest tutorial establishments in the country, Westminster Tutors was founded in 1934 ‘by the doughty Miss Freeston’, who studied physics at St Hilda’s College, Oxford, and was one of the first women to graduate from Oxford University. It was her mission to get bright, if lost, teenage girls into Oxbridge, as she realised that young women had very little chance of securing a place at Oxford and Cambridge ‘because they lacked access to academic tutors who could help them prepare for the rigorous entrance exams’.

Miss Freeston’s legendary establishment was a smoke-filled den in Artillery Row in Westminster, with the likes of novelists AS Byatt and Penelope Fitzgerald (both former tutors too) squished together on hairy, sagging sofas amid ‘a rich and pervasive smell of old upholstery and decaying dogs'. A whiff of that anti-establishment reputation still lingers at this quirky very un-schooly establishment, now in the heart of South Kensington.

We visited on a beautiful early autumn day (in fact the day after the Queen’s funeral) and there was a palpable buzz in the air around Sloanesville. We didn’t know what to expect of the school as we walked down the Old Brompton Road, with countless coffee shops and mouth-watering eateries (‘Tesco Metro is still the most popular for our students’). What we didn’t expect was a small, unobtrusive doorway tucked next to a shop, with a narrow and modest hallway leading straight up a flight of stairs.

Yet this building (which is more rabbit warren than conventional educational space) could be a metaphor for the college itself, which is modest in stature but allows its results to do all the talking. Its charm might not be immediately obvious to a parent looking for a polished, modern environment with wide open spaces, but the bright, warm ambience created by both staff and the cosy main reception area are enough to win over the harshest of critics. ‘We now even have a proper dedicated science space,’ say staff (formerly science experiments took place in a galley kitchen).

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

Second to none at Westminster Tutors, and the reason many parents chose this place over others. One parent told us that when her son was feeling very overwhelmed about his exams the previous head spotted him and said, 'Why don’t you come in and let you and me talk about The Tempest?' Others voiced similar thoughts and said that the school has really opened up their child’s mind about things, to the point where they will come home and start a debate: ‘One of the massive benefits of a school this size.’

Pupils, many of whom just couldn’t function healthily in a larger school environment (and as a result missed out on large chunks of their education) are kind and understanding of each other’s space: ‘No one talked at all last year, and that was fine,’ said one. (It was mid-Covid.) There are those pupils who come in just for their individual tutoring and then go home with only minimal interaction, while others are happier to mingle in the common room and chat over tea and biscuits. Bullying of any sort would just not be tolerated (we can’t even imagine it happening) and the school is too small for it to go unnoticed anyway.

Very much the sense that young people are treated like adults: ‘They really listen to us here. If we don’t like a tutor, they take this on board and will try and accommodate as much as possible,’ said one student, but was quick to add, ‘but this doesn’t happen very often.’ One parent commented, ‘There is no stress about the wrong kit here etc. They can focus on the important things.’

Students are aware that they can go to any member of staff if they require help or support and are confident that staff will deal promptly with any concerns. Several parents remarked on the quick response they received if they contacted the school. The only hard and fast rules are about attendance and safety, both of which are seldom a problem.

Pupils and parents

Mostly British residents, but a few from an international background. Over half of enrolments are by word of mouth, a few have been recommended by former teachers in other schools and a few alumni have sent their children here, wanting them to have the same experience they had. A smattering of offspring from well-known names in the world of showbiz and high-ranking ministerial positions (Helena Bonham Carter a former student).

The intake tends to come from a mixture of top public schools and London state schools, plus a few working young people, such as models and actors, as the adaptable teaching provision means they can arrange it around their jobs.

There is no obvious archetypal parent although most tend to be successful in their fields or professions. It can be an option for parents of fairly modest means as some pupils only need to attend for a year to get back on track or be helped into a top university.

Money matters

Inevitably not a cheap option but compared to alternatives with larger classes it offers value for money. School says that, given the individualised tuition it offers, the school really is incomparable to its contemporaries. However, they add that being able to provide bursaries in the future is high on their list of priorities. School offers some students with an EHCP free mentoring and discounts.

The last word

Classrooms are tiny (although class sizes are tiny too) and there is definitely an element of the unusual in the workings of this place, but there is also academic wizardry. Some may hanker after more facilities, but the students lack for nothing when it comes to teaching or encouragement in learning how to learn. Suits a certain type and that type flourishes at Westminster Tutors.

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

We have a long history of being able to help students who need extra attention and they achieve remarkable results with us. Groups are very small, often one to-one-tuition, and specialist SEND mentoring is available. Our approach, and the dedication and experience of our tutors, means our students make rapid and significant progress as well as successful transitions to higher education. We are also dedicated to the principles of inclusion and diversity, with each and every one of our students being welcomed and valued. We have been able to accommodate students with neurological differences (such as autism and ADHD), learning difficulties (SpLD), or mental health issues, which may mean they have found mainstream school a challenge. Wherever possible we will also make adjustments for physical disabilities. Please note that we have a maximum of 4 spaces each year for students with more complex needs who will need a higher level of support.

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
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class
HI - Hearing Impairment
Hospital School
Mental health Y
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
PD - Physical Disability Y
PMLD - Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty
SEMH - Social, Emotional and Mental Health Y
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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