School History

You can read Milton Toubkin, Southbank’s Founding Headmaster’s story of the school’s beginnings as an international high school . A School Without Walls.

September 12, 1979

Milton Toubkin, David Tucker, John Marberry, Susan Marberry and Stephen Bailey sign document establishing the American International School (AIS). The School is based on three principles: 1) it would be democratic 2) it would use London as the classroom 3) the curriculum would be individual.

September 1980

Disused Victorian primary school building in Cornwall Road on the Southbank transforms into AIS (after much hammering, drilling, sanding and painting!). The enrolment target was 30 but 80 students sign up.


Name changes to Southbank American International School, to differentiate from other similar school acronyms.

Southbank becomes a founding member of LISA (London International Schools Association)


Outgrew Cornwall Road and moved to a Georgian building, near Victoria Station, in Ecceleston Square on the Belgravia/Pimlico border.


Expands to incorporate a “Junior High” for Grades 7 and 8.


Introduction of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme Southbank became a member of ISA (Independent Schools Association).


Rented a small annexe close to Ecceleston Square, in St. George’s Drive.


Southbank became one of the pilot schools in the IB’s Theatre Arts programme.

December 1988

Southbank outgrew both Ecceleston Square buildings and moved to 36-38 Kensington Park Road. Parent Francis Oeser redesigned the building and oversaw the work.


Leased neighbouring building in Kensington Park Road and converted it into a library, art room, science lab, music room and hall.


Southbank Primary School opened.


Trading name changed to Southbank International School to reflect the IB and international make-up of the student body.

September 1995

Southbank Hampstead campus opens in Netherhall Gardens as a Primary and Middle School. Jane Treftz appointed as the Principal. Kensington appointed Tony Pearson as the new Primary and Middle School Principal. Nigel Hughes became High School Principal.


Admissions office moved to 18 Portobello Road.


Southbank adopted IB Primary Years Programme for 3-11 year olds.


Southbank approved as a centre for IB Middle Years Programme for 11-16 year olds, making Southbank the first school in the UK to be approved for all three IB Programmes.


The School’s 21st Anniversary. Milton Toubkin, the founding member and Headmaster, retired after 22 years of service. Nigel Hughes appointed as the new Head. Carol Thearle appointed as the new Middle and High School Principal. Julia Alden appointed as the Primary Principal.


Southbank acquired a Grade II listed building 63-65 Portland Place (Howard De Walden Estate) and adapted it to a school under English Heritage guidelines.

September 2003

Southbank Westminster opened for Middle Years Programme and IB Diploma Programme students. Kensington Middle and High School transferred to 63-65 Portland Place. Kensington remodelled as a Primary School for Early Childhood-Grade 5.


Gary Winning appointed as the new Primary Principal of Kensington.


Terry Hedger appointed as the new Middle and High School Principal at Westminster campus. Southbank was sold to Cognita Schools Ltd on December 21.


Southbank establishes “ London IB Revision Courses” Nigel Hughes retires after 25 years service. Judith Kingsbury appointed as the new Primary Principal at Kensington. Education Board formed with Terry Hedger also appointed as the Chair. Ben Joseph became the Executive Director. Hampstead campus became all Primary. The Middle School moved to Portland Place. Southbank Fitzrovia annexe opened in Conway Street for IB Diploma students (Grades 11 and 12).


Jane Treftz retired as Principal of the Hampstead campus after 25 years of service. Helen O’Donoghue appointed as the new Principal of the Hampstead campus.


The School’s 30th Anniversary. Mark Case appointed as the new Primary Principal at Kensington. All campuses received Outstanding grades in inspections by Independent Schools Inspectorate.

The total number of students at all four sites is now 769, with 66 nationalities represented. School Board was formed, with elected parent members and Cognita representatives, to provide strategic direction for the work and continued improvement of the school, seeking out best IB practice in all endeavours. Ben Joseph, Executive Director, retires after 30 years of service.

Executive Principal and new Westminster Principal, Graham Lacey, appointed to start in August. Shirley Harwood appointed as the new Primary Principal at Hampstead.

The school celebrates its best ever IB diploma results.  School Inspection Service (SIS) reports confirm the excellent education that Southbank provides. 71 nationalities now represented within the student body. Chris Greenhalgh appointed as the new Westminster Principal and Siobhan McGrath appointed as the new Principal at Kensington.

Siobhan McGrath appointed as the Executive Principal and Justine Oliver appointed as the new Westminster Principal.