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Radnor House Prep

This idyllic, rural, co-ed, prep near Sevenoaks is a 'watch this space' kind of place. And I'm excited to tell you about it. Shall we?

WHAT? WHERE?

Radnor House Prep is an outstanding independent school for girls and boys from 2½ –  11 years (with a guarantee of transfer to the Senior School in Year 7), sitting in Sundridge, just outside Sevenoaks. There are currently 220 pupils in the prep with a 50/50 split girls and boys. The maximum class size is 20, with one class entry from Reception to Year 2 and two class entry from Year 3 – Year 6.

If you’ve spent a while living in the area you’ll know it as the site of the Combe Bank estate and, until recently, Combe Bank School. But in 2015, Combe Bank joined the Radnor House Group, becoming fully co-educational from Nursery to Sixth Form.

I’d say this school is probably undergoing more of a renaissance than any other school in the area. It’s a ‘watch this space’ kind of place – and I’m excited to tell you about it. Shall we?

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The prep is on the same site as the senior school (pictured above). The senior school being set in a Grade 1 Palladian House at the end of a sweeping drive – both schools sit in 30 acres of stunning scenery.

The prep school itself is arranged around a handsome courtyard all housed within the old stable block of the original manor house. As a consequence of this layout all classrooms are light and airy with a traditional feel, pictured below.

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FACILITIES

Whilst the inside is impressive it’s the external space which makes this school. Beech Walk is their bespoke play space set in the heart of wooded grounds. Pupils walk from Prep to the playground via the secret woodland pathway which gives a magical feel to playtimes.

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As it shares the site with the Senior School, the Prep enjoys all the benefits of those facilities while having a smaller, friendly setting of its own. These facilities include a pretty impressive 25m indoor pool and swimming is taught to all Prep pupils throughout the year. Through the school’s strong connection with Sevenoaks Swimming Club they all have the opportunity to really excel.

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There’s no lack of space at this school, and no lack of ambition to keep up with the top schools in the area in terms of facilities. On top of the existing swimming pool, sports hall and full indoor fitness suite, Radnor House has just produced a School Development Plan. This is a road map for its evolution over the next five years, split into three board areas – academic facilities, digital strategy and sports facilities.

By September 2020 the school will have a shiny new full-size hockey astro-pitch. It also has plans to develop newly acquired land into two mid-size playing pitches. And to level the current field behind the staff carpark to create a new Cricket Oval and additional full-sized sports pitch. Lots going on here.

At the prep school the sports are widely gender neutral where possible. The main 3 sports played throughout the year are football, hockey and cricket by both the boys and girls in mixed teams (with rugby and netball also on offer – but tending to be more gender specific). This is definitely the way a lot of preps are heading – but I like how this school is leading the way in this field (all puns fully intended).

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ART, MUSIC & DRAMA

Radnor House has a new Performing Arts Suite, including this new theatre, pictured above, for showcasing productions.

Drama and dance lessons are both popular in the Prep. Music is strong too. Year 1 all receive class violin lessons, taught through the highly-acclaimed String Babies system. As pupils move up the school they also learn recorder and keyboards and there’s obviously the usual options of private music lessons as well.

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Here there’s a massive focus on outdoor learning that feels genuine – pupils from Reception to Year 3 enjoy Forest School as part of the weekly curriculum – staff talk convincingly about how it builds resilience and improves self-awareness and academic learning. In the Upper Prep (Years 4-6) pupils continue to make the most of the outdoor grounds with weekly bushcraft and forest skills lessons.

There’s an unashamed embracing of technology here too. This is a progressive school with one eye on the changing world around us and, if the students progress to the senior school, they all get a school laptop in Y7 & Y8. Interactive touch screens are an integral part of teaching in the Prep School and are used in all classrooms from Reception to Year 6.

WHAT ELSE?

Back in  2015, Combe Bank joined the Radnor House Group and the following year in September 2016, the school name was officially changed from Combe Bank to Radnor House Sevenoaks.

The Radnor House Group comprises two schools – Sevenoaks and Twickenham, the latter came first and has already developed a reputation for exceptional teaching and top facilities.

In just three years Radnor House Sevenoaks has undergone a massive resurgence – and there’s no denying the investment and resources being put into this school to secure its long term future. Mr Paton, the head, is a visionary committed to making this school one of the leading schools in Kent.

GUARANTEED TRANSFER TO THE SENIOR SCHOOL

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The main attraction is the seamless transition from Prep to Senior school (remember pupils in the prep gain automatic enrolment in the Radnor House Sevenoaks Senior School, so avoiding the requirement for additional testing in Year 6).

On average 80% of children move from the Prep School to the Senior School. Others apply to grammar schools or might move for a single-sex secondary school option.

SCHOLARSHIPS

Radnor House says it: ‘is committed to providing an active learning environment for limitless minds, with the belief that all pupils are capable of great things if effectively taught, motivated and inspired by their school environment.’ Which basically means happy kids will try their best and if they try their best they might just achieve amazing things.

This school vision is underpinned by four key values which are central to life at Radnor House: Excellence – Perseverance – Courage – Respect. They don’t just talk the talk though. When moving up into the Senior School pupils can actually apply for scholarships in these four key areas, which is a interesting new concept.

THE HEADTEACHER

Beth Ingram-Cordrey has been head of the Prep School for two years. She’s a friendly and approachable leader who is both happy with her existing prep but also keen to embrace the next development phase of the whole school. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience and has been teaching for over 20 years.

LITTLIES

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Nursery offers warm, nurturing and individual care and education for boys and girls from two and a half to four years old. Specialist teaching is part of the weekly timetable, including PE, French, Music, Performing Arts, Forest School and Swimming (for the older Pre-Prep children).

There’s a strong sense of single identity and a family feel about this school – making its easy to see how children transition from the Nursery to the Prep and then right up to Sixth Form.

FEES 2019/20

Nursery, £65 full day (£35 morning only); Reception £3,800; Y1 – Y3 £4,350; Y4 – Y6 £4,900. So putting this prep at the good value for money end of the scale compared to other schools in the area.

WORD ON THE GROUND

The prep has always done well here. And now with the transition to Radnor House stage out the way and a clear vision for the future the interest in the school has hit an all-time high. There’s always going to be a period of parental hesitation surrounding a school that’s striking out to create a new identity for itself but the number of children now entering the school seems to suggest this period has passed. Certainly parents I’ve spoken to with children in the Prep feel their child is benefiting from the small, nurturing, non hot-house style of the school.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: Parents looking for an all-round education for their child; those who want an outdoorsy, idyllic country school and an intimate setting that can focus on individual care and attention. Children who’d like small classes. Families who like the idea of one seamless transtition – and moving up to the Senior School.

Not for: Those who are looking for a strongly selective school or those who want the badge of a long-established school name and reputation. Also maybe not for hugely competitive kids/families who need a big cohort to choose sports teams from.

DARE TO DISAGREE? Be my guest! Go see for yourself by contacting Radnor House Sevenoaks or go along to one of their tours held every Wednesday (Prep School) and Thursday (Nursery).

Radnor House School, Combe Bank Dr, Sundridge, Sevenoaks TN14 6AE, Tel: 01959 563720, radnor-sevenoaks.org

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