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Music truly embedded into school life, as you would expect with a cathedral school. All do class music and singing as well as some theory and composing – all taught by music specialists. We observed buzzy classrooms alight with readiness to learn – pupils ultra-keen to tell us what they were working on, much of it kinaesthetic (eg playdough puzzles for maths). The fact that they all stand up (some slower than others) when a visitor walks in belies the...

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What the school says...

Boarding is from the age of 11 - Year 7. We educate the Choristers of Rochester Cathedral Choir.

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All-through school (for example 3-18 years). - An all-through school covers junior and senior education. It may start at 3 or 4, or later, and continue through to 16 or 18. Some all-through schools set exams at 11 or 13 that pupils must pass to move on.

Choir school - substantial scholarships and bursaries usually available for choristers.

Sports

Fencing

What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster of Preparatory School

Head of prep: Since September 2018, Tom Morgan BMus RCM (40s). Emotionally intelligent and good-humoured. Charming, with no airs and graces and an understated office – even made our tea (mugs, not cups and saucers). Previously deputy head of the Prebendal School in Chichester. A cathedral chorister, he is a graduate of the Royal College of Music where he met his wife, Camilla (a TA at the school) and together they have four children, three of whom are at King’s (eldest at uni). He has also worked at Swanbourne House, Ashdown House and Chafyn Grove. Clearly not a man plagued by bad moods, with parents and pupils saying he is jovial, smiley and bubbly at all times – he certainly had a cheery word for all passers-by during our visit, although we reckon his firm nod to traditionalism would make him stop short of high fives in the corridor. ‘He has a zest for life that’s really quite infectious,’ said a parent. ‘I don’t think he would ever be scary unless you’ve done something really terribly bad,’ a pupil replied after a long pause when we asked if he ever gets strict. Teaches sport (‘I love seeing the camaraderie’) and year 8 PSHE. Mad about cricket, ‘Sadly, I’m really bad at playing, although I can talk a really good game’,’ he laughs.

Head of pre-prep and nursery: Since September 2016, Catherine Openshaw BEd MA (40s). Previously head of pre-prep at Solefield, Sevenoaks and before that, taught at Gresham’s. Teaching is in the blood - ‘my mum was a teacher and I quickly realised I was good at it’. BEd from Cambridge and MA from OU. Spent five years in the state sector in Harlow, then switched ‘because I’d had enough of being bitten and having chairs thrown at me’. Warm, welcoming and child-focused – just the kind of person you’d want around when the idea of school feels overwhelming to your littlun. Good news is she probably will be –‘she meets and greets every day, usually with her dog Mitzi by her side,’ said a parent (Mitzi is regularly brought in as an emotional support dog and is at least as popular as her). ‘Nice’ and ‘kind’, say pupils, while parents told us ‘she knows everyone’s name’. The boys in her family (husband Charley, a teacher, and their son) are both at Sevenoaks, while the girls (her and her daughter) are at King’s. Enjoys knitting, crochet, yoga, cooking and reading – though training Mitzi currently eats up most spare time.

Entrance

Most join in the nursery or reception at age 3+ or 4+ and move on to the pre-prep the following year – entry via short assessment and interview with both parents. For entrance into the prep, a report from the child’s current school is also required – most join at 8+ and 11+ but will take children at any time if there are spaces. Large intake at 11+, particularly from primary schools and independent schools which finish at this age - testing in English, maths, verbal and non-verbal reasoning; this also guarantees them a place in the senior school. Choristers (from 2020, there will be a mixed treble line of boys and girls singing together and treated equally – ‘will send a shockwave through the music community,’ says school) admitted via a series of musical and academic tests and join in year 4, and are offered music scholarships worth 30 per cent of fees which can be topped up with a bursary if necessary and 30 per cent off (compulsory) music lessons.

Exit

Almost everyone (currently 95 per cent plus) moves on to the senior school. About 10 (15 at the most) pupils a year to local grammar schools. Support and help with maths but do not coach for the Kent Test. Entrance to the senior school is just about automatic but all have to take sit exams in the summer – mainly for setting purposes.

Our view

As your car judders over the cobbled streets with the cathedral to your left and the castle to your right, you know you’re in the best bit of Rochester – and it’s here, just around the corner and nestled among the Georgian townhouses where you’ll find this delightful prep and pre-prep. Although self-contained, it is very much part of the whole King’s School – there was no question of our tour guides stopping at the prep and pre-prep gates, instead marching confidently (albeit now with our sixth form chaperone) right into the heart of the senior school where year 4s upwards go for art, DT and some drama, sports and science. So at home were these youngsters in this grown-up environment and with their elder peer that it would be easy to see this as an all-through school. They are all part of a strong Christian community with the cathedral at its centre (all prep pupils attend once a week), although all faiths are made to feel welcome.

Purpose-built pre-prep has bright and colourful classrooms downstairs and a large sports hall (shared by prep) upstairs. Prep is a cluster of buildings, most modern, surrounding the paddock (used for rugby and cricket). Light and airy, with lots of artwork and vibrant displays, although a lick of paint is needed in places. Library (two-storey, well-stocked) forms the centrepiece - the rounded interior glass windows acting as a constant lure to children into this imaginatively designed and welcoming world of books (pre-prep’s library, though not so aesthetically magnificent, is also a lively and well-used hub). RS classroom also of note – sofas and coffee tables replace some desks and chairs ‘to be more spiritual and relaxed’. Separate play areas, with ‘awesome’ (as one child put it) climbing equipment.

Classic primary model of (mostly) same classroom teaching up to year 4, when pupils start moving around, becoming even more nomadic in year 5. By year 7, they’re more or less part and parcel of the senior school, albeit always escorted by prep school staff, and in year 8, they take themselves off to senior lessons (with help across the road) by which point about a third of the lessons are taught by senior school teachers. Subject specialists are introduced from day one, and bit by bit added to until year 5 when every subject has a dedicated teacher. All three sciences taught separately in year 8, often using senior school labs. Setting in maths from year 3; otherwise children are taught in mixed ability classes until year 7 when the top stream is taught separately. We saw iPads used in at least half the lessons we visited (they use the school’s until year 6, then have their own) and computing is taught as a subject throughout – even the pre-prep has a spacious, well-equipped computing room.

All native teachers for languages, with exceptionally imaginative German teaching from nursery (via fun-based activities with songs and puppets) and daily from reception until year 3, then less frequently after that. German pen pal programme in place, German cultural visits and years 7 and 8 do an exchange with a school in Munich every other year. French added from year 5 and Spanish and Latin from year 7.

We observed buzzy classrooms alight with readiness to learn – pupils ultra-keen to tell us what they were working on, much of it kinaesthetic (eg playdough puzzles for maths). The fact that they all stand up (some slower than others) when a visitor walks in belies the laid-back but purposeful atmosphere. Learning here is fun. Teachers widely praised – ‘they’re the best thing about the school,’ said a pupil, although one parent said her child ‘definitely didn’t get on with one of them’ and a couple felt that teaching could be more academic. Some niggles about ‘homework for homework’s sake’.

For SEN, there are two full time and three part time SEN support staff, who offer mostly in-class support, mainly for mild to moderate dyslexia and mild behavioural issues. A few parental (and one pupil) grumbles, though, on this front – ‘I’m not convinced the school is supportive over and above what you’d expect,’ said one. Light touch EAL when required.

Sport for all, report parents. ‘There are plenty to try and it isn’t just the same old kids who get picked for teams,’ voiced one (four are fielded per year group so everyone has the chance to play). ‘I’m not that good at sport, but I still absolutely love it,’ a pupil told us. ‘I don’t think my child has won a game ever, but none of us really minds because they enjoy it so much,’ laughed one parent, although school says it deliberately picks fixtures in which children will be challenged and that certain teams eg year 6 girls’ hockey remain unbeaten. Boys play rugby (or swimming if they’re not keen), hockey and some football, girls play netball and hockey; then there’s mixed gender cricket and everyone from year 1 swims all year round in the school’s own pool.

Music truly embedded into school life, as you would expect with a cathedral school and about 60 per cent of year 2s upwards learn an instrument. All do class music and singing as well as some theory and composing – all taught by music specialists: a ‘colour strings’ (all about listening to pitch, apparently) specialist from reception and director of music from year 1. Four choirs all get a chance to sing in the cathedral, and there’s a good range of bands and orchestras including wind band, string orchestra, brass quartet and a couple of string quartets.

Sophisticated approach to art. Fun and messy for younger ones, of course, with all the usual ceramic pots and moulded sea creatures etc, but a flick through sketchbooks of older children reveals a real focus on technique. And because it takes place in senior school, they get to marvel at A level students painting canvases while they work on more humble projects – keeping expectations high. DT popular – one pupil raved about his wooden Christmas card with lights.

Two lavish theatre production each year (one in year 3 and one in prep) – alternates between a musical and play, with other opportunities to perform including poetry festival, LAMDA exams and informal concerts. Choir trips all over the place and they make recordings for Radio 3. Other residential trips include sports tour to Barbados, year 6 trip to France and year 7 to North Wales. Day trips aplenty too - nursery children had recently gone out on a pumpkin picking day when we visited. Good range of clubs including ballet, photography, yoga, cheerleading, martial arts and chess. Children made aware of their impact on the environment (plenty of pupil-made posters). Active school council compiles eg playground rules.

Pupils come from a 25 mile radius from as far away as Sevenoaks, Tonbridge, Bromley, King’s Hill and Ebsfleet and increasingly (especially since the high speed link) from south London. Good network of school buses. Wrap-around care from 7.30am to 6.30pm – well used by dual income parents (of which there are many). Lovely ethnic mix, celebrated by all – and parents also like the fact that families aren’t all ‘hoity-toity’ as one put it – ‘mostly just very normal’, which is particularly welcome to first time buyers from the state system (again, of which there are many). Boarding (full or flexi) available from year 7 – only three when we visited; they enjoy the family atmosphere and busy weekend programme. Food hearty and well-liked, especially roasts and spaghetti carbonara. Communications with parents good – ‘they even send you pictures of what your child is doing’.

Houses are a big deal – house tokens are awarded in the pre-prep for behaviour, manners and kindness and in the prep, the house with the most blobs (for work) and credits (for good behaviour) gets to have the termly house feast (very sought after). Other house calendar highlights including house conkers and house pancakes. Quirkiness and difference isn’t an issue in this caring, kind environment and bullying is nipped in the bud. Buddy system for all newbies. Poor behaviour minimal – one pupil plainly horrified to hear some boys had recently discovered that screwed up wet tissues stick to the toilet ceilings when thrown in the air.

A friendly school with a homely feel and diverse intake. All learn a rich, broad curriculum and are well prepared for senior school.

Special Education Needs

Please enter a general description of your SEN provision here.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Aspergers
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia
Dysgraphia
Dyslexia
Dyspraxia
English as an additional language (EAL)
Genetic
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class Y
HI - Hearing Impairment
Hospital School
Mental health
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
PD - Physical Disability
PMLD - Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty
SEMH - Social, Emotional and Mental Health
SLCN - Speech, Language and Communication
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
VI - Visual Impairment

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