St James School was founded in January 1975. It was inspired by the desire of a number of parents who wanted to offer their own children and the children of future generations a different education to that available at the time. These parents were philosophically inclined: they were students of philosophy in the School of Economic Science and, through their own studies, had come to value the importance of an education which provided spiritual enrichment as well as what could be described as the best of a traditional English education; a rigorous education steeped in the classical tradition and offering the best of artistic and academic culture.
Recognising that they lacked the means to launch such a project, these parents approached Leon MacLaren (1910-1994), a barrister and leader of the School of Economic Science for advice. Although initially cautious, Leon MacLaren was persuaded that to support the establishment of a school for children based upon the highest principles of education would be an invaluable enterprise.
The school was established as an independent educational charity, with its own board of governors. It began with pupils aged 4-8 years old and grew from the bottom up. The aim was that the doors of the school should be open to all children and fees should be kept as low as possible in order to avoid having to turn people away for financial reasons. In fact, the ideal was that parents should only have to pay for their children’s uniform. Indeed, due to the philanthropic will behind the adventure, the first few years of the school’s life depended almost entirely upon the good will, sacrifice and generosity of voluntary support offered by teachers, support staff and parents. As the school grew over the years and expanded to the secondary phase of education, pupils, teachers, parents and governors came from increasingly diverse locations and backgrounds.
Although significant support was given by the friendship of the School of Economic Science during the early years of St James’ foundation, the schools have grown to become fully independent entities whose reputations attract the greatest respect within their local communities and in the wider educational world.
From September 2019, with the opening of the St James Nursery, the school will offer an all-through education to pupils from 3 to 18. The Nursery School is located close to the St James Preparatory School and St James Senior Girls’ School which share a site in Kensington Olympia, London. The Girls’ School Sixth Form Centre is based in North End Road, 5 minutes from the main building. The Senior Boys’ School is located in Ashford, Surrey.
Across the schools we provide an education for approximately 900 pupils whose families represent all religious spiritual traditions and none. The school is non-denominational. Its curriculum seeks to enrich all dimensions of the human being by drawing on the best of the world’s spiritual, cultural, academic and artistic traditions. The aim is to provide an environment in which every human being can truly flourish.
The success of the St James Schools in London has inspired similar schools to spring up around the world. There are schools in Dublin, Trinidad, Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town.