The Founders of the Besant Hill School (formerly Happy Valley School) embraced the Socratic method of teaching to develop in students inquiring, rather than acquiring, minds. They developed an integrated approach to subjects. They accentuated self-motivation, non-competitiveness, and a sense of playfulness. The non-sectarian and international nature of the school reflected Happy Valley Foundation principles. An emphasis on good nutrition, with menus to accommodate diverse cultural backgrounds and healthy activities, have been a constant throughout the existence of the school. On October 1, 1946, the Happy Valley School (now called the Besant Hill School) opened with eight dedicated teachers and ten students. Dr. Ferrando was the first director. Rosalind Rajagopal, who succeeded him, remained director for the next two decades.
In its formative years, Besant Hill School was supported by the burgeoning Southern California Community of writers, musicians, artists and philosophers, many of whom lectured and performed at the school. Among these remarkable contributors were authors Aldous Huxley, Alan Watts, and Christopher Isherwood, philosopher J. Krishnamurti, architect Richard Neutra, musicians Arnold Schoenberg and Lili Kraus, and poet/actress Iris Tree. This activity continues today with the annual guest speaker/performer series. The school is limited in size to 100 students. Its innovative curriculum gives special emphasis to ethical issues in the humanities, arts, social and natural sciences.