We’ve been getting to know The New Beacon
Prep School’s new Head, Sarah Brownsdon

Sarah Brownsdon is the newly appointed Head of The New Beacon Prep School, whose alumni stretch from Siegfried Sassoon to England sportsmen Zac Crawley, Sam Billings, and Ben Earl. She knows Sevenoaks well, having grown up in the town and been educated at Walthamstow Hall.

What are you most looking forward to at The New Beacon?
Getting to know everybody, the welcome I have received has been incredible. The New Beacon really does feel like a very special place. I’ve particularly enjoyed my break times with Year 8, we’ve discussed what they have loved about their time here (over KitKats and apple juice!) and also reflected on anything they think could be even better… it has been wonderful to hear how little they would change and to gain an insight into life at The New Beacon from their perspective.

What sets the school apart?
We are proud to be an all-boys prep school because we can tailor our education to get the very best from our pupils. We provide pastoral care that supports each individual whilst teaching the boys how to build positive, healthy relationships with each other and in the wider community. There’s a palpable sense of family and community, where everyone looks out for each other, a sense of brotherhood that runs throughout the school with our Year 8 pupils supporting and mentoring children as they start out in Nursery and Reception. Boys are encouraged to embrace every opportunity that school has to offer and don’t consider anything to be off limits. Being in the Chapel Choir is so popular that the Year 8s don’t want to leave even when their voices break, but they are equally comfortable in rugby boots. Large numbers enjoy chess and gardening clubs, cookery or Judo and the excitement is building for our forthcoming Year 4 production of The Jungle Book. Our Chapel Choir recently sang at Evensong in St Paul’s Cathedral, an incredible experience, and we were fortunate to have Joanna L’Estrange (who was commissioned to write one of the Coronation Anthems) here for our Coronation celebrations. She taught the anthem to our Chapel Choir and then the remainder of the school, which culminated in a wonderful performance. The New Beacon Centre, as well as being a great sports facility, has the Mac Suite, where boys can compose using Garage Band and Sibellius software and record their own podcasts. It also houses video-making and stopstart animation facilities. These are the kind of incredible opportunities we offer here.

What do you see as the main challenges? Perhaps not a challenge but it is our commitment to each boy that he progresses to the school that will best suit him at the end of his time with us, ensuring that he is confident and well-prepared for that transition. The New Beacon is full of wonderful boys, each with his own unique character and personality, it’s what makes it such a brilliant place to be because we celebrate our pupils’ individuality. We are merged with Tonbridge, and for many boys that will be a great fit, but there will be boys who will thrive in other schools – for a variety of different reasons – and we believe in happy, engaged children, not one size fits all.

What do you enjoy most about school life?
I love the variety. On any day I’ll be reading a story in nursery, watching fixtures, discussing lunch menus, meeting staff to look at teaching and learning or attending a play rehearsal. Children are the most inspiring people to work with. Their honesty is humbling and they come at things with fresh eyes which is why the world of education is so rewarding. When you go into teaching, you are working with other people who are motivated by wanting to make the world a better place and help and inspire young people – it doesn’t get much better!
Did you have a favourite subject
during your own school days?
I loved studying languages, English and music. My school had a really supportive music department, who always looked to give us opportunities to perform on a wider stage, which I loved. I was also lucky to have a piano teacher who knew when she needed to be tough on me but would also give me all the praise in the world when it was deserved.

How do you like to unwind outside work? Spending time with my family is so important but I love to bake and cook too – it’s a win-win as you get to enjoy eating what you’ve made! I still really enjoy music, both playing and listening. I also love walking, so it’s a joy to be back in Sevenoaks with all the wonderful places to walk.

Fave podcast or book?
I really enjoy anything uplifting and inspiring, so have been listening to some great podcasts by Pooky Knightsmith, who spoke at our recent mental health conference. I absolutely love reading. Our bookshelves are groaning but I believe you can never have too many words in your house.

Has Sevenoaks changed much since you lived here and do you have a favourite place to visit?
It’s busier but plenty is just the same, like the Vine and the Stag Theatre. My husband is Dulwich born and bred, so he’s stunned by Knole Park, it’s such a beautiful space. And my children are pleased because there’s a Wagamama, Nando’s and Pizza Express! I always thought I’d come home at some point in spite of so many happy years in Dulwich but The New Beacon was the one school I was waiting for.

Find out more about The New Beacon Prep School and all the exciting developments
going on there at newbeacon.org.uk

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