Kent College, Canterbury
Steeped in history yet with a very modern and innovative attitude to education, Kent College in Canterbury is a strong contender for the next generation.
Located on the outskirts of Canterbury, Kent College is a Tardis if you take the time to explore what is going on beyond its classic exterior yet with extensive modern facilities, including the spanking new Great Hall, a state-of-the-art auditorium that played a key part in the Canterbury Festival and is rightly the school’s new pride and joy. With a rich history in Canterbury, having been teaching pupils for the past 130 years, this is a school that is constantly evolving with the recent appointment of a new Head plus its forward-looking approach to education that can be tailored to each of its 575 pupils. Mingle this with a strong reputation for Music and Sport, and a desire to instil kindness and generosity in their pupils as part of its Christian Methodist principles, and you can be confident that this is the school for you if you are looking for a well-rounded education where your child’s strengths will be quickly identified and nurtured to help them succeed in whatever path they choose.
Kent College in Canterbury is by no means just a local player with a sister school in Dubai, and another shortly to be launched in Hong Kong, and welcomes 40 different nationalities from around the world thanks to its boarding facilities. This international element is celebrated throughout the school with flags of different countries waiting in the wings to be hoisted up the flag mast on a daily basis in honour of different country’s national days.
Boasting 80 acres in total, with 26 acres of playing fields, and a real working farm as well as RSPB nature reserve, Kent College is STILL not complacent about sitting on its laurels, with much more planned in the pipeline. The Great Hall, a success with students and parents alike, has inspired a new shopping list of additions which can also benefit the community in the same way that the Great Hall has been a tremendous asset to Canterbury since it was opened in September 2019. It’s hard to see what they are lacking since they have a large Sports Hall and astroturf, extensive science labs and DT department, drama studio, and even a riding arena but development plans are ongoing to ensure the school continues to evolve a campus for 21st-century education.
Regardless of the future, there is still a lot to like for pupils today. Budding vet in your family or horse enthusiast? They will be hard-pressed not to like Moat Farm which is a short walk from the main Senior school campus, where they can spend time with a wide array of farm animals or learn to ride and look after horses at its own riding school which can be incorporated into the sports’ programme. Farm club is also hosted four nights a week as well as Saturday mornings plus riding lessons are offered too which has led to Kent College having its own highly successful NSEA show jumping and eventing team.
The old dining hall, renovated in 2015, is a big hit with the pupils, and of course helped by having a chef who has come from Eastwell Manor, a Champneys’s spa hotel with strong reputation for good food down the road in Kent. With pork, beef, lamb and mutton sourced from the farm, it’s good to know that the importance of provenance is being instilled at such a formative age – and tasty too! Special diets such as gluten-free, or lactose-intolerant as well as vegan and vegetarian to ensure everyone is looked after here.
You have all the right ingredients here to craft fine athletes with some well-known figures in place to help with the training such as Grace Balsdon, a defender with England Women’s Hockey team as well as Rob Key, an English former cricketer who has also represented Kent County Cricket Club and is a former member of the England Test match and One Day International sides, plus Craig Boyne who played hockey for Australia and is Head Coach at Canterbury hockey club as well as an Elite Performance Coach at the school.
Hockey is a hero sport and the school’s hockey teams (boys and girls) regularly progress through county and regional to national tournaments and special training is available for those exceptional players with one to one coaching and support, and practise sessions at the impressive indoor facilities at Polo Farm Hockey Club. Sports scholars are also very well looked after with dedicated body strengthening and conditioning programmes put in place to help them flourish in the school’s gym and at the University of Kent.
For the non-hockey lovers, there is still plenty to excel at including netball and tennis (for the girls) plus rugby, football, cricket and tennis for the boys with the Girls’ cricket also taking off and a recent win was the U13 girls’ team at 2018 National Indoor Cricket Championships at Lord’s. We also spotted a dance studio and know that the school has facilities for trampolining, badminton, volleyball and basketball, and offers yoga, strength and conditioning sessions, football and gym so something for everyone to let off steam.
ICT/DT/ART & H&E
This is a rich territory for those students who wish to explore their more creative and technical brains. Art, Craft and Design not only covers drawing and painting but also offers printmaking, 3D work, mixed media and digital imaging and photography, plus within DT, students can develop their practical skills in a variety of specialisms including architecture, product design, graphic communication, CAD/CAM and traditional craft skills. The DT department was transformed two years with the appointment of two new teachers and they are very proud of its new direction.
Students will also become well versed in cooking up dishes using a range of ingredients (and often from the Farm), from sweet to savoury, and learn invaluable different cooking techniques to gain confidence with this vital life skill. There is also plenty of scope to learn the latest technology in IT when it comes to exploring new software and extending capabilities.
MUSIC & DRAMA
You have already heard from us about the fancy new Great Hall, which resembles a professional theatre which can seat up to 600 guests, at full capacity, but also neatly works for smaller intimate performances and social events. It was opened with a big fanfare with a production involving 350 pupils (that should give you an indication of the sheer scale of it), written by the Executive head, Dr Lamper and the Chaplain with the Mayor and Sherriff of Kent in attendance alongside the parents.There is also a musical which is performed every summer in the Executive Head’s garden (normally a Gilbert and Sullivan one) so lots of ways to shine here!
But let us also tell you more about the Music department, which has always been a strong part of Kent College’s fabric and continues to be at the heart of the school. The Department is housed in its own purpose-built Music School and has outstanding facilities, including teaching and practice rooms, two large rehearsal rooms, and a recording studio, so something for everyone – from the classical to the more modern taste.
Carol singing takes place every year at Canterbury Cathedral and there are seven different orchestral ensembles and five different choirs to take part in, as well as popular visits to Winchester Cathedral every year plus choir tours to Europe with Venice, Vienna and Krakow being recent hits. Individual lessons are also widely offered with a comprehensive stock of instruments available to pupils including two grand pianos, drum kits and orchestral percussion, a pedal harp and a two-manual pipe organ in the school Chapel. Both the school’s Choristers and Sedecim choirs have once again reached the finals of the prestigious Barnados School Choir of the Year which will take place in March this year.
Lots of good news on this front. Firstly, it is non-selective when it comes to admission and on top of that, has impressive statistics when it comes to achieving results, with a 73% average for A* to B for A Levels for the past five years and a 96-100% pass rate for GCSE’s. For the IB, the average score for the third-year running was 37 points, which places Kent College amongst the top IB schools in the UK.
What we particularly liked about Kent College however is that this is not the be all and end all as this is not a school for driving results out of your child as they will work with you, and them, to assess the best academic route forward for them. This is one of Kent College’s hugest selling points (and you will see this start from the Junior School experience) that the school is unique of its kind by offering A-Levels alongside International Baccularate as well as Cambridge Technicals to ensure that everyone’s hidden talent is spotted and nurtured.
From the start, the school will work with you to personalise your child’s academic qualification to ensure that they are on the right academic path. There is an even a person whose job is to organize each pupil’s timetable which demonstrates the bespoke level of detail, with pupils given the option to study the widest range of subjects from Astronomy through to Music Technology.
Its modern approach to education is also evident by the fact that every pupil receives a Mac book from the age of 11 (neat way of reducing paper usage too) and work is shared via the internet which helps the students to engage, via Google Classroom, and chat to their teachers, plus there is a new parent portal being developed so they can become more involved too. And the extra brilliant part, these Mac books have a pre-assigned bedtime, according to age group, to actively encourage students to switch off each night.
An average class size is is 16 but as you move to the Sixth Form, many pupils can expect one to one tuition as they start to specialize with an average of 8 – 10 for each class so you can also expect quality teacher care and attention.
Phil Wise was recently appointed as Senior School Head in September 2019 at Kent College following the retirement of Julian Waltho who had been the Senior Headmaster for the last three years and had taught at the school for over fourteen years. Having come from Reading Blue Coat School, an independent day school for boys in Berkshire, Phil Wise has the additional experience of both state and independent education and tells me that one of his main missions is to produce good people who will make a difference in life and treat others well. He believes that pupils at Kent College (also affectionately known as KC) are the nicest he has come across and he wants to keep this value at the heart of the school. Phil has a familiar approach with pupils which goes down well, he still teaches too and interestingly also opts to stand up at his computer, so he is always easily visible to students from within his ground floor office plus it’s good for posture. He’s passionate about maintaining Kent College’ bespoke attitude to education and works closely with Dr. David Lamper, the Executive Head, who has been at the school for 11 years, to make sure they continue to deliver this innovative approach.
This is a very happy place for those who wish to board with a current quota of 205 people boarding. 15% currently board from within the UK, and the remaining amount from around the world and there is a real ‘home away from home’ culture. Most pupils are full boarding, but you can also choose to do weekly or occasional boarding which is very helpful for parents too who may need some impromptu childcare! They recently extended the boarding facilities and will be opening a co-educational transition boarding house in the autumn to help prepare sixth form students for more independent living at university and there are recently renovated social areas for each sex within their houses with the boys’ space including table tennis and table football and a very stylish sitting area for the girls with indoor plants and funky cushions. Plenty of trips are laid on for the weekends with recent excursions including ice skating at the Natural History Museum in London, Paintballing and Disney world in Paris.
Even though the school prides itself on its refreshed thinking, tradition still plays a part in Kent College life. The “Pillow Prize”, given to students who make the most all-round contribution to school life, still remains part of school life (in honour of when the school was founded in 1885 and land was made available by Edward Pillow, a local gentleman-farmer) plus prefects still wear gowns. Talking of uniform, another appealing point is its open-minded approach within Sixth Form where students can choose any shirt (with sleeves and collar) with a round or V neck jumper on top alongside a suit or skirt and jacket in dark grey, black or navy. The students we spoke to seemed to really relish the fact that they could personalize their outfits as it made them feel more like young adults, rather than kids stuck in regulation uniform, and there is talk of moving to a more gender-neutral uniform too.
A very charming and community spirited event is Kent College’s annual Carol singing at Moat Farm where pupils from Junior and Senior school, plus parents and teachers, congregate to sing carols and hear nativity readings set amidst a real-life stable with goats, lambs, horses and piglets watching on with fairy lights and tinsel to really set the scene.
As we know, mental health plays a hugely important part in education programmes and Kent College integrates this within its approach and as part of its Methodist ethos, shares the principles of not comparing your lives with others which is an important life lesson. The school also works with Mindapples which help individuals look after their health and improve their productivity and teaches organisations to work smarter and more sustainably and this is shared throughout the school. External lectures are also provided for both parents and students with a recent talk on ‘how teenage brains work’ plus Health & Wellbeing weeks are regularly hosted to ensure that everybody takes valuable time away from work, and the Chaplain lives on site if you need a good ear.
I was also a fan of the tuck shop, know as 1885, which was built three and half years ago and looks out over the astro-hockey pitch so is a hub of much activity and socialising during break-out times. It opens from seven am through to 4.20 so a great place to start the day if getting breakfast at home was too much to fit in as you try to get them out of the door. There is also a Biometric system whereby fingers are scanned so no money is needed on site and parents can monitor what students are eating so you can keep an eye on things from that perspective.
Day pupils (per term) – Year 7: £5,598; Years 8-9: £6,108; Years 10-13: £6,288
Boarding full time – Years 7-8: £8,748; Years 9-13: £11,876
Boarding weekly – Years 7-8: £7,084; Years 9-13: £10,598
WORD ON THE GROUND
I met a good cross-section of students with many of the day pupils coming from local schools such as Spring Grove, St Faith’s in Ash as well as Kent College Junior School around the corner. School dinners were highly spoken of with a much-heated debate over whether the crumble triumphed the flapjack for top pudding and apparently Kent College is also known as Cake College by some on account of its exceedingly good cakes. See you later Mr. Kipling.
Many of these pupils had already done Experience days at the Senior School to help them feel acquainted with the school and this would typically involve a visit to the farm, a lesson such as Chemistry followed by a bit of DT or Art and then some sport. Pupils quoted the teacher/pupil dynamic as one of the main reasons that they loved the school, and the breadth of subjects on offer. Overseas trip also gets a big thumbs up with recent visits to Borneo as part of a Conservation and Ecology project as well as skiing trips to Canada.
The diverse culture of pupils was also brought up as a big plus as it broadens their mind and awareness of the outside world, as well as the welcoming attitude to ‘change’ which was shown nicely by one plucky Sixth Form student’s creation of Environmental Club in a bid to make the school eco-friendlier. This Club is run by the students and attended by staff at the school, including marketing and catering departments, to ensure that their points are heard and delivered throughout all aspects of the school – from food waste to constructing new buildings. The Great Hall is a good example of this as the building itself has a low-energy passive labyrinth heating and ventilation system, photovoltaic cells and is being built to comply with the highest level of sustainability standards. If you have a voice, you can put it to good use here.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
GOOD FOR: All-rounder pupils as well as those who may not have found their hidden talent yet – Kent College will invest time in your child to enhance what they can do best.
NOT FOR: Kent College may not have the historical edge or prestigious reputation that local competitors such as King’s Canterbury has but this is not a school that is lingering in the past, it is far more interested in the future.
Kent College, Canterbury CT2 9DT, +44 (0)1227 763231, kentcollege.com