At the heart of the educational experience at Downe House is the 3-Step Pastoral Care model which enables us to offer the very best specialised care for each stage of development and ensure that the girls’ pastoral and educational needs are met. Girls make their way through the School starting in one of three Lower School Houses (Years 7 and 8) and then in Year 9, they move to one of the five Upper School Houses (Years 9, 10 and 11) and after they have taken their GCSEs, they join one of two Sixth Form Houses (Years 12 and 13). The major benefit is that at each of the three steps, the boarding houses can provide exactly the right environment, enable our Housestaff to really tailor the care for each individual girl and meet the very different needs of the girls at each stage of their teenage development.
Each House is run by a Housemistress who oversees a dedicated team of Housestaff and Tutors. Our Housemistresses are teachers who understand both the academic and pastoral lives of our girls. The pastoral care at Downe House is holistic and looks different for each individual. Through the nurturing boarding environment, our dedicated Housestaff team will help your daughter grow to her potential, find balance and develop essential skills for life. At the same time, the Housemistress works very closely with each girl’s Academic Tutor and her teachers to ensure that we have an in-depth 360-degree view of her needs and progress. Every girl meets with her Academic Tutor each week to chat about how things are going – this opportunity to sit down informally and talk face-to-face plays a very important part in making sure that she is on track and should there be any concerns, the Tutor will liaise with the Housemistress, her teachers or the Head of Lower School, Upper School or Sixth Form.
Relationships are at the heart of our community and that very much includes the families of our girls. We will work hard to get to know each family and we understand the importance of this. The adolescent journey is not always a straightforward one and we aim to give the girls tools to help build healthy relationships. We work closely with our parents to support them in their relationships with their daughters too; the triangular relationship between the girl, her parents and Downe is hugely important. Over the course of the academic year we have a range of talks, workshops and interactive programmes for our girls and their parents to further facilitate the building of healthy relationships.
As a boarding school, we have the luxury of time and space, which helps foster the strongest of relationships, not only with each other but with the wider community too. Creating the right balance of boarding and family time is important at Downe House.
In the middle of each term there is a Long Exeat break (seven to ten days) and in the Michaelmas and Lent terms, there are two Short Exeats (a long weekend) with one Short Exeat in the Summer term. During the Exeats, all girls return to their parents or guardians. The first and last weekends of each term are ‘Closed Weekends’, when all girls are expected to stay in School and important events and activities such as House Drama or other School-wide events take place. To ensure that girls have a chance to catch up with family and have a well-earned rest from busy boarding school life, girls are permitted to go home on any other weekend, as long as their School commitments have been honoured. We believe that this offers our families the desired flexibility, while ensuring that life at Downe House continues to thrive at the weekends with a busy programme available to all.
“Boarders flourish in this community, where boarding is central to the character and life of the School.”
Independent Schools Inspectorate Report, 2017
While opportunities to go home for family time is vital, there is always a vibrant weekend programme of activities on offer which is published well in advance to allow families to plan across each term. Our weekend activities programme provides the girls with a wide variety of options. Our Co-Curricular Activities (CCA) department organises a dynamic and diverse range of weekend experiences, including trips to the theatre, cinema, to visit local amenities such as Marwell Activity Centre, Windsor Castle, Cotswold Wildlife Park and to take part in activities such as trampolining, iFly Skydiving, ice-skating and go karting.
Alongside the CCA activities, girls are encouraged to take time to relax as part of our Wellbeing programme. We firmly believe that knowing how to eat healthily, sleep well, exercise, relax and manage stress are every bit as important as other aspects of School life. Our Finding Balance programme includes yoga, mindfulness and a range of techniques and tips to ensure that the energy and pace of boarding life have a natural counterpart, where relaxation, fun and stillness have their place.
The weekends also give the girls time to keep up to date with their studies.
The Murray Centre provides the girls with an ideal study space away from their rooms. The girls can choose to work independently in the Library or collaboratively in one of the many spaces within this inspirational building. The Murray Centre is staffed throughout the day until late in the evening to ensure the girls are well looked after and supported.
Occasionally there are weekends when it will be important for your daughter to remain in School due to a commitment, such as a drama rehearsal or a music concert. We advertise these events well in advance to help families plan for these weekends.
Your daughter’s Housemistress will always be on hand to discuss weekend options with you so that the arrangements work for everyone.
Genevieve Ford, Boarding Deputy
At Downe House we are committed to boarding as a way of life, one that gives your daughter the time and space to develop at her own pace, to discover new interests and untapped talents and to form deep, supportive bonds within the boarding community.
Life in a boarding school is always busy and every day is different. The pressure on girls in today’s world is considerable and it can be a tricky time emotionally. I believe that our girls are in need of strong leadership, high expectations and consistency.
We have put in place an uncompromising programme of personal support and pastoral care to create a sense of community, with each House providing a home from home. Our holistic approach also takes account of each girl’s wellbeing, placing emphasis on healthy, balanced minds and bodies. Our wellbeing programme gives the girls the tools for life to care for themselves as well as each other.
With warmth and guidance from our Housestaff, girls are encouraged to develop a positive outlook, live happily and develop fully in every aspect of their lives. With outstanding support from personal academic tutors, we ensure that every girl is able to gain the most from her time at Downe House.
With the gift of time that boarding affords, we can also promise to provide enrichment opportunities beyond the curriculum, open your daughter’s eyes to global opportunities and build her confidence so that she can fulfill her dreams, no matter what life throws at her.
The best way to find out more about Downe House is to experience it for yourself. We tailor our virtual Open Mornings and Virtual Tours to suit your family.Discover