Honeywell Infant and Junior School is one of those well known and oversubscribed state primary schools in London, which is why I was in two minds about writing this review. You already have to live within 150 metres to have any chance of a place at this school, so I don’t want to make the situation worse by publicising it. But what can we do, my mission is to provide transparency for parents who want to learn about the best schools in London, so I decided to visit Honeywell on its recent open day for prospective parents and get the insider view.
Honeywell School is located in the heart of Nappyvalley, just off Northcote Road. Just a five minute walk from Belleville Primary, another outstanding state primary, this area attracts many young parents strategically choosing a house in the right catchment area. This has gotten so extreme that the council has now proposed changing admissions criteria so that siblings will only receive a place if they still live within 500 metres of the school at the time of application.
At the same time, you can very much feel that there is a hard core of original loyalresidents who are very involved in their schools. On the way to the open day, one could spot many groups of mums discussing the latest gossip. But French was clearly another important language at the school gate, as well as a bit of Russian. Honeywell School has a reputation for being an informal school, and it is one of the few state primaries in this side of town that does not require children to wear a school uniform. Apart from the school uniform, it is noticeable that the playful and creative approach from the Early Year Foundation Stage carries on into Years 1 and 2, in line with the school’s ethos to develop a love for learning in the children. The most striking feature of the school are its spacious and adventurous outdoor facilities that include climbing frames, a pirate ship, a pond, and many others. Because I recently met a couple who were adamant they could only send their children to private schools in London because state school playgrounds were always just sad concrete patches, you can see pictures of the school playground in this post to give you an idea what a state school playground can look like. Many private schools in London can only dream of such a playground.
While the school fosters an informal environment, all the children I met were noticeably well behaved, friendly and well spoken. Quite a few of the children I spoke to had joined the school not in the nursery or Reception but in higher year groups. The school is oversubscribed, but as one teacher explained, being in London, there are always people moving to the country or abroad, so occasional vacancies tend to arise frequently, which is good news for those on the waiting list.
Many teachers at the school seemed very committed and proud of their school, and they had been at the school for a very long time. Many parents seem equally proud and involved, making this very much a school with strong community links and parent support, which may explain some of its success, along with the experienced and enthusiastic teachers.
In the higher year groups, work starts to look more serious and formal, as children prepare for the SATS, their Wandsworth Test or the 11+ exams. According to one parent, about 40% of the children move on to private secondary schools. Of those who move to state schools, the new Bollingbroke Academy as well as Graveney School are the most popular choices. Those who go private tend to opt for nearby Emmanuel School in Clapham or South London schools such as JAGS, Alleyn’s, Dulwich College or Whitgift.
In conclusion, this is a happy, creative school with dedicated and enthusiastic staff and parents. The facilities are second to none. It is a busy and informal school, so it might not suit the quiet child who thrives in a structured or calm environment, but for many children, especially those who like action, freedom and exploration, this is a great place to start their education.
Admissions: Honeywell Infant School has a nursery class that accepts children in the September following their 3rd birthday. Applications are made directly to the school. There are morning, afternoon and a few full-time places. A place in the nursery does not guarantee a place in the main school, though most children move on to the main school from here. Siblings usually take many of the Reception places, the remaining places are allocated based on distance, as in most community primary schools. Being located in the Nappyvalley with many families living in adjacent houses, only those living within 100 – 150 metres tend to get offered places in the Reception classes here.