Secondary school: Sevenoaks School, 2009-2016 – Joined at 11+ (Year 7); graduated from Sixth Form in 2016
University destination: University of Cambridge
Year 1 (Law Tripos)
Year 2 (English Tripos: Medieval; Renaissance; Shakespeare)
Year 3 (English Tripos: Victorian; Dissertation)
Year 4 (English Tripos: Tragedy; Lyric Poetry; Dissertation—George Eliot and Legal Jurisprudence; Dissertation 2—Financial Metaphors of the South Sea Bubble in Daniel Defoe)
In the first week, Sevenoaks stage the whole school photograph up on the top sports field. The professional photographers lined everyone up in height order, only to confirm that I was indeed the shortest in the entire school (At least that explained why my skirt was down to my ankles!)
I also remember being filmed by the school photographer whilst walking back from the sports field with my friends that same day. Although this felt weird at the time, I found out later that week that the footage had been used to create an adorable montage, put on a DVD for each student entitled ‘Year 7’s First Week at Sevenoaks 2011’. The teachers played it to us in assembly and we all giggled away as we tried to spot our friends in the clips.
The Year 10 Russian Trip stands out for me as an incredible highlight of my school years. The trip began with a one-week language course in St Petersburg. I was charmed by the city’s picturesque beauty but hated the chilly temperatures. Our visit to The State Hermitage Museum was an absolute privilege. We then took the overnight train to Moscow and explored the city for a few days. I have some fantastic pictures of the small group of teachers and students in The Red Square at night. The Russian trip was extremely immersive as we stayed with host families, which gave me a fantastic first-hand experience of Russian culture. My command of the language also improved in leaps and bounds. I had started studying GCSE Russian as a complete beginner in Year 9 and enjoyed it so much that I went on to select Russian SL for International Baccalaureate.
I was grateful that Sevenoaks flexibly let me attend The Royal College of Music each Saturday, despite the fact that it clashed with Sevenoaks’ academic and co-curricular timetable (Sevenoaks hold school on Saturdays too). My teachers and peers were extremely supportive; they helped me catch up the work and ensured I had the structures in place to make that process as seamless as possible. From a personal perspective, not having school on Saturdays would have made a huge difference—my academic progress would have been less interrupted.
The fact that no fancy traditions spring to mind reinforces the belief I’ve always held that Sevenoaks isn’t stuffy; the School has a very forward-thinking ethos. The co-educational makeup also meant that we didn’t have a ‘sister/brother’ school in the area to impose any traditions on us! That said, there were lots of annual events. Science Week was always a big feature of the calendar, during which the Chemistry Department would host fun experiments on ‘Jockey’s Patch’, the grass lawn outside the dining hall. Once these included a demonstration of ‘Elephant’s Toothpaste’, which is definitely worth a Google! There was also a large emphasis placed on charity and fundraising: Lower, Middle and Upper School would each host their Charity Week at different points during the year (each division took turns to raise as much money as possible), and each tutor group (see below: pastoral support) had to choose their own fundraising strategy. Can we call ‘bake sales’ a tradition? Sevenoaks also had some cute traditions of gift/token giving to celebrate certain occasions. For example, for Valentine’s Day, you could donate to send carnations to your friends as a sweet gesture; in the lead up to Christmas, the same was true for candy canes.
Excellent. The teaching staff are extremely attentive, willing to provide additional learning support, and are highly professional. As a student, I was continually encouraged to be reflective, critical and praising of my own academic progress. Teachers also challenged and stretched my abilities, for which I am very grateful. My learning experience at Sevenoaks has definitely shaped my proactive and considerate approach as a tutor.
Even when we studied Religious Studies as part of the curriculum in Lower/Middle School, there was never an over-bearing emphasis placed on religion. Due to Sevenoaks’ highly international and multicultural culture, all religions are accepted and welcomed. The canteen would hold themed lunches to appreciate and recognise particular festivals, and societies would organise events such as ‘Holi’ and ‘Chinese New Year’. The School Chaplain held services in St Peter’s Church (opposite the school) for Easter and Christmas, but these services never had any distinctively/overwhelmingly religious weight. Rather, the Headteacher (Dr Ricks) would discuss the previous term’s achievements and use the service as an opportunity to think about the term ahead with the whole school gathered together.
I loved Sevenoaks’ keen approach to chamber music. The variety was absolutely wonderful, and I played the cello as part of string quartets, piano trios and cello quartets (to name a few) during my time as a music scholar. Each year Sevenoaks entered the Pro Corda National Chamber Music Competition, and I was delighted to reach the final for six years consecutively as part of a team.
There is a great emphasis placed on Oxbridge, but more so on finding a university destination suitable for each student. The school are definitely keen to optimise Oxbridge admissions: they encourage everyone to apply to different colleges to reduce competition; host presentations / assemblies for students and parents to make sure that students are as informed as possible about the procedure; advise that students undertake mock interviews and provide additional sessions for students wanting to push themselves beyond the curriculum.
Yes! I keep in touch with a few friends and the ‘2016 Leavers’ Facebook Group is still active. My younger sister also attended the school, so I have only recently started feeling like a full ‘Old Sennockian’.
Pastoral support is phenomenal at Sevenoaks. Every morning you convene in your tutor group, which stays the same throughout Lower School (Years 7-8), Middle School (Years 9-11), and Upper School (Sixth Form). You are encouraged to confide in your tutor regarding any pastoral concerns, and from my own experience, the school act quickly and professionally to help.
I loved Cross Country Club! Sevenoaks School is lucky to be adjacent to Knole Park, owned and managed by The National Trust. Sevenoaks is undoubtedly one of the best schools in the country if you’re into distance running: Sevenoaks’ Cross Country Club boasts an incredible reputation and organises the annual Knole Run, which is definitely one of the most rigorous and challenging races on the schools’ national circuit. I personally found running a great way to clear my head and I have fond memories of after-school runs on Wednesdays and Fridays in Michaelmas term.