London independent schools recognised for extraordinary work at national awards


London schools won four awards at the Tes Independent School Awards, one of the biggest nights in the UK education calendar which was held on Friday 30th April.

The winning schools from the capital were:

Orchard House School, Chiswick who won the Sports award
Streatham & Clapham High School (GDST) who won Student initiative of the year
Notting Hill and Ealing High School (GDST) who won Senior school of the year
Harrow School Online who won Strategic education initiative of the year

The Tes Independent School Awards celebrate the teachers and teams from independent schools across the UK that are raising the standards of education and making a positive impact on the personal and academic success of students and the wider community. This year’s awards have highlighted the extraordinary work that schools have done in spite of a most challenging year.

The sports programme at Orchard House, a 3 to 11 co-ed school in Chiswick, West London, was commended by judges for the ways it incorporated sport into the curriculum during the national lockdown to boost students’ wellbeing.

Drawing on research from the Mental Health Foundation, which showed that mental health problems affect one in 10 children, the school decided to combat the uncertainty of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic by emphasising sport and fitness. The school day begins with activities such as games, swimming, fitness or running. Each session focuses on the values of honesty, respect, responsibility, equality, kindness and achievement, all of which help to develop pupils’ citizenship skills.

Maria Edwards, Headmistress of Orchard House School said:

“I started off my career as a PE teacher, so to win this award is just fantastic, we’re delighted. We have highly qualified coaches in every sport and we believe that sport gives children skills that you don’t get from any other subject. We’re especially committed to keeping girls interested in sport.”

Steph Furnough, Head of Sport and PE at Orchard House School said: “We’re so happy. We worked so hard over the lockdown period to create a sport curriculum online, getting people involved and promoting sport for all.”

Lead judge Richard Walden said: “There is a wonderful sense of enjoyment and participation in sport at Orchard House, with great commitment from all staff, including the head. The PE teachers continued to offer a strong programme during lockdown, which maintained the great contribution to pupils’ good health and wellbeing that the school’s sport always makes.”

Judges were dazzled by a student initiative at Streatham & Clapham High School, to nurture girls’ passion for maths and inspire them to pursue careers in STEM. In April 2020, Year 12 pupil Joely To set up the maths support website, Pioneer. Motivated by a lack of female candidates applying to study the subject at degree level, as well as a dearth of organisations supporting younger maths students, her slick, user-friendly website filled a gap during the first lockdown.

Joely organised and delivered a maths careers Q&A webinar for students in the UK and Nigeria, as well as presenting to more than 200 maths teachers at a Mathematics Education Innovation conference. In total, she has held more than 10 webinar events, reaching in excess of 1,000 students, and her website has been viewed almost 21,000 times. As a result, Pioneer was recently featured in The Guardian, and Joely won the Nottingham Building Society’s Innovative Young People of 2020 Award.

Lead judge Alistair McConville said: “The judges were hugely impressed by the way Joely acted with such initiative and drive to get her laudable project off the ground and by the impact it has already had. We were particularly impressed by the way she has connected with ‘real world’ partners.”

Sophia Potter, Assistant Head Mistress of Streatham and Clapham High School said:

“The last year has been incredibly challenging for everybody. There’s been a lot of focus about how difficult for young people. But Joely has shown what resilience and endeavour are all about. This is what you can do when you have an idea. We’re so proud for her: the impact that she’s had, for herself and other girls, shows the young woman she is. She’s always asked ‘what can I do for other people?’ She has set such a wonderful example.”

Notting Hill and Ealing High School impressed judges to win the coveted senior school of the year award, with its commitment to giving students a voice. When a group of sixth formers approached the head to raise concerns about female under-representation in film, #SetTheExample was born. The campaign to champion women in film resulted in a three-day festival across the entire senior school. A panel of female film celebrities gathered to debate for a red-carpet event, workshops with local film companies were organised and a film-making competition – open to Years 7 and up across the GDST group of schools – resulted in an exclusive screening of the girls’ incredible creativity at the Everyman cinema in Hampstead.

With more than 100 clubs and activities, students discover their passions and build their daring beyond classroom learning. This is evidenced in some of the pupils’ achievements, from a Year 10 pupil singlehandedly bringing together 21 schools and speakers in a global artificial intelligence “hackathon” to a Year 7 pupil organising a charity swimathon. During lockdown, a Year 11 pupil organised more than 800 letters of gratitude for the NHS across the school – a story that headlined in the Evening Standard.

Lead judge Bernard Trafford said the school demonstrated how it builds leadership opportunities “into almost every aspect of school life, describing vividly how unafraid and effective the school is in allowing its girls to decide what matters to them, building their confidence, providing the skills they need to find their voice and, ultimately, lead from the front”.

Matthew Shoults, Headteacher of Notting Hill and Ealing High School Said:

“I’m just delighted for the school and for the girls. This award shows how the girls have taken on leadership roles – the way they organised our film festival was exemplary. It encouraged girls to be filmmakers and inspired them about world of filmmaking. Most importantly the students themselves organised so much of the festival – it’s an example of putting themselves forward and believing they can do it.”

Harrow School wowed judges with its innovative approach to online learning, to win the Strategic education initiative of the year award. It founded Harrow School Online, the first full-time online British-curriculum school of its kind, prior to the pandemic, with the aim of helping students across the world access a high-quality British education.

The school has had pupils from more than 16 countries in its first year’s intake. It caters for pupils who may need flexibility in their learning, whose families are relocating or who do not live close to a suitable school. Those who take part in competitive sports or other commitments can benefit, and it can help students who find the distractions of the classroom less easy to cope with.

Lead judge Julie Robinson said: “Harrow School Online came of age during the pandemic, demonstrating the power of an online learning platform to support education across the world. Its online sixth form inspires through success coaches, mentors, tutors and teachers…an excellent example of the innovative delivery of the British curriculum globally.”

Heather Rhodes, Principal of Harrow School Online said:

“We’re incredibly proud to be recognised for the work we’re doing. Online schooling has had some negative press over the past year, but we know how good it can be at its best. We’re so glad that online learning has been recognised as at the forefront of education. We have students who are finding that online learning really suits them – this award is for them.”

Jon Severs, Editor of Tes magazine and Chief Judge of the Awards said:

“The Tes Independent School Awards is a celebration of the fantastic achievements of the independent sector. These winning and shortlisted schools have shown ingenuity, ambition and perseverance during what has been an unbelievably challenging year.”

The Tes Independent School Awards were held virtually for the first time to comply with the ongoing coronavirus restrictions. In previous years the awards ceremony has been held at the Grosvenor Hotel, on London’s Park Lane.