We’re Celebrating 90 years! – A little bit about our history

Jun 14, 2024

Westminster Tutors, a beacon of academic excellence situated in the heart of London since its establishment in 1934, carries a rich legacy of unique traditions and notable alumni. It was founded by the visionary Miss Freeston, who studied Physics and Chemistry at St Hilda’s College, Oxford, and who was one of the first women to matriculate from Oxford University. Westminster Tutors was a pioneer in offering education to young women who aspired to gain a university education, a progressive initiative that set it apart from its male contemporaries.

A Quirky Beginning

Miss Freeston herself was a character marked by her eccentricities. Known for her stout build and peculiar habit of wearing a rug pinned around her waist to stay warm, she worked (and some say lived) in an office cluttered with books and piles of The Times, preferred by her cats as sleeping spots. Her old, smelly dog, Topsy, added to the quirky charm of the College, a place where academic rigour was matched by an equally robust atmosphere of eccentricity and warmth.

Academic Excellence and Notable Educators

The institution has always prided itself on its high academic standards and remarkable teaching staff. Among its distinguished faculty were the renowned authors AS Byatt and Penelope Fitzgerald, both of whom won the Booker Prize, with Fitzgerald winning the prize for her novel Offshore while at Westminster Tutors. Another influential figure has been Jane Darwin, known for her erudite and inspirational teaching of English literature over many years, and her dedication to the college as Principal. More recently, James Miller, the novelist, and Oliver Mears, Director of the Royal Opera House, have taught at the college. Meanwhile, many science teachers have gone on to pursue illustrious careers in academia or in top positions at Google and others.

A Bohemian Atmosphere

Initially located at Artillery Row, Westminster Palace Gardens, the College was characterised by its bohemian and somewhat shabby charm. Rickety stairs, saggy leather sofas, small and dark classrooms, and cupboards with leftover candles from the three-day week added to its unique ambience. This informal and friendly environment was ideal for fostering a strong sense of community among students and staff, a tradition that continues today.

Alumni of Distinction

Prime Ministers and pop stars have chosen to send their children to the College, and it has been a nurturing ground for notable alumni. These include Helena Bonham Carter, Tilda Swinton, William Sieghart, Edward St Aubyn, Marina Warner and Anna Wintour. These individuals reflect the successful paths that students of Westminster Tutors have embarked upon, showcasing the institution’s ability to prepare its students for remarkable futures.

The College faced challenges in the 1980s due to the discontinuation of the Oxford and Cambridge entrance exams, a significant focus of its offering. Despite setbacks, Westminster Tutors has readily adapted, first by admitting boys and then by focusing on A levels, thus evolving into an independent sixth form college to sustain its legacy. In the 1990s David Game, one of the country’s foremost education entrepreneurs, acquired the College and it now forms part of his formidable network of schools and colleges. This resilience and ability to evolve has ensured that Westminster Tutors has continued to thrive, whilst maintaining its unswerving commitment to providing personalised and high-quality education.

Continuing the Tradition

One of the key figures in the recent history of the College has been Virginia Maguire, who served as Principal from 2007 to 2020. Her allegiance to Westminster Tutors is cemented by the fact that her mother studied for her A levels under the watchful eye of the College Founder, Miss Freeston. Today, under the leadership of its newest Principal, Sean Doherty, Westminster Tutors remains a beacon of individualised education, catering to students who often require a more tailored and supportive learning environment. The College continues to embrace students with diverse needs, many of whom go on to top universities and embark on impressive careers. In this way Sean ensures that the spirit of inclusion and academic excellence that Miss Freeston envisioned remains at the core of its ethos. Westminster Tutors is a testament to the enduring power of the highest educational standards and quirky traditions that welcome all comers and allow each one of them to flourish. Its history is a rich tapestry of remarkable educators, distinguished alumni and a unique atmosphere fostering learning and personal development for nearly a century.

The class of Miss Freeston, St Hilda’s College, Oxford, 1922

Why Choose Westminster Tutors?

  • Top independent sixth form college
  • Average grades 57% A*-A and 80% A*-B
  • 68% placed at Russell Group unis
  • Superbly qualified teachers who care
  • Average A level retake improvement is 1.5 grades
Student studying for her A-Levels
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About Us

Westminster Tutors is one of the oldest and best independent sixth form colleges in London. Established in 1934, our culture of scholastic excellence is deeply embedded and sets the standard for other colleges to follow.