London Property - Home of Super Prime

Navigating your way to the right day school in London | Garden House School

June 29, 2022 London Property - Home of Super Prime Season 4 Episode 18
London Property - Home of Super Prime
Navigating your way to the right day school in London | Garden House School
Show Notes Transcript

When looking for a day school, the most important thing is making the right choice as a parent and family. We discussed this topic with the two heads of Garden House School in Chelsea, Mr. Jameson, and Mrs. Studd.

Their first advice is to visit the school in person to get a sense of the spirit of the school and understand its ethos and values. No child will remember the school because of its facilities, but rather because of what the school had to offer, the other pupils there, and the staff.

Having a selection of schools and putting the child at the centre of this decision is equally important.
Beyond the curriculum, the critical points of an education path are those learning dispositions, those ways of thinking, those habits of mind, and interdisciplinary skills, such as critical thinking and collaboration. They become as crucial as the subjects themselves.

Garden House is a unique, family-run school for girls and boys between the ages of 3 and 11. From the age of 4, the girls and boys are taught separately for most academic lessons, but they have numerous opportunities to interact with each other during the school day.

As always we love to hear your feedback. How was your experience with day schools in London? Share your thoughts and comments with us on our social media platforms or email us at  

At London Property, we use our experience, expertise, and deep-rooted relationships to connect super-prime property owners and tenants with hand-picked experts. We also aim to inform and entertain Londoners through content across multiple platforms.

Interviewer - Farnaz Fazaipour  | Property Investment & Ownership


Hello, and welcome to London Property, home of super prime. I'm your host Farnaz Fazaipour. And today we're very excited to be speaking to the two heads of Garden House School in Chelsea, Mr. Jameson, and Mrs. Studd. Welcome to the show. 

Good morning, nice to see you, nice to see you.

So let's start from the beginning, we're going to try and address some of the questions that come up for a lot of parents when they're facing the anxieties of navigating their way to the London day school. So let's start by talking to new parents of a newborn.

Well, it's all uncommon, really, for us to actually have a call from someone who has literally just given birth, to ask about registration. So it is something that our registrar has some sort of weekly experience of, but I mean, it's a very, very young time.

It is it is a there's a lot of choice out there as well. So I understand as a parent myself, why you might start thinking it at such a young age, you've newborn baby, but the most important thing is to make the right choice for you as a parent and as a family. And we would, the first thing we would always say is, visit the school get a feel for all the schools that you might be interested in.

I think an in person visit is essential, really, it's a non negotiable for roles, it's very important that the parent has seen the school and spoke to the people they need to speak to has a real sense, not just in terms of the logistics of where the school is, but but of you know, they've got that sense of the spirit of the school. They understand its ethos, they sort of buy into its values. So visit there is there is no substitute, I think for an in person visit. And I think there's a lot of information out there with various consultants and advisors generally looking to support parents through this process. But but our advice would be to contact the schools directly. We all have wonderful registrar's, it's very important to make that first step and register your interest.

Yeah, make sure you're choosing something that is going to be right for you. Don't listen to the so much about what your friends may be doing. Because what's right for them isn't necessarily right for you. And you'll end up with a list of sort of non negotiables that you'll be looking at as a parent and go actually that is the right fit for us. No child looks back in their later life and goes, I love that school because of its facilities, again, remembered if they've had a happy time here, and that they've really embraced what the school has had to offer in terms of learning and the staff and the other pupils here, rather than the facilities.

Yes, definitely. They don't they never see that children do they. So it's not too early is is what I'm reading between the lines, actually delegates.

You've got a bee in your bonnet. If you really feel that you want to get that ball rolling. I think it's no bad idea to get your name on some lists and come and have a look around.

We we do have calls from parents or we have had girls and parents actually on their way to the hospital. You know, it's that is too early?

Possibly, yes, yes, we have actually had old pupils who come back when they are pregnant. Because they're very keen for their child to follow in their footsteps as well. And obviously, we love having our old boys and girls back as well.

Well, that's a huge testament to the ciments for them. So would there be anything different apart from obviously come and see the school and get a feel for it yourself that you would say to families that are relocation to London from abroad? Because obviously they're coming from different systems, different languages. So what would be your advice to those parents?

I think again, I think the crucial thing is obviously coming in person. But I think if the child is a little bit older, they will have more of an idea of what matters to the child, whether particular strengths are what what are their interests and passions. And then they are painting a bigger picture by coming here they can start getting more of a feel for whether we are the right fit for them, and whether their child is going to sort of embrace our very busy timetable and be happy here.

And that's really what we're looking for as much as prospective parents might say well what type of children are you looking for and as as fashionable as it is for heads to say, you know, there is no such thing as the garden house child. We do look for children who are kind we do look for children who are at least open minded to the prospect of wanting to come to school and making the most of its opportunities. And we try and make sure from our end that that's the various happiest, that's the very happiest experience possible.

And it is it is fiercely competitive, isn't it? You are you are finding yourself oversubscribed from beginning to end would you say?

Yes I think at four plus which is obviously our main entry point. We are oversubscribed which is a lovely position to be in but but hard. Obviously don't want to turn people away. And it's very hard to tell with a young child necessarily which way they're going but as Dan has said it's it's much more about the attitude as a family are we the right ethos Do we have the same values as them as a family me that that we're looking for,

we're not going to be a grammar school, whatever that looks to separate children from their parents. On our assessment day that that's very much again, as Sam says, getting, you know, making sure that families are on the same page, they know what the ethos is, they know what values they're buying into them that they believe in those values that runs throughout the school. And it provides us with a useful opportunity to have a chat with that with that boy or that girl and find out about their interests, their strengths, their potential, their their areas for development, and ensure that parents and school are both on the same page. It's the most important thing that that partnership approach. Yeah, we

don't believe in an assessment of a two or three year old, it's very much see them with their family, when they come in. It's very much playing a game, having a conversation, we're not testing them on their ability at that young age.

So it's really a community that all fits in together. Yeah, is what you're looking and you really

feel about here, you I'm sure know, as a parent yourself from here that the community feel is enormous. Here, the whole school really pulls together parents staff, and the pupils all working together for the same aim.

And it's wonderful to be so heavily oversubscribed at that main entrance point for plus given that we are ostensibly a word of mouth school, we're not a school that will ever put its name on the back of a bus or hire billboards or anything, you know that that community sort of the everything that's lived and breathed within these walls happily sort of permeates those walls into local community as well, which is wonderful to be part of.

And the other thing that's really unique about garden house is that it is a school for boys and girls. But they're taught separately. So can you just talk us through that and how you think that that works?

Yes, I mean, I think we are quite unique in our, in our structure,

it's almost word is genuinely unique.

We very firmly believe that offering the curriculum, the classroom based curriculum as single sex means that we get the very best out of our children. And then on top of that, being able to offer them the opportunity to be co ed as well, on everything else pretty much outside of that classroom really does give them the best of both worlds.

Yeah, I think that that, you know, the typical view really of single sex education is it allows you as a school to subvert those potentially harmful gender stereotypes. So it's really more than just boys being boys or girls being girls, it's, as Emma says it's allowing children the opportunity to be to be themselves. And we therefore believe we offer the very best of single sex education relevant to teaching and learning within that classroom environment. But there are also lots of CO Ed opportunities to collaborate throughout the rest of the school day. So the entirety of the CO curriculum programme, so before and after school clubs is open to all to both the children come together for lunch and boys and the girls school in their relevant year groups. Things like residential trips, end of year productions, we believe are so much more than the sum of their parts, we're having both boys and girls there. And while we are just undefined pupils in all, as a school, a reasonably large school, the number of families we have is significantly fewer, because there are so many siblings on the books so many parents who want to send their son to a great old boy school want to send their daughter to a great or girls school and we'd quite like the school run or the same school run or would quite like to buy into the values that we share across our parts of the school.

And one thing is apparent that I noticed when my children left right at the end of of the school and they were boys is that they go to a senior school, that's single sex, but they already have friends that are girls. It has money can be what's what's happening and talking to and you know, these are, these are families that they've known and grown up with. So I think that was another thing that I noticed going around the senior schools, which was very unique compared to

a lot of the other I think those particularly is you know, on top of obviously the the clubs and things like that, that the girls and boys do together. It's those residential trips that they go on from from year three upwards that really cement the friendships. We were lucky this year, our middle school one boys and girls all went for the first time. And it was the most successful trip I think I've ever witnessed. In terms of the fact the boys and the girls just love that opportunity of, of time out of school being together and they've all come home with different friendships. And that will take them all the way through the school and beyond, as you say, Yeah,

you know, it's not just referred to as the best of both worlds just because it's a catchy slogan to have on the website. You know, we genuinely believe that sort of single sex classroom environment and sort of broader COVID opportunities whether it's a co curricular programme or trips, as Emma said, it really is the best of both worlds for our families.

Now you have to deal with a lot of parents is kind of the pressure that everybody feels moving, you know, from prep school to the next schools. So girls and boys have different exit points. And I'm going to ask the question broadly, because obviously, for boys, there is two sets of leaving one at eight, one at 11, for girls generally tends to be delivered. But what would be your advice? Again, I'm sure you're going to say to go and look and get a feel for but what would be your advice? Because a lot of time parents think, Oh, my child must go to that school because you know, it's the brand. But what would be your advice to parents when they're selecting senior schools? And what should they be looking for?

I certainly say to my parents, first of all, make sure you're putting your daughter or son at the centre of your decision making. Really think about, first of all, what made you choose garden house in the first place? What was it about here that made this the right choice for you. And remember, that's probably still very valid when you're moving on to the secondary school. For the girls, in particular, seven plus, there is a lot of choice out there. And it's very important to remember that all of these schools are good, it's very easy to get fixed on one particular group of schools. But all of them offer the most incredible opportunities for our girls of today. So once you get beyond the, these are the crucial things for us as a family go and visit the schools definitely try not to pin too much probably on the head, because heads are transient, it's much more about the feel of the school. And you will end up with a list of the things that for you are the most important for your child, I would always say have a selection of schools, maybe two or three, some have a few more than that. But you want to make sure in your final decision, that you'll be very happy for your daughter or son to be at any of those schools that they are all the right fit for your child, we will hold your hand through the whole process. I've been through it myself, I've got two daughters who are at London day schools, it is a stressful process, not for the child for the parents, they want to make the right decision. So I would really say listen to us, you know, we do know your children, we know the schools incredibly well, we've got a great relationship with all of the schools, and we can really advise you about the right place for your child.

The other thing that I would say is that garden houses in my opinion has always been quite ahead of its time in where education is going. And it is not a hot house. And it is not based on competition, and it is very much designed to get the best out of the child without making them feel compass, you know, affecting their self confidence. So with that in mind, where do you think education is moving towards? You know, because there's, it's so difficult when you when you when you're in it as a parent, to keep not pushing your children do lots of exam papers and study some more and read some more and kind of lose their childhood, which is the sort of opposite of the belief that I felt you have.

I think it's no secret, I think most schools will say the same that happy children thrive. And our core mission is that of a happy well spent childhood and out of that there is inevitable academic success. If anything, we would argue it's a byproduct of that happy and well spent childhood. I think as much as schools, all schools, hopefully look, look to the future and education itself. One of the sort of general trends of the last sort of five to 10 years has been that, that we we don't know what the future has in store. And the the idea that that children that the job market will be the same for children in the future, the skills that employers want now will be the skills that they want in the future. So it's really looking beyond the curriculum or looking at how the curriculum can best equip children for that next stage. Those learning dispositions, those ways of thinking those habits of mind interdisciplinary skills, such as critical thinking, collaboration become as important as subjects themselves. And it's our job to ensure that that without losing any of the wonderful familial, nurturing, fun side of garden house and our curriculum prepares children for that next step.

I think as a school, we've always believed very strongly in the pupil voice and getting the children to leave here feeling like they are very much valued. And they really believe in themselves and they're very confident about sharing their opinions in a very charming way. And I think that is probably one of the main things when I've spoken to heads of secondary schools that they really notice about our children is that they are prepared to have a go. They are prepared to put forward an idea and justify their ideas. And that for me is A huge skill to have for life. Absolutely,

I think Emma said the idea of of a teacher standing up in front of rows of desks and seeking to impart knowledge on children, thankfully, all schools have moved beyond that. And, inevitably, therefore, there's an impact on the learning environments themselves, the organisation of the classroom, trying to get to a point which best enables pupils to be sort of active and proactive in terms of their own learning.

When when children develop at different stages, obviously, we now know having gone through all the anxiety beforehand. But you know, when they don't get off the waiting list eight, or they don't get off the 11. When you revisit them all at 13. And they've all caught up, regardless of what's happened. It's actually really interesting. And I went, when the core subjects, obviously the maths English are the core subjects, and then some of the other subjects that might not necessarily be done to the same level, at 11, as they are done at 13. And I found, for example, with French, that my children have an incredible accent. Because what actually they've done, they've spent all this time singing French songs, and really mastery reactions, and then catching up with the rest of it, is when they're ready for it, it's when they're ready for it. And it makes a big difference. And I think that's kind of it's something that people judge too early. And then they see the results actually having, as you say, a confident, happy child who's willing to stand up and make an opinion, is so much more important than, you know, he did physics, chemistry, biology by the age of 11.

And it's all there. They're absorbing everything they're, you know, they are, as we know, like sponges, and it's, as you say, you suddenly get this moment you go, Oh, wow, that's that's come from you learning French from the age of four. And now it's coming out.

You know, that's something we're particularly proud of at garden house that that breadth and balance the curriculum, all schools will will say they offer a broad and balanced curriculum, and they will all do, you know, schools have a statutory obligation, I guess, to say they offer a broad and balanced curriculum, but it but here, you know, the children are sort of living and breathing it, breathing it right from the word go. And again, that that has ever said, it's about keeping as many doors open to as many pupils for as long as possible. You know, we have the specialist expert teachers here, across the foundation subjects right from the word go, no boy or, or girl is ever going to be able to turn away from music at the age of four, or five, or art or drama, or ballet as it happens. Because it takes I think, teachers who know and love their subjects who are the experts in it in order to communicate that love to, to the children. And then when a boy or girl has has reached the age of 11, or a little bit older at 13. And they can make a conscious, well informed decision that actually they're more of a scientist and a sportsman now, and possibly look to shy away from the subject, we've done our job at that very important sort of formative stage. In the years that matter. Most, we would argue and making sure they've had the very best education in the full range of subjects that they should.

So no matter how much you say this to parents, they will keep hothousing outside of school. And they will get them to do three competitive sports. And you know, they've got to read the whole Harry Potter collection by the age of nine. But in your expert opinion, you know, what is too much? And what is too little, because we are facing competition in the senior schools, and they do look at these things. So what what would you advise to parents, with the kind of outside school pushing.

I mean, it is a battle, it is a battle. Future schools do not want children to be forced into something they have no interest in. So a child that is taken to play tennis and actually dislikes the sport, or is dragged around a museum reluctantly is not going to be in a better position. In fact, they'll probably be at a disadvantage when they sit in an interview and they're asked questions about something that they really have no genuine interest in. It's much more about offering to children something they really want to do. I mean, our clubs after school, there are so many choices. And if you want to do sport for fun, there is that opportunity and those that are perhaps have a 14 netball can join a squad and practice it. But for parents, we would say, let us do that. Let us offer your children what they need. And when they're at home, let them be children, let them have that proper home time and have that separation.

I mean, we talked earlier about looking for children who actively enjoy coming coming to school. And equally we want children to actively enjoy looking forward to going home at the end of the day. It is a busy, bustling day here. And we obviously have children who have made the most of that day and we've helped them to do so we do push children here hard but never so hard that they're on their hands and knees the end of the day. We want them to leave and look forward to spending time with their families. We want them to have the energy to throw into the sort of CO curriculum as they see fit. And they're very young, very young people, it's important that you know that we're considering the whole day here, not just the part we play in school hours.

And actually what's very special as a family is that moment when the children actually share what they've been doing during the day and to be allowed the time to sit around a table or chat away in the car on their way home and say, This is what I've done. Because you lose that when they get older, you you don't have those same opportunities. And that's how the children know that they are valued, that they've got something to say. And that is that is incredibly valuable to all our children.

And I think to talk to us about your your pupil, no two pupils are the same. There's no sort of right age to start this sort of co curricular programme, there's no hard and fast rule for how many clubs certain people should have is really a case of balance relevant to the individual. So just to keep us informed about what's going on, outside and beyond beyond that we are really interested in children's lives outside schools, and how we can work with parents, again, to make sure that that happy well spent childhood is not just something that takes place inside, or indeed outside school, but but all the time.

So just to recap, obviously, we've heard some of the ethos is and how you go about choosing pupils to come to garden house. So So in your opinion, what are garden houses unique selling points.

So what makes garden house garden household will hopefully we've touched on that of our central mission here, which is that of a happy, well spent childhood that that governs everything we do and the decisions we make the strategic level, the day to day experience, for the children who come into school, we believe in a broad and balanced curriculum, all schools do, of course, all schools have a statutory obligation to sort of articulate that, but but here, it starts right from a very early age, really important part of the idea of that happy and well spent childhood is that we try and keep all doors open to all pupils for as long as possible. So right from the word go, children will have their specialist music teachers, Drama teachers, French teachers, for teachers, confusing teachers. And it takes we think, an expert teacher, someone who loves their subjects, someone who knows their subject inside out, to be best placed to communicate that love with with with the children, and to get children on board with loving that subject. That's, that's really, really important to us that that breadth of the curriculum and the depth really, in terms of where we can take it, it's something that will never ever be compromised here.

Absolutely. And I think, and then it's the sort of overarching part of all of it is the kindness. We've had a kindness code for nearly 25 years. It is quite a trend at the moment. But it really is very much embedded in who we are as a school. It's a set of rules, not rules, actually not rules. We don't have school rules, we just have our kindness code, which is seven points to guide all our children and in fact, the whole school community as to how to look after each other. And if you ask any of our girls or boys, what's the best thing about garden house 99% of the time, they will say it is our kindness code. And it is it is true. It is who we are as a school. Our children are exceptionally kind human beings. And they take that with them when they leave us, we hope. And they have

some excellent role models as teachers and assistants that dare we say, but I think that's something you'll hopefully get a sense of when you walk around the school, it is a school, a child will hold the door open for you it is a school where they will ask you what you got up to the weekend, they're as interested in you as adults as we would hope to be in them. There is a sort of lovely, nurturing sort of familial feel to the school. That's partly our small class sizes that's partly are very, very strong. adult child ratios and the relationships those pupils, as children develop with their teachers and with many teachers at such a sort of formative age when they arrive at four. That's something that stays with them all the way through, I think for such a huge team of teachers and assistants, conceivably, by the time a boy has left as aged 11. You know, there might be sort of 7080 plus grownups in the building who know who you know, they know who he is. They know his strengths. They know what makes him tick. They know his areas for development. They know how they can help in that is extra pairs of ears and eyes. It's extra perspectives on a pupil. It's more people who are talking to each other about your son or indeed daughter's development. It's more people who are talking to you as parents, about your son and it makes them very sort of powerful perspectives as they move up with us through the school.

and all genuinely interested in each child. It's it is extraordinary how that works. And the high adult child ratio has got so many advantages. And we are very, very lucky to be in that position to make sure that all the children are being supported all the time to celebrate their successes, but also to be there on those days, which aren't so good. If a little child walked through our door and looks a little bit out of sorts, they will be swept on very quickly by numerous people across the across the building, even the other children just to check that they're okay and to keep an eye on them during the day to make sure that they bounce back again.

It's been really lovely talking to you both. And, you know, just to sign off and touch on the subject that the kindness code has been 25 years part of the ethos of garden house, then we look forward to you leading the way forward, since everybody else has now caught up with the kindness and the mindfulness. So thank you very much for talking to us.

Thank you very much.

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