Downe House School Review: Fees, Rankings And More

downe house school review

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Table of Contents

Summary Of School

  • Type of school: girls’ school
  • Age range: 11-18
  • Pupils: 570; sixth formers: 163
  • Boarders: 100%
  • Fees: Day £35,520; Boarding £47,760 pa
  • 2023 A-Level Results: 64% A*/A
  • 2023 GCSE Results: 81% 9-7

Downe House School Overview

Downe House School was founded in 1907 by Olive Willies. The school was moved from its original location in village Downe, Kent to its current location in Cold Ash village, Berkshire in 1922. The main school building retains much of its old architecture while some boarding houses and other school facilities were built more recently. 

Downe House School girls are known to “Work Hard – Aim High”, which results in 93% students getting their first choice university. These universities are some of the UK’s most prestigious universities such as Oxbridge, Imperial, UCL, many other Russell Group universities and even overseas ones. 

Downe House girls selected a mix of both STEM and Social Science courses for their undergraduate programmes. Some examples of the chosen Social Science courses are Politics, International Relations, Economics and Management. Some other subjects include Languages, Liberal Arts, and Creative and Performing Arts. Some famous Downe House Alumnae are biochemist Helen Muir (DH 1938, anthropologist Audrey Richards (DH 1917) and historian Margaret Aston (DH 1950).

Downe House School has an especially strong global connection with links to 16 partner schools in 11 countries around the world. All Lower Fourth girls will have a term in France. Besides that, the Global Schools’ Exchange Programme is among their abundant choices of global expansion options to equip the girls with everything they need for an ever-changing global community.

The school’s newly finished Centre of Learning – Murray Centre – hosts various learning-support facilities including a new library, multi-purpose auditorium, teaching spaces and much more. The building was also shortlisted for the 2019 RICS Award, Design Through Innovation and RIBA Award, Regional South.

Downe House School Courses / Programs

Downe House School offers A-Levels, I/GCSE and Cambridge Pre-U.

Downe House School pupils have the opportunity to take a wide range of subject combinations. Besides the core subjects of English, Mathematics, Modern Foreign Languages and Science, the girls can choose other subjects from the Humanities, the Classics and Social Sciences as well as the Creative Arts and Sports. Downe House School produces just as many STEM graduates as it does future Social Science scholars.

Lower Fifth girls have the option to take bespoke Elective Programmes with subject-specific modules based on three distinct pathways of Biochemistry, Anthropology and History. These programmes are developed based on the school’s three successful alumnae in each field, giving the girls the freedom and space to explore the various aspects of the intellectual world.

The Sixth Form girls here have ample support in both the academic and social aspects of life. The available services to support their academic achievements are peer mentoring, CV Workshops, Academic Enrichment Lectures, Interview Practice, Oxbridge Programme, Higher Education Research Skills (HERS) and World Ready Programme opportunities.

Besides academic courses, the girls can choose to participate in the Global School’s Exchange Programme, a term in France, the Global Alumnae network, overseas trips, cultural days and International House charities which all help to build their characters and global readiness.

Downe House School Deadline

Register your daughter

Downe House School always encourages candidates to come and visit us so they can see school life for themselves. After this, the next step is to register candidates by completing the online registration form and transferring their registration fees.

Assessment Days

Once student is registered, the next step of the admissions process, is that she will be invited for assessment.

Boarding Places

For 11+ and 12+ candidates, the assessment will take place one year prior to entry, and the girls are invited to attend an Assessment Day which takes place in the Michaelmas (Autumn) Term. The school also requests a report from the daughter’s current Headteacher prior to this assessment. Assessment Days can be challenging, but the school also wants the girls to enjoy the experience and believes it is the best way for them to get to know each girl. At the Assessment Days, girls take part in a variety of activities, from drama and design technology to team-building workshops. Every girl has an interview with the Headmistress, completes a piece of creative or persuasive writing, and has a tour of the School as well as lunch with some of the current girls. The school knows from experience that these different experiences not only show them more than written papers alone but also give the daughters the chance to experience life at the School.

Following the 11+ and 12+ Assessment days, the girls are asked to sit the ISEB Common Pre-Test at their current school or, for overseas pupils, at a local testing centre. This is a standardized adaptive test used by many schools in the independent sector and consists of multiple-choice tests in Mathematics, English, Verbal, and Non-verbal reasoning. To find out more about the test, parents can visit the Common Pre-Tests website. Candidates are asked to complete the test by 30 November at the latest.

For 13+ candidates, the assessment takes place in the Michaelmas (Autumn) term when pupils are in year 6. First, they are asked to sit the ISEB Common Pre-Test at their current school or, for overseas pupils, at a local center as early as their school or test center allows in October/November. Following strong scores in the test, pupils may then be invited to an assessment day at Downe House later in the term with places offered by the end of December. The Assessment day includes an interview with the Headmistress, a collaborative task, and a piece of creative or persuasive writing. The day is designed to be challenging but also fun and a way for the school to get to see the daughters engaging in a variety of activities.

Day Places

All pupils applying for a day place at 11+, 12+, or 13+ will be invited together to an Assessment Day in November where they are given the chance to meet other day girls and gain an experience of what a day place looks like. Assessment days for day places mirror those for boarding places, but pupils are required to sit an adaptive computerized test at Downe House. This is to facilitate those pupils in the state sector, for whom sitting the ISEB is not possible. Assessment for day places takes place the year prior to entry for 11+ and 12+ candidates and up to three years in advance for 13+ candidates.


Following the assessments for 11+, 12+, and 13+ candidates, each girl’s performance is carefully considered, and offers of places are made. Successful candidates will be offered places based on strong scores in the ISEB Common Pre-Test or alternative test, good performance during the assessment day, and a recommendation from their current Headteacher. Offers will be made by the end of December. The school asks 13+ candidates to sit the 13+ Common Entrance examination in June of year 8 for setting purposes only.

Potential Academic Scholars are identified by their scores in the computerized test, which begins a separate scholarship procedure. Academic Scholarship papers are sat in the Lent Term prior to entry.

Downe House School Ranking

In 2023, 64% of Downe House students scored A*/A while 84% of students achieved A*-B, a testament to the quality of education provided at the school. More than 90% of students managed to enrol for their preferred choice of university in the UK and globally.

Meanwhile, At GCSEs, 81% of students achieved grades 9-7, further affirming Downe House’s strong academic reputation in GCSE performance.

Downe House School Fees

Tuition for the academic year 2022- 2023. The fees and charges will be renewed annually and subjected to change.

Full boarding fees per term


Day fees per term


Registration fee (non-refundable)


Deposit (refunded when pupil leaves)

£4,000 (paid on acceptance of offer)

The “Full boarding fees” includes all the costs relating to a pupil’s studying life at Downe House School. 

The “Full day fees” does not include accommodation and laundry fee. Day girls enjoy the same extensive benefits as the boarding girls, except for accommodation after school.

Some additional charges that can occur are relating to extra classes and extra-curricular activities that the girls choose to sign up for such as music (instrumental and voice), Speech and Drama, individual language, dance, tennis and squash lessons. 

Fees are payable in advance before each term starts.

Downe House School Entry Requirements

The school is open for admission for girls at ages 11, 13 and 16.

For 11+ and 12+ candidates, the Assessment Day takes place a year prior to entry. The girls will take an academic test, a variety of extracurricular activities ranging from drama, design technology to team building workshops, and attend an interview at Downe House School. Common Entrance for 11+ entry will include an examination for English, Mathematics and Science. The subjects for the 12+ entry examinations are English, Mathematics, Science and French to prepare for the term in France.

For 13+ candidates, pupils will sit for the ISEB Common Pre-Test at their school or an overseas centre in the first two weeks of October. Then the onsite assessment will take place after, including an interview and a collaborative challenge that requires no preparation. The common entrance papers are sat for in June (or January for overseas applicants). The examination subjects are English, Mathematics, Science (Chemistry, Biology and Physics) and a Modern Foreign Language if applicable. Applicants preparing for the Prep School Baccalaureate (PSB) are also welcomed.

16+ candidates will be required to sit for three examination papers from 1st November onwards in the year prior to entry at the applicant’s current school. Students are required to achieve a minimum of seven I/GCSE examinations at Grade 6 (B) or above, preferably with Grade 9/8 (A*) or 7 (A) in the subjects they wish to study in the Sixth Form. An interview will follow successful examination results led by the Head of Sixth Form and the Headmistress.

Downe House School Reviews

Ayobami - Pupil

“Coming to Downe House has certainly been one of my best experiences. Settling in was easy because everyone was so welcoming and it feels like one big community.”

Romilly - Pupil

“My experience at Downe House has been amazing and fun-filled. There are constantly friends around you.”

Yasmine - Pupil

Downe House offers amazing experiences like learning new things, going to new places and making friends for life.”

Amelia - Pupil

“Individuality is at the heart of the Downe House Art department and we are always encouraged to try new things.”

Alexa - Pupil

Personally, I came to Downe House for the spot and it has not let me down. My standard has increased greatly and I feel like it’s only going to get better.”

Alice - Pupil

“The term in Veyrines is a once in a lifetime opportunity, unique to Downe House, that takes friendship, French and fun to a whole new level!”

Downe House School Accommodation

Most girls at Downe House School are full boarders and stay in one of the three Lower School Houses (Darwin, Hermitage and Hill), five Upper School Houses (AGN, AGS, Aisholt, Holcombe and Tedworth) or the two Sixth Form Houses (Willis and York). 

There are plenty of facilities and activities that provide the boarders an enjoyable living space. The Lower School pupils can enjoy the prep and learning spaces, kitchens, common room space, sound-proofed music practice rooms and outside play areas. Meanwhile, The Upper School girls have a large Common Room for playing games or attending evening activities such as baking, colouring or club activities. Charity works are popular in this age range as each House has its own connections to charity organisations for the girls to contribute back to the community. Sixth Form girls are given more freedom to plan their own learning and living. Besides activities in the spacious common rooms, they can attend regular trips to the theatre, concerts and exhibitions. 

All girls enjoy the school’s abundant weekend activities which include trips to the theatre, cinema, local attractions such as the Windsor Castle or other adrenaline-driven activities including trampolining, iFly Skydiving, ice-skating and go-karting. Older girls can also socialise with the neighbouring schools via dinner parties and debates with the boys from Radley, Eton, Harrow and Winchester. Other activity options are Bake Boxes and Cookery Workshops, movie nights and pamper nights.

Downe House School Student Services and Extracurricular Activities

Pastoral Care

Pastoral Care is a highlight at Downe House School. There are many people who the girls can talk to for support. Tutors, housemistresses, school nurses, matrons and peer mentors are always available to lend the girls an ear. School counsellors are always available on-site. The girls are educated early about current issues such as consent, politics and social media. 

To assist the girls’ development into confident women, the school offers a Wellbeing programme with plenty of inspiring activities such as yoga classes, scented diffusers and puppy therapy. Smoking, alcohol and drugs are banned in the school. The school invites guest speakers to assist the girls on topics such as maintaining a healthy digital lifestyle or how to avoid the attraction of excessive screen time and other mindfulness activities.

Extracurricular Activities

The abundance of extracurricular activities here is enough to cater to various interests. DofE, Young Enterprise and the Elective programmes open many opportunities for the Year 10 girls to develop lateral thinking, independence and understand complex ideologies. Sixth Formers can do global internships each summer or take an introductory certificate in food and wine run by Leiths Academy. 

Music and Drama

There are various musical ensembles to join from classical orchestras, choirs to jazz bands and an acappella group. The girls have the chance to compete and shine in the Downe House young musician of the year competition. Downe House’s Senior Choral was crowned Barnardo’s “Senior Choir of the Year” at the Royal Festival Hall in 2018. 

As for Drama, there are house dramas, musical theatre competitions, large productions and theatre trips to keep the girls engaged. The school has partnered with Trinity College London to become a registered Arts Award Centre. The Upper Fourth (Year 9) girls can work towards the National Arts Programme Bronze Award by the end of the year. 

Dance lovers can enjoy the options of ballet, contemporary, hip hop, tap dance and more. Serious pupils can work towards Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (ISTD) ballet exams.


Downe House School girls have quite the sports spirit. Lacrosse is the school’s pride. Three of Downe House’s girls were chosen by the Lacrosse national team, one to represent England in the U20 European Championship and another in the Wales U19 Lacrosse squad. Their first XI Lacrosse won 18 out of 21 matches in the 2018-2019 season. The school has won the National Schools Tournament five times.

Besides Lacrosse, the school also excels at netball and hockey. The school’s tennis programme is one of the finest in the country. Downe House’s squash team is regularly placed among the top four in the National Schools Squash Competition.

The school invested in excellent onsite sports facilities including hard tennis courts, floodlit AstroTurf, squash courts, a multi-purpose sports hall with gym, spin bikes, 25m heated indoor pool, a dance studio, field and athletics grass track. There are also plenty of cross country routes through the woodland available for the girls to stretch their legs.

Creative arts

The Art Department has three art studios, pottery, two photography studios, a darkroom and an Art History suite. Besides art and design, the girls can choose textiles and DT for both GCSE and A-Level as well as photography at A-Levels. The girls can participate in the Arts and Crafts School’s Competition run by the Ardington School of Crafts and even display their work in public exhibitions. Trips to national galleries such as the V&A or the Tate are also available. Works from aspiring artists are displayed throughout the school and in the Murray Centre. Winners of the Artist of the Month and Designer of the Month are celebrated in the school assembly.

Downe House School Contact Information

Apply For Downe House

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