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Downe House School

School rating 4 / 5 by

Cold Ash Thatcham Berkshire RG18 9JJ United Kingdom
4th to 12th
4th to 12th
Girls only


Downe House School review by .

Downe House School timetable is made up of periods of 40 minutes each, beginning at 9am and ending at 6pm. Each day also comprises a varying number of prep/free periods, which may be used for extra lessons- music/sport coaching etc. - or for supervised study. (For the last three years prep is unsupervised). The teaching staff are, almost without exception, dedicated, talented and inspirational. This very high quality is reflected in GCSE and A level results, with particularly strong areas being languages and maths- The History department is somewhat weaker. A typical range of subjects is taught to GCSE, and more options are offered at A level, though the school does not offer any of the so-called "lightweight" A levels of which certain universities disapprove. Economics, Politics, Business Studies, Classical Civilisation, Greek and Russian may all be studied at A level, but the school on the whole does not encourage specialisation to a high degree- for example few students would take Statistics as an individual A level- straight Maths is encouraged instead, and Further Maths AS level has a high level of takeup. Most students choose core academic A levels such as Sciences, French and particularly English Literature over those such as Pottery, Photography or Music, although these options are possible. General Studies A level is compulsory as is Key Skills 6- which is taught alongside A levels and focuses on skills such as IT and public speaking. The school regularly invites outside speakers to talk to older girls about topical academic and social issues. While the primary ethos is definitely academic, extracurricular activities are strongly encouraged, and rather than simply preparing for exams, students are encouraged to think independently and question rather than take for granted their sources of information. This exceptional style and ability of the teachers is the main separating factor from other schools. Sporting achievement is also outstanding. The school facilities are adequate- the science laboratories are very good though the libraries are less so. Class sizes tend to be between 10 and 20, though smaller at A level- often no more than 6. Truancy is almost unheard of and in classes behaviour is for the large part cooperative. The teachers are highly organised with the syllabus always being covered in good time to allow thorough preparation for exams.

College Counseling

There is a university and careers centre at the school with one member of full....

Sample insights on college counseling

  • They have contacts at most of the major universities and feel perfectly comfortable picking up the phone and advocating for a student to get accepted somewhere they feel is a good fit for that student. However, these counselors are certainly not magic bullets. They cannot guarantee that a student will get into an Ivy League university...
  • For those wishing to move on to Oxford or Cambridge, the provision is second-to-none. In the months running up to application and interview, every subject faculty offers classes (often run by former Oxbridge tutors) exploring further areas of their subject as well as offering advice on personal statements, interview technique and more...

Admissions - Getting Accepted

(Based on application in 1997) The selection process at 11+ requires an interview with the....

Sample insights on admissions

  • For the interview, dress conservatively. Try to be very clean and put together. Also, I was a tour guide for two years and at the end of every tour, we were asked to evaluate the candidate so if you think the tour is not apart of the process, you are very wrong. Ask questions and be interested. Also, tip for the parents: the kids speak on the tour. Do not ask their questions for them...
  • Most younger siblings have an easy time in the admissions process. I can only think of one case of a younger sibling not being admitted. About half of the students who entered with me had come from public schools. The remainder came from private K-6 schools, or had transferred from other New York private schools The Elizabeth Morrow School and St. Bernard were two of the larger feeder schools...

School Life

The school is on a medium-sized campus with surrounding woods, near a small village with a larger town a few miles away. The boarding houses are of varying size and modernity. The junior school boarding houses tend to have large dorms of up to six and are more cramped than the senior school rooms which are all singles or doubles. There are a decent numbers of bathrooms and showers and from age 14 girls are allowed access to kitchens where they may cook their own food. There is a wide variety of good food available in the dining room including....

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