The Granville School, Sevenoaks
This Sevenoaks girls prep, brimming with tradition, strikes the perfect balance between a stellar academic record and a nurturing, inclusive environment.
A prep school for girls aged 3-11 years, that also takes boys in the Kindergarten, situated in a quiet residential area to the north of Sevenoaks and within easy walking distance of Sevenoaks railway station.
Non-selective but academically a little powerhouse, The Granville is a school that oozes tradition – including the famous annual Spring Festival, Stirring the Pudding at Christmas and the odd curtsy thrown in for good measure. This is balanced by innovation, a forward-looking outlook and a vibrant and challenging environment.
The original building is an attractive Victorian red brick mansion house and houses the Great Hall as well as being where the older girls (Y5 & Y6 / Seniors) are based.
Over the years, the site has been altered, adapted and extended and the newer purpose-built additions feature specialist teaching areas, large airy and bright classrooms and smart sports facilities.
For a prep school that’s relatively small in numbers – there’s 170 pupils currently on the roll – and in a premium town location it boasts a decent outdoor offering and strong raft of facilities. On the compact site there’s no less than 5 acres of woodland, plus courts for tennis and netball and a field.
The Jubilee Hall houses a heated indoor Swimming Pool and indoor sports area. There is a separate Sports Hall used for assemblies and drama productions.
Granville is proud of its sporting track record (no pun intended) – and sport is very strong when you consider the size of the school. But then it is single-sex so that’s a good number of girls from which to select A, B, C and D teams – meaning everyone gets to participate as well as pushing for success.
They are known for their county tennis players and strong netball and cross country. Runners have the benefit of nearby, and rather spectacular, Knole Park.
Having said all that, simply being active is encouraged rather than any need to be ‘sporty’. All girls start with Ballet from Kindergarten and there’s yoga and relaxation techniques taught. Plus of course there’s the swimming pool.
The little ones can get water confident in the on-site pool in small groups with a specialist teacher. Then, from Y4 onwards the girls swim at the pool in Sevenoaks. Similarly, using the town’s brilliant facilities on the doorstep, they play hockey at Sevenoaks Hockey Club.
ARTS, TEXTILES AND DESIGN
Girls from Year 3-6 benefit from Art & Design Technology lessons taught by specialists in the purpose-built art studio. There is a kitchen for the teaching of Food Technology, as well as a kiln for ceramic work. Girls have the opportunity to gain experience in drawing, painting, textiles, sculpture work, modelling clay and woodwork.
Students can also enjoy painting outdoors with easels. Art & DT work is linked to the wider curriculum where possible.
Everything is geared to instilling confidence, and an understanding that we all have creative ability. Girls are encouraged to experiment and to always ‘have a go’. After School Art clubs such as Clay Club, Outdoor Art and Baking are always popular.
DRAMA & MUSIC
The school has dedicated Music and Drama Studios. Drama is clearly strong here, with full productions happening in Years 1, 2, 4 and 6. LAMDA examinations are also taught in Verse and Prose, Acting and Public Speaking. Last year 92 of the girls took these exams, the majority gained Distinctions.
Music plays a very important and much-loved role in everyday life at The Granville, from daily singing in assemblies to large-scale performances and informal concerts. Specialist class music teaching begins at 3 years old and, as they progress through the school, the focus is on a practical and ‘hands on’ teaching approach which gives every child the chance to engage in some form of music-making, including improvisation and composition.
In fact, The Crown’s Emma Corrin was an ex-pupil and apparently her Show & Tell was always very animated – may this is where the building blocks of her performance skills began? As we know confidence in children all starts here, at this crucial age.
ACADEMICS & ADMISSIONS
This, small school has a reputation for strong academics. However while there are high levels of expectation it is a non-selective school and they take particular pride in their focus on preparation, not pushiness.
The secret of their success is attention to detail when it comes to each and every child, so that they achieve their potential in a happy, secure and stimulating environment.
To that end the Learning Development department is strong and they take a whole team approach – every teacher knows what’s going on with each child. In short no girl enters an exam or interview situation that she was not fully prepared for.
LEAVERS AND NEXT STEPS
Granville prides itself on being very transparent with parents about each child’s development and achievements as they pass through the school. Staff always feedback on tests, they have a detailed programme advising parents on Open Days for the next stage schools – when they are, what the schools require, who offers the best scholarships – and so on.
They make sure everyone is fully briefed on what’s required in terms of exams and interviews, all of which can vary greatly from school to school. This way parents – but most importantly – girls are fully prepared.
Usually around two thirds of girls take the Kent Test and pass. Out of the last Year 6 cohort – of 31 girls – 21 sat the 11+, 8 went onto TOGGS and Weald, 8 to Sevenoaks School, 8 to Caterham and Walthamstow Hall and 25 scholarships and awards were offered in total.
Another interesting dynamic, that sets it apart from other all-girl preps in the area, is that this is an independent prep, so not attached to a Senior School.
Now, there are many benefits in preps that are attached to Senior Schools, but what this does mean is that Granville can remain completely unbiased about the next steps for pupils – rather than preparing their girls to make the ‘natural’ move to the Senior School – there is a big selection of schools that the girls move onto.
Mrs Louise Lawrance has been head since 2018 and is very friendly and approachable. A hands-on leader, she has her own daughter in the Kindergarten, which obviously means that she has a further vested interest in the school’s success!
How would Mrs Lawrance sum up the school? ‘While we are very proud of our academics, we certainly don’t want to be known for just that,’ she says.
The girls succeed in all areas: sport: drama: music and art. ‘The staff and pupils at The Granville have a close, unique relationship – that’s the result of a real family atmosphere. We are a happy school – all girls know each other across all year groups.’
PRE-PREP AND NURSERY
The Early Years setting is a smart purpose-built building, consisting of Kindergarten and Reception, with Boys in the Kindergarten and then it’s all-girl from the Pre-Prep onwards.
Kindergarten is one large colourful room split into separate areas – which are Red (rising 3s) and Yellow (rising 4s) Zones – with a shared play area in the middle. This means that each of those different age groups can get the appropriate attention they need.
Learning is free-flow and the rooms lead on to a good Outdoor Play Area with artificial grass. Outdoor learning is big too and there is Forest School in the school woodland (the Kindergarten teacher is a Level 3 Forest School leader).
Everything is overseen by Clare Moore, Head of Early Years, who is passionate about the job and a really safe pair of hands having worked in education for more than 32 years.
This might be a girls-school that embraces traditions like wearing flower chaplets and the odd curtsy but make no mistake – it is not prissy or twee. No gender stereotypes here, and the head, Mrs Lawrance, remarks on a phenomenon that’s been proven – single-sex schools see girls doing well in subjects that were once traditionally seen as ‘boys subjects’.
Science and maths are strong and both the school’s science teachers happen to be women and both are scientists (one is a microbiologist and the other an engineer) all good inspiring stuff.
IT is popular too, Robotics programming is big and Year 6 girls challenge themselves with the iDEA Award scheme, which is undertaken by some Senior Schools. However here, by the time they leave Granville, most of Year 6 will have completed the Bronze Level and half will even have done Silver – which is pretty impressive.
There’s lots of award schemes – a particularly nice touch is the School Values Points – for being respectful, team spirit, being courageous etc. These are totted up every week and the winning prize? Break-time with the school dog – how’s that for a treat!
USP & QUIRKS
The school is strongly anchored in history and heritage – the girls still learn how to curtsy – which is not about being quaint – but teaches the importance of honouring tradition which can be applied to the wider world, different circumstances, cultures and so on.
The school was founded on VE Day – this is why the school symbol is a dove and the school motto is ‘love and service’ so much of the heritage you find today is from then.
Another strong tradition is the famous annual Spring Festival – started by the school founder. For this girls wear flower chaplets in their hair.
WRAP AROUND CARE
Childcare is available between 7.30am – 6pm depending on what’s needed (there is a charge).
Parents have the flexibility of opting for the Before and After School Care services on a day-to-day basis or to make a termly commitment.
The school is very close to Sevenoaks station, so while there are many local families some also come from destinations along the trainline. Also parents can Drop Off and then catch the train into London if that’s where they work.
There’s a council carpark right opposite the school front gate – parents can get a pass to park here while they drop their children off. Or there’s the choice of drive through Drop Off – all good options for such a town-based school.
Kindergarten Red Room: £2,013; Kindergarten Yellow Room: £3,474; Reception, Year 1 & Year 2: £4,091; Year 3, Year 4, Year 5 & Year 6: £5,213.
WORD ON THE GROUND
We spoke to several parents at Granville and the words ‘happy’ and ‘nurturing’ popped up frequently. Girls clearly enjoy the benefits of a small school and all the support that brings but one that can also throw its weight around in terms of academics and sports. Plus pupils are very well prepared for bigger senior school too.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: There’s a big ‘give it a go!’ feel here and the idea that preparation, not pushiness, is the key to success. There’s a real buzz and purposeful feel around the school – they do feel like happy girls.
Not for: Can’t compete on acreage with rural schools and no rolling fields here – although plenty of space for a town-based setting. So if it’s a large school environment you’re after you may choose to look elsewhere.
See for yourself: Go see for yourself at their Open Day on 25 June 2021 or you can arrange an individual tour, where you will have the opportunity to meet the Headmistress, teachers and pupils.