“Lessons take place around circular tables in very small classes which is great for discussion. There are no arguments, we all just get on – there is no chance for distraction.”
connor, year 9, joined ric from the howard school, gillingham
Classes at Rochester are characterised by the enthusiastic engagement of both students and teachers. Our average class size is 8. Students sit around tables, tutorial style, rather than in regimented rows. There is no back of the class in any of our lessons. We can see if children are writing the right things down, notice if they are daydreaming and can ensure everyone is involved in and understands each stage of a lesson. We ensure that no one, regardless of academic ability, is left lost, overlooked or let down. The College’s key objective is to tailor an education around the students who come here and we are able to accelerate the most academically able and support those who need extra encouragement and guidance.
An important characteristic of the Lower School is that more able students are encouraged to move forward and, where appropriate, take GCSE examinations as and when they are ready to do so, rather than being stuck, bored and frustrated in a more regimented system. Achievement and interest are not necessarily age related, and in the Lower School we find that developing high quality and personalised academic routes is the key to motivating individuals to success. Students do not sit back because they are ahead and finished their work, nor do they give up because they are too far behind. Our teachers ensure that students are always working at the edge of their competencies. Less academically able students move at a different pace and benefit from close personal attention. Students are grouped differently in particular subjects in years 7 and 8 to allow this to happen. Year 9 is treated as a GCSE preparation year with some syllabus material from the exam courses being introduced.
The College has superb ICT facilities and, where useful, teachers use the latest technologies in lessons. There is a real emphasis on hands on, experiential, interdisciplinary learning. In Science the students in Year 7 and 8 conducted various surveys in New Road House to discover how the College could save energy and reduce our carbon footprint. Students were vigilant for electrical appliances left on standby, dirty windows that blocked sunlight, and some students even used the high-tech feather-on-a-stick method to discover pesky draughts. The class’s findings were then presented to the Principals to be included in our energy policies and put to practical use. Cross curricular work is widespread. Year 7 students took over the Hall to promote Mission Impizzable, making and marketing their own pizzas in a project that involved Cookery, Business Studies and Graphic Design.
The College gardens won an award from the Kent Wildlife Trust last year and we are involved in a project to create a biodiversity corridor through the Medway Towns. Resourceful students built their own bird and bat boxes for the garden as part of an urban conservation project. Head of Geography Richard Blood said: The students felt strongly that they wanted to work with this and hit on the idea of designing and creating the new nesting boxes. They researched the project thoroughly and used their new-found skills and ingenuity to make the boxes. We’re now hoping that some of the wildlife will like the look of them enough to nest this spring.” The environmental project will go towards the students’ Duke of Edinburgh’s bronze award.
Lower School students completed several exciting projects in History this term; Year 7 have been studying the Norman Invasion. Year 8 have been taking sides in the Civil War and visiting performers re enacted battles on the all weather pitch. Year 9 students have conducted research projects into the assassination of JFK and the true identity of Jack the Ripper. History students went on a range of trips, including a walk to a Rochester museum as part of local history project; a Ripper tour around East London; and the chance to see a wooden motte-and-bailey castle at Mountfitchet. Norma Crowe from the Medway Archives and Local Studies Centre has visited the College and gave a presentation on the resources and collection. She brought various examples of census entries and other historical ephemera for our students to examine. As students progress through the Lower School we ensure that a wide range of periods are studied and that key skills are developed.
“The quality of teaching and assessment is outstanding.”