Visit to Junior King’s School, Canterbury
Following a very wet journey to Canterbury, the weather cleared as I drove through the gates of Junior King’s to meet with the Registrar Judith Bristow. Judith has been at the school for more than 20 years, firstly as a teacher in the Pre-Prep, so was to be a highly knowledgeable escort for my visit. Having connections to King’s Canterbury, the senior school, as I do, I had previously visited the junior school as a guest at the opening of their Astroturf pitch a few years ago, and had seen this side of the facilities – so today was to be concentrating on everything else the school has to offer and the overall ethos it deploys in the education of its pupils. Once we had met, Judith and I chatted about our common ground before embarking on a tour of the real estate – umbrella in hand, just in case!
Firstly we headed for the Pre-Prep and Nursery, housed in delightful Oast and Barn conversions much loved by families for the wonderful homely feel they exude. We then moved on to the main part of the school, where all the children and staff I met, in their bright and spacious classrooms, are enthusiastic and confident. There is a healthy intake of overseas students at Junior King’s, important to our increasingly multi cultural world, but the overall balance and mix is carefully managed. Most children generally hail from London, having relocated to the area as young families, or, for fewer, having been sent to board. Specific boarder activities are organised regularly, as well as an array of options for all on weekday evenings. Attendance on Saturdays is from Year 5. Daily travel is offered locally either by a fleet of taxis, or on an accompanied train from Wye to Sturry (via Canterbury West). This latter is popular for parents who want to avoid tackling the traffic through Canterbury!
Aspiring academically, the school achieves a good number of scholarships to senior schools each year. But importantly, the new Head of 2 years, Emma Karolyi is developing a more inclusive atmosphere, celebrating more non-academic achievements too, which has been welcomed by parents. There is good provision of languages, with French from Nursery, Spanish from Year 5, Latin from Year 6 and Greek for the scholarship stream. Early identification of any learning support needs underpin an excellent programme here, and non-native English language development is fully available. Admission to the school is selective, to ensure that academic potential and overall wellbeing is suited. Entry is welcomed at key points with scholarships offered at 11+, and ‘through’ places to include the senior school from Year 7 upwards if required. Most children (95%) go on to The King’s School, although other destinations have included Benenden, Eastbourne, Tonbridge, Eton and Westminster in recent years.
Junior King’s has a rich history. After 50 years in the precincts of the Cathedral it moved to the current picturesque 80 acre site – originally Sturry Court – in 1929. It was opened by Rudyard Kipling, a friend of the benefactor, Lady Milner. The boys became known as ‘parrots’ because of the noise they made – and all the houses are now named as such. Today the Elizabethan Manor House is the administrative hub of the school, and the beautiful Tithe Barn is the centre for all performances, hospitality and entertainment. Creative arts, alongside sport, are all strong and the facilities match the quality. Girls cricket has now superseded rounders, rowing has been introduced, and fencing is of a high standard. Dance is now also a regular feature – and the first scholarship to King’s has recently been introduced. For those less sporty, alternative activities are offered on match days. Golf sailing and horse riding are also available in the activities programme. The newest development is the magnificent Music Centre – serving probably the foremost extra curricular strength here.
Junior King’s has a strong link with the local community and uses the Sturry Parish Church regularly. In fact it is currently supporting the church roof appeal, and local interest groups will often use the school’s grounds and facilities. If there is anything lacking here, it could be that there is only an outdoor swimming pool – but with the wonderful facilities of the senior school up the road this causes no problem at all. Overall the school offers many opportunities, in a well rounded package with excellent academic results. Well worth a move to East Kent!