AD Disclaimer: This blog post was written in paid partnership with Horris Hill School, owned by Forfar Group. Views are those of Berkshire Mummies following a tour of the school in November 2023.
Berkshire Mummies had a tour of Horris Hill School with recently appointed Headmaster, Rob Stewart. Alongside Mr Stewart, Berkshire Mummies also met with the Admissions and Marketing team, plus a number of staff around the school and pupils. Horris Hill is set in an incredible 65 acres with a fantastic range of facilities. Horris Hill has in recent times changed to accept girls across all year groups and has opened a nursery.
Horris Hill is a Hampshire school, right on the Berkshire border and is situated 3.2 miles from Newbury, 5.9 miles from Thatcham and 2.6 miles from Greenham.
Overview of the School
Whilst a small school in terms of pupil numbers the school is spread out over 65 acres and has a rural charm, with ample fields and woodlands to explore with deer popping up around the school grounds.
The small nature of the school works in its favour as it really enables children to feel supported and guided to be ready for 13+ entrance examinations and life beyond Horris Hill. The school is passionate about children growing and succeeding academically but also as individuals through sport, creativity and extension activities.
Headmaster Rob Stewart moved to lead Horris Hill School in 2022. Mr Stewart has bought with him a wealth of knowledge and experience, having worked in the independent education sector for over 23 years. Prior to this role he was Headmaster at The Oratory Prep School for almost six years and was a former Housemaster and Divinity Master at Eton College for many years.
Mr Stewart is passionate about shaping the future of Horris Hill, having already implemented a number of changes, which has included introductions of girls to the school to classroom allocation, re-naming of rooms in the school to align them with the modern day.
New Ownership of Horris Hill School
Forfar Hampshire Limited (which trades as Horris Hill School) acquired the assets (buildings and IP) from the former owners of the school in 2021. Forfar operate the school independently as part of the eight schools that form the Forfar Group in the UK. ‘All our schools have an excellent rating and all of which are highly praised for their safeguarding, family feel, and superb education standards’. John Forsyth, Chairman of Forfar Group.
Horris Hill is focussed on evolving the school, from the boy’s school it once was, with the introduction of girls, the nursery, investment into facilities, a flexible approach to boarding, modern education, complete with fantastic performance facilities, a new science lab and focus on outdoor learning. The school continues to hold onto traditions such as school houses, ‘cocoa’, the name given for the children’s daily snacks and the ‘grub cupboard’!
During Berkshire Mummies visit the staff were friendly and passionate about the school and the roles they played within the community.
The children met during the tour were confident children and very happy to share what they were doing for the day and their experiences of the school.
During Berkshire Mummies visit the children in the younger years were out on the fields, happily playing on an autumn day, wellies were on and it didn’t matter if the children were getting muddy – in fact this was encouraged.
Alongside academics, sport, music and drama were key areas of the school which stood out, alongside the kitchen garden, where the school community plant, grow, pick and eat the produce – it was such a special area of the school where so much is learnt.
The parents also play a key part in the school community, with one example being that they run the fireworks evening for the school. The staff Berkshire Mummies met during the tour around the school, were positive and excited about the future direction of the school and how they can make an impactful difference, a number of staff were new recruits under the Headship of Rob Stewart.
Horris Hill is a school which prides itself on high academic standards, with children going on to leading senior schools. The school offers a wide curriculum whilst maintaining high levels of achievement.
A Horris Hill education starts from Nursery where the children learn the following;
- New Skills including language, physical skills and a range of subjects including maths, science and technology.
- Social Skills learning to socialise with other children and adults. Learning to listen, solve disagreements and expressing feelings.
- Making Friends the nursery is a great place to build friendships with peers, building connections through role play and group games.
- Extracurricular activities, the children get to experience a wide range of activities including the Forest School and play equipment.
- Development for main school, the children are prepared for the main school and the nursery proves beneficial for when they move up as the school is already familiar to them.
The aim is to develop lifelong learners who thrive on challenge and adventure. The curriculum at Horris Hill is fun, bespoke and child led. The holistic programme is immersive, fast paced and high energy, ensuring the children achieve their best.
The children in the Lower School take part in the Horris Hill Wild Child Charter and all children will complete the charter before moving up to the Upper School in Year 4. The charter includes Outdoor Education sessions which takes place all year round and include activities such as den building, toasting marshmallows over the campfire and exploring the woodland.
At the end of Year 2 the children are ready to move to the Upper School Transition, ready to broaden their knowledge and balance the varied and larger timetable.
Upper School Transition
Year 3 and Year 4 pupils embark on school life between lower and upper school. The children follow a structured timetable like the Upper School with the exception of evening activities. They have lessons in the main school building and Years 3 and 4 take part in sport together.
These pupils attend school on a Saturday for Saturday School enrichment lessons – these are valuable sessions in life skills, public speaking, entrepreneurship and the Kitchen Garden.
The school day can conclude at different times. Click to find out more.
The children in the Upper School (Years 5 – 8) study English, Maths, Science, French, Latin, History, Geography, Religious Studies, Music, Art, Drama, Design and Technology, PSHE, Information Technology and Physical Education alongside additional subjects of Classics, Advanced Maths and separate sciences.
Due to the school following a boarding school timetable there is more time for learning. With lessons starting at 8.30am and going on until 6.30pm, five days a week in the final years. Within these hours prep, extra-curricular activities, music practise and tutor sessions are all covered. The school do not set homework as everything is covered during school hours.
Pupils are prepared for Common Entrance or Academic Scholarship exams in Year 8, the school has a track record of pupils achieving highly in both of these examinations and getting into a number of highly respected senior schools.
Saturday School is compulsory for all children in Year 5 upwards. With the morning offering academic lessons and the afternoon for sports fixtures.
Trips and Outdoor Learning
External trips and outdoor learning both also play a key role in the children’s education.
The School Day
Click here to see the structure of the school day.
Art, Drama and Music are all taught as part of the curriculum with children given the opportunity to extend their interest in these subject areas beyond the main timetable if they wish. There is opportunity to perform in school shows, concerts and assemblies.
Sport is key part of the school, where participation is encouraged with a desire for the children to be both active and healthy. The school celebrate the wins but also help the children to understand losing.
Sport at the school is a key part of the timetable, with boys and girls both competing. The children are coached by qualified members of staff.
The school has a wide range of extra-curricular activities for the children to take part in, enabling them to discover and develop their own passions and skills. Each day children ‘sign-up’ for their chosen activity for the afternoon. Click here to view the activities on offer.
Pupils are encouraged and supported in a nurturing environment where children are to be themselves, flourishing in both independence and confidence. The pastoral team is led by the tutors, who play key role in the children’s development both in terms of personal growth and academic success. Children are given opportunities to thrive and achieve, whether that is in the classroom, through house competitions or extra-curricular activities. The school aims to bring out a sense of achievement and confidence in every child.
The Horris Hill team guide the children to behave well, to be kind, respectful and tolerant within the school community.
There is a qualified Paediatric Nurse who lives on site and school and is on duty from 8am – 6pm Monday – Saturday. During the other times the school had dedicated Resident House Matrons, with paediatric First Aid qualifications, so is able to help the children. There is a purpose-built medical centre for the children to access should they feel unwell.
The children are also part of a school house system.
Food at Horris Hill
The pupils eat all meals in the dining hall together. The school caters for allergy and dietary requirements of the children and alongside the main meals the children are offered ‘cocoa’ their snacks throughout the day – ensuring the children are well fed throughout.
Boarding has been offered at Horris Hill since its founding and is still part of school life today. There is no expectation for children to board but the opportunity is available for children and families who can benefit from it. Boarding is offered for both boys and girls at the school and includes full, weekly and flexi boarding options. Boarding at the school offers a great introduction to boarding for those children looking to board at senior school and gives Horris Hill the opportunity to offer overseas places at the school.
Boarding at the school is on offer from Year 3. If a child starts to board in Year 3, they will start the experience with transitional boarding.
The boarders are a community made up of pupils from different age groups. It’s a great opportunity for children to develop their independences, self-confidence and organisational skills alongside their peers. There is a true community spirit and wrap around care is provided.
During Berkshire Mummies visit the children’s beds were being ‘re-made’ with care to ensure that they were welcoming for when the children came home to their dorm after a busy day at school. One year group were also having the whole year group ‘sleepover’ for the evening, which the regular boarders were so excited about. It was great to see this flexible approach being adopted by the school, allowing the pupils who didn’t board to have a taste of the experience and allowing the current boarders a sleepover with their friends for the night… on a school night!
For boarders there is a bus service to and from London at exeat weekends and school holidays.
The facilities for the number of pupils in the school are impressive. With a wonderful large sports hall and ample playing fields for the children to learn, compete on and enjoy. The school offers an open air heated swimming pool and recently resurfaced sports courts, three full sized grass football pitches, six under 11 football pitches, four dedicated cricket squares and even a 9 hole golf course!
The nursery is open, light and spacious and there is a newly equipped science lab and separate creative space shared between art and design and technology.
The award-winning David Brownlow Theatre is a new addition to the school and is a state of the art theatre, with the school on a mission to set new standards in Prep School performing arts. The wooden interior lends itself perfectly for school assemblies, school performances, drama and LAMDA lessons and the theatre is supported by ample music practise rooms (in a separate building). The theatre space is also used for school assemblies.
You will also find table tennis tables around the school, which is a popular sport amongst the pupils throughout the school day.
There are classrooms and a wood-panelled library, which lends itself as a quite space for reading and study.
Horris Hill feeds into a number of top public schools with the 7 top destination schools being Winchester, Harrow, Eton, Radley, Charterhouse, Marlborough and Sherborne.
It is worth noting that the school up until recently was a boys school, so the destination school map may adjust slightly in the coming years.
Fees and Bursaries
Click here to view the fee structure for the school.
The school do offer three types of Bursaries – Military, Alumni (limited numbers available) and Means-Tested. Click here to read more.
The last inspection completed on the school was in June 2022. Click here to view the inspection report.
How to Visit
Horris Hill encourage you to go and take a look around the school as they would love to get to know your child and their family but also want to showcase all the school has on offer.
There are events run throughout the school year and also private tours available. Do email the email@example.com for more details.
Horris Hill Prep School is a school that has gone through a lot of change over the last couple of years. It has embraced the changes under new ownership and leadership and is in a position to flourish – with an abundance of facilities, small class sizes, academic rigor, a passion for sport, enjoyment of arts and performance and an outdoor lifestyle. The school is ready to engage and support children with an all-rounded education from nursery upwards; whether a day pupil or boarder, home pupil or from overseas.
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Click here to view the Berkshire Mummies disclaimer. This post was written in paid partnership with Horris Hill School, owned by Forfar Group. Berkshire Mummies was invited for a tour of Horris Hill for the purposes of writing a review. The review is written based on what we saw during the visit.