Hill House is a very traditional junior school spread across three campuses in Kensington, which offers a strong music programme and opportunities to study in Switzerland.
The school was founded in 1951 by the Townend family to offer children from both the UK and worldwide access to an English curriculum. Today, it remains a school with a very international student body who study a traditional English curriculum within a more relaxed setting than you may find at some UK prep schools.
It oozes a certain tradition and old-fashioned charm that can only come from a family-run school. Students wear an unconventional uniform, which has evolved over the school’s history after the school’s founders Colonel and Mrs Townend once said, “a grey uniform produces grey minds”. Today, children wear iconic knee-breeches modelled on the Colonel’s climbing breeches, a ‘gold’ knitted jumper, and cravats.
The school buildings are filled with history and nods to the past, including paintings of the founding family, and old-style school bells. Alumni include Prince Charles and singer Lily Allen.
Spread across four small campuses in Kensington and Chelsea, Hill House teaches its students within a close-knit community: Flood Street for ages four to five years, Cadogan Gardens for ages five to nine years, and Hans Place for nine to 13-year-olds.
The headteacher is Richard Townend, the son of the founder Colonel Townend, who has been head of the school since 2002.
In 2014, Hill House was rated Inadequate in every single category by Ofsted inspectors; in its most recent inspection in 2018, the school showed signs of “considerable improvement” and move up to Good. Inspectors praised the school for its “stimulating curriculum”, “rich music and sports programmes” and the outstanding behaviour of students.
Teaching follows the National Curriculum for England enriched with specialist teaching in the arts and sport from a young age; there are 20 specialist sports instructors and 26 specialist instrumental and choral teachers. The school enrols students from Nursery through to Year 9, offering an ideal prep school education for the child who thrives in a smaller, family-style setting.
Class sizes are small, and the focus is on preparing its students to sit entrance and scholarship examinations for senior schools across the UK.
Every year, students have the opportunity to attend any of 10 different courses in Switzerland, where they can experience a boarding school environment in the setting of a mountain village in the French-speaking canton of Vaud. There are geography courses in the autumn, skiing courses for boys and girls, and drama, art and music courses in the summer. As well as offering students a chance to learn beyond the classroom, these trips could be seen by some parents as an ideal introduction to boarding school life.
The founding family’s love for the arts really shines through here. The school has three art galleries (in Founders’ Hall, Cadogan Gardens and Pont Street) where students exhibit their work three times a year. There are student orchestras, choirs, chamber music groups, string quartets, guitar ensembles, woodwind ensembles and a brass consort.
The school’s music department is filled with harpsichords, a clavichord, 17 pianos and more than 300 orchestral instruments, as well as two organs. Singing is compulsory for every students, and there at least nine choirs within the school. It is hardly surprising to hear that several Hill House students go on to be awarded music scholarships.
The school has a dedicated centre for the arts, Founders’ Hall, which hosts numerous productions; the drama department also runs a course in Switzerland.
While Hill House does not have extensive sports facilities on campus, it still runs an active PE and Games programme at various locations just a short bus ride away.
Hill House runs a variety of clubs every Friday afternoon, including football, cricket, tennis, squash, art, chess, singing and cooking.
The main point of entry to the school is at four years old, however children can join the school at any stage subject to places being available.
Annual fees range from £15,000 to £18,000.
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