Hello from gloriously sunny Oxfordshire!
Spring has most definitely sprung in this part of the world - it's an astonishing 17 degrees in Oxford today.
Just like last Friday afternoon, when we visited Kent College, a school we've been placing happy pupils at for over 15 years. We hadn't been to Kent in over 18 months a while, so we were overdue a visit.
Kent College is a bit of a phenomenon. It is a non-selective school, and yet manages to consistently achieve IB average scores equal to or better than the best IB schools in the UK.
Moreover, what Kent College might lack in grandeur, it more than makes up with its disarming friendliness.
Kent College front view
Great location in Canterbury.
Kent College is situated 5 minutes on foot from the center of picturesque, medieval university town Canterbury in the south-east of England. We hopped on the train at London's St Pancras Station and arrived in Canterbury 50 minutes later.
Most of our pupils fly back to Germany from Gatwick Airport, which, conveniently, is only one hour from Kent College by car.
'Wow' - but in a different way.
As alluded to above, Kent College is not as visually impressive as some other English boarding schools. Its rather functional late-19th-century red-brick main school house isn't as glitzy as that of a Malvern College or Haileybury.
Inside Kent - view from the main entrance
And yet it quickly becomes apparent how little this lack of glamour matters: Kent exudes a warm, friendly atmosphere. Pupils seem relaxed, un-selfconscious and genuinely happy here. Doors were held open for us by polite pupils; we got a lot of smiles and "hellos!"; we witnessed, the headmaster chatting animatedly to a pupil; we passed pupils in dirty wellies returning from the school's very own farm - Kent is a happy school! This is of course not unique to Kent, but it struck us how immediately obvious this is.
Inside Kent - staircase in the main building leading to classrooms
This is all the more surprising given how well Kent is doing academically. At a school that averaged 37 points in the IB and 49% A*/As at GCSEs in 2018 one would suspect a more serious, studious atmosphere. Not so. Kent retains its down-to-earth vibe despite the academic glory - made more impressive still by the fact that the school is non-selective!
So what is Kent's secret? We talked to Headmaster Julian Waltho, who thinks it is a combination of lived Methodist values around support, team-spirit, trust, honesty and kindness, as well as and a lot of teacher support.
Broad range of amazing extracurriculars - even its own farm!
Kent is so much more than good IB results and happy vibes though. The school offers excellent sports, drama, art and a huge array of extracurricular activities - from coding to yoga.
Inside Kent - yoga, of course, on offer
Kent is punching above its weight in hockey in tennis especially, but offers a wide variety of excellent sports, including football, athletics, riding, trampolining, volleyball and basketball.
Kent's Design and Technology Department
We saw Kent's impressive art and design & technology departments, with beautiful paintings and sculptures on display, as well as a deconstructed car to be transformed into an electric vehicle.
Gorgeous pigs at Kent's own farm
A special treat for Kent's pupils is the school's own farm. Here pupils look after cows, pigs, sheep and chickens. They even get involved in birthing and some simple medical procedures. All this is a welcome and refreshing respite from the books and naturally contributes to the school's relaxed, happy atmosphere.
Some facts on Kent College Canterbury:
- 610 pupils, of which 300 board
- Strong IB: 37 point averages in 2017 and 2018
- One hour from London via the fast international Eurostar line
- Non selective
- Strong in hockey and tennis
- Friendly, down-to-earth atmosphere