Frequently Asked Questions
What makes Holmewood House so special?
Almost everything! The breadth of our curriculum, combined with specialist, expert teaching in every subject, means we achieve excellent academic results. We have superb facilities and masses of open space for children to play in. First-class music, drama and art, and a vast range of afternoon activities bring out the best in every child. The food at Holmewood is excellent - great lunches and afternoon tea as well. We maintain an ‘outstanding family atmosphere’(*) where everyone is really known and cared for.
It all combines to make Holmewood one of the leading prep schools in the country.
(*) ISI Inspection Report March 2007
What does Holmewood do best?
Almost everything! We are a happy busy place where we maximize every child’s potential and inspire him or her to learn and to explore. ‘A wealth of extra-curricular activities enriches the experience of pupils.’(*)
Our children, across the board and of all abilities, do really well. Tatler’s Schools Guide 2010 states: ‘The plentiful scholarship haul is evidence of the top-notch teaching standard.’ Our ISI Inspectors simply said ‘The standards achieved are often outstanding.’(*)
The School competes at national level in most team sports.
‘Outstanding creative development is promoted in Art, DT and Music.’(*)
Holmewood pupils ‘clearly enjoy coming to school and revel in the opportunities the school provides.’(* ) In the words of the Tatler’s Schools Guide 2010, ‘...opportunities are more or less endless here.’
(*) ISI Inspection Report March 2007
Why are Holmewood fees relatively high?
Because, alas, the breadth of what we offer and the standards we work to all cost money. There are plenty of schools that offer less and are able to charge less, but we believe a Holmewood education gives children far greater opportunities than any other school in the area. We have a much lower than average teacher to pupil ratio, we have teachers who are amongst the best in the country, with specialist teachers for every subject.
Giving value does matter to us, though. As a charity we have no shareholders and we only aim for a modest annual surplus that is enough to maintain and replace our infrastructure and facilities.
Do we get the balance right? Tatler’s Schools Guide 2009 stated: ‘Holmewood House’s fees are pretty hefty, but it could charge a fair bit more and still be good value.’
Where do Holmewood families live?
Many live in Tunbridge Wells but many also live in the surrounding villages, within easy reach of the Hastings train line. We operate a morning and evening minibus service with six minibuses, bringing children into school and delivering them home again in the evening. We try where possible to fit requests for pick-up and drop-off points on viable routes covering approximately a ten-mile radius around Tunbridge Wells.
Is Holmewood selective?
Holmewood is essentially non-selective. Children are assessed prior to entry to best determine their needs. It is only in extremely rare cases, if we decide Holmewood would not be the best environment for a particular child, that we would not offer a place.
We therefore cater for a range of abilities from very bright children to those who require additional support. We can stretch the brightest and help the weakest, and our Learning Support Department was described by the March 2007 Inspection report as ‘a strength of the school’.
Is there streaming at Holmewood?
The more able children in the year group are moved to a different form from Year 6 to Year 8. These children are progressed at an accelerated pace to enable them to sit for scholarships to independent senior schools in Year 8.
The other classes in the group are mixed ability leading towards Common Entrance. By Year 8, setting for all subjects occurs within the Common Entrance classes.
Lower down the school, differentiated work is given to cater for all abilities.
When does specialist teaching begin at Holmewood?
In the Nursery and the Pre-Prep, children have swimming, P.E. and games with fully qualified games coaches. A fully dedicated Pre-Prep Music teacher takes the Nursery and the Pre-Prep for class Music every week. The Nursery and the Pre-Prep also have native-speaking specialist teachers for French.
In Years 3 & 4, children have their core curriculum subjects with their form teachers to make them feel more secure following their move from the Pre-Prep up to the ‘big school’. They do, however, have specialist teachers (in addition to the games and French staff) for Art, DT and Music.
From Year 5, the children start to move around the school more, going to specialist teachers in the teachers’ classrooms for all lessons, which is excellent preparation for their move to invariably a bigger senior school.
Does Holmewood prepare children for 11+ entry to senior schools?
The core of our curriculum is Common Entrance based, preparing the children for entry to independent senior schools at 13+.
Holmewood has an excellent record of preparing and entering children successfully for secondary school transfer.
How much sport do the children do at Holmewood?
We are very proud of our achievements in sport. All our children have the chance to try a wide range of sports, both team and individual. We try to put out as many teams as possible in each age group so that everyone represents the school at some point. We believe it is important that all children have the chance to be part of a team, wear a match tie, go to an away match in a minibus or coach, and have a match tea!
Swimming in our indoor heated pool is introduced as early as Nursery and stroke improvement lessons continue through the school. Nursery children have a fortnightly P.E. lesson. In Pre-Prep, children have a weekly swimming lesson, a weekly P.E. lesson and an afternoon of games, all with qualified sports coaches.
From Years 3 - 8, children have two afternoons of compulsory team sports and choose an activity for the other three afternoons. This may be one of the individual sports (swimming, gymnastics, tennis, squash, archery, shooting) or may be a drama, music or craft type activity.
Our sports staff organize about 450 fixtures against other schools every year, so there are plenty of matches. We also enjoy huge success entering national tournaments in all the major sports, often achieving national champion or runners-up status.
Which senior schools do Holmewood children go to after Holmewood?
Parents have several decisions to make regarding senior schools: independent or state; day or boarding; single-sex or co-educational.
In the independent sector, the main day options are Tonbridge and Sevenoaks for boys and Mayfield (St Leonards-Mayfield), Kent College and Sevenoaks for girls. All these have demanding admission requirements and we have an extremely strong record of success in gaining places and scholarships at these schools. In the last five years, pupils have also passed successfully to Benenden, Charterhouse, Eastbourne College, Eton, Hurstpierpoint, King’s Canterbury, Radley, Stowe, Winchester, Wycombe Abbey and others.
How much parental involvement is there at Holmewood?
Every form has a parent representative on the parent-school liaison group, who meet with the Headmaster or Head of the Pre-Prep on a termly basis to discuss matters of general interest and put forward constructive suggestions from other parents.
The Friends of Holmewood organize a range of friendly social events which foster good relations between parents and staff, and they also raise funds to purchase additional items for the school as well as for other charities.
In the Pre-Prep, parents are encouraged to assist in afternoon craft activities.
At all levels, we are always happy to see parents who have concerns of any sort or who just want to know how something works. Meetings and telephone discussions can be arranged at mutually convenient times, and for many matters a simple exchange of e-mails is more than adequate.
What is the school’s policy on bullying?
The happiness of our children is paramount. Neither bullying nor unkindness is tolerated at Holmewood. Other parents will tell you there is remarkably little bullying or unkindness here, but when there is any, our policy is to deal with it speedily and effectively. We do this by very careful investigation, prompt action and ongoing monitoring of the situation. We are at pains to make sure we are fair to all parties.
An infrastructure of pastoral care has been very carefully put in place at Holmewood to ensure there is always a specific member of the academic staff looking after the interests of each individual child.
Do children have the opportunity for day trips and visits abroad?
Many day trips are organized through the year for different age groups related to their curriculum: to art galleries, museums, plays, adventure parks, science and ecology centres, and places of worship.
In addition, there is a ski trip every February half-term, a French trip for Year 7s, a bi-annual overseas cricket and netball tour at Easter, and an overseas music tour in the summer.
What is the food like at Holmewood?
Many of our children report that the food is the best thing at Holmewood!
All food is provided by the School and is cooked on site. We have a Catering Manager and large catering staff fully employed by the school. Fresh produce is delivered daily and children are given healthy balanced meals with a wide choice every day including a large selection of cooked vegetables and salad bar, fruit and yoghourts.
Throughout the day, depending on the age of the child, healthy snacks are also provided.
"Pupils are highly appreciative of the non-material aspects of life [...] Pupils value friendship highly."
ISI Inspection Report 2017