This July 2019 our school of the month is Rochester Independent College. RIC is a UK boarding school that offers a fresh approach to traditional private education. It offers flexible pathways for students who need to move schools at different points. This includes one year GCSE and A level courses, retaking exams, switching for the final year of the sixth form and changing from IB to A levels. There is no uniform, no bells ring and students and staff are on first name terms.
Lagos Mums spoke to the Principal at RIC, Alistair Brownlow, about what makes his school an outstanding and refreshingly distinctive choice.
What is the name of your school, and when was it founded?
Rochester Independent College was founded in 1984. In 2016 it joined the Dukes Education family of schools. Dukes Education operates some of the UK’s leading schools and sixth form colleges. This includes Cardiff Sixth Form College and Fine Arts College, London as well as the market-leading consultancy services Oxbridge Applications and Dukes US Applications. Founded as a specialist Maths and Science A level college, RIC now offers 40 different A level subjects. The subjects include many in the creative arts including Film, Graphic Design, Photography, and Music Technology. The college specializes in intensive one year GCSE and intensive one-year A level courses.
Please give details of your staff/ administration?
At RIC you’ll be taught by specialist teachers who understand that not everyone learns in the same way. Teachers who are committed to devising strategies to help you learn effectively. Our teaching style is positive, enthusiastic and encouraging. Many of the teachers are also textbook authors and A level and GCSE examiners. Students are prepared for their GCSEs and A levels with help from professionals. Our professionals are really in the know about what is required to get the grades needed for top universities.
What is the ratio of kids to teachers?
6:1. The average class size at the college is 8 students. There are never more than 12 students in one class.
What is the age range of your students?
11 to 19. Boarding is only available to students over the age of 15.
What distinguishes your school from others?
The Good Schools Guide said in their review of Rochester Independent College: “It’s a place for individuals. The students are a strikingly nice bunch and there’s a lovely air of tolerance and warmth.” The first thing you’ll notice when you visit RIC is that we occupy a one-of-a-kind urban campus. The historically important site with Georgian buildings linked by award-winning wildlife gardens creates a special and securely safe sense of place to explore and in which to live, study and work.
There is no doubt that students are attracted to independent colleges like RIC by the more grown-up environment and as a stepping stone between school and university. Parents are becoming increasingly focused on outcomes in terms of exam results and university placement with more choosing private colleges focussed on these, even if their own educational background was at a more traditional boarding school. At Rochester, the informal atmosphere is balanced by a highly structured and formal approach to study. Testing is regular and discipline with regard to punctuality, work completion and behaving well is very tight.
What are your School Hours?
Lessons at Rochester are timetabled between 9 am and 6 pm. There is an evening study club in the boarding house where teachers are available to help students with their homework.
What is the curricular or teaching methodology that you adopt?
Students do not sit at rows of individual desks but gather around one table, in the style of a university tutorial. The focus is on academic achievement and university entrance without unnecessary pressure, on examination success in a lively, supportive and informal atmosphere. This approach is demonstrably successful: RIC students are this year holding offers from all of the top G5 universities including Chemistry at Oxford, History, and Politics at Cambridge, International Relations at LSE, Economics at UCL and Physics at Imperial. The College offers a specialist preparation programme for students aiming for medical school.
Are there Extra-curricular activities available?
There is a full range of extra-curricular activities including sport, theatre and cinema trips, music and The Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. There’s also an extremely focused approach to university placement and academic students often prefer an environment where exam preparation is at the forefront, there are fewer distractions and extra-curricular activities are not made compulsory.
What is the admission process? Deadline/ is it rolling?
Admission to Rochester is very flexible and we are often able to help when students need to move school at short notice or in uniquely difficult educational situations. We welcome students who need to retake their GCSEs or A levels to achieve their chosen university pathway. Sometimes students with quite a low level of prior achievement come to us and improve their grades dramatically. We are available to take admissions inquiries during the summer in the busy post exam results period.
How do you assess a student’s progress?
Academic progress and personal welfare are closely monitored. A level students have individually timetabled meetings with their tutor to discuss progress. Our teaching and pastoral staff are pro-active, identifying where students are having difficulties and offering practical help, solutions, and encouragement. Our tutors file regular reports on students and these are emailed to parents giving constant feedback. An end of term report should never contain surprises for either students or their parents. The College operates an ‘open door’ policy and parents feel free to come and see, telephone or email Personal Tutors and the Principal to discuss any issue concerning them.
How can Nigerian parents get their children ready to adjust to life in the UK and away from home?
Rochester Independent College has welcomed many students from Nigeria over the years who after finishing their A levels at the College have proceeded to some of the top UK universities to subjects ranging from Engineering to Law and from English Literature to Fine Art. At RIC 80% of our 340 students are from the UK, 20% are international students from 30 different countries. We encourage families to visit the College and meet us. Where this is not possible we can, of course, meet families through Skype. The College can help parents if necessary with advice about what to bring (warm clothes!), the appointment of guardians and registering with local medical services and churches.
What are the disciplinary methods adopted?
Rochester Independent College is a very ordered community with focused, purposeful students and the need for serious disciplinary sanctions is not great. We are very strict about matters such as curfew in the boarding house (there are resident members of staff in each building) and homework submissions.
Any additional information you would like to share?
All boarding is in single rooms, many of which have en-suite facilities.
How will your school prepare children for learning and operating in the 21st century?
Perhaps a former student sums it up best. Akin Wright, now at Manchester University, pictured above, says: “School for me used to be a mixture of waking up early in the morning and trying to think of an excuse for why I should skip it. It used to be spending 8 hours in a building studying a bunch of things I really didn’t care about, and could not remember by the end of the day, then going home and avoiding as much work as I could. I spent 5 years at a traditional private school that tried too hard to be Eton and never succeeded. Believe me when I say making the switch to RIC genuinely changed my life. If you’re looking for somewhere where they will treat you like you are in university, a place where you can choose your own subjects which aren’t confined to blocks. Where you can create the A level course and experience you want and be surrounded by a positive, hard-working but fun vibe, then go to Rochester Independent College.”
How do we contact you for more information?
Please contact us for further information at [email protected] or visit our website at www.rochester-college.com.ng. We are always able to put prospective parents in touch with current and past parents to talk about their own experiences sending their children to Rochester.