Downe House School Information Booklet

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School Information 2020 - 2021

Contents Location 4 School description 4 Ethos and aims 4 Governance 5 School size and structure 5 Staffing 5 Leadership Team 5 Curriculum, teaching and learning 6 Pastoral care, safeguarding and child protection


Co-curricular activities 7 Foundation Office 8 Medical Centre 8 Murray Centre 8 Information Systems 8 Veyrines – the French experience 8 Catering and School events 8 Housekeeping and Estates 8 Inspection Reports and Awards 8 The Future – Ten Year Vision 9 Academic success 10


Location Downe House is located in the village of Cold Ash in Berkshire. Although in a village setting, it is only five miles outside the busy market town of Newbury and is well-positioned for easy access to the M4 motorway, London and Heathrow Airport. There is plenty of onsite parking for staff.

language facilities, a 25 metre indoor pool and a number of new and refurbished boarding houses and residential facilities. More improvements are planned as part of the Ten Year Vision for the School. Downe House is a charitable company limited by guarantee. The School is a member of to the Independent Schools Council (ISC) and as such is subject to regular inspections by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI).

School description The first Headmistress, Miss Olive Willis, established Downe House as a girls’ boarding school in 1907. Miss Willis wished to promote educational excellence within a relaxed but structured framework, which enabled girls to flourish through innovative teaching and an environment where mutual respect between staff and pupils was highly valued and pursued. The School’s first home was Down House in the village of Downe, Kent – formerly the home of Charles Darwin. The School outgrew the house so Olive Willis bought ‘The Cloisters’ in Berkshire and the School moved to its current location in Cold Ash in 1921.

Ethos and aims

Downe House is set in a peaceful location of 110 acres of wooded grounds less than 60 miles from the centre of London in the beautiful county of Berkshire. ‘The Cloisters’ are at the heart of the School and consist of a white arched walkway linking many of the classrooms and the School Chapel. There are also a number of newer buildings and modern facilities including a purpose-built performing arts centre, a sports and fitness centre, a learning resource centre and

Whilst girls of all faiths attend Downe House, a Christian ethos prevails throughout the School. Respecting all beliefs, the School provides girls with the opportunity of attending either a school assembly or a service in the School Chapel before lessons commence on most days. Every member of our community can rely on the pastoral and spiritual care of our Chaplain, the Reverend Anthea Platt.


Downe House exists to provide girls with, and promote, an excellent holistic education. It aims to enable girls to strive for the highest academic results of which they are capable. At the same time they should enjoy the opportunities and support which allow them to develop the personal, social, spiritual and emotional awareness that is the balance to academic excellence and thus prepares them for adult life and work. Downe House also seeks to enable girls to develop as global citizens and to view life outwardly.

Governance The Governors act as the trustees of the School in respect of its status as a charity. They also provide strategic guidance on the running of the School and can form the court of last appeal on issues such as the exclusion of a pupil or employees’ grievances. The Board of Governors usually consists of twelve to fifteen members with a wide range of knowledge and experience. Most of them have a connection with the School either as current parents, former parents or past pupils, but some have no previous connection with the School and therefore provide an even broader perspective. They are all volunteers who receive no remuneration. The full Board meets four times a year and there is a smaller Nominations Panel that is called together once a year to consider candidates for election as Governors. Committees (Finance and General Purposes (F&GP) and Education) and the Estates Sub-Committee also meet four times a year in advance of Board meetings. In addition, Governors meet at least once a year to fulfil their statutory obligations as directors and trustees of the School’s various subsidiary bodies.

School size and structure There are currently around 580 pupils age 11-18 and the vast majority are full-time boarders. Most girls join at 11+, 12+ or 13+ with just a few joining in the Sixth Form each year. Each point of entry offers different benefits and a thorough programme of support is in place for girls, no matter what age they are when they join. The School operates a ‘three tier’ boarding system - a unique boarding structure that has been developed to help girls in the lower years settle in as quickly as possible and to assist and support older pupils as their personal needs and learning requirements change. Girls joining Downe House at 11+ or 12+ will begin their School days in either Hermitage, Hill or Darwin, our wonderful new Lower School Houses. The Lower School boarding houses are designed to provide the very best facilities to create a ‘home away from home.’ At the same time, each girl also becomes a member of one of the five Upper School Houses which they will move onto at 13+ – Aisholt, Ancren Gate North, Ancren Gate South, Holcombe or Tedworth - and benefit from all the fun, competitions, challenges and activities that this House membership brings. Most girls tend to stay on in the Sixth Form where there is a strong sense of growing independence. The 180 or so Sixth Form students board full-time, although there is the freedom to leave the School

most weekends and at times during the week if a girl’s Tutor sanctions this. At Sixth Form, girls move into either Willis or York. With excellent facilities for living and independent working, these Houses have been expressly designed to prepare each girl better for university life.

Staffing We currently employ over 450 staff in a broad range of roles including teachers, pastoral staff, administrators, catering staff, maintenance staff, nurses and many more. We have a strong staff community and all our staff, whatever their role, are encouraged to get fully involved with the life of the School. Everyone has an important part to play and their enthusiasm for the job that they do and the skills that they possess make a real impact on the education and care of the girls at Downe House. We value the wellbeing of all members of our community and run a comprehensive programme for staff as well as students. Downe House staff are also well supported by a range of learning and development opportunities.

Leadership Team The School Leadership Team, which is chaired by the Head, consists of the Deputy Head, Boarding Deputy, Academic Deputy, Assistant Head (Foundation), Head of Sixth Form, Head of Upper School, Head of Lower School, Director of Information Systems, Director of Human Resources, Finance Bursar, Director of Business Development, Director of Estates, Property and Services and Director of Operations and the Murray Centre. The team works closely together and meets regularly to consider issues including future School strategy, monitoring pupil and staff performance and development, development and planning, policy development, educational development as well as wider School initiatives.

Mrs Emma McKendrick, Headmistress


Curriculum, teaching and learning Downe House is renowned for providing an outstanding education. Teaching methods are thoughtfully planned to encourage and support each girl’s abilities and potential. The School day is divided into eleven teaching periods, with breaks in the morning, at lunch time and tea time. Lessons commence at 9am and usually finish at 6pm apart from Wednesdays whe lessons start at 8.30am and finish at 4.20pm. Lessons also take place on a Saturday morning. The curriculum on offer is diverse and the School believes in providing opportunities that enthuse, motivate, boost self-belief and above all make learning fascinating and fun. Downe House offers a bespoke curriculum across all year levels. In the Sixth Form, a wide range of subjects is offered. Sixth Form results are impressive and enable girls to embark upon their chosen university course with confidence. I/GCSE results are equally strong and girls entering the Sixth Form have a firm foundation.

Pastoral care and safeguarding The School has an excellent reputation for pastoral care and the wellbeing of each girl is always paramount when planning any aspect of School life. Through a pastoral system which is both protective and nurturing, Downe House girls develop socially, intellectually, spiritually, morally, emotionally and physically. Providing support, 6

guidance and advice, the pastoral staff also help instil the values of self-belief, motivation and discipline, as well as kindness, understanding, consideration for the needs of others and a sense of service. In each of the boarding houses, opportunities exist for girls to build strong friendships, not only with girls in their own year group, but across the School community, and relationships between staff and students are expected to be positive and mutually respectful. Pastoral care is complemented by a comprehensive tutorial system where every girl is individually assigned to a Tutor who is there to support and guide her in all aspects of School life including curriculum choices, academic progress, managing her extra-curricular programme and much more! In addition, there is an onsite, purpose-built Medical Centre where a team of qualified nurses is on hand to provide both medical care and a friendly ear. The Boarding Deputy is the Designated Safeguarding Lead and works closely in this area with other members of the Leadership Team. The School culture encourages everyone to feel comfortable to discuss concerns in complete confidence. The School’s Safeguarding and Child Protection Policy is available on the website.

Co-curricular activities The richness of learning provided within the classroom only goes part way to illustrate the opportunities that boarding at Downe House brings. Believing in the importance of providing a broad and balanced education, the School offers a comprehensive range of Co-curricular activities that are designed to instil a sense of adventure, encourage each girl’s natural curiosity and inspire a thirst for knowledge. The programme is extensive, with a full range of activities and opportunities in the evenings and at weekends. The team responsible for organising Co-curricular activities is situated in a log cabin in the heart of the School site. They work closely with the Housestaff to arrange opportunities including theatre and cinema trips, dance classes, horse riding, outward-bound activities, sport and social events with other schools.

Sport - The Sports provision is considerable

and includes lacrosse, netball, hockey, tennis, swimming, squash, gymnastics, athletics, crosscounty and trampolining. There are extensive playing fields that accommodate six lacrosse pitches, an all-weather pitch and seventeen tennis courts. There is also a purpose-built large sports hall with fitness and dance studios, 25 metre indoor swimming, squash courts, fitness room, spinning area and gym.

Music - Music forms an intrinsic part of

concerts, School musicals and Whole-School concerts, inside and outside School. This could be as part of one of the three orchestras and choirs, the School’s big band, rock bands and other ensembles. These provide ample occasions for girls to learn and play together. The Director of Music leads an experienced and talented team of teaching staff as well as a number of Visiting Music Teachers. Future plans for the School include a new purpose built Music Centre to add to the array of facilities on offer to the girls.

Drama - With an impressive Performing Arts

Centre with attached drama studios, the School provides excellent facilities for teaching and performing. Many girls also have private Speech and Drama lessons, which often focus on The Trinity Guildhall Speech and Drama Examinations and the RADA Shakespeare Certificate. A number of School productions run throughout the year.

Art - Supported by workshops and lectures

by local artists, visits to galleries, as well as the opportunity to make full use of the extensive art, pottery and photography facilities, girls are encouraged to develop their own style and experiment with different approaches. The recently opened Murray Centre provides even more opportunities to showcase the girls’ work and plans are forming for enhanced facilities for Art, Design and Technology as part of the School’s Ten Year Vision.

daily School life and is enjoyed by the whole community. The opportunities to make music are considerable and include performing in lunchtime


Foundation Office The Foundation Office exists to link past and present members of the Downe House community through effective communication, a varied programme of events, the acknowledgement of achievements, collaborative planning and active fundraising. By promoting an atmosphere where all community members benefit from initiatives that are designed to be informative, enjoyable, valuable and inspirational, we embrace the principles of our founder, Olive Willis.

Medical Centre The School’s medical centre, known as the Palmer Centre, is located in a quiet, wooded area of the site, away from the everyday hustle and bustle of the School. The Centre is purpose built, bright and well equipped. It is a highly valued part of the School community and is staffed by an experienced and committed team of nurses and support staff. The key purpose of the centre is to promote the health, welfare and wellbeing of the pupils and to support the GP surgeries that take place within the Centre throughout the week.

Murray Centre Our stunning state-of-the-art centre for learning, housing the library, a 250-seat Auditorium, collaborative learning spaces a seminar room and coffee shop.

runs its own French School which is housed in a converted farm and outbuildings. The term in France is an important part of School life and is often referred to as one of the highlights for the girls, one which they never forget. It offers a unique and different learning experience in an idyllic setting.

Catering and School Events In recent years our elegant wooden beamed dining room was extended in order to bring a little of the outside in. The extension overlooks the Cloisters and during the Summer, girls and staff can enjoy their meals sitting at bistro tables, taking in the wonderful view. The dining room can seat 280, all at round tables, which makes for an enhanced social experience when dining with friends or colleagues. The catering department caters for over 900 meals per day – breakfast, lunch and supper, and also provides catering for School events ranging from three course sit-down dinners for 200 to sports teas for 500! We have a second modern ‘bistro style’ dining area for the Sixth Form and these modern facilities include a coffee lounge and spacious social spaces for the girls and staff to enjoy. Our recently opened Murray Centre provides a coffee shop to bring all members of the community together for informal meetings, tutorials and discussion.

Housekeeping and estates Information Systems The IS department has core responsibilities for maintaining and supporting all computer equipment, including the network infrastructure, audio visual systems in classrooms plus sound and lighting support for all performance venues. The Downe House network connects around 800 computers and mobile devices, including our school in France, with the necassary infrastructure to provide access to a range of teaching and learning resources plus day-to-day administration. We are also proud to be a Microsoft Showcase School.

A Term in France The School offers all girls in the Lower Fourth (Year 8) the unique opportunity of living near the Dordogne for one term in a rural village called Veyrines de Domme. Downe House owns and


Our dedicated team of Housekeeping and Estates staff are the backbone of the operation, looking after and maintaining ten boarding houses and over 100 acres of land, including our all-weather pitch. The departments operate a helpdesk support system and staff can log their calls, knowing that a member of the team will be in contact to solve a problem, move a piano or change a light bulb

Inspection Reports and awards Recent inspection reports have been extremely positive. Full details of recent inspections by Ofsted, ISI and the Good Schools Guide can be found on our website, but the following quote gives a flavour. “Pupils develop into young women with high levels of self-esteem, well prepared to face their future confidently and boldly.” Independent Schools Inspectorate March 2017

The Ten Year Vision It is our aim to ensure that Downe House moves forward and remains at the forefront of boarding education. Our girls are preparing for an increasingly demanding future and we want them to have the very best preparation for life and the maximum range of opportunities, so that they can develop as rounded individuals and leave us ready to make a significant contribution to society. It is also our hope and aspiration that Downe House should, as our Founder intended, continue to be a thriving community so that the girls benefit from strong parental involvement, a global outlook, the support of our alumnae and, of course, the highest calibre of staff. As part of our strategy to achieve this, the School has focused on strategic projects such as the recent refurbishment of Holcombe, York and Darwin Houses, the building of the new Lower School Houses, and improvements made to the dining facilities and surrounding area on the ground floor of Willis House. Now we can add the Murray Centre to this list of achievements and our plans for the future include the provision of a well appointed Music School.

Further information about the School can be found on our website:


RESULTS AND DESTINATIONS HIGHLIGHTS 2020 Downe House girls achieve outstanding results at I/GCSE, A Level and Pre-U. They leave Downe House to take up places at top universities around the world to pursue a range of courses from Engineering, Medicine and Sciences to Art, Languages and Humanities.



83% A*-A DI-D3

90% 9-7 (A*-A)

A*/ D1-D2


96% A*-B DI-M2

98% 9-6 (A*-B) 9-8 (A*)


7 (A)


6 (B)


5-2 (C-E)




B/ M1-M2


C-E/ M3-P3


Destination and course highlights

“We are delighted that our results remain consistently high year on year, however, what is most important is not the statistics but the individual triumphs that the grades represent for each girl.” Mrs Emma McKendrick, Headmistress



83% A* - A overall

(A*-C) 9-5 ov % e 0


9- 0 % 8/ M u A* sic

100% A* - A

9 - 10 0 % 6/A Cr *-B ea tiv e Ar ts






9-7 (A*-A)

100 A* / 9-8 ma

Creative Arts

90% D ra



Subject highlights

ll ra

A Level/Pre-U

% 100 *-B A

9-6/ sh li Eng

Where do our girls go?



First-choice universities

Russell Group


QS World Top 20


Top 4 London universities


Oxford, Cambridge or RVC


Overseas universities

What are they studying?

25% STEM


Politics and International Relations


Economics and Management


Creative or Performing Arts


Cold Ash, Thatcham, Berkshire RG18 9JJ T: 01635 200286 F: 01635 202026 Downe House School