Hill House School rated “inadequate” by Ofsted

hillhousepulloverIn a drastic downgrade from its “good” rating in 2012, Ofsted inspectors have handed down a damning verdict on the inadequacies of the Hill House International School in Knightsbridge, the largest prep school in London attended by over 900 pupils. The future of the school is now uncertain, although it has immediately ordered a safety audit to address any safeguarding failings highlighted by the report.

Ofsted inspectors found the school to be lacking in basic safeguards and roundly criticised it for poor quality of teaching and management. To give you some background, Ofsted seems to have had issues with the school for a long time. Even previous “good” reports had repeatedly criticised safety procedures, lack of compliance with regulations and the lack of ICT instruction at the school. Ofsted inspectors seemed to be particularly unimpressed when the school failed to work on its perceived failings after recent inspections. It is quite likely that the new report, published on 10th March 2015, will force the school to adhere to regulations immediately.

The health and safety of both pupils and adults in the main school are severely compromised. The health and safety policy is not being implemented across all sites. No one has overall responsibility for health and safety or has had suitable training,” the Ofsted inspectors noted, attaching a long list of concerns, including fire exits that “represent an ever-present danger to pupils and staff”.

b8be91f0212c4466d568b1fe26737f36Ofsted had harsh words for the school’s management. “Leaders and proprietors do not have the capacity to secure essential improvements. They are not taking any action to secure effective teaching. They do not know if pupils are making the progress of which they are capable.

Richard Townend, a son of the founder and the current headmaster, told parents in a letter: “While it contains some positive remarks, the [Ofsted] report as a whole does not seem to me to represent the school I run and two of my grandchildren attend nor the tutors who work here.

Inspectors said they found “at best average attainment in writing and mathematics, … in most subjects, including in writing and mathematics, teaching focuses too much on ensuring older pupils are successful in passing entrance examinations, at the expense of providing more opportunities for pupils to learn in greater depth,” the inspectors found. I must say that this is an observation I made visiting the school as well. The school separates girls and boys early on to prepare them for 11+ and 13+ exams, and much of the preparation is worksheet based. On the other hand, the inspection took place in early December 2014, only weeks ahead of the 11+ tests and 13+ pre-test, so I would imagine at any prep school in the country children would be doing practice papers at that time.

I must add also that I know plenty of happy parents of children at the school (and some unhappy ones), and their exit results are quite impressive, so I wonder if this was in some part a political decision to punish the school for ignoring regulators. If the school indeed faced closure, as some newspaper reports speculated, then God help us, because 930 Hill House children looking to change schools will certainly create pressure on London school places! Hopefully, the pressure created by the report and the parental support generated (as of Saturday 14th March, 740 signatures had been collected in support of the school in a petition of support) will keep the school going.

6 comments… add one
  • Tim Johnson March 13, 2015, 1:41 PM

    Hill House parents mostly seem to find the report incomprehensible. I’ve certainly been very happy with my daughter’s education. Some of the comments in the report seem divorced from reality. For example the comment “There is little marking of pupil’s work” is in my experience simply false – all of my daughter’s work is marked. If you want to know what HH parents think, take a look at Ofsted’s “Parent View” https://parentview.ofsted.gov.uk/parent-view-results/survey/result/125279/current the results are in very stark contrast to those of Ofsted.

  • Caroline March 13, 2015, 4:39 PM

    As a Hill House parent, this report is not at all representative of my experience with the school and I am saddened that it has had it’s reputation muddied by this questionable report. I will not speak for other parents, but this petition offers insight to the reactions to the Ofsted report.


  • Jessica March 14, 2015, 3:01 PM

    Hill House is an outstanding school which produces happy, confident, intelligent and well mannered children. I am delighted with the way my son has developed during his 7 years there. He has excelled academically under the tutelage of wonderful teachers and has developed a passion for all sports due to the school’s exceptional ethos.
    I am completely bewildered as to the findings of the latest Ofsted report, they bear no resemblance to the school to which I send my son. Their claims concerning the standard of teaching are farcical at the very least.
    Throughout the last 7 years the school has nurtured and inspired my son in all areas of the curriculum and he together with his contemporaries at the school approach life with confidence, energy and enthusiasm.
    I believe this to be a direct result of this Hill House education. He will leave in 2 year’s time with solid foundations and friendships which last a lifetime.

  • Jane March 18, 2015, 11:15 AM

    The HH parents’ reaction is understandable – what a shock. There is a very long thread on mumsnet about it !! But the health and safety issues have been ongoing (see emergency inspection report from last year, done as a result of pupil concerns) and the results of the staff survey are worrying, where the professional development and level of support for the staff seem to be lacking. The family have been running this school in an authoritarian manner for so long and have not moved with the times. I suspect that Ofsted are making an example of them, given they have failed to respond to past criticism. Of course there are lots of happy children – most children like being at school with their friends, but the safeguarding has to be taken seriously. Parents would not be signing petitions of support if something dreadful happened to a child and at the moment those levels of security and care are lacking.

  • Alan Lloyd December 11, 2015, 6:35 PM

    Not surprised by this have heard many stories from parents about the health and safety issues. The lack of checks for staff is rather worrying and there is also a culture of bullying now which didn’t exist before.

  • Sue February 14, 2017, 6:45 PM

    My child had an awful time at Hill House, a complete lack of care for the children’s safety or wellbeing. Focused almost solely on getting them into the next school. Half an hours free play a week for 7 year olds. Photocopied worksheets for every lesson. Teachers have around 100 pupils to a year so are unable to get to know the children well enough.


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