Sevenoaks School

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Sevenoaks School
Motto Servire Deo Regnare Est
(Latin for To serve God is to rule)
Established 1432
Type Independent day and boarding school
Head Katy Ricks
Chairman of the Governors Anthony Evans
Founder William Sevenoke
Location Sevenoaks
DfE URN 118952 Tables
Students 1023
Gender Mixed
Ages 11–18
Houses 7

Blue, Red and White

Former pupils Old Sennockians

Sevenoaks School is an English coeducational independent school located in the town of Sevenoaks, Kent. It is the second oldest non-denominational school in the United Kingdom, dating back to 1432, only behind Oswestry (1407). Over 1,000 day pupils and boarders attend, ranging in age from 11 to 18 years. There are approximately equal numbers of boys and girls. The current Headteacher is Katy Ricks. The school was a pioneer in attracting international students during the 1960s. Today the pupils come from over 40 countries. The Good Schools Guide called it a "Trail-blazing co-ed day and boarding riding high academically."[1] The school encourages pupils to be involved in all the opportunities it offers. Despite its emphasis on internationalism and innovation the school maintains strong roots with the local community and maintains some of its historical traditions such as VSU and involvement in the Sevenoaks Festival, which date back to the 1960s.

In 1999 it featured in the media by becoming the first major UK school to switch entirely from doing A level exams to the International Baccalaureate. The school is a member of the G20 Schools group.

The school was part of a controversy in 2006 after it emerged from a Times investigation that a cartel on fees was being administered by the Sevenoaks bursar. However, the school has since taken completely corrective action in ensuring that students who paid the fees during the period received a refund.


(I)GCSE results. Sevenoaks celebrated its 2011 GCSE and IGCSE results. Just over 84.8% of the examinations taken by the 135 candidates were awarded A* or A grades. 19 students gained ten A* or more each and 95 students gained 9 or more A* or A grades. All students took three separate IGCSE sciences and Maths. IGCSE is seen as a more widely challenging qualification than traditional GCSEs. The Head, Katy Ricks, said, "we are once again thrilled by our students' achievements. Their outstanding grades are a testimony to their hard work, enthusiasm and talent." In Years 10 and 11, all students pursue the school's own certificated and UCAS-approved qualification in English Literature.[2]

IB Diploma results 2011. 16 students gained the maximum 45 points for the diploma, 23 gained 44 points and 125 gained diplomas with 40 or more points. The average points score per student was 39.9, the world average is 29.8 points. The Head, Katy Ricks said, "We are again absolutely thrilled by our student' performance. Sevenoaks teachers and students worked extremely hard to achieve these outstanding results, which are a real credit to their aspirations and effort. We are particularly delighted that so many of our students will go on to their first choice university."


Three buildings were constructed for the school prior to the 20th century – Old School (formerly School House, which was built with the Almshouses in the early 18th century in the Palladian style and designed by Lord Burlington),[3] the old Assembly Hall (1890) now part of the Swanzy Block, and the Cottage Block (late 19th century). Additional early buildings, previously private houses, include Park Grange (mid-19th century),[4] Girls International House (c1700), Claridge House (18th century), Manor House (late 18th century) and Temple House (1884).[5] The Johnson Library (1930s) contains over 24,000 books[6] and was also formerly an assembly hall. An open air swimming pool was built around 1900 but is no longer used. Sevenoaks has an athletics track, indoor tennis centre (The Bailey Tennis Centre), outdoor tennis courts, playing fields and astroturf pitches, an auditorium (the Aisher Hall), theatre (Sackville Theatre), and a performing arts centre (The Space).

The main school grounds are close to the centre of Sevenoaks town, straddling the A225 Tonbridge Road. Knole Lane also runs through the site, providing access to Knole House, which is situated in the park behind the school.

On 10 March 2005 a new £9 million sports centre, Sennocke Centre, was opened by former middle distance athlete Dame Kelly Holmes. The Sennocke Centre contains three tennis courts, squash courts, a sports hall, a swimming pool, a dance studio, a fitness suite, climbing wall and a servery.

In the April 2010, a new 13-million pound performing arts centre, The Space, was opened on the school campus. The Space was designed by Tim Ronalds Architects with Price & Myers acting as consulting engineers and has won several awards: the Commercial & Public Access category in the 2010 Wood Awards, Best Education Building in the 2010 Brick Awards, and an RIBA Award (South East Region) in 2011.[7] It was also nominated for Best Public Building award of the 2012 Kent Design Awards.[8] The centre contains: The Pamoja Hall, an auditorium providing a concert hall for choral and orchestral performances, with an audience capacity of nearly 450 on raked seating. A renovated Sackville Theatre, with a tension wire grid, providing improved space for larger drama productions. A recital room for more intimate chamber music performance with an audience capacity of about 100. It has views into Knole deer park and provides a venue for special events. The Ordovksy-Tanaevsky Drama Studio provides flexible space for drama productions and audience seating for up to 100. There are also seventeen individual sound-proofed teaching rooms; the Moskovenko Drums Room and Recording Studio; the Pisarev World Music Room; generous foyer space and an outdoor terrace; extensive storage and locker space for musical instruments. The stage of The Pamoja Hall can accommodate the school's seventy piece orchestra behind which the school choir can be positioned. The orientation of the hall uses the natural slope of the site to create the rake for the audience seating. The foyer area links the three levels of the building and provides access to the practice and teaching rooms, the drums room and recording studio, other offices and support facilities. The drama studio is located close to the entrance to the renovated Sackville Theatre. The centre contains 2,733 square metres of usable space. The maximum height of the building is 20.5 metres.

Boarding houses[edit]

There is a total of seven boarding houses on the school campus:

  • Lambardes (1992), with a green and red tie. Mixed junior house.
  • School House (1432), with a green tie. Moved from Old School to Oak Lane in 1997. Boys.
  • Johnsons (1924), with a salmon pink tie. Formally known as Thornhill, a gift from C.P. Johnson.
  • Park Grange (1946), with a pale blue tie. C.P. Johnson's old house. Boys house until 1989, now a girls' boarding house.
  • Sennocke (1985), with a green and silver tie. Girls.
  • International Centre (1962), with a navy blue and gold tie. Situated in a new house on the Park Grange estate, built in 1997, it used to be housed in what is currently School House. Sixth Form Boys.
  • Girls' International House (1977) with a blue and red tie. The first girls' house, though only for Sixth Form Girls.

All houses encourage strong house spirit and often compete on the sports field and in boarders' events.


The school's major sports for boys are rugby, football, cricket, squash, tennis and athletics; for girls, hockey, netball, athletics, and tennis.[9] Minor sports for boys include hockey in the Lent term and, in summer, swimming, shooting, sailing and water polo. Sevenoaks is particularly successful at sailing, coached by the current World Team Racing Champion and UK Team Racing National Champion, Andrew Cornah,[10] and also at shooting. In 2005, the Sennocke Centre was opened by Dame Kelly Holmes, a state-of-the-art community sports centre with a 25 metre six lane swimming pool, indoor tennis courts, fitness suite and climbing facilities as well as gym-halls and other sporting facilities.[11]


Founded in 1432 by William Sevenoke as a part of his last will and testament, the school was intended to give a classical education to boys from the town, free of church constrictions. Sevenoke's will also provided for almshouses for poor men and women.[12] Sevenoaks School is one of the oldest lay foundations in England. Sevenoke was Mayor of London and, as a friend of Henry V, may have been influenced by the MP for Shropshire and King's pleader, David Holbache, who founded Oswestry in 1407. According to William Lambarde and Richard Johnson (Nine Worthies of London), Sevenoke was a foundling, whose decision to establish the school and almshouses may have been inspired by his early history.

In 1560, in response to a petition by Ralph Bosville and Sevenoaks parishioners, Elizabeth I issued letters patent incorporating the school, giving it the right to use her name, and changing its governance. A seal was issued bearing Bosville's initials and the motto Servire Deo Regnari Est. Ralph Bosville was Clerk of the Court of Wards and Liveries, a JP and owner of the Manor of Bradbourne near Sevenoaks, and under the conditions of the letters patent, he and his heirs were to serve on the governing body as long as they lived in Kent. He has been described as the school's 'second founder'.[13] Supporting the letters patent, statues and ordinances were issued in 1574 and a private Act of Parliament passed in 1597. The school also received a number of bequests during the sixteenth century and during this period was brought to wider attention by William Lambarde's A Perambulation of Kent (1576).

The school is thought to have been initially housed in small buildings near the present site, before a school house was built. Rebuilding took place in 1631, under the supervision of Thomas Pett. It was again rebuilt in 1724, to the designs of Lord Burlington, a friend of the headmaster of the time, Elijah Fenton. Building work was completed in 1732. During this period the Master and scholars were housed outside the town.

The school remained small until the late 19th century. School records show that between 1716 and 1748, under the headmastership of the Revd Simpson, school numbers dropped from 'a great many scholars' to only four boys. Simpson resigned and was replaced by Edward Holme, a distant relative of Sir Richard Burton. By 1778 there were around 60 pupils, and the same is indicated in the School Inquiry Commission of 1868.

In 1884 the governors appointed Daniel Birkett as headmaster. It was Birkett's vision to elevate the school's status to that of a First Grade Classical School. He started this revolution, reducing the number of free places to the townfolk and expanding boarding. When he resigned in the 1890s the school had over 100 boys. Birkett's revolution was continued by George Heslop who increased the size to a peak of 134 boys, although numbers dropped towards the end of the First World War (during which 350 Old Sennockians enlisted). Geoffrey Garrod followed Heslop in 1919. In the same year, the headmaster's wife, Mrs Garrod, started a new school for younger boys; Sevenoaks Prep School started with six pupils in the school Cottage Block. An element of selection entered the admissions process in the early 1920s.

James Higgs-Walker succeeded Garrod in 1924. Higgs-Walker, or "Jimmy" as he was known by the boys, started a revolution at the school with the introduction of day houses, the expansion of school sports and extracurricular activities and the vast expansion of the school with the help of the school's greatest benefactor since the founder, Charles Plumptre Johnson (or C.P.J.), who served as a governor from 1913 to 1923 and chairman from 1923 to his death in 1938. Johnson donated many gifts to the school with his brother, Edward:

  • The Flagpole, 1924
  • Thornhill, 1924 (Johnson's House)
  • Johnson's Hall, 1936 (Now Johnson's Library)
  • The Sanitorium, 1938
  • Park Grange and the surrounding estate, 1946

Higgs-Walker led the school until 1956 when he was succeeded by L.C. (Kim) Taylor.

In literature[edit]

  • Sevenoaks Schoolmaster William Painter introduced his translation of William Fulke's Antiprognosticon (1560) with a letter written from Sevenoaks.
  • The finding of William Sevenoke is described by William Lambarde in A Perambulation of Kent (1576).
  • William Camden mentions the school and almshouses in Britannia (1586).
  • A school tradition, cited in the prospectus and school history,[14] maintains that Sevenoaks is the 'grammar school' of Jack Cade's speech in Henry VI Part 2, Act 4, scene 7. Jonathan Bate would appear to support this (The Genius of Shakespeare, 1997).
  • William Sevenoke is one of Richard Johnson's Nine Worthies of London (1592).
  • John Stow refers to William Sevenoke's civic roles and the founding of the school and almshouses in his Survey of London (1603), as does Anthony Munday in A Brief Chronicle (1611).
  • Daniel Defoe refers to the school in A tour through the whole island of Great Britain (1724–27).
  • John Wesley preached 'at an open place near the Free-School', on Saturday 4 October 1746. (Journal of the Rev John Wesley)
  • Maurice Henry Hewlett reflects on friendships of his schooldays in Lore of Proserpine (1913).
  • The Sevenoaks education of Huang Ya Dong (Wang Y Tong) and the son of John Frederick Sackville and Giovanna Baccelli is mentioned in Vita Sackville-West's Knole and the Sackvilles (1922).
  • Charlie Higson's fictional boarding school, Rowhurst (The Dead, 2010) was inspired by Sevenoaks.[15]
  • In Ian McEwan's novel Sweet Tooth (2012), the character Tom Haley is described as 'the product of a good grammar school, Sevenoaks'.

Notable students and alumni[edit]

Former pupils are known as "Old Sennockians".



In 1942, Vita Sackville-West suggested that William Caxton might have been born in Sevenoaks Weald and attended Sevenoaks School.[16]


  1. ^ The Good Schools Guide
  2. ^ The Telegraph: Top school scraps dull GCSEs in favour of new exams
  3. ^ William Kent (1727) The Designs of Inigo Jones
  4. ^ Sevenoaks Society
  5. ^ Sevenoaks Society
  6. ^ Sevenoaks School: Library
  7. ^ Sevenoaks School: The Space
  8. ^ Goh, Kasan (6 December 2012). "Kent Design Award 2012 for Best Public Building ( Education )". Retrieved 23 December 2013. 
  9. ^ Sevenoaks School: Sport
  10. ^ Sevenoaks School: Sailing
  11. ^ The Sennocke Centre
  12. ^ Sevenoaks Almshouses
  13. ^ J T Lennox, Sevenoaks School and its Founder, 1432-1932 (1932)
  14. ^ Brian Scragg, Sevenoaks School, A History (1993)
  15. ^ Sevenoaks Chronicle: Actor Charlie Higson explains how Sevenoaks inspired his comedy
  16. ^ Sackville-West, V, ‘Caxton's Parentage’, Letters to the Editor, The Times, 23 December 1942

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°15′54″N 0°11′42″E / 51.26500°N 0.19500°E / 51.26500; 0.19500