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Aylesford, Maidstone, Kent

Living in West Kent

‘This calls for a cocktail,’ is not just Pop Larkins’ catchphrase from The Darling Buds of May, it can be heard across West Kent where the well-heeled-wellies set hang out with their down-to-earth neighbours over the picket fence. And who wouldn’t want to raise a glass to the charm of the weather-boarded weald, the ancient trees in Knole Park or the stylish galleries and chattering cafes of The Pantiles in Royal Tunbridge Wells? The dinner party circuit or ‘Heard in Waitrose’ conversation, are definitely well-lubricated thanks to local vineyards such as Biddenden and Chapel Down. But it’s not all strawberries, English fizz and smart shops, the area is also home to growing towns like Maidstone, Chatham’s historic dockyard and Dicken’s Rochester.  

No wonder so many migrate here from other parts of the country. Many first-time buyers and young families are either enticed back or relocate, partly due to the lure of grammar schools but also by the area’s sheer liveableness. 

While agriculture is West Kent’s main industry, the area is also eminently commutable to London, a fact reflected in house prices in more polished neighbourhoods such as Sevenoaks, Tunbridge Wells and Tenterden. As a result, more families are now venturing further north into more affordable places like Rochester or the villages between. Here, there’s much to capture the imagination and the area has benefitted from funding to rejuvenate this part of the county. 

We admit that according to local lore, West Kent is confined to the strip left of the River Medway, but we’ve ripped that rule book up in the interest of education, flying in the face of ‘disgusted from Tunbridge Wells’. We think our take on West Kent does ‘sound perfick’!

Education scene in West Kent

Local Education Authorities in Kent
Kent County Council
Medway Council

Some names thunder through the county like the roar of mythical beasts, and while these exceptional schools (eg Sevenoaks School and The Judd School) deserve the respect for their academic muscle, there are many other contenders thriving (eg Kent College, Pembury). 

We’ve zoomed in on Sevenoaks, Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells, The Weald, Rochester, and Maidstone, five key areas with 13 preps, 11 private secondary schools, seven grammars, and one non-selective secondary, all reviewed by us.  

Don’t let the grass grow under your feet if you want options. Admissions here are competitive; being well informed and planning ahead is crucial (unlike East Kent, where there is often more wriggle room for a ‘go with the flow’ approach). The best schools maintain high standards and results by selecting the best of the academic bunch. For entry to some grammars, scoring sky high in the 11+ and fulfilling catchment criteria is standard, and once there, there’s no room for cruisers. But with 26 grammar schools across this region, savvy parents can think outside the box and beyond the usual suspects to find a suitable grammar with less competitive admissions …cue Maidstone, Rochester and Medway.  

But it’s not all about state selection in West Kent; a wider focus and more well-rounded education is part of the attraction of many of the private schools. While some are also academically very selective, there are many that nurture all abilities and pride themselves on fulfilling potential. The number of single-sex schools in both the private and state sectors throws another choice into the ring and we’re confident that with a well-informed plan and early rise, there is the right match in West Kent for anyone. 

Looking for the best schools in Kent? Our Education Consultants can help. 

If you’re trying to find the perfect Kent school for your child, you may like to speak with one of The Good Schools Guide Education Consultants. Our team of experts is based right across the United Kingdom and is perfectly placed to advise families on all aspects of choosing a school. Read more about the services available to your family and let us know how we can help - [email protected].

Your thoughts on education in Kent 

We’re always keen to hear from local parents, teachers and those in the know. The Good Schools Guide works closely with a network of education aficionados to ensure that we are always up to speed on the latest goings-on in the country’s best schools. If you know something about Kent schools that you think other families would find useful, please get in touch - [email protected].

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