Babington House School, Chislehurst
This independent, co-ed, day school in Chislehurst - for pupils from 3 to 18 years - is a rising star. Ranked Top Small Independent School in the UK, for A Level results - the academics here are strong - and the size means everyone gets their chance to shine...
Babington House School is an independent, co-educational day school for pupils from 3 to 18 years, near Bromley (it’s a mere 2 minutes’ walk from Elmstead Woods Station).
The school consists of a handsome group of buildings on Grange Drive in Chislehurst, with more recent additions bolted on over time. There is a current roll of 427 pupils – 288 of which are in the Prep and 139 in the Senior School.
And before you say that’s a tiny number for a Senior School, let me tell you that until fairly recently it used to only take boys up until Year 3 and was all-girls beyond that, finishing at Y11.
But in the space of the last seven years, under the headship of Mr Lello, it’s expanded to become co-educational all the way through – and introduced a highly successful Sixth Form. This, combined with an increasingly impressive reputation has seen the numbers filling up fast. (More on this under FUTURE PLANS below).
The main school site includes enough trees and open air areas for younger ones to enjoy outdoor learning and Forest School or Sixth Formers to sit and chat on the benches dotted along the treelined walkways.
The school is centred around a circular courtyard which consists of the old original building as well as the dining room, sports hall and Nursery.
On Muddy we’ve reviewed a number of schools where they have the Prep and Senior Schools within the same grounds – but here they aren’t just on the same site, the Nursery, Prep and Senior School all share the same collection of buildings. So it’s no exaggeration to say there is real sense of community and ‘family’ atmosphere throughout the place.
Being located only a short drive or train journey into London (and only a couple of minutes from a train station) it’s not surprising that land around this area of Chislehurst is at a premium. So don’t expect extensive grounds and rolling acres of cricket fields here.
However the school makes full use of its (not-to-be-sniffed-at) sizeable enough grounds, which contains two new all-weather pitches and a full-size outdoor climbing wall. The artificial games areas are used for multi-sports, netball and hockey.
And, thanks to the lease of nearby land, the school has unlimited term-time use of an extensive sports field and its surrounding woodland, which is 3 minutes walk up the road.
This is used for sport and PE for children from Year 3 upwards and where Forest School takes place. At the sports field pupils enjoy cross country, football, tag/rugby, athletics, rounders and cricket. Sports Day is held at Norman Park in Bromley to make the most of its hard athletics track.
ARTS, TEXTILES AND DESIGN
The art department is headed by Mrs Bentine who has worked at the school for over 30 years (much known and loved by all). Her classes take place up in the light, bright attic of the old building alongside the other popular subjects of textiles and product design.
DRAMA & MUSIC
Drama productions take place in the sports hall – with one large showpiece a year, usually alternating between musical and straight theatre. This year was Alice In Wonderland – a senior school production (pictured above).
The school has 4 choirs, orchestra, wind band, string band and lots of concerts – about one every half term. Around 25 per cent of pupils take individual music lessons on various instruments. Most impressive of all – I have it on the highest authority that everyone actually sings the hymns in assembly. Praise be!
ACADEMICS & ADMISSIONS
While it has gained a very strong reputation for its nurturing and pastoral capabilities Babington House Senior School is also unapologetcially proud of its rigorous academics.
Entry involves a selection process based on age appropriate assessments and a report from the head of the pupil’s current school. Admissions take place at 11 and 16 via exam and interview.
Around 50 per cent of pupils from the Prep School join the Senior School in Year 7. The other half go on to other independents (perhaps if they want a single-sex school) or local grammars, of which there are several good ones in the area. Of those that take the Kent Test there’s a 85 per cent pass rate. For those that stay on, there’s currently around 16/17 pupils in a class (they strive never to go above 20).
Sixth Formers are encouraged to focus on the top universities. In 2018 Babington House ranked Top Small Independent School in the UK, for A Level results, achieving almost 70% A* and A Grades (The Daily Telegraph league table).
What’s more, the school even smashed it’s own record for A Level results in 2020, this time with 85% A and A* (100% A* to Bs) – which is pretty jaw dropping.
They put this success down to small teaching groups of no more than 6/7 maximum and a culture of intensive, hard-work, tailored to each pupil’s individual needs and everything being continually monitored so that help can be given quickly when needed. Subjects here tend to be quite academic – no photography or art at present for creative types.
Headmaster, Mr Tim Lello, has been at the helm since 2013 – and one of the first changes he made when starting was to let boys stay on at the school beyond Year 3. Followed by creating a Sixth Form.
He’s upbeat and approachable – I’m immediately introduced to a very important member of the Babington House School community, Oscar the dog and the school mascot.
Tim Lello is clearly extremely proud of his school – and justifiably so – the school has undergone such a positive transformation under his leadership. It’s been completely modernised if you like. Yet while being progressive, he’s also taken care to honour the long-standing traditions and always keeps the school ethos at the core of every decision.
He makes an interesting point that schools are often portrayed as either nurturing or academic. ‘But bright children benefit from carefully monitored and well directed learning too,’ he explains. ‘We bring both strong pastoral support and academic discipline together here.’
The Head of Seniors Jo Brown has been instrumental in some outstanding developments such as increased academic rigour and results, the development of the Sixth Form and furthering sport and extra-curricular provision, alongside the clever implementation of an progressive timetable.
PREP AND NURSERY
The Nursery is set up for continuous provision so the design and resources encourage children to move around – inside and outside – with the freedom to learn and be creative autonomously.
The Head of Prep is Mrs McDonald Smith and here there are some brilliant innovations, like option choices for children in Year 3 to Year 6 – where Philosophy, Yoga, Coding and World Films are just some of the subjects on offer.
The Nursery has its own Early Years Co-ordinator, Mrs Thomas. There are impressive staff to pupil ratios and even the youngest children benefit from specialist teachers visiting from the Senior School. Subjects covered include Woodwork, Yoga and Forest School, which reads like a list for a wonderful Activity Camp as much as a Nursery!
It’s not all fun and games though and, keeping in step with the academic ambitions of the Senior School, the progress of children at the Nursery is monitored closely on the Target Tracker system, with half termly overviews.
As classes, with a well-established mixture of boys and girls, move up through the school boys will seamlessly be incorporated into the last couple of secondary years that are still all-girl.
At the same time, the Senior School is growing to two-form entry throughout all years. And of the new pupils joining the school it’s a roughly 50/50 boy and girl split – so in next to no time the numbers will be fully balanced.
This is a really exciting time for Babington House School with swelling pupil numbers and a now thriving Sixth Form (although the plan is not to over-expand or grow beyond the optimum numbers). There’s definitely a ‘Watch This Space’ feel around this rising star of a school.
USP & QUIRKS
Babington has it’s own outdoor climbing and abseil wall where pupils of all ages can benefit from specialist teaching and coaching from some of the top climbers in the country. It’s a very popular activity here – and obviously great for building confidence as much as fitness.
WRAP AROUND CARE
Breakfast Club starts at 7.30am and After School Care continues until 6pm There’s also Holiday Clubs and School Buses to make life easier for busy or working parents.
Full time fees per term inclusive of lunch: £3,950 for Nursery; £4,460 for Prep (Reception to Year 6); £5,555 for Senior & Sixth Form (Years 7 to 13).
WORD ON THE GROUND
There is much talk about the strong academics and the fact that teachers are passionate about their subjects. The size of the school clearly lends itself well to tailor-made teaching.
The school is good at knowing which children will be the right fit for the school and those that join really thrive here. The prep has a strong reputation for sporting success. As does the senior school netball team which topped the league locally across four age groups.
A happy successful school were everyone finds a way to shine.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Bright pupils will not only benefit from carefully monitored and well directed learning here – they’ll be happy too. Self- discipline is highly prized and everyone is known as an individual. Those that like to join in, will fit in particularly well (smaller schools mean everyone gets a chance to step up).
Not for: Big fish who need an even bigger pond. Nor is it for artsy Sixth Formers who might have the more creative subjects on their wish list – although art is being added as an A-Level option soon.
Babington House School, Grange Drive, Chislehurst, Kent, BR7 5ES, Tel: 020 8467 5537, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, babingtonhouse.com