Kent touch this: school life at St Faith’s at Ash

Lawrence Groves, Headmaster of St Faith’s at Ash, on the lure of life in the Garden of England

As a headmaster of an independent school in an outpost of Kent, St Faith’s at AshI am becoming increasingly aware of the latest trend for London families to access a more rural and family oriented lifestyle away from the hustle and bustle of city life. A recent comment from one of my parents, who commutes to and from London, asked me in the playground, “Why don’t more people recognise the benefits of moving out here?” This prompted me to write and extol the virtues of an education in Kent.

With highly regarded Kent Grammar and independent schools leading the way with excellent results in GCSEs and A levels, independent primary and prep schools are in high demand to help prepare children for entry to these much sought-after schools. With school fees a fraction of what the big London independent schools charge, price conscious parents are making their way East and getting very good value for money.

Several of my parents have actually upsized their properties by selling their London accommodation and relocating to the Kent countryside. Some have swapped two/three bed terraced houses on busy streets with five to six bed detached properties with sea views and completed their sales contracts with money left over to be invested. Sandwich, Deal, Broadstairs and Westgate-on-Sea are much sought-after locations with very good bargains still to be had in Ramsgate, Margate, Dover and Folkestone.

Decent sized gardens allow children to benefit from climbing trees, being able to ride a bike and walk safely to the shops and their school. Many of my parents have a safe and pleasant, stress-free five-minute walk or drive to school, with the most annoying obstacle being a tractor idling to one of the many orchards and vineyards in the area. Again, most of us have a maximum 15-minute drive or walk to the beach and many families unwind at the end of a busy week with a swim on the glorious Kent coastline or a walk along the beach or White Cliffs, with the family dog also enjoying a new-found freedom and healthy lifestyle. In fact, I often have to pinch and remind myself that I live and work in a relaxed environment with its own warm and sun-drenched microclimate which most people would wish to visit for a holiday.

With wellbeing and mental health issues at the forefront of all modern day educationalists, Kent provides that opportunity for quality mindfulness moments, with plenty of sporting and outdoor opportunities for the child that needs and deserves a better emotional and balanced upbringing. Many Independent schools in Kent have small class sizes, fantastic pastoral care and great access to outdoor play areas with beautiful views over the Garden of England. There are opportunities to horseride over the many downs areas and visit France to sample another culture just a stone’s throw away.

From Sandwich or Canterbury, to St Pancras or Charing Cross, it’s just over an hour’s ride through the peaceful countryside on the high speed train; a very therapeutic and often a good start to what is always going to be a challenging day in London. And at the end of the day you can leave the noise and pollution behind, and return to the sea breezes and farm yard smells and, of course, the warm welcome of a very appreciative family who are more happy and relaxed in their beautiful new surroundings. The Kent culture is a pleasure to savour, with the community spirit built in the Second World War to the wonderful gastronomic delights and old town ethos of ‘the family comes first’.

To learn more about life at St Faith’s at Ash, please visit their website

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