The White House

The White House is Balham’s hidden gem, quietly focused on preparing its boys and girls for a successful progression onto some of the top London senior schools

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SMALL BUT PERFECTLY FORMED

When parents at a school are so passionate about it and they say, “It’s a hidden gem, we don’t want other people to know about it!”, you know they must be doing something right. Within moments of arriving at The White House Preparatory School in Balham, a co-educational school for 4-11 year olds, it’s clear to see why. Engaged, happy children, confident and enthusiastic without a shred of arrogance, are achieving fantastic results in a nurturing environment that delivers for every pupil’s needs. “Our children are kind and well-mannered, they open doors and say good morning,” explains vice-principal Laura Randall, daughter of the school’s founder, Mary McCahery. “We let children be children, they are not under any pressure, but gradually they step up to where they need to be.”

whitehouse-0001It’s a 30-year-old formula that works. With pupils heading off from Year 6 to a selection of the best schools in London, 40 per cent of those with a scholarship, The White House may be small (there are 146 pupils), but it more than prepares its charges for life beyond its walls. “Our classes have 16 children maximum, which allows us to support each and every child in their learning,” says principal and founder Mary McCahery. “We know them all so well and pride ourselves on avoiding the ‘forgotten middle’ – those children who are pottering along nicely but can often be sidelined in bigger class sizes.”

Every child reads with a teacher once a day and has the opportunity to explore the subjects that really excite them one afternoon a week. “On Thursdays we look beyond the curriculum and children can choose what they do from Art, Music, Drama and Sport.” It’s an initiative that has seen some breathtaking results. “In the Radio 2 500 Words competition, Year 6 pupil Umar Syed’s ‘The Stranger’ got through to the last round and a Year 5 pupil, Edward Watson, has won the Fourth Plinth Schools Award 2017 for his art work ‘London Life Goes Round’, which will be exhibited at City Hall.”

The White House is entering an exciting new phase in its development, with extension work leading to a two-form entry from Reception in September 2017 (while retaining small class sizes), and a new headmaster at the helm. Tony Lewis has some 30 years’ experience in a wide range of schools, including most recently as head of St Nicholas Prep School and previously as a housemaster at Stowe. “I am fully committed to an all-round education,” explains Tony. “We must nurture our children so they continue to enjoy a full and happy childhood (having fun is important!) whilst also challenging and stimulating them, encouraging curiosity and inquisitiveness as well as developing character and personal skills.”

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A recent, glowing ISI report, which marked the school as excellent in every area, highlighted how the children celebrate their peers’ achievements and emphasised the family ethos: “They enjoy the culture of supporting each other which is prevalent throughout the school. The pupils are confident and self-aware. They feel like one big family. They have a strong sense of self-esteem.” These qualities were spotted by The Sunday Times when it named The White House as one of the Top 100 Prep Schools nationwide and number ten in London, a fantastic achievement of which the whole school community is very proud, and one which means it won’t be Balham’s little secret for much longer.


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