Solefield Review

We are delighted to share Muddy Stilettos review of Solefield, following their recent visit. It can also be viewed on the Muddy Stilettos website here.


Small but perfectly formed, this non-selective pre- and prep school in well-heeled Sevenoaks puts pastoral care, happiness and academic success at the top of the agenda.


Solefield School, in the heart of Sevenoaks, is a non-selective prep school for children aged 3-13. After 75 years as a boys’ only school, Solefield School welcomed girls in January 2024. The decision follows the successful establishment of Solefield’s co-ed pre-school, mixed in-house holiday camps and requests from local parents.

The site sits just opposite Sevenoaks School, tucked away down Fiennes Way. With 150 pupils and 1.1 acres it’s a compact school with a family atmosphere. It boasts an excellent academic reputation, while being the perfect place for gentle, happy kids, who genuinely ‘value others’ (one of the school’s three values). So what did we find?


You enter the school through the main building, originally a rather grand family house, where the entrance hall (the ‘Old Library’) comes complete with wood-panelled walls that bear the name and destination of every Solefield Leaver.

Solefield is inventive with its space. Not dissimilar to a London Day Prep, the playing fields are a short walk from the main school site and the school makes full use of excellent local facilities.

The space is used in a creative way and includes a science lab, arts studio, music school with keyboard room, Lego hub, pupil gym and large hall used for performances, gymnastics, cricket net practise, and whole school assemblies. 

They have a dedicated Little Acorns Pre-School for children aged 3-4 who actively explore and learn in a child-centred, engaging way. The Little Acorns take full advantage of the facilities and specialist teachers to develop their learning in Phonics, Numeracy, French, Music, Computing and PE, whilst having lots of fun both inside and outside. 

Throughout the school there is an active and fun approach to learning, with Movement Breaks between lessons. There is a noticeably higher proportion of male staff than in most primary schools.

Every opportunity is taken to keep the children here active and encourage outdoor learning. Solefield pupils enjoy weekly Outdoor Adventure lessons using the school grounds, local woods and parks, in order to foster imagination, creativity and teamwork, to tie in with the ‘value our world’ part of the school ethos.


The school has a strong sporting calling card for its size – using all the facilities on its doorstep in Sevenoaks, with expert coaches in specialist sports. Tennis and swimming lessons are just a short drive away.

For Cross Country, pupils are accompanied to nearby Knole Park, sports fields are a short walk (or a short minibus ride for little legs) and Sports Day takes place at Sevenoaks School, literally just over the road.

The Pre-Prep swim at a nearby school with a specialist swim coach to become water confident. There is also an early morning swim squad for older children.

The school itself accommodates over 40 clubs, with everything from Fencing to Performance Group, Dance to Lego, on offer. Plus Judo, Chess, Outdoor Learning, STEM, and Swimming are on the curriculum and included as part of the weekly timetable.

The School recognises the profound impact of chess on intellectual development, fostering a robust programme that extends well beyond the board.

Immersed in the curriculum, students in Years 3 and 4 eagerly explore the strategic nuances of chess for an hour each week, allowing them to grasp the intricacies of opening strategies, tactical manoeuvres, and the art of puzzle solving. Their commitment culminates with the pursuit of the esteemed English Chess Federation (ECF) bronze award, a testament to their growing proficiency in the game.

Many of the students’ progress to Solefield’s “Advanced Chess,” Club where they receive guidance from a distinguished “Grand Master” who brings a wealth of expertise and experience.

Students actively participate in local tournaments and represent the school at prestigious national events such as the IAPS and Delancey Chess Tournaments.


Art is taught by subject specialists throughout the school from Little Acorns to Year 8. The purpose-built Art Room offers a wide range of activities, including painting, sculpture, printing and ceramics with the school’s own pottery wheels and kiln.

Self-expression and creativity appear to be well-valued skills here – and we enjoyed over-hearing some older pupils compliment one another on their work. A highlight of the year is the whole school Art Exhibition, where every child in the school displays some of their work to be admired.

Just off the main Art Room sits a Lego Hub, a specially dedicated space for building and crafting those lovely little bricks – the kind of den that anyone of a certain age would dream of. And great for developing those dexterity and spatial awareness skills… STEM is now an integral part of the curriculum for all year groups. Biology, Chemistry and Physics are taught in a very hands on way, with expert staff and a dedicated science lab.


Both boys and girls are encouraged to foster a love of music and drama and are encouraged with great gusto to give everything a go. The school has specialist LAMDA lessons (London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art), with 100% of the pupils achieving a Distinction pass rate over the last 2 years. 

Each year group embarks on a musical journey, learning a variety of instruments as they progress through the school – recorder, violin, melodica, ukulele and keyboard – meaning that they get to experience music they might not have tried otherwise. 

The innovative teaching methodologies integrate elements of the Suzuki method for early years recorder instruction, while singing is taught using the Kodály method’s Curwen hand signs, emphasising kinaesthetic learning for a deeper musical understanding.

Every year, Year 6 pupils put on a dedicated full-scale music and drama production with some of the previous successful plays being Wind in the Willows, Seussical the Musical and The Lion King.

At Solefield, every pupil takes part in choirs, performances, recitals, plays, teams, matches and scholarship pathways – in a very genuine way they try and ensure every child is a star and no one is ever overlooked.


While this is an academically successful school, Head, Helen McClure’s welcome address on the website states the school’s intention first and foremost. ‘Life here is about much more than achieving excellent 11+, ISEB and Common Entrance results as we focus unapologetically on wellbeing and the whole child.’

Having said all that, the exam results for pupils leaving Solefield are outstanding. The school is celebrating record 11+ results, with over 95% gaining places at top grammar schools. Many pupils also secure places at 11 and 13, often with scholarships, to some of the most prestigious independent senior schools in the country (including Sevenoaks, Tonbridge, Caterham and Epsom College).

Class sizes sit around 16 max – every child knows not just everyone in their year, but in every other year too. This approach combined with the small close-knit nature of the school, means that quieter or more sensitive individuals will stand a better chance to flourish plus find their feet academically.

It’s one-form entry for Reception, Year 1 and Year 2, then year groups are split as necessary from Year 3 and above. As the top end of the school has grown, rather than increase class sizes (which hover around 16 max) they split year groups accordingly into classes of 12 from Year 4 as necessary.

One unique feature is that every Year 7 and Year 8 pupil takes the scholarship pathway – in a chosen speciality every Tuesday – whether it’s in Art, Academics, Music, Drama, STEM or Sport. There’s no need to be in the scholarship stream – allowing everyone the opportunity to excel.

English and Maths lessons are always time-tabled for the morning, while pupils are still fresh. There’s lots of focus here on developing enquiring minds. I was particularly impressed with Emma Snow, the Head of English, who is hugely passionate about her subject and uses lots of innovations and techniques to really bring the subject to life.

Emma Snow showed me Book Creator – an online publishing tool – that she uses for the children’s creative pieces. This allows them to see how good their stories look as a virtual book.

Year 6, has sent a total of 41 mini saga to Young Writers, representing one for each and every pupil in the year group, with all 41 chosen by Young Writers to be published. Three senior pupils have won national competitions for creative writing from 1000s of entries and won first prize as a school in the Young Writers’ competition. Four pupils have also made it through to the next round of the coveted BBC 500 words national competition. 

Emma also runs the popular Debating Club and doesn’t shy away from every thought-provoking subject you can imagine – from ‘Are Wars fought for the Right Reasons’ to ‘Is Father Christmas a bad role model?’.


Each pupil’s progress is discreetly tracked all the way through and the school works closely with parents to keep them in the loop. They very much encourage parents to keep an open mind about the next stage for pupils when leaving the prep school, rather than come with any pre-conceived ideas about which school they’d like their children to go to!

Good to hear that in Year 7 and 8 pupils now work towards their Solefield Diploma, based on the Prep School Baccalaureate, alongside their Common Entrance exams, which is the kind of forward-thinking scheme becoming increasingly popular at prep schools these days.


From the moment you read Helen McClure’s welcome note on the school’s website you get what this school is about. ‘Our aim at Solefield is to nurture kind, honest, gentle young adults with excellent manners, a strong sense of integrity, emotional literacy and resilience.’

As the first female head in 70 years – Helen became Head in 2020, having previously been the Deputy Head. Her unashamed aim is to nurture emotionally intelligent, polite young people that would suit the modern world. An exciting curriculum, wellbeing lessons and fully trained therapy dogs help her to achieve these aims.

Helen is very approachable and knows every pupil and parent. This was clear from her interaction and chats with many pupils during my visit.


The school’s reading initiative encourages children to read with their class teachers at the start of every school day. This allows pupils to disengage from the real world and rest their cognitive capabilities to be able to get back to peak functionality. They get used to this stillness and relaxation and the hope is it creates a habit that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.

Solefield is one of the few schools in the country to hold the Wellbeing Award for Schools, an accolade only given after the school has fulfilled strict criteria to prove the strong pastoral systems in place.

Solefield is a ‘Problem-Solving School’ in Mathematics, awarded by the University of Cambridge’s ‘NRICH’ programme, highlighting the schools’ commitment to nurturing confident mathematical problem-solvers. 

Solefield is now working towards a Gold Pupil Resilience Award. Through this national award, the school is focusing on developing pupil resilience, self-esteem, a growth mindset and respect for others, highlighting the third school value, ‘value yourself’. Emotional literacy is actively taught throughout the school via bespoke wellbeing lessons and many other activities.  

Mr Henry’s Push Up Challenge has inspired pupils, staff and parents to improve their strength, whilst encouraging determination and a positive attitude. Importantly, pupils have been taking small steps each day to gradually increase the total amount of push ups they can do. Tally charts of completed push ups are proving to be very popular in form rooms and totals are rising every day. 


From the schools’ founding days in 1948 when Mr Edwards (the first Headmaster) lived in the top room of the school, cooked for the pupils and taught them in lessons, the school has retained its family feel.

They have used their very popular STEM lessons to work together as a whole school to create a huge Spitfire from newspaper that hangs proudly in the Atrium, in honour of longstanding Head who was a spitfire pilot.

As in any successful family set-up, children here have a chance for their voice to be heard – they get asked regularly for feedback and it gets acted upon. Pupil-led committees, such as Food, Diversity and Reading contribute enormously to the running of the school. Their achievements include helping to design the new playground, (with the astro they requested) designing the recycling bins, opening a pupil gym, Storytime and Kindness Awards and running stalls at school fairs. Parent voice is also highly valued through termly surveys and family tour days.

Older pupils are used unashamedly as role models and mentors for the younger pupils, which brings out the best in all concerned. Year 8 undertake basic training to help the younger ones with any daily concerns or stresses they might have. There’s a calm, gentle family feel about the school – you sense it is genuinely cool to be kind here.


Solefield believes in working with parents with daily breakfast club and after school care, bookable with only 24 hours’ notice and available until 6.30pm. There are also hugely successful Holiday Camps (Solefield Fun Zone) run entirely by Solefield staff and available throughout most of the school holidays. These are open to children in the wider Solefield community and offer everything from chess to drama and basketball to computing.


Pupils are welcomed to school each morning by Mr Smeeth, the school caretaker on road crossing duty, plus Head, Helen McClure and members of the Leadership Team, who see the children safely into school and speak to parents on a daily basis.

There is a Solefield bus service driven by staff which operates return journeys from Tesco Riverhead, via Sevenoaks Station, directly to Solefield.


Quite competitive for a Sevenoaks prep.


The whole community knows each other by name and there is truly an open-door policy where parents are invited to work in partnership with the staff, with happy pupils at the heart of all they do. The school’s family feel gets mentioned a lot by parents.


Good for: Full of well-rounded, kind, emotionally literate children who give everything a go and who achieve extremely well academically – but not a shouty school and not a hot house. First-class teaching throughout and high standards of behaviour and effort expected. Pupils’ happiness is at the heart of everything they do and gentle individuals are likely to do just as well as more confident ones.

Not for: No rolling fields on site – but sport is a priority – with great success in many, and national recognition in several. They punch well above their weight and make the most of the facilities and beautiful spaces on their doorstep.

See for yourself: Book early for one of their Saturday Open Mornings as they fill up quickly or book a Private Tour, where you will have the opportunity to meet the Headmistress, teachers and pupils.

Solefield School, Solefields Rd, Sevenoaks TN13 1PH, Tel: 01732 452142,

Credit: Review by Muddy Stilettos, following their visit to Solefield School, which is also available on the Muddy Stilettos website here.