'The quiet, caring and diligent approach of the Head and her staff was the major draw. The school is low-key and yet quietly ambitious for its pupils. The school gives a depth of confidence to the girls, without being showy or arrogant.
It was a brilliant admissions process from start to finish with all three girls. Everyone was so considerate, encouraging and thoughtful. Once the girls started, we were treated to regular drinks in London for all years.
The headteacher is absolutely exemplary. The girls simply adore ‘Kenny’. She has a huge sense of humour, commands utter respect, is not afraid to partake in fun films with the girls, and yet is incredibly ambitious for the school and her girls. This was the absolute defining factor in choosing Downe. The house mistresses have all supported my girls throughout their time. The chaplain is a particular star. She makes confirmation classes great fun and instructive (using Domino's pizza helps!)
Scrupulous involvement in detail from all of the staff. The parents' meetings are frequent and slick. We feel completely involved, without the girls necessarily knowing how involved we actually are, they are very much left to make decisions for themselves, guided by the staff. All members of staff know our children well. They are always encouraged in a healthy diet, yoga and mindfulness. Our eldest daughter who is going into sixth form feels quietly confident. The school manages expectations, being ambitious but practical.
It is a close-knit community and new families are welcomed. There are lunches at the school, match teas and brilliant drinks in London.
My advice to new parents would be to join the school at 11 rather than 13 in order to create friendship groups from the start of the school if possible. I think it is harder at any school to join after the majority.
We hope the school can maintain its full-boarding status. There is no doubt this adds to the richness of the school, as the weekend activities are so bonding for all involved. House drama and founders weekend are the absolute example of this bonding of all age groups, using house activities to create excitement. We love the school.’
‘Downe House consistently produces polite, well rounded, kind and motivated girls who have a great perspective on life, and importantly a very close network of friends when they leave. Academic standards are very high, as demonstrated by the GCSE and A Level results, yet Downe House also provides an environment for girls, with varying different strengths and interests, to thrive and meet their full potential, whether in sport, drama, arts and music. The pastoral care is also excellent. The admissions process was excellent and went very smoothly.
The headteacher Mrs McKendrick is one of the most impressive people I have had the pleasure to meet. She knows every girl's name, what they are interested in, and how they are performing. She also seems to know every parent well, responds to all emails and turns up to almost every event. She commands huge respect from everybody at the school (and parents) and has built up a great team of teachers and support staff. Given how Mrs McKendrick is such an important influence on the type of girl Downe House produces, indirectly she was a significant factor in our choice of school.
It's difficult to single out individual teachers given so many of them have influenced our girls in such a positive way. Communication is very good and we are kept well informed. With regards to being involved with your children's education, you can get involved as much or as little as you want. Teachers, tutors and the Headmistress are always willing to discuss our daughters outside the usual parent meetings. If however, you choose not to get involved, there is a strong feeling that, having entrusted our girls to the school, they are getting the very best education and pastoral care.
The pastoral care at the school is excellent and we have had no issues with our girls over the last 7 years. The teachers, tutors, and house mistresses all know our girls' strengths and weaknesses and provide an
environment where girls are encouraged to speak to them (and importantly their
friends) if there are issues and concerns.
Our personal experience is one where the school has a high level of discipline but it doesn't smother the girl's individual characters, allows them to thrive and create a great network of friends who they can turn to (as well as the school staff), and as a result we have very happy and healthy girls.
So far the experience has been excellent. Academically we feel the teaching has allowed our girls to reach their potential and achieve excellent grades. They, like most Downe House girls, are well-rounded with a good perspective on life, have good social skills, are driven and motivated, have a great network of friends (both at Downe House and other schools), and are therefore hopefully very well placed to go on to the next stage of their education. Although as parents we would love to take full credit for the above, we unfortunately do have to give a lot of the credit to Downe House!
There is a very close-knit school community where parents are encouraged to take an active role if they want, but there is no pressure to. There is no PTA but there are regular parent and teacher social evenings.
Certainly Downe House has lived up to expectations and there's very little, if anything, that I don't like about the school - my daughters are happy, work hard, have had a great experience, are maximising their potential and taking advantage of the opportunities and facilities the school has to offer.
My advice to other parents would be to get involved as appropriate although if you can't, there is a feeling that the school does a great job - not just in academics and from a pastoral perspective, but also in encouraging girls to get involved in extracurricular activities.'