Fosse Bank School, Hildenborough
A small, hidden-gem of a prep school, very competitively priced and with one of the best ratios of facility per child that I’ve seen to date.
Fosse Bank is a small, hidden-gem of an independent prep school for boys and girls, sitting on the edge of Hildenborough. And when I say small I don’t mean the school itself, which is wonderfully grand, but rather the number of children. With only 100 pupils and 28 acres of gorgeous grounds its easily the best ratio of facility per child that I’ve seen to date.
Each child is treated as an individual with his or her own talents, needs and dreams. It is a fundamental aim of the school that the children are happy, and it becomes obvious that this is achieved when you visit the school.
The school sits between Sevenoaks and Tonbridge and is tucked away just off the main road in Hildenborough’s suburbia. Take the turning and the stunning Mountains Country House and grounds, that is home to the school, unfolds before you.
Verrrry impressive for a school so small in numbers. As well as the usual football, rugby, cricket and athletic pitches there’s tennis courts, a cross country track, Forest School areas, a well equipped sports hall, a wildlife area with a pond, a giant tree house and an indoor swimming pool! All children from Kindergarten through to Year 6 have a weekly swimming lesson, either in the onsite swimming pool or at Tonbridge School for Years 4, 5 and 6, which is larger and better for older children.
Despite the smallness of the school it does take part in regular sporting fixtures, always pulling together a team. With a dedicated PE teacher, supported by a Head of Boys Games, the school regularly takes part in sporting fixtures with other local schools. Boys and girls are urged to take part in all sports, which includes football, touch rugby, rounders, netball, cricket, hockey and athletics. With children split into four houses, termly inter house sports activities and a yearly sports day that include Kindergarten children up, competitive spirit is gently encouraged.
Despite the smallness of the school it does take part in regular sporting fixtures, always pulling together a team. Fosse Bank has an arrangement with Tonbridge School that allows the Y5 & Y6 children use of the Tonbridge School swimming pool, which is larger and better for older children.
With two dedicated Forest School areas set within the 28 acres, outside learning is an important part of the curriculum for all year groups. The younger year groups have weekly Forest School lessons with a Level 3 Forest School Teacher, with Years 4 and above rotating on a termly basis. In additional to their weekly Forest School sessions, the nursery makes full use of The Yurt, woodland walks and outside play areas on a daily basis.
The selling point for smaller schools is that each child is known and each voice heard. And from what I learnt Fosse Bank really does see this promise through with an active and supported School Council. Pupils decide which charity they wish to support and regularly organise their own fundraising activities. Pupils ask for clubs – they get them – they even run them! Every teacher at the school is required to take an after school club so that there is always a free after school club option (I can vouch that this is not the case at my kids’ school!).
There’s lots of opportunities here for budding musicians. With a specialist music teacher, each child from f Kindergarten to Year 6 has a weekly music lesson. Everyone plays the recorder in Y2, the violin in Y3 and the ukulele in Y5 & Y6. It’s a strategy I really like for introducing the joy of music to those kids that might be too cautious/shy/lazy to try an instrument otherwise – and trying instruments they might not otherwise consider. The school has its own dedicated orchestra and choir.
Finishing at Y6 and perched perfectly between Sevenoaks and Tonbridge (with Tunbridge Wells close by) this school makes no bones of the fact it’s happy to prepare children for the 11+ (a high proportion of pupils do). The school very much has the attitude that any child should ‘give it a go’ and there’s loads of support leading up to 11+ (one week intensive a 3 day a week for 3 weeks holiday course and Saturday school is available to those who want in the summer holidays).
The school works closely with parents to ensure that all children move on to the right school for them so there’s no pressure to take the exam if it’s not right for the child and others stay in the independent sector or go on to local schools, like Bennett Memorial. This year Students have been awarded sports, academic and music scholarships – one child even achieved one for the Royal College of Music.
ISI report: Click here to for more info.
Alison Cordingley took over as head teacher at Fosse Bank in 2014. She’s got the traditional air of a head with the requisite gravitas but I also found her wonderfully approachable and she immediately put me at ease. Having visited a lot of schools where there is more of a slick corporate feel she’s refreshingly relaxed and has no unnecessary airs and graces. Like the school, she is all about the personal touch and simply wants to get the word out there about her special, unique school.
Thanks to the small size of the school she is the only head teacher I have spoken to who personally talks to teachers regarding every single child in the school and has a plan in place for each of those children as a result, for every term – covering everything from their academic progress to support with social issues / peer group where needed.
Little Fosse Nursery opened in 2017 – taking the childcare offering down to kiddies as young as 2 years old. It has been a real success to date and early registration is highly recommended as a waiting list now runs for many sessions.
From there littlies go on to the Kindergarten class, where they start to follow a more structured timetable. Alongside independent learning, each day includes an introduction to phonics (early reading skills) and maths, with weekly swimming lessons, music, French and Forest School lessons to keep them busy! Each September, the benefit of this structured timetable is clear to see as children make a seamless transition to ‘big school’, already being familiar with their teachers, expectations and routines. For children aged 3+, Fosse Bank accepts the weekly entitlement of the 15 hours free funding, with each session costing just £110 per day, per term
USP & Quirks:
If it’s quirky and characterful, then you’ll most likely find it at Fosse Bank. From the building itself, complete with gargoyles (friendly of course) to the grounds – there’s tree house, Mongolian yurt, dinosaur tree and donkey graveyard (yes a real one, it was once home to a donkey sanctuary). Just to name a few. Children have a wealth of play equipment to keep them entertained at break times, including a sand pit, ride on bikes and trikes for the younger children, to outside table tennis and wobble boards for the older children.
Lovely quirky and thoughtful touches that reflect the school’s ethos are The Room of Requirement – a log cabin where any child that needs a bit of support can pop in to talk (it’s always staffed at break and lunch time). Older children support the younger ones with buddy reading sessions and Y6 act as peer mentors for the whole school, so children know they have pupils they can go to with any worries if they want to.
Wrap around care:
Children from Little Fosse up to Year 6, can be dropped off from 7.30am and the Phoenix after school club runs until 6pm. Better still if you’re a working parent you can leave your car at the school and walk to the nearby station (free parking and childcare sorted!) and it’s only 45 mins into London Charing Cross.
Now open for 50-weeks of the year, the school also offers extensive holiday clubs for all children. Children can take part in a range of activities including forest school, cookery classes, arts and crafts. Or just snuggle down on a giant beanbag and watch a film with their friends. Open from 7.30am – 6pm breakfast and a hot lunch are included.
Word on the ground:
It’s no exaggeration to say this school really is one big family. Parents can get good access to teachers and the Head, again due to the smaller size. The pastoral care as a result is exceptional. Not surprisingly there’s a very active PTA – mums use the cross country for running, dads have their own football team. There’s book club and tennis coaching too on offer for the parents. Parents say the small size of the school has really helped their kids confidence and it seems to be a particularly popular choice for families moving into the area (from around the UK or abroad) who really want to ensure their child settles and feels stable. It’s very popular with younger families too who use the nursery and see their child through from age 2.
Fees: Fees: Little Fosse Nursery, £37 per morning, £27 per afternoon, £59 per day; Kindergarten, (cost per session longer than the 3hrs covered) £110 per session per term; Reception, £3,535 per term; Years 1 and 2, £3,745 per term; Years 3 and 4, £4,245 per term; Years 5 and 6, £4,395 per term. So definitely at the more affordable end of the spectrum for an independent school in this area – especially considering the facilities.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Anyone looking for a small, super-friendly, family-feel school, where each child is really, really known and supported. Also, if your child likes space and the great outdoors then this is a brilliant choice. If you have any hesitation at all about the smaller size of the school my only advice would be – go see it for yourself! It really has to be seen to be appreciated. Great too for those wanting the top facilities of a prep school but without the heftier price tag.
Not for: Families or kids who are better suited to a big school – big personalities or really sporty types perhaps. There are one or two year groups where classes are very small with numbers going down to 5. average 10 – 18 in a class. If you have a super competitive kid who wants to be pulled along by lots of similarly competitve peers then this might not be the right school for you.
Fosse Bank, Noble Tree Road, Hildenborough, Kent, TN11 8ND, Tel: 01732 834212, fossebankschool.co.uk