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Best private schools in Ashford

Best private schools in Canterbury

Best private schools in Maidstone

Best private schools in Rochester

Best private schools in Sevenoaks

Best private schools in Tunbridge Wells & Tonbridge

Best private schools in The Weald

Best private schools on the east Kent coast

Special Educational Needs

Ashford School, east Kent

Kent has a delicious variety of private schools boasting acclaimed alumni, beautiful surroundings and impressive results. There’s something for every budget and with sometimes generous bursaries (prestigious The King’s School Canterbury has pledged to offer 50 pupils 100 per cent bursaries to celebrate their 500th year) and often flexible boarding and day arrangements, families tend to be very happy with the choice. Due to the geography, travel to school is worth considering. Minibuses weave the routes around Kent and the popularity of flexi-boarding is growing.

Perhaps as a by-product of the grammar system, there are some excellent private schools which are more holistic and focus on a range of other skills in addition to academics, producing impressively rounded, grounded and well-balanced young people.

Many private secondary schools in this area have preps adjoined; a very popular option for families wanting consistency and stability but no shortage of standalone preps too. The appeal of such preps is often their unique identity. One parent reflected that the advantage of independent preps from those adjoined to senior schools is that there is ‘less pressure to join the senior school’ and that ‘they put more effort into the CE and the 11+.

Due to the outstanding state primary schools, Kent prep schools tend not to be viewed as a vehicle to grammar but as the start of the journey through private education. Some families, despite being offered a grammar place, stay with what they ‘know and love’ even if they ‘never planned it that way’.

Private schools in Ashford

Prep schools in Ashford

The two preps are strong assets. Ashford School Prep (on a different site to the senior school) with its superb facilities, ‘sensitive blend of old and new’ and ‘down to earth’ vibe is understandably very popular, our reviewer noted. The happy family and homely feel of Spring Grove in Wye attracts families from Canterbury, Ashford and the rural communities between.

Secondary schools in Ashford

The ‘forward-thinking’ and ‘unstuffy’ Ashford School produces happy well-rounded students with the whole ‘shebang’ of abilities, reported our reviewer. It’s popular with families from Canterbury, rural Ashford, the Weald and has a strong international contingent.

Best primary schools in Ashford

Best state secondary schools in Ashford

Best nurseries in Ashford

Private schools in Canterbury

Prep schools in Canterbury

Overlooking Canterbury, St Edmund’s School provides a friendly and stimulating environment, well-placed next to the university with excellent links to Canterbury and Whitstable. The Junior King's School's beautiful setting and impressive facilities are not window-dressing, the school offers excellent education with music and sport highly regarded. Kent College has an off-site working farm – a very special feature – where from year 4 ‘lambing and grooming’ is on the curriculum along with consistently good value-added results. The only prep not adjoined to a senior school is St Faith’s Prep about 10 miles outside Canterbury - well led, reliable with a nurturing ethos, many leavers go on to grammar schools.

Secondary schools in Canterbury

Kent CollegeSt Edmund's School and The King’s School Canterbury: a triumvirate of private education. There’s a mutual respect and dynamic between these three schools but all have their unique take on the private school experience. Historic The King’s School Canterbury is almost 500 years old and very much part of the fabric of the city centre. The ‘penguin’ uniform seems to belong to Canterbury’s narrow, paved streets and pupils achieve excellent A level results. St Edmund's School sits watchfully on top of the hill, undeniably Hogwarts-esque, magic does indeed happen here and the focus is on excellent drama and creative arts. Kent College boasts a working farm, strength in languages and robustness in sport; there is ‘no place for the arrogant’, according to our review.

Best primary schools in Canterbury

Best state secondary schools in Canterbury

Best nurseries in Canterbury

Private schools in Maidstone

Prep schools in Maidstone

Sutton Valence Prep provides an all-rounded down-to-earth education in beautiful surroundings with sport and art at the fore. Particular strength in SEN support and developing its forest school and outside provision. Really achieves the tricky balance between tradition and progression. The majority feed into the senior school.  

Private secondary schools in Maidstone 

Sutton Valence Senior, a day and boarding school with inspiring views across the Weald of Kent, offers an excellent sports programme in partnership with Saracens – producing some rugby players to be reckoned with. And the cricket’s pretty good too. But it’s not all about sport, the school is  developing a reputation for being at the fore of wellbeing and is proud of the progress it makes with its mixed ability pupils.

Best primary schools in Maidstone

Best state secondary schools in Maidstone

Best nurseries in Maidstone

Private schools in Rochester

Prep schools in Rochester 

Along the cobbled streets by the cathedral is King’s Rochester Prep where music is a particular strength (it’s the cathedral school) and a diverse intake mainly feeds into the senior school. An alternative is Gad’s Hill which is more affordable and viewed as a tight-knit community and while this is an all-through school the senior part only goes up to GCSEs. 

Cobham Hall pupils playing roundersSecondary schools in Rochester

King’s School Rochester described as an ‘antidote to the plethora of grammar schools’ by our reviewer, attracts a diverse mix of international and local pupils and strikes a charming balance between tradition and forward thinking. Perhaps the best ‘marmite option’ (as one parent put it) in West Kent is Rochester Independent College, with no uniform and pupils on first name terms with teachers it’s a school that works well for those previously ‘turned off’ by the usual model of education who find their strengths here, especially in the arts. The small family feel of Cobham Hall in Gravesend with its ‘Round Square’ education philosophy (famously developed at Gordonstoun School in Scotland) is popular with those looking for an all-girls (co-ed in sixth form) nurturing environment in a beautiful setting with an interesting history.

Best primary schools in Rochester

Best state secondary schools in Rochester

Best nurseries in Rochester

Private schools in Sevenoaks

Prep schools in Sevenoaks 

Sevenoaks has some excellent prep schools achieving super results and feeding the local grammars, private secondaries and schools further afield. Holmewood HouseSevenoaks Preparatory School (not attached to Sevenoaks School) and St Michael’s Prep are well-established and highly regarded with successful results and track records for transition to excellent secondary schools. The New Beacon is the only single-sex prep for boys in this area and is steeped in tradition, it has a reputation for high academic performance and parents say the ethos is ‘work hard, play hard’. On the edge of Sevenoaks, the all-girls Walthamstow Junior provides a happy environment for mixed ability pupils. Radnor House Prep Sevenoaks has expanded over the past few years and offers a good alternative to the more academically selective preps. 

Secondary schools in Sevenoaks 

Set in its 100-acre grounds with historic Knole House as its neighbour, Sevenoaks School achieves fantastic results without dampening natural curiosity and independent thinking. No A levels in the sixth form, it’s IB only and the school regularly tops the IB league with impressive numbers of pupils achieving the full 45 points. Most leavers head for top-tier universities in the UK, Europe and, increasingly, the USA. One of the oldest all-girls schools in the country is Walthamstow Hall, with a charming blend of high expectations without too much pressure and doing a rather good job of producing a handful of medics each year. Radnor House Sevenoaks is the up and coming relatively new kid on the leafy block, gaining traction with good results and a reputation for a community feel. 

Best primary schools in Sevenoaks

Best state secondary schools in Sevenoaks

Best nurseries in Sevenoaks

Private schools in Tunbridge Wells & Tonbridge

Prep schools in Tunbridge Wells & Tonbridge

In beautiful grounds just outside Tunbridge Wells in Pembury is Kent College Preparatory Schoola delightful community-feel school currently moving from girls only to co-ed (by 2027); particularly hot on gymnastics and pastoral care. The Grade 1 listed Jacobean Somerhill House is the home of The Schools at Somerhill, a highly regarded school in Tonbridge with a ‘diamond’ structure that offers the best of single sex and co-ed (pupils taught separately but come together for lunch and some activities). 

Secondary schools in Tunbridge Wells & Tonbridge

The home of two single-sex schools. Kent College, Pembury girls’ school (and we’re assured planning to remain this way despite the prep’s transition to co-ed) provides an excellent all-rounded education within a Methodist framework drama, music and personalised timetables are all a big draw. With its well-established tradition of sporting excellence and facilities (training venue for 2012 Olympics), Tonbridge School gets excellent results and works hard to to attract academically able, grounded and well-balanced boys from all backgrounds via its outreach work and bursary funding. Double digits to Oxbridge most years, ‘World class university destinations matter to us,’ says the head.

Best primary schools in Tunbridge Wells & Tonbridge

Best state secondary schools in Tunbridge Wells & Tonbridge

Best nurseries in Tunbridge Wells & Tonbridge

Private schools in The Weald

Prep schools in The Weald

Dulwich Cranbrook set in the most beautiful grounds, produces an impressive set of scholarship pupils to excellent schools. Recently added a senior school with the option to stay till the end of GCSEs. Then Marlborough House School with its growing reputation for offering scholarship packages in year 7, nails super results and well-rounded pupils. Saint Ronan's School, described by our reviewer as ‘Enid Blyton-esque with strong results and enviable childhood memories’, has most pupils staying until year 8 and the weekly and flexi-boarding options draw pupils from further afield. 

Secondary schools in The Weald 

Strangely girl-power heavy! All-girls full boarding (slowly introducing day pupils, up to 50 from 2022), Benenden School is highly sought after and admission is competitive. Great for academically able all-rounders. In contrast, Bethany School is a small rural school with a specialist learning support department. It’s a popular choice for pupils ‘who might get lost in the hurly burly of a bigger school’ our reviewer notes. Nearly half leave post-GCSEs to grammar schools or other destinations, but a notable number of those who stay on gain places at well-known art and drama schools.  

Best primary schools in The Weald

Best state secondary schools in The Weald

Best nurseries in The Weald

Private schools on the east Kent coast

Prep schools on the east Kent coast

Punctuating this long expanse of coast are more fantastic preps. Dover College Prep offers a relaxed and nurturing environment and Northbourne Park excels at providing a unique (hot on languages) and meaningful education within a stunning setting. In Thanet, St Lawrence College Junior School sets a spot-on tone for the well-balanced education many strive for, and Wellesley House with Haddon Dene combines traditional prep education with a forward-thinking mindset.

Secondary schools on the east Kent coast

Dover College works successfully at preparing students for life and offers a larger range of BTECs than you would normally expect from a private school. Children thrive here and ‘find their level’. In Ramsgate, the splendid Virginia-creeper clad St Lawrence College attracts many with its sports excellence programme and two Astros (one with ‘Olympic-standard water base’). Many children travel from further afield than Ramsgate and it has a diverse demographic.

Best primary schools on the east Kent coast

Best state secondary schools on the east Kent coast

Best nurseries on the east Kent coast

Kent private schools for children with special educational needs

For pupils mainly with EHCPs for autism to ADHD and anxiety, Birtley House Sevenoaks offers education for 5-11 year olds.  With the motto, ‘Achievements where never thought possible’, The Quest in Paddock Wood is a specialist school for autism across the spectrum.  

West Heath School in Sevenoaks is a residential school providing support for mild to moderate social, emotional and mental health issues. Cornfields School in Hythe is a small private school for children with severe anxiety and previous exclusion from school, focusing on ‘improving life chances’. Hope View School set in two locations outside Canterbury offers provision for boys with complex needs including ADHD and ASD. With a forest school and DofE programme it aims to equip boys with skills for adulthood. ‘Neuro-Development Therapy’ underpins Great Oaks Small School in Ramsgate whilst Ripplevale School specialises in ASD across three campuses in Broadstairs, Deal and Rochester. 

All mainstream private schools have a level of support in place for mild and moderate SEN. Some are gaining good reputations for early screening and being proactive in their support – most notably Kent College, Pembury, Dover College and Sutton Valence Prep, where there is the ability to support more pupils with EHCPs especially for autism.

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