Full marks to Northbourne Park School, I had a great visit there a couple of weeks ago in the bright Autumnal sunshine.
Situated in a special area of Kent, unspoilt yet with fabulous connections to both London and Paris and beyond. It’s not until you realise how these logistics all tie in that you can understand what an interesting education Northbourne Park can offer your child above and beyond a ‘normal’ prep school.
The school’s history is quite special, morphing from a country house to prep school in 1936. Beautiful grounds, a Neo-Norman chapel, Dutch gardens that double as a natural outdoor theatre and acres of playing fields all providing a wonderful setting. Now Northbourne Park is a co-educational boarding and day school with small class sizes whilst (literally) breathing fresh air into the curriculum.
The headmaster, Sebastian Rees (who arrived last year), is both friendly and personable, coming across as someone who wants to take the school forward in all areas. He is fluent in both Spanish and French which is incredibly useful, if not essential, as the school attracts a good number of Spanish and French students. And this is one of the areas Northbourne Park differs from most other prep schools. Not only does it draw on the countryside around Canterbury and beyond for pupils but it has a cohort of Spanish and French children who come over to experience everything an English prep school can offer. At the same time they can follow either the French curriculum (whilst slowly perfecting their English), or follow the Northbourne Park syllabus which is an enhanced version the UK’s syllabus, progressing to Common Entrance. Children progress onto schools such as King’s Canterbury, Tonbridge, St Edmond’s, Beneden, Kent College to name a few and French and Spanish pupils either continue to the next stage of their education back home or carry on in the UK education system.
Do look at Northbourne Park’s website www.northbournepark.com for further details of this bilingual approach to learning as it really is something very different and progressive with great results and offering fabulous opportunities for students after Northbourne Park. What it also means is that there is a European flavour to the school alongside the traditional prep school offer which seems to work well for everyone, through blurring of linguistic and cultural boundaries. Accompanied transport via train is an excellent option from both London and Paris as well as airports.
Writing from the perspective of families wishing to move to the area from London, other areas of the UK or from abroad, Northbourne is a must-see school. The area has suddenly become a magnet with both ‘reasonably’ priced property, good transport links to both London (via the high-speed link at Ashford) and Paris and beyond, Kent’s Eurotunnel and Eurostar links being only half an hour away.
Moving down to this area of Kent has become a different proposition as more and more people are able to either work two or three days in London, commute to Paris for a few days a week or plan their work in a more flexible manner. Hopefully this will become even more prevalent in the next few years as it can certainly enhance quality of life for the whole family and offers a different take on ‘moving out’. With Canterbury half an hour away and an extensive minibus service to the school there are many options in terms of access to Northbourne Park from wherever you decide to settle.
‘Adventurous Learning’ is one of Northbourne’s quotes and aside from excellent sports coaching and facilities, there is a big emphasis on the ‘free range’ child. Yes, they do excel at Music, Sport and Drama with a dynamic Art department (seen at first hand!), but Northbourne Park’s offer is more than this. I had a tour of their on-site ‘Forest School’ which is an area of woodland with camps, large camp fire and other facilities in the woods that provide a fabulous environment for children to learn about the natural environment, test themselves, build shelters, light fires and problem solve. Most schools have days out to do this run by specialist companies, at Northbourne Park it is built into the school week on site.
Overall, a really exciting visit, vibrant teachers, enthused head, very helpful registrar, great boarding facilities with a hugely happy vibe to the whole school that clearly thinks outside of the box in terms of provision, breadth of learning and preparation for life beyond prep school.
If you are thinking of moving down to this area of Kent and don’t know the area that well please do take time to visit Northbourne Park as it may well be the catalyst that prompts you to take that leap.
If you would like help with your move then please do get in touch with me, Louise Streets, at Kent Homefinders and we can chat through what you are looking for and how I could help.
northbournepark.com +44 1304 611215 Claire Percy
kenthomefinders.com +44 7771 723 807 Louise Streets