No appointment is needed for visiting the Hill House International Junior School in Knightsbridge. Parents are welcomed any morning during term time between 8.30 and 9am. How does this work, given that most other schools require parents to make an appointment well in advance, and others even fail to respond to parents enquiries unless they have already registered their children? I found out when I visited Hill House to see if I wanted to register my daughter there. When I arrived, five couples of Hill House pupils in their famous yellow and red uniforms were lined up on the entrance stairs, assigned to welcome visiting parents and giving them a tour of the school. Two girls sitting in the front row welcomed me and took me on a tour of the school – without the interference of any teacher or other member of staff, who certainly seem to trust their pupils’ personal skills enough. My guides were very friendly and confident 11 year old girls in their final year at Hill House, one English and one American. They had just found out their secondary school placements – one was headed for the elite boarding school Benenden, another for the popular London Day school JAGS.
They showed me around the main Hans Place building which serves as the Middle and Upper school. The library was buzzing with activity, and small groups of students seemed to occupy many of the small spaces here and there – some for intense exam preparation, others reading, drawing, taking music lessons. I got to ask them all my questions – at what age could children start taking individual music and singing lessons? In year 2. Was it true that they did sports every day? Yes. Had they taken advantage of the Switzerland campus? Yes, both had been skiing and loved it. Did they know all the children in their year (given that Hill House admits up to 100 pupils per year, spread across 8-10 classes)? Yes, they knew most, if only by face, maybe half well enough and the other half superficially. As we got back to the entrance, they handed me over to the Director of Admissions, Mrs Janet Townend, a very competent, no-nonsense lady who was happy to answer any further questions I had. I did find out during the tour that despite being co-ed, girls and boys were taught separately from age 8 to prepare the for the different 11+ and 13+ exams, which was a negative for me. I am not sure you really need to start 11+ preparation so seriously that you cannot be taught alongside each other three years in advance? I was glad to hear that having come so early, there should be no problem for offering my daughter a place. Mrs Janet Townend also gave me Mrs Bright’s phone number, Head of the Small School in Flood Street, so that I could visit the school where Reception children start their life at Hill House.
One week later, I visited the small school in Chelsea, headed by Mrs Bright, whose children all attended Hill House School. She is very warm and enthusiastic, although one could notice that she had done this parent tour hundreds or probably thousands of times before. Again, the place was buzzing with activity. I wasn’t sure if it is a perfect learning environment, I would think it depends on the personality of the child. There is certainly a lot of action, interaction, play and adventure, but I wasn’t sure if there was ever a quiet time to think and reflect, to study quietly or just concentrate. Maybe that’s not what children need at this age, but it makes me wonder.
I had heard parent comments that Hill House is a perfect place for outgoing, active and sporty children, and I could understand where they’re coming from following the school visit. As with every school, it seems important to know your child’s personality and decide if a school could be a good fit. My daughter is too young for me to know for sure, but I felt she would benefit from a quieter, more structured environment, where the head knows each child personally.
If you want to find out more about Hill House School, check the Hill House school profile!!
You can also read about all my other school visits here.