The special appeal of the South

Posted on 4th Aug 2015 in Which London School?

Angela Drew, Headmistress of Bromley High School GDST, says close proximity to London opens a world of possibilities to young learners...

London is the beating heart of Britain – its wealth, political power and creative dynamism pump the lifeblood into the nation. Little wonder then that so many young professionals from the UK and around the world are drawn to the capital with all its myriad career opportunities and cultural riches.

When those ambitious young professionals become parents, they naturally seek to educate their children in the capital or the greener spaces of the suburbs and the wider South East. Parents of children of school age rapidly become aware of the unprecedented demand for places in independent schools in London and the South East.

Fortunately, the desire for independent school places is not driven by dissatisfaction with the state system. Several of the Home Counties and Greater London boroughs retain the grammar school system allowing parents of academically able pupils access to an entirely free education in a high performing grammar school. 
In London itself, in the short space of just eight years, the GCSE results gained by state schools have been transformed from the worst of all the nine English regions to the best. Indeed, if the English and Maths results for London schools were extracted from the PISA rankings (Programme for International Student Assessment), then London would be placed 17th in the internal rankings rather than the 27th place merited by the nation as a whole. As the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, observed ‘London ... is leading the pack for educational reforms and improving results.’ 

Thus what motivates parents seeking to educate their children in independent schools in London and its surrounding counties is not a rejection of state provision but a positive choice for something bespoke and suited to their individual child’s interests and needs. It represents not only an awareness of the unrivalled quality of independent schools in this area but an appreciation of the exceptional range and choice of first class schools with global reputations within an easy distance of the capital. Choice is inevitably at the heart of the parental decision to opt for an independent education and stronger competition from a reinvigorated state sector has only served to make independent schools with long established traditions of academic excellence more imaginative and more innovative in the curriculum they offer. 

The sheer concentration of excellent schools in the South East of England makes it imperative for schools in this area to be able to articulate clearly what makes the education that they offer so special. The organisation to which my own school belongs, the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST) sponsors some dozen schools working collaboratively across London and the South East – all high-performing, academically selective girls’ day schools
 – yet the Heads of each one of those schools would be able to talk at length about what makes their school entirely distinctive and unique. 

A reputation for outstanding education relies on excellent teaching. Schools in London and the Home Counties benefit from the tremendous advantage of having access to an enormous pool of potential teaching talent. London is home to some of the country’s finest world class universities – Imperial, The LSE and UCL which incorporates the Institute of Education, the largest teacher training institution in the UK training more than 1,500 students every year. Intelligent, enthusiastic teachers are essential to the success of independent schools, teachers who love their subject, whose subject expertise and enthusiasm are infectious. The curricular freedom enjoyed by independent schools allows teachers to spend some portion of each lesson off-piste – covering the ground more rapidly and with more brio than those teachers who confine children to the well-worn tracks of the nursery slopes. And excellent teaching can be supplemented by lectures and visits and workshops from the extraordinary number of leading academics and experts who live and work in London and the South East.

London itself, its architecture, extraordinary history and unique place on the national and global stage, is an inspirational resource for the schools within its orbit. Just walking through London with its gleaming glass skyscrapers, its multifarious museums, galleries and ancient monuments must inspire children with an awareness that London is the home of many key figures in history, the site of defining events and leading institutions and the setting for some of the most famous works of literature. The inherent opportunities offered by London as an educational resource are recognised in the London Curriculum – an initiative from the Mayor’s Office to encourage students to explore the city, through its museums, galleries, theatres and institutions. Its engaging and interesting modules make creative use of the city’s landscape and cultural heritage. English units include ‘Tales of the river’ featuring writers such as Charles Dickens and Oscar Wilde and ‘The London limelight’ exploring stories from London theatre. In art the ‘Riverscape’ module will look at art history through paintings of the River Thames and ‘London People’ introduces portraiture through the medium of London artists and subjects.

As students progress towards Sixth Form, London’s status as a global city becomes an increasingly exciting resource to be exploited and enjoyed. Ready access to the infinite variety of careers in London’s highly skilled, international, competitive and creative industries and professions becomes a precious advantage, creating endless opportunities for internships, insight days, work experience and work related learning which both fuel and facilitate ambitious career aspirations. 

Perhaps the most attractive aspect of educating your child in an independent school on the edge or at the centre of a global city is the promise of an expansive education which will offer your child the best of both worlds: a guarantee of individual care and support inculcating traditional moral values and achieving excellent academic results which are the timeless staples of an independent school education combined with an inspirational exposure to one of the most vibrant, diverse and extraordinary cities on earth.

For more information about Bromley High School, click here.