Redhill School (Johannesburg)

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Redhill School is an independent, private, co-educational multi-faith day school located in Morningside, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa. The school's motto is 'Free to Build'.[1]

It was founded in 1907 as an interdenominational Multi faith school and today educates over a thousand pupils from pre-primary (3 years) to high school (grade 12). The school is part of ISASA (the Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa) and matriculants write the South African IEB examinations. In 2018 the school will also be introducing the IB (International Baccalaureate) Diploma Program as an optional parallel program to the IEB.

The school is divided into a Redhill Nursery School, Redhill Preparatory School and Redhill High School. All three schools share a campus and many facilities.


Origins: St Winifred’s Schools for Girls (1907–1941)[edit]

Redhill’s roots date back to 1907 when St Winifred’s School for Girls was founded, occupying a small, double storey building in Yeoville, Johannesburg. Even during these early stages and during turbulent times, innovation and modernisation were at the core of the school’s ethos. At the beginning of 1924, the school was relocated to Parkview where a new, ‘modernised’ building was erected, quickly transforming the school into a very successful and highly regarded educational establishment for girls.

The headmistress at the time, Mrs Burton-Hall, placed great emphasis on a well-rounded education for young ladies that included subjects such as music, drama, art, domestic science, elocution, botany, biology and travel in the curriculum. In 1930, the school consisted of 130 pupils with only four teachers on the permanent staff.

Rebirth: Redhill School (1941–1949)[edit]

In 1941, Catherine Hill became the Headmistress with a bold vision to completely transform and revitalise the school's image, both physically and in the name. “St Winifred’s School for Girls” became “Redhill School”, named for the Headmistress and the vibrant colour of the new uniforms. It was here that the “Redhill Family” as we know, it with the new “Free to Build” motto, was born.

The ‘new’ school had a total of 68 pupils, 34 in each of the junior and high schools, later rising to 129 with the support of Director, Mr L Guittard, staff, parents and pupils.

Towards the end of 1941, when many young mothers went to work during the war effort, Redhill opened a Nursery School, which was soon to become the first independent nursery school that was up to government standards in those days.

As a result of financial difficulties, Catherine Hill sought out more affordable premises for the school, finally settling on a group of rondavels in Morningside. To raise funds, Redhill School was registered as a company on 6 April 1946, and it was at this time that many parents agreed to serve on the board of directors.

Dorothy Thompson at the Helm (1949–1968)[edit]

Amidst crippling financial troubles, Catherine Hill (who had remarried to become Catherine Rodda) handed over the reins of leadership to Deputy Principal, Dorothy Thompson. Despite these difficulties, this was also a time of optimism for the school as pupil numbers continued to increase and educational standards improved vastly.

Elements of the curriculum could be seen as almost revolutionary, given the times and the conservative nature of education under the National Party. Despite the restricted quota system on pupils of colour, to qualify for a government grant, the school was not prepared to impose this quota and claimed to be an “undenominational school… that endeavours to build religious tolerance and mutual respect among individuals and groups with differing points of view”.

The Damelin Years (1968–1979)[edit]

As financial difficulties continued, the governors approached Dr Isaac Kriel, the principal and majority shareholder of the Damelin Group, to take over the ownership and management of the school, and in 1968, Redhill School officially came under the guidance of the Damelin Group in a widely publicised deal worth R300 000.

From that point, Redhill underwent fundamental changes under the leadership of these dedicated educationists. From a girls’ school of 150 pupils, the numbers would increase over the next ten years to 630, including boys. Major progress would be made towards achieving academic excellence through a more traditional and rigorous approach to education. Dr Kriel and Mr Witt brought some excellent new teachers to Redhill from Damelin.

Change was constant at Redhill during this time, and while stricter, more formal policies were put into place, many of the core values would remain deeply entrenched. In 1969, Margaret Landers became the new Headmistress and brought with her some much-needed stability to the changing school dynamic with a stricter and more formal approach to education. During this time, Dr Kriel and Mr Witt recognised that co-education was “in keeping with modern educational principles, and enjoyed worldwide acceptance”, and so in 1974, the first boys entered the Primary School.

In January 1975, the school year opened under the leadership of William Harrison, who was the first Headmaster in the school’s history.

Towards a Progressive Ideal (1979–1989)[edit]

Following a decision by Dr Kriel and Mr Witt to depart from Redhill, the school came under the care of a Trust, which was registered in July 1979, and a Board of Trustees under the Chairmanship of Mr PB Oertel came into being.

During this time, continuity in leadership created problems for the school until Jeremy Barnes was appointed as Headmaster in 1984 and the school came under the control of a truly dedicated and forward-thinking educationist. Roger Briggs was appointed in 1983 as the Principal of the Preparatory School and Jenny Stead took on the leadership of the nursery school. This core of dedicated leaders was well placed to take Redhill through the next decade of change.

During the course of the 1980s, a number of black students were admitted into Redhill and a scholarship scheme was established to provide scholarships for them despite laws restricting black children from attending what was considered by the government as a ‘whites only’ school. Another crucial cornerstone of Redhill’s progressive educational philosophy was the notion of religious tolerance.

“Free to Build”: Modernising the Campus (1991–2003)[edit]

After the departure of Roger Briggs and Jeremy Barnes, Ben Brooks was appointed as the new Headmaster, with Brian Mitchell taking over as the Principal of the Preparatory school, inheriting Redhill at a time when the country was about to enter the most significant period of change in its history.

As a result of a period of sustained stability, over the next decade, the school would be significantly remodelled in the most extensive and sustained building programme in its history. One of the key decisions made under Ben Brooks was to replace the state exam with the new IEB exam.


The park like campus is dominated by red-brick buildings with green corrugated iron roofing. The oldest buildings on the campus are a set of thatched rondavels in a typical African style.

External links[edit]

  1. ^ Redhill School website