Downsend School is a co-educational independent school for pupils aged between two and thirteen years. It is located in Ashtead, Leatherhead and Epsom, in Surrey, UK. Founded in 1891 as a non-denominational preparatory school for boys since 1927 aged 8 to 13, it is now a school for boys and girls, and takes on pupils from 6 to 13 years of age. Unusually the school does not have charitable status, being run as a profitable business by Cognita Limited (chaired by Chris Woodhead). Downsend's headmaster is Mr Ian Thorpe, previously head of Chinthurst School. The sports ground is on site. Though the school goes from 6 to 13, there are also 3 lodges which admit children from 2½ to 6. Downsend school costs £3310 - £4010 a term.
Downsend is situated at 1 Leatherhead Road, Leatherhead, Surrey KT22 8TJ, just outside of Ashtead. Its lodges are in Epsom, Leatherhead and Ashtead, all surrounding the main site. Much of the main school is new and has been recently added. There are roughly 100 students in each year for the main school and then slightly fewer in the Senior School (years 7 and 8) due to some students leaving after the 11+ exam to go to secondary school. The structure of the school is as follows: years 2-4 are the Junior School, headed by Mrs Kirsty Keep. Pupils then automatically ascend into the Middle School (years 5-6), overseen by Mr Adrian Dunning, and then may continue into the Senior School, with Mr Karl Newland, at the age of 11 for two more years to prepare for 13+ Common Entrance examinations to local schools such as St Johns, Epsom College and City of London Freemen's School.
Downsend has a very large site on Leatherhead Road. There is a large sports hall and an adjacent indoor, heated swimming pool with multiple changing rooms. There are a total of 6 tennis courts on tarmac surfaces, and a covered area with benches and tables. On 12 May 2007 the local Member of Parliament, Chris Grayling, opened the new Astro Turf. The senior, middle and junior schools are all separate but connected. The large, modern junior school has its own hall and library and headmistress or master. This is the same with the middle school and senior school. The school has its own administration offices and science laboratories. Downsend also has several outdoor play areas and a large dining hall/theatre. There are also new design and technology laboratories for woodwork and textiles. There is a viewing gallery above the pool and sports hall. The changing of the "social area" into a new music block above the swimming pool allows more music lessons in more spacious rooms.
Downsend has very large grass playing fields and a recently added astro-turf located on site. This was opened to students in 2007. The school has several rugby, football, cricket and rounders pitches available when needed. The tarmac area can also be converted into tennis courts, netball pitches, basketball courts or hockey (although hockey is generally on the astro) pitches. The sports hall can also be used for basketball as it has several hoops and pitches. Badminton can also be played in the hall as can gymnastics and volleyball. Inside the hall, there are 4 cricket nets for cricket practice. The swimming pool is perfect for class swimming lessons and is also used by professional teachers. The school has sports teams in soccer, rugby, netball, cricket, rounders, basketball, athletics, swimming and hockey. These teams compete in inter-school matches as well as school games.
The school competes regularly in the National Biathlon Championships, in 2012 held at Crystal Palace and, in 2012, has maintained its record of 7 national titles in a row.
House events play an important part in school life at Downsend, the students are randomly split up into four houses(although siblings are in the same house): Norbury (red), Ranmore (yellow), Wisley (blue) and Headley (green). The houses compete for house points and have house matches in sport music; pupils are not divided into classes by house. In the Senior School pupils compete with not only house points but with credits (+5 house points) and debits (-5 house points) too. The house names were thought up in a competition early in 2000 and there were many ideas submitted including JK Rowling's Harry Potter houses, Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin. The winner was the school's music teacher at the time, Trevor Pratt, who suggested naming the houses after local beauty spots.
In earlier times a system of houses existed only in the Senior School (then covering the last three years) with pupils divided between Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta. In addition to form masters in each year, each pupil in the Senior School had a tutor, allocated by house, who would oversee them throughout their three years. The tutorial system was gradually detached from the houses from 1992 onwards.
The three lodges are located around the main site in the towns of Leatherhead, Ashtead and Epsom. They take children from 2½ to 6 years of age and pupils can automatically transfer up to the main school. Each lodge has its own headmistress and staff. There is also a toddler group at the lodges.
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