Gatehouse opened in 1948 and is almost unique amongst leading London independent schools as being completely non-selective. From a private tutor’s perspective, this is refreshing; one of the ‘grey areas’ of tuition is hot-housing for junior school entrance (we wish there were more schools where it was not considered by parents to be necessary). For Gatehouse, parents put down their children’s name within six months of birth and selection is made entirely on a first come, first served basis. Nearly all children enter at nursery (3yrs old) in the September following their third birthday. As a result, there can be up to a year’s difference in the ages of children in each year group. A very small number of children are offered places in other years.
The school’s strengths lie in preparation for entry to senior schools; especially leading London day schools (including City of London Boys, City of London Girls, St Paul’s, Westminster and Francis Holland). Far fewer children go to country boarding schools, probably reflecting the make up of the school’s parents. Many are, ‘first time buyers parents’, experiencing their first foray into independent education.
All the teachers I met were bright young things with a lot of energy and a very hands-on approach. Apparently, class sizes can go up to 24 but I noticed the larger classes had two teachers. The school does not stream, so mixed abilities are all taught together – with a focus on helping the brightest and those needing confidence boosting as well as the ones, ‘in the middle’. Gatehouse has a dedicated SEN teacher (for whom parents pay extra) and the school accepts children with Special Educational Needs. The only thing they can’t do is work with children who can’t cope with class learning.
Like most independent preps, the school’s academic success is bolstered by small class sizes and excellent facilities; such as individual music practice rooms (used by 80% of the students). There is top up tuition for scholarship students. However, things like the after-school clubs, which run until 5.30pm (the school provides children with a hot supper) reflect the fact that it is also a community oriented school that serves the needs of working parents.
A final note is that Gatehouse has very low fees. It was explained that fees are kept low because the school has grown up steadily over a number of years and has not needed to raise them.