Francis Holland SW1

Logo of Francis Holland SW1

Pupils Info

Gender – Girls School
Age range – Age 11-18
Number of pupils on roll – Pupils 460


Average Class Size: 18
Day School
Oxbridge Entrance Percentage: 8%
£5,375 per term
A* to B at A-Level Percentage: 71%

Traditionally a choice for less bright girls, Francis Holland SW1 is no longer populated exclusively with fillies whose main interests include retail therapy in Sloane Square, the Kings road and Burford. That said, it’s still not as soaringly academic as some other London day schools – the atmosphere remains relaxed and the new head’s emphasis is on ‘preparing girls for the workplace’ rather than just university (although the majority of pupils do go). The privileges of being a London school – riding in Hyde Park, West End theatre outings – are not taken for granted here. The spaces are bright and airy, and the 6th form common room is unusually comfortable.

Background and Reputation

Francis Holland SW1 actually has a lot to offer. There’s plenty of excitement about the new head, who has come into a school already established as happy (for the most part) and lively. Although the location means that there are plenty of rich kids who want to coast by on as little work as possible, Francis Holland results aren’t half bad. It’s laid-back, yes, but it’s not quite limbo dancing. Individuality is encouraged, by the staff if not the pupils, which is not always the case with London day schools of this type. The girls are confident and express themselves well (if, that is, you can understand a Sloaney drawl). The uniform (up to sixth form only) is pretty although subject to much hiking up / tugging down by girls.

Academics and Exit Results

Pretty good, for a school that until recently was thought to churn out nothing but the current daughters, and future wives, of rich men…or politicians. Pupils report large variations between teachers as to skill and encouragement. Modern languages are excellent, as are Latin and History (the most popular degree subject from here) but the sciences aren’t much taken up beyond GCSE and there are fairly few ‘modern’ vocational subjects such as media or business studies, at least pre-A Level. There’s less than half A*/A grades at A Level, which compared to most London day schools is surprisingly modest; some girls leave for sixth form as they feel they’d thrive better in a more competitive environment, though we suspect the thrills of co-education might be a contributing factor. Everyone is encouraged to take 5 AS Levels and carry on with 4 of these through to A Level. Almost all the girls go to university, and there’s lots of help with choosing the right courses. Thus many go to university in America, or to take non-academic or arty courses at the London College of Fashion or the Royal Ballet School.

Social and Pastoral

There isn’t much integration among year groups, save for low-level cattiness from sixth formers, according to former pupils. In theory the pastoral care is excellent: there are twice-week open-door sessions that parents can come to if they have any concerns, and the girls’ relationships are overseen by the deputy head and the form tutors. In practice, however, there’s a fair bit of peer pressure and have been some cases of bullying in the past. Being a day- school, there’s not much need to drink or take drugs on the premises, although if there were the school has a zero-tolerance approach to both. Plenty of sixth formers smoke, but it’s difficult to spot them among the other colt- legged, miniskirted girls of Chelsea and Belgravia as they’re not in school uniform.

Sport. Music and Drama

There’s a new-ish (since 2010) performing arts centre, the Carmel Hall, which hosts excellent drama, although it is by no means compulsory and there is only one big play a year. Having said that, the drama teachers are well-liked and known for trying to get everyone, even the shyer girls, involved. Stronger are theatre trips organised by the school, although this isn’t entirely surprising given its proximity to London’s West End. One illustrious old girl is Anya Reiss, the youngest playwright to have had a play on at the Royal Court. Other alumni include Jemima Khan and Sienna Miller. The ballet teacher, Valerie Hitchen, has been at Francis Holland for ever and is adored – at least by her favourites. Ballet is a big deal here: so much so that the website lists it above both Drama and Music. She has excellent links with the Royal Ballet School and there’s an extraordinary number of the ‘cool’ girls to be found en point every lunch time. In terms of other exercise, it’s not as plugged in as it could be. Sure, the girls take their riding lessons in Hyde Park, but there are very few options on-site except for the rather dingy concrete netball pitch in the school courtyard and a small-ish indoor gym. Girls who want to swim or do track running are bussed off to Lambeth and Battersea Park – good facilities, but far afield enough to eat substantially into games time. The PE teacher is pretty unpopular, and no one is encouraged to join in with teams if they don’t seem to be particularly sporty. The Carmel Hall has ten music practice rooms and the level of teaching at the school is high, although again there isn’t a huge variety offered (one old girl was peeved she couldn’t have drumming lessons). There are plenty of chances to practice, though, with regular lunchtime concerts and the odd evening one too. There are six different choirs and lots of instrumental groups. Choir trips abroad are not unheard of.


The art area is big and flooded with plenty of natural light, taking up most of the top floor of the main school building. There’s also a dark room for photography, and facilities for lino printing – although the teaching is pretty old-fashioned, and can be closed-minded to girls wanting to try out more adventurous techniques and styles. There are plenty of clubs, mostly for the lower school, but this is a day school through and through and there isn’t a vast amount of social activity on offer. Most of the social life of the school takes place outside it, either at the sports venues off-campus or the cafes of the King’s Road. DofE is strongly supported, although not taken up with any real gusto. And charity begins very much at home for these girls – and sometimes gets no further.

Francis Holland SW1

Headmaster: Lucy Elphinstone

Telephone: 020 7730 2971


Address: 38 Graham Terrace Belgravia London SW1W 8JF

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