Rose Hill School, Tunbridge Wells
Bang in the centre of T.Wells, yet boasts the green spaces of a country school... This school stands out for its exceptional pastoral care and uniquely competitive fees for the older pupils. Find out more here!
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, on Coniston Ave, to be precise.
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 15 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 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 excellent facilities including an indoor swimming pool, playing fields, sports courts and separate Pre-Prep area.
The big headline facilities at Rose Hill are astro-turf, sports hall (below), woodland and theatre (above) where no less than 5 musical theatre productions are put on every year, plus the indoor pool, which means swimming lessons all year round for its pupils.
The playing fields are used for hockey, rugby and football in the winter, girls’ and boys’ cricket, athletics, oh, and there’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 as many as 75 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 and clubs where these skills can be put to good use.
Activities vary from the more traditional sports: hockey, netball, rugby, football, cricket and athletics, to alternatives such as dance, yoga, badminton, basketball and water polo.
An indoor swimming pool opened up in May 2018 where every year group from Kindergarten up uses it at least once a week. A pretty big plus-point!
MUSIC & DRAMA
Music wise, 80 pupils are in the orchestra and almost half the pupils take individual music lessons with peripatetic music teachers, learning a total of 16 different types of instruments.
And, here’s one for the ‘fun fact’ fans. A few years ago Tom Chaplin, lead singer of the British pop rock band Keane, judged the inter house music competition and the winning house got the best trophy I’ve seen yet (above).
ART & DT
Every year the school builds three go-karts – two younger versions and one slightly more complex version for the older years (like this electric Goblin go-kart, above). 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 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.
ACADEMICS & ADMISSIONS
Situated in such a grammar school hot spot (Skinners, TOGGS, TWGGS, TWBGS, Judd) Rose Hill enjoys a high level of academic success in the Kent Selection Assessment (11+) which does mean 50% of pupils leaving the school after Year 6 choose to go to local grammars.
When I last visited there had been a considerable drop off in numbers in those two remaining years of Year 7 & Year 8 – which were quite small. But since then the school has introduced a brilliant initiative to encourage pupils to stay and attract new children to join and numbers are growing.
In a nutshell the fees for Year 7 and Year 8 are reduced by more than half in order to attract the numbers and offer a wonderful opportunity to those year groups – more on this here.
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 small number go onto near by Bennett Memorial (it is literally right next door) and the rest remain in the independent school system – with several scholarships being won last year to a variety of schools in the area.
A new Curriculum 2020 was introduced last year, adding increased rigour and fun to the established learning journey.
When it comes to Home Schooling, even the youngest learners here have Live pastoral check-ins (so with their form teachers) at the beginning and end of every day.
Lessons are taught using Microsoft Teams and even Year 1 & Year 2 have up to 4 hours a day and from Year 3 there’s Live access to all lessons. However the school is pretty flexible and recognises the different challenges faced in every household so lessons are recorded too and can be done at alternative times – especially for younger ones.
Emma Neville joined the school as head in April 2017, 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?)
In the 5 years since Ms Neville took the helm she’s got the school in good shape – making the most of the facilities, opening up the vast selection of clubs, encouraging the co-curricular uptake of music, drama and sports.
You’ll also like the way she handles the kids and the many issues they face in the modern world – from discussions on Black Lives Matter to mental health – she’s current and switched on. Pupils here are very much encouraged to become citizens of the wider world, not just kept in a cosy bubble.
The Pre-Prep children range in age from 3-7 years. Victoria Robinson is the newly appointed Head of Early Years at Rose Hill School. There is a two-form intake and class sizes are small but the classrooms themselves are big and bright.
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.
NEW PRE-SCHOOL GROUP
One exciting new development for Rose Hill is the launch of Rosebuds, a weekly parent, toddler and pre-school group. From Jan 2021, once guidelines allow, the FREE group will run each Wednesday morning during term time with plenty of refreshments and homemade cakes on offer.
Rosebuds will be run by Victoria Robinson and will offer an extensive array of games and activities. There will be a number of multi-sensory activities including singing, dancing and percussion as well as the chance to paint and draw. A wonderful opportunity for both prospective parents and the local community. There are limited places on offer please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
Y7 & Y8 AWARDS
From September 2020 fees for Years 7 & 8 were reduced to £7,995 for the full year (so just £2,665 per term).
In addition, the school offers Awards to Years 7 & 8 pupils who show promise in the following subjects: Sports; Drama; Art; Music; STEM & Citizenship. For children offered a major award the fee for the year will be no more than £3,998. For annual prep school fees this is hugely competitive.
This brilliant initiative has turned around the shrinking upper school – and by this September it will be triple the size from my last visit. Certainly makes the independent sector more widely accessible to families in the area – and a real opportunity for that age group. Pupils are required to attend the assessment day held in November. More details on applying for an Award here.
USP & QUIRKS
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, Cubs, Brownies and Scouts).
WRAP AROUND CARE
Early morning care is offered from 7:30am (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 they love the senior leadership team, with Emma Neville at the head. The school is strong at sports, academically robust, pastoral care is excellent, and parents enjoy the lower fees, particularly higher up the school with the new Y7&Y8 offering. The town location – while making full use of its woodland and the outdoors – is a bonus!
Kindergarten, 5 mornings per week: £2,345 per term. Reception – Y2: £4,025 per term. Y3 – Y6 £5,410 per term. And Y7 & Y8 £2,665 per term. So less expensive than many prep schools in the area – particularly competitive fees for the top two years.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Anyone looking for a small, good all-round, centrally located school with decent academic results, whether you’re thinking of your child entering in the 11+ Kent Test – or staying on for Year 7 & Year 8 (the new award for Year 7 & Year 8 is a great opportunity). The nurturing ethos of the school has great appeal and it’s got excellent outdoor facilities for such a town-based school – perfect for families living in Tunbridge Wells and surrounds who are maybe commuting into London.
Not for: Anyone seeking pomp and ceremony and grand buildings – this is a modern town-centre school and it’s wonderfully down-to-earth too. However, that’s not to say that the facilities for sport, science, art and drama are anything short of fab.
See for yourself: Join them for a Virtual Open Day on Fri 26 March at 2pm. To request an information pack and register for the Open Day please contact Ann Green, Admissions Secretary, register here or call 01892 525591.
Rose Hill School, Coniston Avenue, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN4 9SY, Tel: 01892 525 591, rosehillschool.co.uk