United Kingdom / Greater London / Kensington / Mander Portman Woodward (London)

Mander Portman Woodward (London) Review

Located in central London, MPW has a reputation for its exam-focused GCSE and A Level programmes, a broad and flexible curriculum and small class sizes – all within a relaxed, informal setting.
At a glance
School type
Private
School phase
Post 16
Inspection rating
Excellent
Curricula taught
Availability 2020/21
No data
Availability 2021/22
No data
Annual fee average
GBP 31,000
Annual fees
GBP 30,756 - 30,756
Price band help
Premium
Status
Open
Opening year
1973
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Mr John Southworth
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Mander Portman Woodward (London)
School type
Private
School phase
Post 16
Inspection rating
Excellent
Curricula taught
Availability 2020/21
No data
Availability 2021/22
No data
Annual fee average
GBP 31,000
Annual fees
GBP 30,756 - 30,756
Price band help
Premium
Status
Open
Opening year
1973
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Mr John Southworth
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Located in central London, MPW has a reputation for its exam-focused GCSE and A Level programmes, a broad and flexible curriculum and small class sizes – all within a relaxed, informal setting.

MPW London is a city centre school for 14 to 19-year olds, offering over 45 GCSE and A Level courses to a community of British and international students. As well as a wide range of courses, it has a flexible curriculum and small classes of up to 10 students. With a reputation for being very exam-focused, this non-selective school is guiding mixed ability students towards high academic success. And with its less than traditional approach to education (no uniform, tutors and students are on first name terms), the school will appeal to those who prefer a more liberal schooling.

Located in South Kensington, this small townhouse campus is just a short walk from the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Royal Albert Hall and Hyde Park – giving students plenty of inspiration for their studies on their doorstep.

Established in 1973, MPW has a family of non-selective schools in London, Birmingham and Cambridge which currently enrols around 1,200 students, with one third coming from overseas. Full boarding will be offered from September 2022 when the school opens its newly acquired building, Queen’s Gate House.

Prior to joining the school as Vice Principal in 2014, the now Principal John Southworth was a Major in the Army. His education experience includes Director of Co-curriculum at The Perse School, Principal of Lansdowne College and Vice Principal of MPW.

Curriculum

MPW is focused on GCSE and A Levels, and it offers flexible programmes that can be taken over one term, two terms, one year, 18-months or two years. It’s another reason why international students enrol here – there’s the option of starting courses in January or September, and the opportunity for students to transfer onto A Levels from other programmes such as the International Baccalaureate.

There is a wide and broad choice of subjects and examining boards to meet the many different needs of the many different students who enol here. Students can choose from a vast list of more than 35 different A Levels subjects, including the core subjects, some less traditional options, the arts and eight different modern and classical languages. Options include art, craft and design, 3D design, classical civilisation, film studies, graphic communication, history of art, media studies, modern Greek, photography, textile design and theatre studies.

Similarly, there are 30 GCSE subjects that cover a spectrum of academic and non-academic interests, including business studies, drama, photography, music, textile design, 3D design and Russian.

There are also short retake courses, which attract those students looking to cram for retakes and Oxbridge entrance exams. This has increasingly become smaller numbers and a smaller focus of the school, which attracts more full-time students year on year.

Teaching is delivered in “an exam-focused fashion” and there’s frequent and regular tests, timed assignments and mock exams – much more than you would find at a typical independent school. The school’s philosophy is that “lots of tests and lots of homework” is the most effective way to achieve the best possible grades.

It will not be the right learning environment for every child – training a student to pass exams and get good grades may not always prepare them for the world of work. However, it is suited to students who thrive in smaller ‘tutorial-style’ class where they receive plenty of personal attention. It does aim to teach children to take responsibility for themselves and their learning, which can give them a huge advantage in university. And it’s certainly delivering top results.

Is it MPW an exam factory? Is it concentrating on an exam-driven syllabus at the expense of a wider curriculum? While the focus is undoubtedly on getting the top grades, families praise the school for its pastoral care and growing programme of extra-curricular activities. Learning is not confined to the classroom, with regular field trips being organised to support their education outside the classroom, from visits to Parliament to talk about politics to trips to the West End to support their English literature.

Many of the tutors are A Level or GCSE examiners for the subjects that they teach, and with this expertise they put plenty of focus on the syllabus and exam technique. Students also receive very detailed coursebooks for every subject they take. Tutors teach in what is described as an “adult atmosphere” that is both friendly yet mature, relaxed yet academically rigorous.

MPW invests heavily in preparing students for transition to university. All students attend a series of seminars, each targeted at a particular degree course and led by admissions tutors and other professionals in the field; there’s specialist preparation for UCAT, BMAT, LNAT and other university entrance tests; and extra support for students planning to apply for Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary Medicine, Law and Engineering.

Sport and the arts

MPW does not have the sports fields, tennis courts and theatres (or even a garden) of some other London campuses, but this doesn’t appear to be missed by the students who are there. Sport is compulsory for GCSE students and there are opportunities for all ages to compete in rugby and football teams, and attend classes in basketball, golf, tennis, rock climbing, dance and yoga.

Where the school really shines is in the arts. The school delivers a broad arts programmes, with several fine arts subjects at GCSE and A Level. It also has strong links with University of the Arts London (UAL), and student are given the fantastic opportunity to display their artwork in the prestigious Saatchi gallery.

Beyond the classroom

Whole MPW certainly has a strong academic focus, it does encourage students to become the well-rounded individuals they need to shine on any top university application. GCSE students take an enrichment programme, including one activity, one sport session, and a study skills class every week, and this covers theatre visits, rugby, football, basketball, netball, Duke of Edinburgh, conversational Spanish, debating, poetry appreciation and community service. Trips are taken to Florence, North Wales and the Isle of Wight, as well as the many cultural locations within walking distance.

Academic results

In London, 62% of A Level grades were A*-A in 2021 and 85% were A*-B. At GCSE, 64% of all results were Grades 9-7 and 100% were 9-4.

Campus and facilities

Located in a 19th Century building, MPW has modern facilities designed for its many specialist programmes, including media studies, computing and film rooms, art studios, science laboratories, drama studio, and three libraries.

International students are currently offered boarding in supervised student residences, studios and multiple occupancy flats, or with host families carefully selected by the school. From September 2022, the school will offer full boarding.

Admission and fees

MPW is non-selective, but all applicants still complete a maths and English assessment; the school is more interested to attracting students with a positive attitude to study and behaviour.

Students enter the school at both 16 and 19 years, and most GCSE students stay on for A Levels.

 

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