Back To School

We reopened our Pre-Prep schools fully, and began the phased reopening of the main school from 1 June 2020 in line with the latest government guidelines. In developing the plan for our return, we have followed government advice, listened to your views through our Parent Survey and built on learnings from other Cognita schools across the world.

As a school, we are committed to the safety of our pupils and balancing the needs of both the students in our physical classrooms and those who remain in our virtual ones.

We recently surveyed parents* who had returned children back to school in June and we are very proud of the results:

• 98% of parents said that their child benefited from the return back to school.
• 96% agreed that our return to school process was managed well.
• 98% said that every possible risk mitigation that could have been taken, was taken by us.

In its latest briefing, HM Government announced that it has abandoned its plans to reopen all primary schools in the UK, in full, before the end of the Summer Term. Instead, it appears that schools will be afforded greater flexibility to decide if, and when, Year groups will be permitted to return. At Downsend, we welcome this development, and the ability to decide the best course of action for our pupils, parents and staff. The safety and wellbeing of our community remains our biggest consideration, and we are currently working through any proposals with Cognita before announcing any local developments. We took the same care and attention over our move to online learning, as well as the full reopening of our Pre-Prep school and the partial reopening of our Main Site, all of which have been engineered successfully.

We look forward to welcoming the school community back through our doors in a safe, orderly and effective manner.

If you are looking for a place for September or would like to join us earlier to take advantage of our online learning packages, please visit our Virtual Admissions page to find out more.

* Results based on a Return To School survey of 187 parents, run in June 2020.

Latest Advice

We will all have to adapt our behaviour during the school day to ensure everyone’s safety. Please take a look at our Back to School Guides for the specific measures we are taking and how you can help us.

The wellbeing of our students, parents and teaching staff is also a key priority and we are aware that the transition back to school will be a challenge. As a member of the Cognita group, our school community has access to a wide range of resources designed to provide support in adjusting to this new way of being.

This includes live webinars with our education experts, podcasts and a series of videos and resources on wellbeing. This evolving set of content can all be found at

Latest Updates

11 June 2020

1 June 2020

1 June 2020

Back To School Guide - Pre-Prep Epsom

Mrs Conlan and Mrs Roberts

1 June 2020

29 May 2020

18 March 2020


As well as following all relevant Government advice, for example postponing or cancelling international school trips, we are taking a number of steps to keep our school community safe while preparing for potential school closures.

Visiting Us

In order for us to ensure the safety of our students, teachers and wider school community, we are taking significant precautions in our Admissions process. This includes suspending open mornings.

We are working hard to provide other means for you to get to know our school. Please see Who To Contact in order to speak to us about arranging a private tour on another date in the future.

Online Learning

Using our learning from our schools in Asia and the practice they have put in place, we have produced an effective strategy to ensure our children will continue learning through any prolonged school closure. Importantly, this includes establishing a virtual online teaching and learning programme – particularly for our GCSE, A-Level and IB Diploma students.

We are also in contact with the various public exam boards to understand what contingency plans they have in the event of a more extensive outbreak.

We are committed to keeping our children on track with their learning at all times.


Following the latest Government guidance, we ask you to keep your children at home for 14 days if anyone in your household has either:

  • a high temperature
  • a new, continuous cough

The Government has provided further details on how to isolate, when to stop the isolation period and what to do if a member of your household is particularly vulnerable. We recommend that you read this on their website.

Please also report any symptoms or isolation within your household to the school (see Who To Contact).


Parents and pupils should contact the school to report any symptoms, to ask any questions or to share any concerns as well as to let us know if your household is having to isolate:

Head, Downsend School: Ian Thorpe

Head, Downsend Pre-Prep (Ashtead): Tessa Roberts

Head, Downsend Pre-Prep (Epsom and Leatherhead): Vanessa Conlan

The Department for Education has also set up a dedicated helpline for parents, teaching staff and education leaders to provide support and advice on coronavirus.

The helpline will be open Monday to Friday, from 8am until 6pm. It can be reached by calling 0800 046 8687.

Reducing Risk

The Government has published advice for how to reduce the risk from coronavirus in education settings.

To help stop the virus from spreading:

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • Put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterwards – for at least 20 seconds
  • Wash your hands with soap and water often and particularly after:
    • breaks and sports activities
    • before and after cooking or eating
    • on arrival at any childcare or education setting
    • after using the toilet
    • before leaving and after returning home
  • Use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available

The full advice poster can be found on the Government's website.

Useful Links

There are a number of additional resources that you may find useful for further information on the coronavirus, the Government and international response and how best to talk about the outbreak with your children. Links to these can be found below:

WHO: Hand Washing

BBC: Talking to Children

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