A Coldstream guardsman proudly stands at the front door as you enter a corridor filled with antique toys, books and Venetian chandeliers. If it wasn’t for the gentle hubbub of children learning and playing in the background, you might initially mistake The Pointer School, a London prep school, for a particularly attractive antique shop.
And where most would lock away these rare treasures or store them behind glass cabinets, here they are on full display for the children to play with and learn from. There are all manner of curios from first edition copies of Winnie the Pooh and rare stamp collections to Dinky toy cars and planes. This is probably not like the school you went to as a child.
Indeed, everything about the school, set on the corner of the open grounds of Blackheath Village, is full of character. The pupils are known across the area for their distinctive purple and green uniform that is modelled on the Wimbledon tennis outfits. The school’s founders, sisters Muriel and Dela Pointer, were avid tennis fans.
But that is not all: the sisters started the school in the 1930s as the Pointer School of Dancing & Elocution before it started providing a full education in 1950. Muriel Pointer is best known for her role as Betty Blunders in the 1921 movie Where the Rainbow Ends, a story about children searching for their missing parents on a mythical quest involving a magic carpet.
Today, it stands as the oldest prep school in Blackheath. And although it can’t boast any real-life magic carpets amongst its curios, demand for places at the school has seen it expand from just 29 pupils in 1991 to almost 400 today.
“The headmaster’s dog, miniature-schnauzer Winnie, is regularly seen in school.”
Current headmaster, Adam Greenwood, is only the fourth head to preside over the school in its 71-year history. His career started in the British army as a Captain in the Royal Signals, deploying to Afghanistan in 2013. He has since taught in both the state and independent sectors around London. Although only in his second year at the school, his wife has taught at Pointers for over 10 years and his children attended the school before his appointment. He is the first head to not live in the school but keeps the tradition of the headmaster’s dog, with his miniature-schnauzer Winnie, regularly seen in school.
Previous headmaster and current school proprietor Robert Higgins has been with Pointer’s for 25 years with all four of his children educated at the school. He previously ran The Dolphin School in Devon. His daughter, Olivia Higgins, was a pupil and later a teacher at the school. Some stories link the presence of parakeets around London back to the school, when birds were released from the school aviary during a break in.
“King Oyo, the reigning Omukama of Toro, in Uganda, attended and was ‘just one of the boys’.”
The Newcombe family took over the school from the Pointer sisters in 1978, also educating their four own children through the school. Former pupils retell stories of lessons in the headmaster’s study with an open fire and black Labrador.
Its rich past has seen a wealth of alumni, the most famous being Daniel Day-Lewis who attended the school in the 1960’s. King Oyo, the reigning Omukama of Toro, in Uganda, became the youngest King in the world at just five back in 1995. He attended Pointers as an adolescent and was “just one of the boys” despite his royal heritage. More recently the best-known chess Junior in the UK, Shreyas Royal, attended the school.
Chess is part of the core curriculum at the school with children having weekly chess lessons, as well as before and after school clubs every day. The two in-house chess masters train the pupils in tactics and strategy. This year alone, pupil Kushal Jakhria became the youngest ever London under 8’s champion at just five years old, as well as finishing third in the U11’s. He only started playing during the first lockdown. Each year a pupil is awarded a scholarship for excellence in chess.
“One of the founders is best known for her role as Betty Blunders in the 1921 movie Where the Rainbow Ends.”
At the heart of the school is its Christian ethos. Where many schools have taken religion underground, Pointers remains unashamedly Christian with the school motto “The Lord is My Shepard” proudly displayed. Time is made in the school day for prayer and the whole school goes to church together on a Friday at the nearby St John’s Blackheath.
The school is highly international with 36 languages spoken at the school. A third of pupils are bilingual and 19 pupils are trilingual. Pupils come from six continents, so it is truly diverse. A typical Pointers pupil will have parents who have moved to London to be part of its global melting pot whilst working at nearby Canary Wharf or in the creative industries.
The school is academically non-selective, believing that all children should have the opportunity to be taught at the school if they buy into its ethos. The teachers are academically ambitious for every pupil whilst putting a huge emphasis on character development. Children leave the school with a feeling of social responsibility and the belief they can achieve anything in their future.
The extensive scholarship programme includes the recent addition of the Higgins scholarship in honour of the previous headmaster. This covers 100 per cent of fees for children in the local area who could not ordinarily afford private education.
Other future plans include the introduction of the International Baccalaureate and an annual mission trip with Year 5 and 6 pupils to Tanzania linked to the charity GoMad. The school sees itself as being at the forefront of educational change, leading on initiatives such as building pupils’ resilience and AI in the classroom.
Children leave the school at the end of Year 6 to go off to some of the best schools in London. The founding sisters of the school would surely be proud of how far it has come.