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The school works hard to develop confidence and self-belief and is good at spotting potential and manners, kindness and respect are the keystones of its ethos. The school is proud of its academic tradition and has high standards and expectations but boys do not feel ‘over-pushed’. Sporting etiquette taken seriously and woe betide…

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What The Good Schools Guide says


Since April 2023, Sarah Brownsdon, previously senior deputy head of Dulwich Prep London. She has more than 15 years of senior leadership experience in all-boys preps and is married with two teenage sons.

Educated at Walthamstow Hall, she studied French at the University of Southampton before completing her PGCE at Cambridge and her master’s degree at Université Stendhal in Grenoble.


Nursery with 24 places, available for children aged 3+. Most boys join in reception where entrance is non-selective and on a first come, first served basis. Tends to be oversubscribed so worth registering boys as soon as possible – occasionally a third reception class can be added if there is space. About 60 per cent of boys do the full nine years. Selective entry from year 3 with testing in reading, reasoning and maths. Those entering in year 5 are expected to commit to stay until 13+.


Sends to a wider range of schools than in the past, but Tonbridge (with which the school merged in 2021) then Sevenoaks are still the most popular, with increasing numbers to Caterham and a few each year to King’s Canterbury, Sutton Valence and Eastbourne. Boys have moved on to 21 different schools in the past five years. About 20 per cent leave at 11+, mainly to the grammars and a few to Sevenoaks. ‘The teachers are very good at talking to parents and choosing schools (and managing expectations) and take great trouble to get the school right,’ said one parent. Impressive list of scholarships including academic, sport and music scholarships to Tonbridge for the last couple of years – all displayed on the boards in the dining room.

Our view

An all-boys school founded in 1863 at St John’s Road, Sevenoaks and moved in January 1900 to its present purpose-built site in 21 acres on the outskirts of Sevenoaks. It stayed put during the war and even admitted girls for a while. The school was ahead of its time in many ways and introduced a pre-prep department and science, languages and maths laboratories as well as a parent-teacher association long before other schools in the area.

Everywhere well maintained with a rolling programme of refurbishment. The school makes good use of its relatively small site and the latest addition is the New Beacon Centre, a swanky new sports, arts and media centre with an auditorium, gallery, activity studio and technology zone. The chapel, built in 1912, only holds 100 boys – Friday evening service is compulsory for years 7 and 8 and includes a talk from a visiting speaker, often from a senior school.

The school is proud of its academic tradition and has high standards and expectations. ‘We ask boys to strive for personal excellence,’ say staff, while a parent told us it ‘caters for all and boys are taught at the level they need’. Boys don’t feel ‘over-pushed’, said another. ‘They get used to working hard and playing hard but they never feel under pressure; the school is very good at tailoring to an individual boy’s needs.’ ‘Expect a lot and boys will surprise, expect a little and they will disappoint,’ says the school. Parents say it is ‘very annoying’ that the school has a reputation in the area for being a ‘bit of a hothouse’ as it is ‘simply not true and there is a very good level of emotional and academic support’. The school works hard to develop confidence and self-belief and is good at spotting potential – ‘My son would not get on the stage when he joined but now has the main part in the school play,’ said a mother.

The online offering during the pandemic was ‘very impressive’, said a mother – ‘There were lots of live lessons and assemblies and they got it just about right and were realistic about expectations.’

Pre-prep and reception housed in bright, airy purpose-built block with their own AstroTurf playground. Some 14-16 per class and two members of staff – around half of all teachers are male. Specialist teachers in music, ICT, swimming and games. High expectations and firm boundaries and boys taught to respect each other’s opinions from an early age. Taught health and hygiene and given a sticker for eating their veg. Good communications with staff mean parents feel they know how their children are progressing. Early years highly praised by the inspectors, who say all teachers have a good understanding of how young children learn.

The prep school is divided into three distinct sections: the junior school for years 3 and 4 with its own building, the middle school for years 5 and 6, and the senior school for the top two years. Usually about 45 boys per year group with an average class size of 15, but sometimes up to 20. Streaming from year 5, but flexible approach and movement between streams if required. A scholarship class is added in year 8 and the high-achieving Common Entrance boys are streamed, with the other two classes being mixed ability. Boys have specialist teachers from year 4 and are given increased independence from year 5, when they start moving classrooms for lessons. ICT ties in with all subjects and ‘it’s fun,’ said a boy. French introduced in year 5 and the brightest start Latin in year 6. Classical Greek and Mandarin offered as after-school clubs from year 6. Sciences taught separately in well-equipped labs from year 5. As many senior schools are moving away from Common Entrance, the school has become increasingly creative in its teaching for the top two years, including critical thinking and philosophy as well as an extended project and live presentations. There is lots of debate and discussion around discernment and judgement and how to spot fake news, but exam technique and work ethic are still firmly on the curriculum. The staff are a good mix of age and experience and about 75 per cent have been at the school for at least 10 years. The teachers know the boys well, said a parent, and the reports are very ‘insightful’. ‘The teachers are very open,’ said a boy. ‘We can ask questions and they don’t bite your head off if you get it wrong.’ ‘I like the fact there are no girls around – it is more relaxing and it means the teachers focus on you.’

Well-used and well-stocked library in what was a 23-bed dormitory, headed by a librarian and assisted by a team of pupil librarians – boys are encouraged to read for pleasure. Wide range of outings including history trip to the National Portrait Gallery and Canterbury Cathedral, a geography trip to Iceland and the year 8 trip to France includes visits to Agincourt, Crécy and the Somme battlefields.

One full-time SEN teacher and two part-timers a well as maths specialists, EAL and others brought in as required. About 60 boys need some sort of SEN help and emphasis is on identification and support in the lower years – all are tested for dyslexia in year 3 although there are few surprises. Most taught in small groups but a handful has one-to-one support in year 5 and above.

Sport taken seriously with the usual rugby, football and cricket and the recent introduction of hockey on the new floodlit AstroTurf (also used by the local community). Inevitably more focus on team than individual sports but some recent additions to the fixtures including inter-school swimming. Specialist teachers brought in for minor sports like judo and fencing, and sailing offered at a local reservoir. School works hard to find fixtures for the lower teams so everyone has the opportunity to play in a match. Loyal and enthusiastic bunch of parent and staff supporters. Sporting etiquette taken seriously and woe betide any boy who argues with the referee. The school has a good record of success in matches as is demonstrated by the abundance of silverware on display in the entrance hall. The school has produced some fine sportsmen in recent years including England cricketers Zak Crawley and Sam Billings, England rugby player Ben Earl and Olympian and modern pentathlete, Joseph Choong.

Music and drama have come on in leaps and bounds, but not at the expense of sport. The school aims to develop a love of music in the boys, most learn an instrument and all sing – ‘It is part of the culture, there is always something musical going on,’ said a parent. Two lessons a week starting with the recorder in year 3 and the ukulele in year 6, and boys can learn to compose their own music from year 5. Purpose-built music and arts centre with space for whole-class teaching and smaller rooms for individual lessons and rehearsals. Wide range of ensembles including woodwind quintets, percussion groups and string quartets as well as the big band – boys get the chance to perform in all three parts of the school, with informal concerts most weeks and three big ones a year. Two choirs in the middle school, one inclusive and one selective, and year 6 and above can audition for the chapel choir. Choir trip every other year – boys have sung in St Mark’s, Venice and at St Peter’s, Rome. Each part of the school puts on a production once a year, with everyone involved. Lots of opportunities for standing up in public, including poetry recitations and debates, and the senior boys hold a Question Time.

Busy art department with its own kiln and opportunities for litho and screen printing. Some impressive artwork displayed around the school. The art room is well used and always open at lunchtimes. Well-equipped DT room including a laser cutter.

Varied extracurricular activities include chess taught by a grandmaster, model making, photography, shooting and athletics. ‘It is not all about sport,’ said a parent, and ‘it helps boys appreciate and respect different skills’. Strong sense of community and boys appear to genuinely celebrate each other’s talents. Bullying is rare and is dealt with quickly and effectively and boys know who to turn to if they need support. Mental health is a central pillar of the school and boys are encouraged to talk about their feelings. Younger children can voice their concerns via a worry box and there is a confidential email address for older boys.

About 30-40 foreign national children whose parents have moved to the area or have been posted to the UK. ‘The school is traditional but has quite an international feel,’ says a parent. About 50 speak English as a second language and a handful need EAL assistance.

Early morning breakfast club from 7am to help working parents and after-school club until 6.30pm and boys are encouraged to do their prep at school.

Active parents’ association puts on two or three events a year, including a summer ball, which give parents the opportunity to get to know each other. Old boys include high court judge Sir Guy Newey, ambassador Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, First World War poet Siegfried Sassoon and Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence.


Boarding offered from Monday to Thursday with space for 18 boarders – just a handful stay the full four nights. ‘It’s so civilised,’ said a boy. ‘It’s just like home.’ The boarding master runs a tight ship and boys do prep and music practice and take part in a well-structured evening activity programme. ‘My son gets much more done than he does at home,’ said one mother.

The last word

Many parents ‘high achieving, aspirational professionals who drive large 4x4s and who are ambitious for their boys’. They choose New Beacon because it is clear about its mission of high expectations and academic tradition – there are very few unhappy parents here. ‘There is not a day when I don’t feel lucky to have my boys here,’ says a parent.

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