I had often walked past the Kensington Prep School, located in a former convent building in Parsons Green, wondering what was going on behind the walls, and was happy to finally get a chance to visit last week. I arrived on a Friday morning following the morning assembly, and on the inside, the school was buzzing with energy. One group of girls was dancing down the corridor in their gymnastics costumes, others were rushing to their classrooms or just getting started on their tasks for the morning.
I was very lucky to be shown around by the Headmistress, Mrs Prudence Lynch, who has been with the school for almost 10 years now. I had always heard of Kensington Prep as a very academic school with strong exit results, but Mrs Lynch enthusiastically showed me that the school is about so much more; what struck me first was how hands-on and creative a lot of the activities in the pre-prep department are. In every classroom, the children were solving puzzles, building machines, playing with Legotechnic toys, or conducting science experiments. There was much less “sit quietly, listen and look at the board” than I had seen in other prep schools I visited. Even in the senior year classrooms we entered, girls were challenged to participate actively – they were either being quizzed on mathematical or geographical knowledge or reading out literary compositions in front of their classmates. It was evident that the school takes the curriculum as a basic starting point but challenges the girls to learn and develop far beyond that. In Mrs Lynch’s words, “anyone can take the curriculum and teach children English and Maths, but not many can teach the children how to use their brains“.
Mrs Lynch is passionate about providing the girls with a true education and teaching them to think independently and flexibly. Excellent academic results have to come as a byproduct of the outstanding education – but she was adamant the school would not want to sacrifice education and personal development for the sake of test preparation and box ticking as some other schools might choose to do.
Back in Mrs Lynch’s office, we got to discuss the changing landscape and increasing competitiveness of London Day schools, which she attributed partly to the declining popularity of boarding at the 11+ level as well as the increased willingness of London parents to switch from state to independent sector at 11+ rather than at later stages. And of course, since this is what so many of us worry about, I made sure to ask about the 4+ assessment to get into the school. Kensington Prep accepts 44 girls into Reception, out of about 170 who come in for the assessment. She reassured me that there can be considerable movement on the waiting list, however, as it is very common for girls to attend assessments at several schools. I had always suspected this but was glad she was so honest about it, as some schools like to keep the myth that it is impossible to pass 4+ assessments alive.
One question I ask every Head I meet is what their dreams and hopes for the children who come to their school are and what values they want to instil in them? For Mrs Lynch, the most important is for the girls to be good citizens who show mutual respect and are committed to taking care of others and themselves. Beyond that, she wants them to think independently, be hungry to learn , flexible and take risks (a quality which she thinks girls display to a lesser extent than boys if they are not encouraged). We talked about how nobody knows what the world will look like in 20 years and that as a consequence, what will be required on top of a strong academic foundation are flexibility, independence and initiative, and that the school was committed to preparing girls for such a future. A school that combines personal development and creativity with stellar academic results sounds almost too good to be true, but after two hours of observing the Kensington Prep girls in action, I could not help thinking I might have just found the one!
If you want to find out more about the Kensington Prep School, make sure to read the school profile here on London Pre-prep!