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Sevenoaks Prep School

For first-class facilities and a great all-rounder education, we had a nosey round this co-ed prep - and this is what we found.....

Sevenoaks Prep from above, with The Centenary Centre and playing fields

WHAT? WHERE?

An established co-ed independent day school, with 400 pupils (210 boys and 190 girls) from 2 to 13 years old. As well as drawing a lot of children from the immediate area (Sevenoaks Prep is located just on the outskirts of the town) Sevenoaks is also a popular destination for families relocating both from London and abroad. These same families are then drawn to the prep school thanks to its long-standing, excellent reputation.

FACILITIES

Despite being a town-based school Sevenoaks Prep (also known locally as The Prep) sits in 25 acres of playing fields and backs onto Knole Park, the 1,000 acre deer park, which is used for nature walks and cross-country running.

2019 marked a milestone 100 years since The Prep was founded in 1919. To celebrate, the school designed and built a brand, shiny new Centenary Centre (pictured below) a project that was largely possible due to contributions from parents who clearly feel very connected to the school.

Back when it first opened, Muddy was first though the swish, swing doors to have a nosey around. But we recently returned to see how the impressive building had bedded in…

The Centenary Centre is a huge space which is primarily for teaching the older years Y6-Y8 pupils and has now become the central hub of the school. There’s a central library when you enter, complete with mini amphitheatre-style seating, so making the perfect presentation space. The rest of the building flows as you walk through – past new classrooms, science labs, an IT zone and art studio.

This is such a brilliant addition to the school and a real step up from the old portacabins that were once there (these have been donated to other local schools). The building is a light and large space – bold and imaginative – and has a very grown up campus feel about it. Walking around you can feel the energy and buzz created by this new space – the children clearly love it too.

I’d say this smart building reflects the high quality of teaching at The Prep. Headteacher Mr Harrison actually teaches too (not as common as you’d think) – his subjects are English and Drama. I stood in on one of his Year 8 English lessons, on language within War Poetry, which was highly engaging. As I moved around the school the feeling was of exceptional teaching within other subjects too.

SPORT

There’s the usual generous dollop of super sporting opportunities that you’d expect from a top prep school (team sports include football, hockey, rugby, cricket, cross country and netball) plus judo, fencing and golf.

Teams compete in IAPS regional and national  tournaments and at more local tournaments in a variety of sports. They encourage sport for all and every pupil in years 3 to 8 gets the opportunity to represent the school in fixtures each week.

School Houses compete in all sports and some, including football and cricket, involve boys and girls in mixed gender teams representing their House, which we thoroughly approve of.

MUSIC & DRAMA

On top of that is orchestra, chamber choir and fun music competitions, such as, Prep Idol. As many as 70 per cent of children play instruments and there’s lots of opportunities to get involved in drama productions.

Every pupil from nursery to Year 8 has the chance to take part in a drama production each year, either acting or behind the scenes. House drama and house music are annual events where the year 8 pupils produce, direct and manage the other pupils in their house performances.

There’s a real focus on making sure that the older children at ‘senior school’ age are fully stretched. For example, Year 7 & Year 8 put on a performance of Frankenstein. They also staged Romeo & Juliet, bringing it bang up-to-date by adapting the play to set it in the modern context of Glastonbury.

Recent all-school productions include ‘Poptastic’, ‘O What A Lovely War’, ‘High School Musical’.

ART

All pupils receive a double period of art and DT each week and a number of visits from practicing artists are arranged each year too. Pupils are taught a range of skills including drawing and painting, animation, printmaking and 3D product design.

For the older years art takes place in the new Centenary Building in a big, light, bright space, that has the brilliant enviable storage space for materials you only see in a purpose-built space.

The Prep’s Art teacher, Sophie Fuller, is particularly inspiring. With a BA in Technical Theatre and previous career as Scenic Artist and Prop Maker at The Royal Opera House and National Theatre (she created the set for the production that saw Benedict Cumberbatch star in Frankenstein).

I walked in on a lesson where they were making Bake Off inspired cakes out of sponges and covering them with highly realistic looking decorations and icing (that they’d also manufactured themselves). Really imaginative stuff.

In the Prep-Prep, there is a dedicated art room where pupils are encouraged to use their imaginations and to explore their topic work through different mediums.

ACADEMICS & ADMISSIONS

A popular school, the main entry points are Nursery, Reception and Year 7. Nursery and Reception are non selective and early registration recommended (priority is given to siblings of current pupils).

For those entering Y7 children wanting to join the school will be offered a place subject to a successful taster day and assessment.

In Y5 & Y6 the children are streamed in maths. In Y7 & Y8 the children are streamed across all subjects.

With so many great boys and girls grammars in the area it’s not surprising that there are leavers at the end of Y6 but the majority remain. Approximately only 15 (of a year group of 40) leave at the end of Y6 – and often half a dozen or so join (the current Y7 and Y8 each have approximately 35 pupils).

The main independent feeder schools are Sevenoaks, Woldingham and Tonbridge (from Y9).

Having said that, a strength of the school is the breadth and quality of senior schools to which they send pupils whether to local grammar schools at 11+ or to independent schools after Common Entrance. The Headmaster meets with all parents, usually during the first term in Year 5, to discuss options for the child’s future and to begin an ongoing dialogue.

They offer independent advice on which school might best suit your child and use their knowledge of the full range of senior schools, both local and further afield.

They are not surprisingly proud to point out that in July 2021, once again, Year 8 pupils achieved 100% pass at Common Entrance.

No less than 12 scholarships have been awarded this year including a Millennium all-round Scholarship, 5 Sports Scholarships and 2 Academic Scholarships, 2 Drama and a Maths and a Music Scholarship.

HEADTEACHER

Mr Luke Harrison is so at home in his role as head here it’s no surprise to learn that he’s an old boy of the school. The children in turn seem very respectful, yet relaxed in his presence.

His wife Clare is assistant head and in charge of admissions. She’s a font of knowledge too and they make quite a dynamic duo – having worked together throughout their professional career and in a Senior School setting.

Their daughters have also gone through the school so this really is a place close to their hearts. Mr Harrison’s mantra is: ‘If the child is happy everything follows.’ Any parent with a child of school age knows this to be true.

Luke Harrison talks convincingly about the range of benefits in keeping your child at prep school until the end of Year 8 – giving them a ‘mini sixth form’ top of the tree experience while still in a very intimate setting where they can really shine.

And of course having those two extra years in a setting that is familiar and secure while they go through such an intense period of social and physical development – i.e. puberty does sound like it has a lot of advantages. I feel a bigger Opinion piece coming on…

WHAT ELSE?

The pupils in the top two years are very much encouraged to develop their responsible side and ‘help run’ the school so as to keep them engaged and stretched at an age where a lot of children are already in secondary school.

The Centenary Building space is very much geared towards these older years – and feels more like a Secondary School space. To reinforce this, children are given extra responsibilities. Those that have a flair for ICT become digital leaders and teach the pre-prep, that kind of thing.

Y7 & Y8 have a different uniform (they move into black blazers, pictured above). Plus there’s some great initiatives. like the Oak Award, a bit like Duke of Edinburgh for Y7 & Y8s.

The advantage here of course is that they still have the super supportive environment of a prep. The teachers in Y7 and Y8 are secondary school trained and experienced.

Forest School has really been developed since Muddy’s last visit, in a perfect space just to the side of the sports fields. The ‘outside classrooms’ are really quite substantial and there’s plenty of space for everyone – even desks – under canvas or seats for sitting around the camp-fire.

NURSERY & PRE-PREP

The Pre-Prep is set aside from the main building to give the smaller children the sense of a smaller, safe environment but near enough for them to feel included and share the facilities when needed. Bright and colourful both in the building itself (see above) and the surrounding grounds (see play equipment and astro below) it has its own hall and dining room too.

Mrs Cook has been Head of the Pre-Prep since 2017 and believes that if children are happy and feel secure they are more likely to embrace the opportunities and challenges that are offered.

The school journey at Sevenoaks Prep starts in Nursery at the age of 2. Nursery children do a minimum of 3 mornings a week chosing from various themes offered on different days – music, forest school, free-play etc. They then move into the main prep in Y3, and remain there from age 7 – 13.

QUIRKS

Children are encouraged to work and play according to the Sevenoaks Prep ‘Way of Life’ (kindness, belonging, inspirational – those kinds of things). These principles are illustrated in simple, bright signs dotted around the school, which is a nice touch (see above).

WRAP AROUND CARE

New, longer length childcare has been very well-received throughout the school.

The school offers wrap around care for Pre-prep pupils from 7.30am (Breakfast Club) until 6.00pm (After School Club, which will include a snack). So busy parents are well catered for. For older pupils, there’s the opportunity to do Prep at school too and the day can be from 7.30am to 6.00pm.

FEES

The fees are calculated per annum and are…Reception: £11,244; Year 1 and Year 2: £12,828; Year 3 to Year 8: £15,540. Having done our sums and dividing it into termly cost these fees are very much inline with other preps in the local area.

MUDDY VERDICT

The school can’t be pigeon-holed as a ‘sporty’, ‘musical’ or an ‘academic’ school with different subjects all appearing strong. This is a genuinely good all rounder school with a heart, steered by a strong leading partnership who have deep personal bonds with the prep.

The popularity of this school speaks for itself – it’s not unusual for prospective parents to tour the school in pregnancy to get their child’s name on the list.

Good for: children who would thrive in an academic environment but it isn’t a hothouse school and you don’t have to be Einstein’s love child to get a place here. Anyone looking for a school well immersed in the community – parents also benefit from the location – there’s Parents’ Boot Camp in the grounds, dog walking into Knole Park via the back gate and families popping along to use the site at weekends to teach their kids to ride bikes etc.

Not for: anyone wanting the grandeur of a school set in a posh historic house – the school’s smart enough but many of the buildings are modern and purpose built. Anyone wanting a very small setting. This is a fairly large prep however it is split into two areas (prep and pre-prep) and both feel cosy and well proportioned.

Don’t take my word for it: Go see for yourself! The school prefers not to hold open days, instead planning a personal visit around your schedule and letting you have the chance to see the children at work and play on a normal school day. Click here for more details.

Sevenoaks Prep School, Godden Green, Sevenoaks TN15 0JU, Tel: 01732 762336, theprep.org.uk

3 comments on “Sevenoaks Prep School”

  • Year 6 parent May 24, 2022

    We moved from London, via Hong Kong, and feel so lucky to have secured a place for our 3 children at Sevenoaks Prep. The older two have now moved on to Sevenoaks school and our youngest is looking forward to enjoying Year 7 and 8 before moving onto secondary school – he currently has offers from Tonbridge and Caterham.
    All 3 have loved the school (as have we!) – it is a real community and has a fantastic family feel. We, and the children, have friends for life through the school. The children are seen as individuals and the fantastic teaching, caring atmosphere and great facilities have enabled them to fulfil their potential. Most importantly for me though is that I picked up happy children at the end of each day – the staff helping the children to meet any challenges they faced along the way. My older 2 still love coming back to the school and chatting to their old teachers who all know them so well.

    Reply
  • A year 4 parent May 24, 2022

    I have 2 children at The Prep and they are so happy here at the school. The school is very warm and inclusive, they have made lots of friends and really enjoy all the activities the school offers them. There is a real community feel at the school and we love the open door policy. The children have a great relationship with their teachers and are both thriving both academically and socially. We would highly recommend the school to anyone, it has been absolutely the right decision for our family.

    Reply
  • Merilyn Canet January 7, 2022

    A big decision to make choosing a school that will be right for your precious children/ grandchildren.
    My grandchildren enjoyed their time at Sevenoaks prep from day one.
    They have gone on to fulfill their potential and to be happy,caring individuals. They made good friends for life and to respect and learn from their teachers.
    Boys and girls living and working together prepares them for life in the wider world.
    They are fortunate to have plenty of outside space and opportunity to enjoy visits to the great deer park of Knole.

    Reply

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