The New School at West Heath

Diana, Princess of Wales, went to the exclusive West Heath Girls' School. In her day it had around 100 boarding pupils. The school got into financial difficulties during the 1990s and eventually called in Receivers in 1997 - on the very day the Princess died.

Initially there were various ideas for reviving it. But when the Princess of Wales Memorial Fund decided it could not buy the school, Mohamed Al Fayed stepped in to buy West Heath as new premises for the Beth Marie Centre. He had seen for himself the remarkable work being done by the Centre's founder,Val May, in a collection of portable buildings. He decided that Val and the children deserved better.

The New School at West Heath opened its doors on 14 September 1998 to some 30 pupils. They were children whose lives and education had been disrupted by such things as emotional trauma. Val May and her staff have a proven track-record of changing the lives of "forgotten children", many of whom had become school-phobic. Classes are kept very small, with a maximum of eight children in a group, so that teachers can give a substantial amount of attention to each individual. Boarding began in January 2000.


The New School is run as a charity (West Heath 2000 Ltd) by a Board of Trustees, chaired by the broadcaster Peter Sissons. At the moment the fees are greatly subsidised: places are offered at an initial £11,000 p.a. for day pupils. Information can be obtained from:

The Bursar
The New School at West Heath
Ashgrove Road
Kent TN13 1SR

Telephone: 01732 460553
Fax: 456734

Image - courtesy of Matt Devine


The New School has set up a fundraising drive, FaCE (Fund a Child's Education) to enable it to help damaged children from its waiting list. Any help is much appreciated, be it a donation, fundraising by a coffee morning, or corporate sponsorship.


ERIC, or Educational Rights for the Individual Child, is a campaign and support group for the families of children whose mainstream education has broken down.

Under the 1988 Education Act, children experiencing difficulties which prevent them from attending school are not entitled to a full-time education as a statutory right. The amount of education they receive is at the discretion of the Local Education Authority. It may be as little as three hours of home tuition each week, or part-time attendance at a special unit. Whatever the amount of time offered, it is rarely full-time. This means that the National Curriculum, or even a broad curriculum, cannot be followed. Not surprisingly, few qualifications are achieved by these children unless they are lucky enough to gain a place at the New School at West Heath.

The goals of ERIC are:

To support for families and others who are concerned about a child in distress who has no statutory right to full-time education.
To create awareness of this problem and to highlight the weakness of current legislation.
To change educational law so that all children have the same rights to achieve the skills, knowledge and behaviour that will give them a good start in adult life. Image - courtesy of Matt Devine
If you would like to know more about ERIC, write to:

Margaret Vinson
Sotts Hole Cottage
Crouch Lane
Borough Green
Kent TN15 8QL

Telephone: 01732 882524
Fax: 01732 886534

Left. Image courtesy of Sevenoaks Chronicle

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