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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 SCHOOL, SEVENOAKS

WHAT? WHERE?

An established co-ed independent day school, with 390 pupils (210 boys and 180 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 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.

The school has just passed a major milestone year – 2019 marked 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. Muddy was first though the swish, swing doors to have a nosey around, ahead of the official opening in May.  And the new building is mighty impressive indeed.

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.

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

Recent 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.

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

The main entry points are Nursery, Reception, Year 3, Year 7. Nursery and Reception are non selective and early registration recommended (priority is given to siblings of current pupils). As children move from the pre-prep to the prep in Y3 new spaces open up for entry across 2 forms. At this stage and 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.

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

Sports, academic and music scholarships have been awarded this year including 4 Sports Scholarships and 2 Sports Exhibitions to Sevenoaks School.

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. 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.

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.

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 2 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 now offers increased wraparound care – in a specially dedicated room, called The Den – 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: are calculated per annum and are…Reception: £10,755; Y1 and Y2: £12,270; Y3 to Y8: £14,865. 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 an academic hothouse 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

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