The New School at West Heath

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West Heath Shcool
A New School on the old Ashgrove Estate and its history - - 919317.jpg
Motto "Rebuilding Lives Through Education"
Established 1998[1]
Principal, CEO Christina Wells
Location Ashgrove Road
TN13 1SR
51°15′18″N 0°11′10″E / 51.255°N 0.186°E / 51.255; 0.186Coordinates: 51°15′18″N 0°11′10″E / 51.255°N 0.186°E / 51.255; 0.186

West Heath School is an independent school in Sevenoaks, Kent. It caters for children for whom mainstream schooling has become insufficient, for varying reasons. The school's motto is "Rebuilding Lives Through Education."

The school, founded in its current form as a charitable trust on 14 September 1998 as the Beth Marie Centre, is based in 31 acres (13 ha) of parkland on lease from Mohamed Al-Fayed, who contributed almost £3 million towards the school. The building formerly housed the school where Diana Spencer, later Princess of Wales and her two older sisters, Sarah and Jane, received their childhood education. It was then called West Heath Girls' School and was a very exclusive girls' school with around 100 boarding pupils.[citation needed]

History and grounds[edit]

West Heath School[edit]

The Reverend Philip Bennet Power and his wife, Emma, undertook the education of their own daughters at their Abbey Wood home, West Heath House. The quality of the girls' education attracted other local families to ask the Powers to teach their children and West Heath School thus opened in 1865.[2][3]

In 1879 the expanding school moved to 1 Ham Common, in what was then the agricultural community of Ham, Surrey. The house, set in over 10 acres (4.0 ha) of grounds, was the former residence of the Duc de Chartres.[2]

In 1890 Misses Sarah, Maria and Anna Buckland and Miss Jane Percival who owned a similar school in Reading joined forces with the ageing Mrs Power at Ham Common and they ran the school until its purchase in 1900 by Misses Emma Lawrence and Margaret Skeat. Miss Elliott joined the staff in 1928 and was appointed Principal the following year.[2][4]

The development of nearby shops and housing prompted a second move, Ham having become "too suburbanised for a high class girls' school".[4] In 1932 the school moved to its present site, the 18th century Ashgrove House, near Sevenoaks, the former home of the Elliot family. The larger premises allowed the school to grow from its previous capacity at Ham of about seventy boarders, to over one hundred by the end of the Second World War.[2]

In addition to the Spencer sisters, Issy Van Randwyck, Annabel Croft and Tilda Swinton were educated there.

In the 1990s the school had financial difficulties due to falling numbers of pupils, and was placed into receivership in 1997.

West Heath School[edit]

The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund considered buying the school, but decided against it, and Mohamed Al Fayed stepped in to buy West Heath for £2,300,000 on 20 May 1998 as new premises for the Beth Marie Centre. He later pledged to contribute a further £550,000 towards equipping the school. In a statement, he said:

I am surprised that the Princess Diana Memorial Fund, with all its millions in the bank, did not show a greater interest in this project. I believe it to be a far more fitting tribute to her work than putting her name on tasteless souvenirs.[1]

The school was founded in its current form, with Valerie May as Principal, on 14 September 1998. At the start it had around 30 pupils. Boarding began in the year 2000, and there are six boarding houses, each named after one of the trustees (see "Management", below); Tarrant, Sissons, Astor, Ruth, Hunniford and Esther.

An additional, more modern, teaching block was built to increase the classroom capacity and overall space for the school.

The entertainer and singer Madonna, who visited the school in 2010, has funded the educational progression through it of one pupil (who has been kept anonymous).


Founding patron: Mohamed Al-Fayed

The school is governed by a board of 10 Trustees

School management:

  • Principal: Jim Nunns
  • Deputy Principal: Nick Oldham
  • Head of Education (school): Nick Taylor
  • Head of Boarding:
  • Head of Post-16 (school support at colleges): Paul Conforth

General information[edit]

Policy, syllabuses, schemes of work and National Curriculum documents can be made available on request to the Head of Education.

  • Criteria for pupils: 11 to 19 years old, female or male.

Disabilities which pupils may have include: acute stress disorder, addiction, affective spectrum, agoraphobia, anorexia nervosa, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD/ADD), Asperger syndrome, autism spectrum/high functioning autism, avoidant personality disorder, bipolar disorder, bulimia nervosa, conduct disorder, developmental delay, clinical depression, dyslexia, developmental coordination disorder, epilepsy, exhibitionism, genetic disorders, hysteria, nervous breakdown, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD), oppositional defiant disorder, (ODD), general anxiety disorder (GAD), impulse control disorder (kleptomania, intermittent explosive disorder, pyromania, pathological gambling, trichotillomania), emotional or behavioural difficulties, pathological demand avoidance (PDA), panic attacks, pervasive developmental disorder (PDD), seasonal affective disorder (SAD), self-harm (SH), separation anxiety disorder/school refusal, selective mutism, semantic pragmatic disorder, social anxiety (social phobia), Tourette syndrome, Transgender and other various mental health problems.

Many of the disadvantaged pupils have not had the opportunity to get a formal Statement of Special Needs (SSEN) for various reasons.

  • Costs – £15,790 p/a (per annum) for day pupils, £42,972 p/a for residential (boarding) pupils.
  • Class size – 10 maximum.
  • Funding – The school does not have state school status; however it is indirectly funded through the Local Education Authorities (LEAs) of individual pupils, Social Services, Health authorities, bursary or self-funded. Each pupil has an annual review each year to determine if their needs are being met and what changes if any need to be made in their education. Recently[when?] the school had to cut back hard on funding due to a decrease in charity donations. Al-Fayed ceased funding the school.

It received some money from Children in Need in 2004, and teachers and pupils also partook in fund-raising activities for Children in Need as a whole, for example sponsored silences, head shaves, makeup-for-the-day and so on.

  • Entry – Entering the school requires a Local Education Authority procedure or Social Services referral, as the school has the status as a Special School.
  • Number of pupils – 101



GCSE grades:


GCSE grades:[5]

  • Number of pupils aged 15: 20
  • Pupils achieving 5 or more GCSE passes (A*–C): 0%
  • Pupils failing to achieve at least one entry level qualification: 20%
  • Average total GCSE point score per 15-year-old: 121.3 (for comparison, the nearest non-Special Educational Needs school, Sevenoaks School: 498.2)


GCSE grades:[6]

  • Number of pupils: 31
  • Pupils aged 16 achieving 5 or more GCSE grades A*–G: 89% (unpublished which of this is passes, e.g. A*–C)
  • Average total point score per 16-year-old: 23.8 (for comparison, the nearest non-SEN school, Sevenoaks School average: 66.8)
  • Pupils with Special Educational Needs: 100%


Key Stage 3 tests[7] (not GCSE):

  •  % pupils achieving level 5 or above in English test: 0%
  •  % pupils achieving level 5 or above in Maths test: 22%
  •  % pupils achieving level 5 or above in Science test: 0%
  •  % 15-year-olds achieving 5 or more grades A*–C: 4%
    • 1998-2002 decrease in % of 15-year-olds getting 5 or more A*–C: 17%
  •  % 15-year-olds achieving 5 or more grades D–G: 32%
  •  % 15-year-olds failing to achieve at least 5 G grades: 64%


GCSE grades:[8]

  • Pupils achieving 5 or more GCSE grades A*–C: 33%
  • Pupils failing to achieve at least 5 GCSE passes: 67%
  • Pupils failing to achieve any GCSE passes: 17%
  • Pupils with Special Educational Needs: 100%
  • Pupils with SEN with statements: 61.9%
  • Pupils with SEN without statements: 38.1%
  • Number of pupils: 42


GCSE grades:[6]

  • Pupils achieving 5 or more GCSE grades A*–C: 21%
  • Pupils failing to achieve at least 5 GCSE passes: 79%
  • Pupils failing to achieve any GCSE passes: 11%[5]

Post 16[edit]

As well as teaching pupils from Years 7 to 11, the school operates a section allowing pupils to get "support" from the school while going to college; the school itself does not have staff to teach subjects at A-level. Many continue boarding at the school while going to college elsewhere.

Fund a Child's Education (FaCE)[edit]

The New School has set up a fundraising drive, FaCE (Fund a Child's Education) to enable it to help children in need of the school to move from its very large waiting list of potential pupils.


  1. ^ a b "Mohamed Al Fayed buys Diana's former school". 21 May 1998. Archived from the original on 3 March 2008. Retrieved 5 November 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d "West Heath – A Short History". West Heath Old Girls Association. Retrieved 9 June 2013. 
  3. ^ "West Heath House, No.115 Woolwich Road, Erith". London Borough of Bexley. Archived from the original on 12 March 2014. Retrieved 9 June 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Chave, Leonard, ed. (2000). Ham and Petersham at 2000. Ham Amenities Group. p. 25. ISBN 9780952209942. 
  5. ^ a b Secondary Schools 2004 Archived 10 March 2005 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ a b Kent | Special Reports |
  7. ^ | Interactive guides | Kent
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 16 July 2004. Retrieved 11 December 2005. 

External links[edit]