Sutton Valence Prep School, Chart Sutton, Kent

May 23, 2012

Sutton Valence Prep School, Chart Sutton, Kent

Venturing out of London first thing Monday morning we learned all about traffic.  We had hired a car the day before and thankfully decided that we should get up around 5am and aim to leave from Maida Vale by 6.30am at the latest.  We were on our way to Sutton Valence Prep School just outside of Maidstone in Kent.  Apparently a 90 minute drive. Things were going well – including my navigation, until we arrived at the Blackwell Tunnel where the traffic ground to a halt and we were informed that there was a breakdown waiting to be cleared.  We sat for about 20 minutes and I was hoping the whole time that we wouldn’t be late.  I hate being late and we were due at the school at 9.00am.  Fortunately the road cleared and we were on our way.  London traffic makes Sydney look tame I have to say. 

Once out of the city the motorway flowed freely and we found our way to the gorgeous hillside village of Sutton Valence.  Finding a coffee and something to eat was slightly more difficult at that time of the morning so I settled for the service station offering down the hill – which wasn’t too bad, although that could have been indicative of my need for coffee rather than the actual standard!

We found the senior campus and asked a young lad there if he could direct us to the Junior School – which he did.  Unfortunately it was the primary school across the road that was completely unrelated.  I assume the lad had started in secondary school and possibly knew nothing of Sutton Valence Prep, which we finally located down a long windy lane in the prettiest of rural settings.  We arrived dead on 9.00am – so not late but not early as I always prefer.

The main school building is a gorgeous old manor.  We were greeted warmly by the Headmaster’s Secretary and then met Richard Johnson, the Head, with whom I had been corresponding.  He was very welcoming.

I talked to the Year 3 and 4 students first and then to the Year 5 and 6’s.  Attentive, smart and great fun, I have to say that the children and staff seemed a very happy and contented bunch.

We were then given a tour of the school by two of the students, Lucy and Izzy, who showed us the classrooms and facilities.  Big by English standards, the classrooms were amazing.  Stimulating displays, vibrant work samples and an extraordinary level of care – the rooms and teachers were impressive, as were the children.

The school is well resourced with a gym, various specialist teaching spaces including for Science, Music and Languages and there is a small but perfectly formed library.  The grounds are quintessentially everything I imagined an English prep school to be – with an adventure playground and fields – and the most tremendous view over lush rolling pastures.

Richard Johnson clearly enjoys his work and the staff seem to be a highly professional and dedicated group.  I love that schools give me certain feelings.  Sometimes things will look perfect and yet, you can tell there’s an uneasiness which you can’t quite work out.  Sometimes schools look scruffy but there is such dynamic teaching and great students and a real feeling of love and care.  Neither applies here.  Sutton Valence is every bit as good as it looks!  The teachers, students and grounds are amazing – I loved visiting and would go back again in a heartbeat.  In fact I rather hope to in 2013.


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