Northeast London neighbourhoods such as Islington, Hackney and the Docklands have become increasingly popular with young families in recent years, and from the amount of emails I receive asking advice about primary schools in the area, it seems like schools have not been able to keep up with the demand. The Gatehouse School previously featured among our school visits is so oversubscribed some parents can’t even get a place if they register their 6 month old. Other popular prep schools are Charterhouse Square School and the Lyceum, but like many Central London schools, they tend to offer very little outdoor space. St Paul’s Cathedral School is very popular as well, but registration is ideally recommended before a child’s first birthday (at birth is best).
A little relief has been provided by the opening of the Faraday School in the Docklands as part of the New Model School group (I have mentioned the school in the list of most affordable Central London private schools). A slightly more alternative choice is the Dallington School in Islington,where pupils don’t wear a school uniform and call teachers by the first name. It is strong in the arts and pastoral care and popular with liberal families. Even further on the alternative spectrum is the Gower School which has a very popular Montessori nursery school, while word on the street seems to be that the main school does very well for some children but not so well for others.
Particularly in the borough of Islington, you can also find many highly rated state primary schools if you manage to live within shrinking catchment areas. The community primaries William Tyndale, Canonbury and Thornhill all perform highly and seem to get excellent parent reviews. If you happen to be working in Canary Wharf, don’t forget you could live in North London neighbourhoods St John’s Wood or Hampstead and commute via the modern Jubilee Line.
What do parents do when they can’t get a place at oversubscribed state primaries or prep schools or they are looking for a school with better facilities and outdoor space? One school that is already popular with East London families following the 11+ and increasing in popularity during the primary years due to its bus service to London boroughs of Docklands, Hackney, Islington and East Ham is the Forest School, located on the edge of Epping Forest in north east London. Its beautiful campus is built around the School’s original Georgian and Victorian buildings and is surrounded by green space.
Forest is one of the few diamond structure schools in the country. This means that whilst both boys and girls are admitted to the School, they are taught in single-sex classes at key stages of their education (a model you can also find at the Garden House School in Chelsea). 1,290 pupils are in the Preparatory School, Girls’ School or Boys’ School. Classes are small; 16 pupils in the Pre-Prep and from Year 3 this rises to 22 in the Prep years. From the age of four pupils are taught in co-educational classes, and then at the age of seven they move into single-sex classes (until they are united again in the coeducational Sixth Form).
Sarah Kerr-Dineen, Warden of Forest School, explains: “We believe that our combination of single-sex and mixed educational opportunities gives our pupils the best of all worlds. Forest School is three schools in one – within each, the Form and House system means that pupils are looked after in small units of care. Life is not a single-sex environment, however, and a child’s social development involves learning to form relationships with a wide range of people. ”
Opportunities beyond the curriculum are numerous and diverse: Every pupil in the Prep School will learn a musical instrument for at least a year and providing pupils with opportunities to perform in public is an important aspect of building confidence. Throughout the year there are concerts, chapel services, class assemblies and drama productions involving as many pupils as possible.