Rose Hill School, Tunbridge Wells
Bang in the centre of T.Wells, yet boasts the green spaces of a country school! Take a look...
ROSE HILL SCHOOL, TUNBRIDGE WELLS
Rose Hill School is an independent prep school for boys and girls aged 3-13 in the middle of Tunbridge Wells. Coniston Ave, since you asked, so yippeedidoodah it’s superclose to the shops, theatre or Basil Cafe on St John’s Rd for a morning caffeine injection. So it’s a (yeah, admittedly superficial) Muddy thumbs up on the location.
The school is smack bang in suburbia meaning you could easily pass the little entrance road leading there without even realising it, but take the turning and a whole 13 acres of school unfolds before you (see the birdseye image above). Not necessarily what you expect from a school in the middle of town.
Now Rose Hill is one of England’s oldest prep schools (established in 1832, since you asked) but moved to its current location in 1966 (I am on fire!) and now sits in a series of modern and purpose-built buildings, with loads of green (fields and woodland). No Highclere Castle-like mansion buildings to slap on the front of a prospectus, but there’s very strong school-room provision for its 300 pupils with immaculate playing fields, sports courts and separate pre-prep area.
The big headline facilities at Rose Hill are astro-turf, sports hall, woodland and theatre (above) where no less than 5 musical theatre productions are put on every year. The playing fields are used for hockey, rugby and football in the winter, girls’ and boys’ cricket, rounders, athletics, oh, and theres’s a golf course. There’s also lots of woodland learning, which is really connected to the main curriculum, a fantastic facility for little kids who get to explore, light fires (with adult supervision!) and be kids in a safe environment.
There are between 50-70 after school and lunch time clubs and activities on offer. Art and creativity are strong here.
On the technology front, there are lots of school iPads, smart ICT suites aaaaand (this must be super exciting for existing pupils) *squeak* an indoor swimming pool was under construction at the time of my visit (due to open in February 2018) Not too shabby!
Music wise, there’s the usual provision for peripatetic music teachers. But more interestingly Tom Chaplin, lead singer of the British pop rock band Keane, recently judged the inter house music competition and the winning house got the best trophy I’ve seen yet (below).
The Learning Skills department here is pretty good too. The Head of Learning Skills is full time and is ultimately responsible for the provision of extra support available to children with Specific Learning Difficulties so everyone gets to achieve their full potential.
Situated in such a grammar school hot spot (Skinners, TOGGS, TWGGS, TWBGS) Rose Hill enjoys a high level of academic success in the Kent Selection Assessment (11+) with around 50% of pupils leaving the school after Year 6 to go to grammars. It does mean that there’s a drop off in numbers and some of the classes in Year 7 & 8 are smaller than lower down in the school.
Last year 73% of applicants were successful in the Kent Selection Assessment and at Common Entrance there was a 100% pass rate with all applicants succeeding in achieving places at their first-choice schools. A number go onto near by Bennett Memorial (it is literally right next door) and the rest remain in the independent school system – with an impressive 18 scholarships being won last year (8 Academic, 4 Art, 1 Dance and 5 Sport).
ISI report: Click here to see.
Emma will have been in the hotseat for exactly a year in April (2018), having come from a deputy headship at Caterham Preparatory School, in Surrey. You’ll like the fact that she’s the first appointed female head the school has ever had (in days gone by the wives of deceased Heads inherited the school, but that’s not really the same thing, is it?) You’ll also like the way she handles the kids and the many issues they face in the modern world. She’s the new breath of fresh air and switched on enthusiasm the school was looking for.
The Pre-Prep children range in age from 3-7 years. There is a two form intake and classes are small (no more than 16 children) and pupils enjoy big, bright classrooms. Little ones get lots of opportunities to stretch their legs, blow off steam and enjoy the fresh air. Woodland learning is genuinely connected to their main schooling – I flipped through scrapbooks showing photos of camps being built but also artwork, stories and history all inspired by outside learning.
USP & Quirks:
I got totally side-tracked in the DT department where some Year 7s were working on this electric Goblin go-kart (above). Every year the school builds 2 go-karts – one younger version and one slightly more complex version for the older years. The older children race theirs, accumulating in an exciting Gathering of Goblins at Goodwood Motor Circuit, as featured on CBBC’s Blue Peter, bet that’s an experience to remember for the kids involved.
The school is proud of one of its most famous alumni – Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Scout and Girl Guide movement and this is celebrated big style on his birthday in February every year. (The school has it’s own Rainbows, Brownies and Scouts).
Also worth noting, there’s a genuine focus on wellness amongst both staff and pupils here. Key staff took a GCSE in Children’s Mental Health during the Christmas break. Mindfulness is big to the extent that 2 members of staff have undergone training to be able to teach it themselves. The school is in its second year of integrating mindfulness into the daily life of all children in Upper School.
Wrap around care:
Early morning care is offered from 8am (go on, boot em in!) and after school care is offered until 5.15pm.
Word on the ground:
The parents I’ve spoken to say that although the last head was very popular having served the school for 19 years, Rose Hill has really benefitted from the renewed energy new head, Emma Neville brings. The school is particularly strong at sports, academically robust, pastoral care is excellent, and parents enjoy the lower fees. One slight concern are some of the smaller sized classes higher up the school but then some see this as a bonus!
Fees: Kindergarten, 5 mornings (08.25 – 12.00) + 1 lunch per week: £2,075.00 per term. Reception – Y2: £3,575.00 per term. Y3 – Y8 £4,785.00 per term. So less expensive than many of the other prep schools I’ve been to.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Anyone looking for a small, good all-round, centrally located school with decent academic results, particularly if you’re thinking of your child entering in the 11+ Kent Test. The nurturing ethos of the school has great appeal and it’s got great outdoors facilities for such a town-based school – perfect for families living in Tunbridge Wells and surrounds who are maybe commuting into London.
Not for: Those looking for bucolic grounds and grand buildings – a modern town-centre school has many benefits but aesthetically the school is nothing to shout about. However the facilities for sport, science, art and drama are nothing short of fab.
Dare to disagree?! Don’t take my word for it! Have a look for yourself at the Open Morning on 13 March at 9.30 am.
Rose Hill School, Coniston Avenue, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN4 9SY, Tel: 01892 525 591, rosehillschool.co.uk