Part I: Where to live for the best schools in Kent
Thinking of your family's next move? Look no further. We've brought together our Best Schools Guide and best places to live knowledge to narrow down top education hotspots...
We’ve all been there – vow that you’d never move house to get closer to a good school, then months later find yourself scouring Rightmove for something in catchment.
Save yourself the upheaval – and the stamp duty – by getting it right first time. Here at Muddy, we’ve got the know-how on the best schools and buzziest villages across Kent and, crucially, where you can get a decent flat white. We’ve found you fabulous cafés, great pubs, indie shopping and gorgeous countryside right next to the counties’ best schools.
With such a big county we are splitting this feature into three parts, west Kent, east Kent and mid Kent & The Weald. First off we shine the spotlight on west Kent!
ROYAL TUNBRIDGE WELLS, & SURROUNDS
With shops, cafés, restaurants, cinema and theatre plus plenty of great outdoor attractions on the doorstep, this spa town is a sure bet for families seeking a best-of-both-worlds commuter lifestyle.
You’ll find yoga studios, bars and art galleries on the one-hand but being only moments from the Garden of England’s apple-orchards and rolling hills on the other, this location has it all. From here you can hop on a direct train to London in just 44 minutes. No wonder you voted it in the Number One spot in our Best Places to Live in Kent poll.
A lovely rural village, 3 miles to the west of Royal Tunbridge Wells (in theory you could get to the centre of Tunny Wells in less than 10 mins, traffic allowing – or if you don’t fancy driving, 15 mins by bus). The village name derives from ‘Speld’ (wood chips) and ‘Hyrst’ (wooded hill) and indeed even today you’re surrounded by lots of lovely woodland and the views from around the village are spectacular.
Sitting right on the Kent and Sussex border – with one half being in each county – there’s lots of reasons to love this popular village. With outdoor attractions on the doorstep, like Groombridge Gardens & Enchanted Forest, plus top schools it’s no suprise this location is a real hit with young families.
Holmewood House, Tunbridge Wells
This Tunbridge Wells prep, that has long been impressive in stature, now boasts a bond between pupil, staff and parent that is as strong and impressive as its grounds and facilities. Holmewood House is a co-educational, non-selective school for boys and girls aged 3-13 years, of just under 500 pupils, situated in 30 acres of glorious grounds.
Kent College Prep & Senior School, Pembury
This is an-all girls Senior School (taking girls from 11 – 18 years old) and a Prep (for children between 3-11 years) that now has boys joining in the Nursery. Kent College boasts great academic results while keeping down-to-earth and caring. Set in 80 glorious acres, overlooking the Pembury countryside, yet despite its tranquil surrounds it’s very accessible – being moments from the A21 and just outside Tunbridge Wells (5 minutes to the town centre).
Rose Hill School, Tunbridge Wells
Bang in the centre of T.Wells (on Coniston Ave to be precise), yet boasts the green spaces of a country school. This school stands out for its exceptional pastoral care and uniquely competitive fees for the older pupils. Rose Hill is an independent prep school for boys and girls aged 3-13 years.
You’re spoilt for choice here! Ofsted-rated ‘Outstanding’ St Peter’s CoE Primary School recently relocated to the new Hollyfields site (see ‘What’s On The Market’ below).
For grammars there’s Tunbridge Wells Girls’ Grammar School (TWGGS) or for boys The Skinners School or Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys. Alongside these there’s all-ability, The Skinners Kent Academy (rated Outstanding, non-fee paying independent education in stunning £21.4 million facilities), plus excellent Secondary faith state schools, such as Bennett Memorial Diocesan School or St Gregory’s Catholic School – both rated Outstanding.
WHAT’S ON THE MARKET?
Tunbridge Wells’ has a booming property market, including new Hollyfields development – a distinctive collection of 3, 4 and 5 bedroom family homes, just 1.2 miles from the town centre.
Houses in this development have, not surprisingly, been snapped up fast, but the new phase of two-bedroom coach houses and three, four and five-bedroom houses has just launched – so there is some availability there.
Located on the edge of the High Weald, Hollyfields boasts an enviable setting. The 13.8-hectare development is surrounded by greenery, and residents can enjoy trim trails, woodlands, and outdoor play areas on the doorstep. There is a dedicated residents’ shuttle bus to Tunbridge Wells station. The starting price for the two-bedroom coach houses is £410,000, and £580,000 for the three-bedroom houses. Ofsted-rated ‘Outstanding’ St Peter’s CoE Primary School recently relocated to the site.
TONBRIDGE & SURROUNDS
WHERE TO LIVE
OK, so Tonbridge itself might not particularly have a reputation as a thing of beauty, but this west Kent town has an impressive concentration of top performing grammar and independent schools. With an ever-growing gaggle or gorgeous shops and a stunning castle – there are certainly some sites to the town.
It’s also well connected for the working commute to London. There are some fabulous villages in the surround – see our favourites below.
While you’d never describe it as a pretty-as-a-postcard kind of place, it has a station – verrrry useful – which is walkable, plus all the necessary local amenities. The great thing about this village is that it’s such a springboard for all the main towns and schools in the area, being only moments from the A21.
Penshurst is a pretty village positioned to the west of Tonbridge and surrounded by beautiful countryside and walks. It’s also home to the oldest privately owned cricket pitch in the world. The village has a shop that opens early in the morning, a tea room, a good primary school and no less than four pubs, including the Leicester Arms and Bottle House Inn. There’s family-friendly Penshurst Place a stately home with gardens and lots of activites throughout the year. The Tudor Trail is a fab walking or cycling route that runs from Tonbridge Castle to Penshurst Place.
Somerhill School, Tonbridge
Want the best of both worlds? Co-education and single-sex schooling meets in harmony here under one community. One of the most striking schools I’ve reviewed, Somerhill sits in 150 acres of glorious parkland. They offer some stonking facilities, a wide range of opportunities and have a strong record of academic success placing children in both grammar and independent schools at 11/13+.
Hilden Grange School, Tonbridge
Want the convenience of a town-based school, but without compromising on the sports and facilities? Hilden Grange is a friendly, co-educational prep school for children aged between 3 – 13 years old on the northern fringe of Tonbridge. It’s a school in the Alpha Plus Group (a portfolio of 20 top swanky schools, nurseries and colleges) which in real terms basically means the school benefits from good funding and backing with development schemes.
Fosse Bank School, Hildenborough
A small, hidden-gem of a prep school, very competitively priced and with one of the best ratios of facility per child that I’ve seen to date. Fosse Bank is an independent prep school for boys and girls, sitting on the edge of Hildenborough. And when I say small I don’t mean the school itself, which is wonderfully grand, but rather the number of children. With only 100 pupils and 28 acres of gorgeous grounds.
Sutton Valence, Chart Sutton
A good all-rounder, co-educational day prep school that offers genuine warmth and friendliness. Sutton Valence is a co-educational day prep school in Chart Sutton, just south of Maidstone, in a wonderful countryside setting, not far from the Senior School of the same name. There’s around 320 boys and girls (split pretty evenly around half of each) aged 3-11 years roaming in rural playing fields and woodland. The school welcomes children of all abilities into small classes, so there’s plenty of attention lavished.
In terms of Primary schools you’ve got St Margaret Clitherow Catholic Primary School (rated Outstanding) and Slade Primary School (rated Outstanding) in Tonbridge itself and Stocks Green Primary School in Hildenborough and Penshurst Church of England Primary School are both Rated Good.
For Secondary there’s Tonbridge Grammar School (TGS) or Weald of Kent Grammar School, both of which educate girls between the ages of 11 and 16, and girls and boys in our Sixth Form. For boys there’s The Judd School (which takes girls in Sixth Form). Also Hillview School for Girls is a great all-ability option, particularly for those with a love of performing arts.
WHAT’S ON THE MARKET?
4-bedroom house in Hildenborough, £825,000.
SEVENOAKS & SURROUNDS
WHERE TO LIVE
In Sevenoaks you’re less than half an hour from London, but you’ve also got gorgeous Knole Park with its wild deer herd right in the town itself, indie shops and a few decent eateries. Surrounded by stunning countryside, good schools galore and a strong community spirit – you can be well-connected here in every sense.
From Sevenoaks station, there’s fast and frequent services to London Charing Cross (via London Bridge and Waterloo East) and Cannon Street in just 22 minutes. So commuter catnip.
Nestling at the foot of the beautiful North Downs, Otford has a thriving community, with a small but charming centre on the River Darent and a past steeped in history. Plus it has its own train station – so commuter catnip.
Westerham is a relatively small town with a population of around 5,000 or so, but its enviable location close to the M25, picturesque, quintessentially Kentish surroundings, picture-postcard looks and vast range of facilities and amenities sees it punching above its weight.
Sitting outside Sevenoaks this village has a moted, medieval manor house and walks a-plenty. It’s the perfect springboard for Tonbridge by road to the south or Borough Green, for the station, to the north.
One of the few villages that is not a ‘through village’ Plaxtol is extremely peaceful with a definite centre that includes a fab pub, the Papermakers Arms, and a farm shop. Drive down a long, meandering lane, following a never ending, beautiful brick wall on your right and rolling fields on your left and you will know you are home.
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. Granville is 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.
St Michael’s School, Otford
Set in a stunning 90 acre site of woodland with views down the valley that stretches for miles, this idyllic co-ed prep school is a really strong all-rounder. St Michael’s is a co-educational prep school for children aged 2 – 13 that aims to help each child fulfil their own potential, with a mass of amazing facilities – on a par with most independent Senior schools.
Walthamstow Hall, Sevenoaks
If you’re seeking tradition and reputation (with a softer, modern approach) you’ll want to check out Kent’s oldest girl school, sitting in central Sevenoaks. Wally Hall is an Independent Girls’ Day School educating pupils from 3 to 11 at the Junior School and from 11 to 18 at the Senior School on separate sites in central Sevenoaks. But it’s not to say that it’s stuffy or out-dated, far from it.
Russell House School, Otford
A Co-ed prep sitting pretty in Otford village. If you like your schools to have a strong family-feel and the focus on individual learning you’re in the right place. Russell House has got a pretty much exact 50/50 boy/girl split and the school sits, very conveniently, right opposite Otford Station.
In Sevenoaks and surrounds, you’ll find the excellent St Thomas’ Catholic Primary School (rated Outstanding) and Lady Boswell’s Church of England Primary School (rated Outstanding). There’s also Seal Church of England Primary School; Chevening St Botolph’s Church of England Primary School, and Amherst School which are all Rated ‘Good’ and popular Primaries too. In Plaxtol on, School Lane, there’s a ‘Good’ Ofsted rated village primary school. Ightham Primary is Ofsted rated ‘Outstanding’.
Sevenoaks has it’s own annexe of the Weald of Kent Girls Grammar School and the new annexe for Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys is opening in September 2021. There’s also bus and train links to the other (boy or girl) grammars in the area.
WHAT’S ON THE MARKET?
Well, is it any wonder some swanky new developments are going on in town, including Quinton Court? Proving luxury apartments are not the sole preserve of urban living, this collection of 2 and 3 bedroom apartments is just six minutes walk to Sevenoaks station, where there’s fast and frequent services to London Charing Cross (via London Bridge and Waterloo East) and Cannon Street in just 22 minutes.
Prices for the homes at Quinton Court start from £565,000 for a two-bedroom apartment and from £722,000 for a three-bedroom apartment.