St James Independent Schools

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St James Independent Schools
St James Independent School -Twickenham -London-3Jan2009.jpg
Established 1975
Type Independent school
Religion Non-denominational
Location Three schools on different sites in
Gender Boys and Girls
Ages 4–18

St James' Independent Schools in London (UK) are three fee-paying schools for children aged 4 to 18. The Juniors' and Senior Girls' Schools are in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham and the Senior Boys' School in Ashford, Surrey.


St James schools were founded in 1975. Since then, over the last 30 years, St James schools have developed a distinctive philosophical approach to education, inspired by both the Platonic ideals of beauty and harmony, along with the eastern concepts of unity among the human family.

Self-discovery is an important aspect in the St James education. In addition to the spiritual and philosophical aspects of living, there is encouragement to develop emotional strength, intellectual clarity and creative fluidity. The aim is to develop reason and reflective intelligence, and to demonstrate these qualities through relationships based on love and certainty.

The schools care for pupils from all the major faiths, as well as for those with no particular faith. The approach is to emphasise the universality of the spirit, encouraging pupils to follow their family’s religious tradition, if they have one, or to pursue questions about their own true nature.

The founder, Leon MacLaren, is better known as the inspiration behind the School of Economic Science, a charitable trust teaching philosophy and economics and various related subjects. In addition to a number of remarkable initiatives in the fields of art, music, law and science, Leon MacLaren founded a school for children. It was to provide a complete education for boys and girls from four and a half to eighteen, which would look after their spiritual, mental and physical development.

Each child is taught through a variety of means to respect, honour and care for every person and to discover the importance of a spiritual dimension in their lives. The test is their willingness to work in love and harmony with everyone.

This philosophical approach is designed to enhance the capacity to meet today’s needs in a world which too often displays disharmony, misunderstanding and intolerance.

Academic performance[edit]

Though St James Schools are not academically selective upon entrance, pupils both from the Senior Boys' and Senior Girls' have been accepted to many of the country's leading universities including Oxbridge, Durham, St Andrews, Bristol, Exeter, UEA, as well as those in the United States: Stanford, UC Berkeley and Princeton have all accepted candidates from St James Schools over the past few years.

Notable former pupils[edit]

Notable former pupils include:

Connection with the School of Economic Science[edit]

See also: Leon MacLaren

The St James' Schools are legally independent from the School of Economic Science. They seek to preserve the ethos of their founding philosophical principles which are derived from the Advaita Vedanta philosophical tradition, which the schools describe as encompassing the concept of unity, and of a multicultural approach which embraces all faiths – and no faith. Philosophy is taught and transcendental meditation is an optional practice in the schools.


In the early 80s the London Evening Standard newspaper ran a critical series of articles focusing on the School’s discipline regime and its links to the School of Economic Science.

In January 2006 an independent inquiry,[1] chaired by James Townend QC and funded by the schools, published its report into mistreatment of pupils between 1975 and 1985 at St James' and its then sister school St Vedast's, which closed in 1985. The findings of the report concluded that 'mental and physical mistreatment' of some pupils had occurred, including 'criminal assaults' by teachers, during the ten-year period considered by the Inquiry. Mr Townend's report also found that throughout this period the schools’ management and governors were failing to the extent that they 'were not in any real sense in charge of the Schools'.

The Townend inquiry was instigated by the schools and the terms of reference were set by the then Governing body. They recognised the need for openness and transparency; many found it helpful, a few felt it limited.

In September 2007 three of the teachers named in the report worked at the schools, although this has changed. Following internal disciplinary hearings two of the three teachers were given a formal warning.

In Mr Townend's conclusion he stated there has been 'a real change of ethos and conduct of the schools' since the period of abuses he identified in his report.

Other SES-supported schools worldwide[edit]

The School of Economic Science, through associated overseas schools, supports independent children's schools in a number of countries, including in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland (John Scottus School), the West Indies and the United States. In the UK there is the St James' primary school in Stockport near Manchester.

The Education Renaissance Trust, a UK registered charity, was founded by the SES in 1998, with the aim to make their "philosophy of education based on spiritual values available more widely". The ERT provides support and funding for the St James schools worldwide, and currently runs inset training days for teachers in UK state schools. The Chair of this charitable Trust is Nicholas Debenham.

Former schools[edit]

St Vedast's School for Boys, at Sarum Chase, in West Heath Road, Hampstead, London,[2] was sold in January 2005, for £9,300,000.[3][4] The building is now a private residence.[5]


  1. ^ Townend QC, James. "Report of a Private Independent Inquiry Commissioned by the Governors of St James Independent Schools and held in London between 20 June - 06 October 2005". Report. St James Schools. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  2. ^ "St Vedasts School for Boys, Sarum Chase - Hampstead - Greater London - England". British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 17 July 2011. 
  3. ^ Charity Commission Accounts, 2005, page 22.
  4. ^ "Charity Commission Accounts, 2006". Retrieved 17 July 2011. 
  5. ^ "Sarum Chase". Retrieved 17 July 2011. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°26′31″N 0°19′53″W / 51.44194°N 0.33139°W / 51.44194; -0.33139