Progressive Schools in London

We are witnessing, both in the UK and globally, an increase in families opting for progressive schooling alternatives. This is, in part, a response to parents’ unhappiness with overly pressurised education systems.  These can often fail to equip children for the fast-changing, modern world.  Progressive schools can be more forward-thinking and focused on the individual child.  

Our clients often ask whether attending a progressive or alternative school will hinder their child’s progress in life.  In answer to this, we can consider the careers of Annie Lennox (Eurythmics Founder), and Bella Freud (fashion designer), both of whom attended Steiner schools, and Lily Allen (singer), ex-Bedales. Of course, reaching your full potential in life is not solely dependent on which school you attend.  But rather, on a whole host of factors, which include your early life and family environment.

In this blog post, we give an overview of two of the best, more progressive schools in London.

 Dallington School

‘The joy and reward of lifelong learning takes time. That time is called childhood, spent with people who understand and value it, in a stimulating environment that promotes it.’ Mogg Hercules MBE – Founder and advocate of alternative education.

Based in Islington, Dallington (4-11 years) is ideal for Camden residents or families commuting into the city.  Founded in 1978 by Mogg Hercules, the school is focused on creativity and developing a ‘child-centred learning environment.’  Pupils and teachers are on first-name terms, encouraging a relaxed atmosphere.

Dallington concentrates on nurturing children to develop their individual interests and passions.  Rejecting a doctrine of unnecessary pressure, teachers prioritise children’s happiness over academic attainment. Staff at Dallington maintain that their pupils’ enjoyment enhances their academic success.  Children are encouraged to celebrate their childhood.

Dallington is a family-focused school.  Holistic in its approach, the school considers the whole child, emphasising individuality, health, well-being and less-academic routes to success. 

Work is taught through a topic-based and cross-curricular approach to learning.  Dallington emphasises the development of reasoning, reflection and critical thinking skills as a foundation for learning. Children are taught to be respectful of one another and listen to other points of view.

The school’s motto is ‘value your own worth and understand the differences in others,’ which perfectly encapsulates Dallington’s values. Children feel a sense of belonging.

Halcyon International School

Like Dallington, Marylebone’s Halcyon International (11-18 years) pioneers a responsive approach to the changing needs of its pupils.  The headteacher, Barry Mansfield, believes that education should be agile, creative and challenging assumptions. 

As the only not-for-profit IB school in London, Halcyon embraces the International Baccalaureate (IB) as a more dynamic and relevant curriculum than traditional GCSE and A-level routes. This is an ambitious and yet, at the same time, a relaxed and happy school.  Student well-being is the number one priority.  

At Halcyon International, more emphasis is placed on the relevance of learning to later life success, rather than the narrower focus of simply passing exams. The school is outward-looking.  It embraces new technologies and ideas.  Academic life is as cross-curricular, and as student-led as possible.

Parents are quick to praise the quality of teaching at Halcyon, with one saying: ‘The teachers have been really strong and engaged – the head does a very good job of hiring people that suit the school.’ 

The young people feel valued.  Teachers engage with students in a way that makes them feel heard. Each student has a personal learning mentor who carries them through their time at Halcyon. Class sizes are small, and the relationship between teacher and pupil is strong.

Education can be, as we see from Dallington and Halycon, refreshingly simple.  Happy children do well.  It’s true that different schools suit different children.    Some kids do thrive on increased pressure.  It’s also true that stressed and pressurised children can do well academically.  However, this is often at the expense of their mental health and well-being.  The fact that the UK’s children’s mental health services are stretched to breaking point, indicates that something is out of balance.  We can’t lay the blame solely at the door of education.  Social media, the fallout from Covid, increased living costs, poverty and the struggling nuclear family unit all play their part.  However, it is probable that mainstream schools have something to learn from their more progressive counterparts.  

These are just two examples of schools in London that offer an alternative vision of education – there are many more.   If you are looking for progressive schools in the UK outside of London, please see our blog on progressive secondary schools in the UK.

Understanding your family’s approach and future vision is the first step towards choosing the right school for your child. The range of options, both here in London and nationwide, can feel overwhelming. If you considering alternative schools because your child has Special Educational Needs (SEN), our blog on London schools’ SEN provision may help. You can also read our overview of Montessori education to explore this gentler education route. 

Read more on Barry Mansfield’s education approach at Halcyon International School.

For further information and for supported applications to progressive, mainstream and international schools in London, please CONTACT US.