The Music department at Sutton Valence School provides a friendly, but firm, atmosphere for academic learning, performs outstanding music at concerts, while also encouraging pupils at all levels to enjoy music making. Music plays an important and vibrant part in the life of the School, centred on the purpose-built building and the Chapel.


Director of Music, Mr Phil Horley has been in post since 2002. Before then, he was the Assistant Director of Music from 1990, so is now one of the longest serving members of staff. He studied the organ under John Rippin at Chingford Parish Church, before gaining the Organ Scholarship at St John’s College, York, studying under David Lang. After gaining his degree, he won a place at the Royal Northern College of Music to study advanced organ playing, choir training and harpsichord, studying under Ronald Frost and Gordon Stewart. Beyond his involvement with Music, he is a Gold assessor for the Duke of Edinburgh scheme, Master in Charge of the School Shooting Team and builds model railways!

David Holmes was appointed the School’s first Head of Strings in 1999. He began playing the violin at the age of 9 and by 14 he had won an award to study under Carmel Kaine from the Royal Academy. In 1990 he took a place at the Royal Academy of Music to study violin with Nicholas Miller and viola with John White.  Since his appointment to Sutton Valence, he has built up the Strings to a very high level. The Senior Strings now regularly perform such works as Elgar’s Serenade, the Holdberg Suite and other famous works to great acclaim. When he is not working on music, he is often found on the golf course making sure his handicap is in single figures.

Mr Horley and Mr Holmes (who also teaches at the Preparatory School) are supported by a number of talented peripatetic music teachers.

Academic Music

At GCSE the department follows the AQA course. The exam requires pupils to prepare performances, a solo and an ensemble, compose two compositions and study theory of music culminating in a listening paper in June.  Thus, approximately two-thirds of the course is completed as coursework, with just one unit taken in the Summer examination series. The teaching of composition, where individual work is crucial, has a staff-pupil ratio of normally one to five at the most.

In Sixth Form pupils take the AQA A Level course. Students will develop performance skills, compose music and learn about traditional harmony. They will build up their aural and analytical skills by studying a wide range of music. Studying music offers students the unique opportunity to combine creativity with a strong academic focus, which is why music is considered a strong academic A Level at most universities. Students leaving the Music department have gained places at various top universities and conservatoires, including in recent years, the Royal Welsh College of Music and the Guildhall School of Music.

The department has its own computer suite, with machines running the latest Sibelius composition software. Extra help is offered during Sixth Foom free time and at break times whenever possible.

Mr Phil Horley
Director of Music

Sutton Valence School music on YouTube

Contact Us

Sutton Valence School

North Street, Sutton Valence, Kent, ME17 3HL


Tel: 01622 845200


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