|Downe House School|
|Type||Independent day and boarding|
|Religious affiliation(s)||Church of England|
|Department for Education URN||110123 Tables|
|Age||11 to 18|
The Good Schools Guide described Downe House as an "Archetypal traditional girls' full boarding school turning out delightful, principled, courteous and able girls who go on to make a significant contribution to the world".
Downe House was founded in 1907 by Olive Willis, its first headmistress, as an all-girls' boarding school. Its first home was Down House in the village of Downe, Kent (now part of the London Borough of Bromley), which had been the home of Charles Darwin.
By 1921 Down House was too small for the school, so Willis bought The Cloisters, Cold Ash, Berkshire, to which the school moved in 1922, and where it remains. It now accepts day pupils but is still predominantly a boarding school.
As most girls at Downe House are boarders, the house system is incorporated with the boarding programme. Every girl belongs to a mixed age house (AGN, AGS, Aisholt, Holcombe or Tedworth) throughout their time at the school. Students, however, only live in the mixed age houses from U4–U5 (Years 9–11).
The houses are:
- Hill (ages 11–12)
- Hermitage (ages 11–12)
- Darwin (ages 11–13)
- AGN (ages 13–16)
- AGS (ages 13–16)
- Aisholt (ages 13–16)
- Holcombe (ages 13–16)
- Tedworth (ages 13–16)
- Willis (ages 16–18)
- York (ages 16–18)
Downe House educates girls between the ages of eleven and eighteen, taking them from the last years of junior school through to the sixth form. Girls can join the school at the ages of eleven, twelve, or thirteen, on leaving a primary or prep school, or at sixteen after completing GCSEs. The biggest intake of girls is at 11+.
Entry into Downe House is competitive, with entrants needing to pass the Common Entrance Examination.
The core subjects at Downe House are English, Mathematics and Science as well as Humanities, Classics and Social Sciences subjects and there are options such as Fine Arts, Foreign Languages and Business Studies.
For the first two years, pupils are split between three lower school boarding houses: Hill, Hermitage and Darwin. They then move on to their mixed aged houses in their third year, the houses being AGS, AGN, Aisholt, Tedworth and Holcombe. The final two years of sixth form are spent in either Willis or York house, as the houses alternate between year groups. The five mixed age houses are used for inter-house competitions such as House Drama, House Music, House Dance and Sports Day.
2004 fees story
In 2004, as reported by The Times, Downe House was one of about sixty of the country's leading independent schools which were accused of running an unlawful price-fixing cartel, contrary to the Competition Act 1998, enabling them to drive up fees charged to thousands of parents. After an Inquiry later that year, in 2005 the school was ordered to pay a nominal penalty of £10,000, and with the other schools agreed to make ex-gratia payments totalling three million pounds into a trust to benefit pupils who attended the schools during the period in question. However, the Independent Schools Council said the investigation had been "a scandalous waste of public money". Jean Scott, its head, said that the schools had always been exempt from anti-cartel rules applied to business, were following a long-established procedure in sharing the information with each other, and had been unaware of a change to the law, on which they had not been consulted. She wrote to John Vickers, the Office of Fair Trading director-general, "They are not a group of businessmen meeting behind closed doors to fix the price of their products to the disadvantage of the consumer. They are schools that have quite openly continued to follow a long-established practice because they were unaware that the law had changed."
Notable former pupils
- Margaret Aston, Medieval historian
- Clare Balding, BBC sports presenter
- Tessa Dahl, daughter of Roald Dahl and Patricia Neal
- Miranda Hart, comedian and actress
- Marina Hyde, columnist for The Guardian
- Countess Alexandra Tolstoy, writer and presenter
- Annette Worsley-Taylor (1944 – 2015), fashion entrepreneur and the founder of London Fashion Week.
- "A new School uniform is in the offing". Downe House. Downe House School. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
- "Schools Guide 2012 - Downe House". Tatler.
- Profile Archived 13 August 2009 at the Wayback Machine on the Good Schools Guide
- Atkins 1976, pp. 106–110.
- "Cold Ash school named Tatler's school of 2011". Newbury Weekly News. 7 October 2011. Archived from the original on 3 June 2013.
- Boarding Archived 9 May 2012 at the Wayback Machine
- Liberated learning, through liberated teaching Archived 11 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine
- Independent schools face huge fines over cartel to fix fees - Times Online
- "OFT names further trustees as part of the independent schools settlement". Office of Fair Trading. 21 December 2006. Archived from the original on 10 June 2008.
- "Private schools send papers to fee-fixing inquiry". The Daily Telegraph. London. 3 January 2004. Retrieved 27 September 2014.
- Sheppard, Martin (14 December 2014). "Margaret Aston: Historian who illuminated the study of religious life in England between the late Middle Ages and the Civil War". The Independent. Retrieved 3 January 2015.
- Cochrane, Kira (11 January 2013). "Clare Balding: 'I want to make the world better, for women mainly'". The Guardian. London.
- "Out of the Shadow". Chicago Tribune. 9 April 1989.
- Gilbert, Gerard (3 December 2011). "Miranda Hart: 'I was never in the cool gang'". The Independent. London.
- "Not too Cool for School!" (PDF) (1). Cloisters. Summer 2011. p. 5.[permanent dead link]
- "An interview with Marina Hyde (Dudley-Williams DH 1992)". Alumnae News. Downe House Foundation. 18 January 2019. Retrieved 19 December 2019.
- Tolstoy family at burkespeerage.com, accessed 6 January 2019
- Etherington-Smith, Meredith (31 August 2015). "Annette Worsley-Taylor: London Fashion Week founder whose passion for the best design helped turn British fashion into a global success". The Independent.
- Atkins, Hedley (1976). "Downe House School". Down: the Home of the Darwins: the story of a house and the people who lived there (2nd ed.). [Chichester]: Phillimore. pp. 106–110. ISBN 0-85033-231-1.
- Bowen, Elizabeth (1950). "The Mulberry Tree". Collected Impressions. London: Longmans Green and Co. pp. 185–194. (Describes life at Downe House during World War I)
- Horsler, Val; Kingsland, Jenny (2006). Downe House: a Mystery and a Miracle. London: Third Millennium Publishing. ISBN 978-1-903942-50-5.
- Ridler, Anne (1967). Olive Willis and Downe House: an adventure in education. London: John Murray. At openlibrary.org