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18 June 2019
by Ferdinand Steinbeis

English Boarding School in Profile: Sevenoaks School, the All-rounder IB school par excellence

Hello from sunny Oxfordshire,
We love this time of the year. The English weather is good for once; things are a lot calmer at the von Bülow office and the schools; we exhale and make plans for the next season.
But most importantly, we take to the open road and visit schools.
Last week we visited Sevenoaks School. Going to Sevenoaks is always a treat for us. After all, we’ve placed dozens of very happy, successful pupils there over the years. Also our boss Ferdinand Steinbeis went to Sevenoaks and gets misty-eyed whenever he talks about his experiences there.
But most importantly, Sevenoaks is an amazing school with a mind-boggling array of sports-, intellectual- and creative pursuits as well as an enviable academic track record.
Yes, we love this place!
A map of the campus
The Setting
Sevenoaks School is located in the town Sevenoaks in Kent, a swift, 30-minute train ride from London’s Charing Cross Station. The school lies at the tail end of town with excellent access to all the amenities, including several restaurants, cafes and supermarkets on the high street. Pupils in the senior years are allowed into town during free periods and on weekends for pizza and a movie.
School House - home to maths at Sevenoaks
A particular highlight, however, is nearby Knole Park, a stunning 1000-acre park complete with wild deer and perfect spots for pupils to have picnics and restorative walks on the weekend.
Reception room at Claridge House - many a nervous applicant has been here!
The Ethos and Atmosphere
Sevenoaks has a deserved reputation for academic excellence. This is paired with an amazing offer of extracurricular activities.
So, as you can imagine, life here is intense.
Ben, our affable German tour guide put it thus: “everyone here is smart and works hard for school. On top of that everyone manages to fit in violin lessons, a tennis tournament on the weekend or represents Sevenoaks at a debating competition. Lots of energy alone isn’t enough. You need focus and be well organised! ”
Sounds daunting? It did to us!
Seen at Claridge House - this made us laugh!
Ben reassured us, however. He told us of the incredibly supportive teachers, tutors, sports coaches and house-parents that help every pupil in making smart choices about how to balance schoolwork with other things. Also, teachers are pragmatic about homework: only where unavoidable will homework be set. Other than that pupils are trusted to absorb the curriculum themselves in their own time.
We spent a whole day at Sevenoaks School and half expected a bunch of tired-looking, stressed-out kids scurrying across campus. Not so. The pupils made a pretty relaxed impression on us and were happy to stop and chat.
Sevenoaks is synonymous with the International Baccalaureate (IB). After all, the school has been teaching it for over 35 years and has the biggest, most successful cohort in England. The IB attracts pupils from all over the world to Sevenoaks including students from over 40 countries. As expected, the community here is lively, cosmopolitan and open-minded. Ben told us: “ my favourite thing about Sevenoaks are my friends from everywhere. I’ve shared rooms with boys from Sweden, Ghana, South Korea, Brazil and England. It’s been so much fun and so eye-opening! These guys will be my friends for life. I look forward to going to all their weddings!”
A view onto the history block from the Science and Technology Centre
The Academics
Let us give you the facts for the school year 2018 up front:
  • 92% of GCSE results A*/A grades ( to compare: 50% is already very good!)
  • 39 points average in the IB (to compare: 30 points is the world average)
  • 24 pupils gained the full 45 IB points
  • 20% of pupils go to Oxford or Cambridge universities
This is spectacular by any standard and puts Sevenoaks at the top of IB schools worldwide.
A view onto the Headmistress's house
So how does Sevenoaks do it?
For starters, the school is very selective. Excellent grades are a prerequisite to joining. Cynics might say that churning out amazing results by admitting only the best is easy. After all, success breeds success, right?
That only tells part of the story, however.
Sevenoaks goes to enormous lengths to support every individual pupil – however, wherever and whenever it can. Our own Sevenoaks alumnus Mr Steinbeis – by no means an academic high-flyer when he joined! - remembers the teachers going above and beyond the call of duty, staying late every day to teach, running academic clinics or coaching individual pupils with university mock-exam sessions. The dedication to helping pupils succeed here is very, very impressive!
The brand new Science & Technology Centre
We were especially looking forward to seeing the school’s new, award-winning Science and Technology Centre. Gleaming in the sunlight with iconic red, yellow and orange window-frames, this building houses 20 labs for pupils to experiment, collaborate and innovate. Our opinion? We loved the architecture and interior, but were a little disappointed by the lack of pupils 'in action' – the building was largely empty! Where were those future innovators? Instead we only saw 3-D printers locked away behind glass as if in a museum.
Unleash those 3-D printers, Sevenoaks!
The Science & Technology Centre - inside!
The Science & Technology Centre - rather nice, isn't it?
...just would have been nice to have seen them in action!
The Extracurriculars
Sevenoaks’ academic prowess is only part of the story, however. What goes on outside of the classroom is at least as impressive.
The phenomenal The Space!
Take music and drama for example. It all happens in the amazing The Space, a state-of-the-art performance space complete with concert hall, theatre, recital room, drama studio, a recording studio and music practice rooms. Over 700 individual weekly lessons take place here! The school’s orchestra, jazz band and gospel choir are excellent and regularly participate in concerts in London and elsewhere in England. Drama is also huge here with over 10 major productions every year.
A sculpture created by a former Sevenoaks pupil
Not the performing type? No problem. There are over 100 other activities on offer. From coding via tae kwon-do all the way to knitting there is something for everyone. We got a taste when attending the Self-Defence Club, where an instructor taught 10 pupils a range of martial arts tricks – in a very hands-on way!
Tennis lies yonder...
And lastly, the sports – the school’s very impressive Sennocke Sports Center has an Olympic-sized pool, state-of-the-art gym, squash courts, indoor and outdoor tennis courts and the biggest sports hall we have ever seen at an English boarding school!
The most popular sports on offer are athletics, basketball, cricket, cross-country running, football, golf, hockey, netball, rugby, sailing, shooting, squash, swimming and tennis.
A bit of an archilles heel is Sevenoaks’ team sports. While recent great results in hockey and netball are encouraging, Sevenoaks cannot currently compete with IB-peers Wellington College, Ardingly School or Bradfield College. Again, our tour guide Ben chimes in: “ with pupils prioritizing school work as much as here, it is always hard to create teams in which all players are equally motivated to win competitions. Our individual sports, especially sailing are strong though!”
Inside the boys boarding house the IC
The Boarding
350 out of 1093 pupils are full boarders. Sevenoaks does not offer flexi-boarding and boarding starts from Y9 only.
Boarder numbers are highest in 6th form, with two of six boarding houses dedicated to international pupils – the International Center (IC) for boys and the Girls International House (GIH) for girls.
Due to the increased demand in boarding spaces, the school is currently building two more boarding houses.
One of the double-rooms at the IC
We visited the IC, which was a typical, rather practical boarding house within two minutes from school. Most boys share rooms with one other boy, and rotate each term. The same goes for the GIH.
Ben told us that boarders and day pupils were well integrated. He had both boarder and day friends and was regularly invited home by day pupils on exeat weekends.
Thank you, Sevenoaks! We’ll be back soon!
The Germans at the IC over the years...(including our boss!)
Applying To Sevenoaks School
Sevenoaks accepts applications into Y7, Y9 and Y12 only. The school expects pupils to stay for at least two years, so no short-term stays are possible.
The application deadlines are as follows:
Y7 - 1st September one year prior to entry
Y9 - 1st October two years prior to entry
6th Form - 1st August one year priort to entry
Library and Science & Technology Center
Some facts about Sevenoaks School
  • 1093 pupils
  • 350 boarders
  • One hour from Gatwick Airport and 30mins from Central London
  • Boarding fees/term 2018/19: £13,488
  • Website: https://www.sevenoaksschool.org/

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