What it's like
Founded in 1432 by William Sevenoke (Mayor of London and friend of Henry V), it is one of the three oldest lay foundations in England. The school has an attractive 100-acre campus, adjoining Knole Park on the edge of town. There have been numerous recent additions, including a sixth-form centre, all-weather athletics track, sports centre and state-of-the-art performing arts centre. It is inter-denominational and, since 1984, fully co-educational. The staff:pupil ratio is about 1:8. It has a reputation for exploring new ideas. It has taught the International Baccalaureate since 1978 and examination results are consistently very good. With its international boarding houses and proximity to the Channel, it has a broad global outlook; a wide range of languages is offered. Music is outstanding and the drama department produces an array of plays throughout the year in the school's own theatre. High standards are attained in a wide variety of sports and games, with many representatives at county and national level in a number of sports each year. There is a wide range of co-curricular activities and a large and flourishing CCF contingent. The school was a pioneer of school-based community services in Britain; there is now a federal unit comprising over 30 local schools with 600 volunteers, 250 from Sevenoaks. It also has a remarkable record in the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme.
Pupils & entrance
Pupils: Age range 11–18; 1029 pupils, 679 day (323 boys, 356 girls), 350 boarding (165 boys, 185 girls). Entrance: Main entry ages 11, 13 and 16. Common Entrance at 13, or own exam at 11 and 13. For sixth form entry, strong GCSE performance (grade A in most, including sixth-form subjects). All special skills and all faiths welcomed.
Scholarships & bursaries
Up to 50 pa scholarships (academic, art, drama, music, sport) awarded to entrants at 11, 13 and 16; value ranges from major scholarship (normally 10% of day fee) to music exhibition (tuition on one instrument). Also sports scholarships at 11 and 16 for local state-school pupils (up to 100% of fees). Means-tested bursaries available, up to 100% of day fees, with preference usually given to local candidates.
Head & staff
Head: Dr Katy Ricks, appointed 2002. Educated at Camden School for Girls and Oxford University (English). Previously Deputy Head at Highgate and Head of English at St Edward's, Oxford. Teaching staff: 122 full time, 32 part time.
GCSE: 150 pupils in Year 11, all gaining at least grade C in 8+ subjects (including English, maths, a science, a humanity and a modern language). IB: 195 in upper sixth, achieving an average of 39.4 IB points.
99% of sixth form leavers go on to a degree course (20% after a gap year), 25% to Oxbridge and 13% to US universities. 9% take courses in medicine, dentistry and veterinary science, 21% in maths, science and engineering, 5% in law, 42% in humanities, social sciences and liberal arts, 10% in business and management, 5% in art and design, music, sport, drama and architecture, 8% in languages.
GCSE/IGCSE/Sevenoaks School Certificate; IB Diploma. 31 subjects offered. 4000 word essay and Creative, Action and Service programme are an integral part of IB Diploma. Special provision: Some made. Languages: French, German, Russian and Spanish are main languages offered at GCSE and IB level; wide range of extra languages also offered to IB including Italian, Japanese, Mandarin; others by arrangement eg Dutch, Hindi. 50+% take GCSE in more than one European language. Regular exchanges to France, Spain, Germany, Russia. Around 20% are overseas pupils, predominantly European. Participates in Model United Nations at the Hague; European work experience for Year 11. Talks from MPs, MEPs, embassy officials, and international evenings. ICT: Taught both as a discrete subject and across the curriculum (areas include data logging, simulations, digital music, artistic design). Computers, laptops and tablets for pupil use, all networked and with email, internet and intranet access. Campus-wide wifi network.
Music: Over 50% of pupils learn a musical instrument; instrumental exams can be taken, as can GCSE and IB music. Musical groups include choirs, vocal ensembles, orchestras, wind band, blues band, percussion group, jazz bands, gospel choir, numerous chamber groups, wind quintet, string ensembles, recorder, saxophone, guitar groups. Regular finalists in national schools chamber music competition; concerts in London, Sevenoaks and overseas. Drama: GCSE drama, IB theatre, Guildhall and LAMDA exams may be taken. Large numbers take part in at least one of 4-5 major annual productions; 1 taken to Germany every 2 years. Art and design: On average, 40 take GCSE and 20 IB. Art history, design, sculpture, fine art, ceramics, printmaking, photography and video also offered.
Sports & activities
25+ sports offered including rugby, netball, shooting, riding, climbing. Regular national representatives in a number of sports (rugby, cricket, athletics, hockey, cross-country, sailing, shooting, tennis particular strengths); sailing and shooting teams regularly successful. Also bronze, silver and gold Duke of Edinburgh's Award; CCF (optional; includes sub-aqua training, rock climbing, abseiling, shooting, canoeing, sailing); community service (integral to IB programme. A variety of clubs, including photography, Model United Nations, chess, debating, astronomy, philosophy, creative writing, film, fitness, futsal, aerobics, aikido. Scholars' lecture programme.
Uniform: School uniform worn throughout. Houses and prefects: Houses/pastoral groups in upper, middle and junior divisions. Prefects, head boy/girl, head of house and house prefects - appointed by Head in conjunction with sixth form and staff. School Council. Religion: Inter-denominational. Compulsory assemblies, some with religious content. Services largely voluntary including communion services; annual confirmation. Social: Activities jointly with other schools, e.g. enterprise and mentoring schemes, community work with primary schools. Pupils allowed to bring own car, bike or motorbike to school. Meals self-service. School shops for refreshments, stationery, second-hand clothes. No alcohol allowed.
Pupils failing to produce homework once might expect verbal reprimand; very strict drug punishment.
Many upper sixths have single rooms (some ensuite); other boarders share. 11-12-year-olds in dormitories in separate (co-ed) house; others in single-sex houses of approximately 50. Pupils can provide and cook own food. Flexible weekend policy for leave weekends but houses close at half term. Visits to local town allowed with appropriate permission.
Association of former pupils
The Old Sennockians, is run c/o the school
Professor Jonathan Bate (academic and author); Jonathan Evans (former Director-General of MI5); Ben Summerskill (lobbyist and journalist); Paul Greengrass (film director); Joe Stilgoe (jazz musician); Emma Johnson (international concert clarinettist); Geoffrey Streatfeild (actor); Emma Hope (shoe designer); Charlie Higson (novelist and comedian); Robby Swift (windsurfer); Dan Caprice, Andy Titterell (England rugby); Ian Walker, Christina Bassadone (Olympic sailors); Chris Tavaré, Paul Downton (England cricket).