Situated in 18 acres of beautiful grounds, with countryside on its doorstep and the town centre just a short drive away, Rose Hill School in Tunbridge Wells is a special place to learn. We find out how an enriching curriculum, first-class facilities and creative learning spaces fulfil pupils’ potential.
Rose Hill School in Tunbridge Wells offers an exceptional all-round education. The school is filled with happy, busy, enthusiastic children. Its recent endorsement in Tatler’s renowned Schools Guide has cemented its position as one of the leading prep schools in the country. This follows a hugely successful inspection, where the school was rated ‘excellent in all areas’ by the Independent Schools Inspectorate.
With waiting lists for all year groups up to Year 6, and Kindergarten registrations at an all-time high, the school meets a local need for parents who are looking for small class sizes, excellent teaching, a broad curriculum and outstanding pastoral care.
Tucked away among the quiet residential streets in Tunbridge Wells, the 310-pupil school has a near-cult status locally, with superb facilities in beautiful 18-acre grounds. In addition to a sports hall and new all-weather AstroTurf, the school also has an impressive 220-seat theatre and new arts and technology departments. A new teaching block, which incorporates a science lab, two computer suites, a learning skills department and a medical room, as well as six classrooms, was recently opened.
This term, the school is opening an outdoor classroom. Research shows that creativity thrives in outdoor learning environments, and the £13,000, purpose-built classroom will enhance the school’s varied curriculum. Children in the pre-prep department already enjoy weekly lessons in the school’s woodland area, where they explore nature trails, make artwork from treasures they find, build camps and learn about the natural environment. The school’s outdoor classroom will build on this innovative educational approach, and is expected to inspire and enthuse children across the school.
The school’s average class size is between 16 and 18, ensuring that teachers have great relationships with pupils and know them as individuals. This may go some way to explaining impressive scholarship results across a breadth of subjects, including drama, design, art, sport and music, along with strong academic results at the ages of 11 and 13.
However, for headmaster David Westcombe, academic results are just one element of school life; he is just as interested in seeing the children grow and develop into rounded, confident people who are happy and fulfilled. Speaking about the school ethos and success, he says: “I am proud to be responsible for overseeing the children’s development through their formative school years. The staff and I believe that every child possesses talents, and our job is to unlock them, develop them and put them to the best possible use.
“It’s not all hard work and no play – quite the contrary. We offer a wide and varied extracurricular programme, including our own Cubs and Brownies packs. Most of the afterschool and lunchtime clubs are free of charge and run by teaching staff who are passionate about their particular area of interest, whether this be building electric go-karts or roller disco skating! For me as a headmaster, school should offer an opportunity for children to experience all aspects of life and to find out what they enjoy.”
This is demonstrated clearly on the sporting field. Sport at Rose Hill is inclusive and aims for every pupil to play in matches against other schools across Kent and Sussex on a regular basis. In addition to the core sports of hockey, rugby, cricket, netball, football, cross-country, rounders and athletics, pupils also have the opportunity to play badminton, basketball and tennis and to swim in the school’s pool.
With specialist PE staff and a total of 16 games staff, pupils receive a huge amount of support and encouragement to find sports they enjoy and to pursue them. As a result, a large number of pupils go on to represent the county across a wide range of sports, including cricket, hockey and football. In fact, one ex-pupil is a key member of the GB hockey team, and Rose Hill has won the prestigious Cowdrey Sports Scholarship to Tonbridge School two years running.
Education is not just restricted to the school and its grounds. Each year, teachers plan more than 50 trips and outings, most of which are included in the term’s fees. Rome and Sorrento is a particular highlight, as well as the school’s annual four-day French residential trip for children in Years 6 and 7. Each year group, including children in Kindergarten, enjoy trips most terms, and excitement is already mounting for the school ski trip in January 2017.
The school environment is incredibly friendly and supportive, and this runs through every element – from parents through to staff and pupils. Size is a key factor in this, but the pastoral care given to children is something that really sets the school apart. In addition to a full-time school nurse, the school has a buddy system of older children, who partner with children who are new to the school, or who have just started in Year 3. Pupils also have specific tutors they can turn to for great advice and support.
For David Westcombe, school life is very much a journey. Children start the school in Kindergarten, where they are introduced to the exciting world of learning in a safe, happy and interactive environment. As they progress through the school, experienced staff encourage them to become confident and independent, while developing strong friendships and a respect for others. A strong Christian ethos underpins school life, and good citizenship is one of the school’s key aims. David says: “We want the children to have happy memories of school life and to have discovered a lifelong passion for learning. That means we’ve been successful.”