The subject knowledge of teaching staff recruited by the senior management team is excellent and teachers share the vision that the team has created. All show a strong commitment to the success of the college. The creation of a friendly community which enables students to realise their potential is the focus of all staff.
The strength of any school is the quality of its staff. At RIC there is very little turn over, ensuring consistency. At RIC you'll be taught by specialist teachers, many of whom are also examiners. Some have Master's level qualifications and PhDs or are continuing to work towards them, helping to sustain a lively academic and creative environment. They know that not everyone learns in the same way and are adept at devising strategies to help you learn effectively. Our teaching style is positive, enthusiastic and encouraging.
Many of our teachers are also textbook authors, artists, film makers and musicians. Students are prepared for their GCSEs and A levels with help from professionals who are really in the know about what is required.
Scroll down for just a small selection of the teaching talent or click here for the full staff list. If you'd like to join our team watch out for vacancies here or be brazenly and creatively speculative and send us your CV.
Vice Principal Ian Pay attended Chatham Grammar School for Boys and graduated from Lancaster University with a First Class degree. His Master's degree is in Contemporary British History. He joined RIC in 2010 and teaches Politics and History across the College. Ian helps oversee over 100 UCAS applications each year, including many to Oxford, Cambridge, medicine, dentistry and vet science as well as leading art and film schools.
Ian says: "Sixth form students meet with their designated Personal Tutor every few weeks and this affords a great opportunity to discuss subject choices, progress, academic and career aspirations and any concerns that may have cropped up. As the academic year progresses, attention in these meetings turns to exam preparation and revision strategies."
Fellow Vice Principal Kelly Flatman is a Graphic Designer and says: “My main passion is typography in design and I love to explore ideas for my own work in a variety of media such as textile design and photography as well as traditional and contemporary methods of production. My work encompasses the concept of order and balance, with an emphasis on the aesthetic value of the colour, form and texture of simple everyday objects and structures - a most recent project being based on the shapes and patterns found in road drains and manhole covers in London! I love to cook and bake, have an obsession with Italy and interior design and am forever on the hunt for antique furniture bargains! Though two young and energetic children like to keep me on my toes I continue to be a keen netballer, having previously played at county and UK Premier League level.” Kelly joined RIC in 2001 and as well as continuing to grow the art department has been responsible for imagineering the annual summer arts festival, the successful Pop Idol and Rochester’s Got Talent nights, leading our first student exchange visit to Bangkok, Thailand and maintaining the Visual Arts Blog.
Head of the Lower School is Leighton Bright. Leighton attended Gravesend Grammar and graduated from Reading University in 2000 with a degree in English Literature and Language before working in the financial services sector for 10 years. He went on to train as an English teacher in 2010. Leighton completed his Master's in Education and is also RIC’s Special Educational Needs Coordinator. Leighton says of the Lower School: “We take a holistic approach to the delivery of a diverse curriculum underpinned by a breadth of creative subjects. This promotes emotional intelligence and independent decision making and enables students to become disciplined and confident. Timetabled lessons are complemented by a range of extra curricular activities, specialist theme weeks, trips and events. While academic progress is essential and carefully monitored we work with our students on an individual level providing them with a comfortable, caring and fun environment in which they can thrive.”
Assistant Principal Helen Rose oversees boarding at RIC. Helen graduated from Loughborough University School of Art and Design with a BA Hons in Fine Art Sculpture. She went on to successfully complete a Masters Degree in the same field at the University of Leeds. Having qualified as a Design and Technology teacher in 2004 Helen developed a career that centred on the development of Teaching and Learning practices and has delivered professional development both nationally and internationally. Helen says that ‘the staff here at Rochester are in a privileged position to be able to not teach the class, but the individual. It is this bespoke and personalised learning that forms the foundation of our successes. We know our students well and are able to plan learning experiences that engage, empower and inspire."
Assistant Principal Dr Louise Wheeler oversees RIC's international student community and is joining us in September 2020. Although Louise first graduated from the University of St Andrews with a degree in Environmental Science, her real passion is for learning across languages and cultures. This passion not only led her to gain a Masters in Teaching English as a Foreign Language and a PhD in Multilingualism and Education from the University of Birmingham, but it has driven her international career in education, in teaching, research and leadership in Kazakhstan, China, Sri Lanka and the UK. Louise relishes the opportunity to work within diverse communities of learners and educators. She believes strongly that “it is in the spaces where cultures, languages, disciplines, experiences and identities intersect, that the most exciting things can happen in education and where true innovation and creativity can flourish”. For this reason, Louise has previously worked on a range of educational initiatives including student research, theatre and community building projects and she is extremely excited to be joining the vibrant, diverse and caring community at RIC.
“The average class size is a lipsmackingly small 8 (maximum 12).”
Dr Kamila Pawlikowska teaches English, Sociology and Psychology. She studied Sociology at Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun (Poland) and Comparative Literature at the University of Kent at Canterbury, where she later taught literature, sociology and cultural studies. Her PhD in Comparative Literature was published as Anti-Portraits: Poetics of the Face in English, Polish and Russian Literature. She has recently completed her Postdoctoral Fellowship in Tokyo where she was a British Academy / Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Research Fellow and studied the perceptions of Japan in Europe. Her interests include images of the human body and face in literature and visual arts, cross-national literature, intercultural communication, Japanese culture and language, and global education. This year Kamila was a visiting lecturer for a month at Penn State University in the USA.
Head of Photography Michael Daks joined RIC in 2017 from Paris College of Art (formerly Parsons Paris, the French Annex of Parsons New School.) He was formerly Senior Lecturer in Photography at Southampton Solent University and Visiting Professor at the Istituto Marangoni, Paris. Michael has worked as a fashion and portrait photographer in London, Paris, Milan and NYC, with clients including The New York Times Magazine, Untitled Magazine, Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan. His short film 'The Butterfly Collector' has now been viewed online over 1 million times. Michael's portraits of Dennis Potter and Kenneth Branagh are in the permanent collection of The National Portrait Gallery in London. His fashion work for BLITZ magazine was recently exhibited at the ICA in London, and published in the book 'As Seen in Blitz- Fashioning 80s Style.'
Head of Film and Media Lisa Herron joined RIC in 2001 after teaching at DLD and Hampstead Fine Arts College. She says: "Film Studies at RIC is a Good Schools Guide Award winning subject at both GCSE and A level. Combining academic and practical work including screen writing and film journalism these A levels and GCSEs are an exciting alternative to more traditional subjects. The teaching provided by College tutors is supplemented by visiting speakers and industry practitioners."
Andy Smith, Head of Computer Science and IT, joined RIC having previously taught in one of Kent’s outstanding grammar schools. As well as a first degree in Computer Science, he has a Masters Degree in Internet Technology with distinction. His master's thesis was on web app development. Andy is an enthusiastic advocate for leading and bleeding edge tech that improves the planet. He has friends who build commercial robots such as Earth Rover and has taken students on visits to their HQ. Andy enjoys the ‘archaeology of technology’ and learning about bleeding edge tech. He enthuses his students to understand the historical developments in computing from the Antikythera mechanism to D-Wave quantum computers. One of our fun annual trips is to The National Museum Of Computing where we get to explore milestones in retro tech and discuss the future of computing.
Outside of college, Andy uses technology as a musician and producer and is one half of a Kent based post punk electro dance duo Feral Five. As well as regular appearances on BBC6 Music, he has performed in venues as varied as The National Portrait Gallery in London, England and The Funkhaus in Berlin, Germany. He has been a judge for Music Tech Fest and was a nominee for an award from the Croatian Ministry of Culture and Creative Media for his sound tech idea for Rijeka Airport. He is also a trustee of an education charity in Greenwich, UK.
After studying printed textiles at Middlesex Art College RIC's Francesca Baur worked as a freelance textile designer for some years in London, as well as training to teach textile design. This year she held an exhibition of her unique natural hand-printed textiles at Rochester Art Gallery as the culmination of a year-long project supported by Arts Council England. Whitstable-based Francesca’s trademark, eco-friendly local textiles, employ traditional skills, from growing the flax for linen to seasonal foraging and making natural plant dyes.
Francesca is currently working on a project for the Channel 4 programme Building the Dream designing fabrics for a house being built in Barham, Kent. At RIC Francesca teaches GCSE and A level Textiles and has supported students in applications to top courses including Fashion Design Menswear at Central Saint Martin's and Costume for Theatre and Screen at Wimbledon College of Arts.
Teaching Art at RIC is Gretal Warner whose work was featured in an arts magazine recently, along with a photoshoot in the RIC basement! Her work explores the dichotomy that so many young people find themselves within; a fear of how they look, but in a society that urges them to share their looks to a critical audience. "My work is influenced by what it is like to be a young woman in today's society,” says Gretel. “Instagram is a huge influence as well. My favourite artists are probably really classical, like Lucian Freud and Jenny Saville, but I love street art too, like Voyder. I love his work." Explore Gretal's work here.
When I started my course at Rochester Independent College I was surprised by the size of the class and its friendly atmosphere. I would never have thought that teachers and students could be so relaxed and yet maintain the effectiveness of the class. RIC is a great choice if you want to learn English and go to a prestigious university.
Danny Cheung came to RIC from Hong Kong in 2004 to study English and work as a chef. The College quickly realised that Danny was as adept at algebra as he was at cooking so he attended A level classes while continuing to work in our catering team. Post A levels, RIC awarded Danny a full scholarship to allow him to stay in the UK and study at university. After graduating from City University, London with a first-class degree in Mechanical Engineering Danny then rejoined the College, working in the classrooms rather the kitchens.
Danny says: “I teach at RIC as I remember being taught, sometimes in exactly the same rooms! Maths here is not reading out from power point presentations or following text book chapters in a linear way. Demonstration questions are usually made up on the spot by teachers and we talk through the steps as we write the solutions, asking students to check answers or spot mistakes. This trains them to spot silly errors and how to check their own answers in exam conditions. Maths at RIC challenged me to think rigorously. We have very small classes and students can access individual help easily. With Further Maths particularly, students have to do a lot of exam paper and problem-solving practice.”
The newest member of the Maths teaching team is jazz pianist and Oxford University Maths graduate Rob Dimbleby. Rob joined RIC straight after graduating in 2018. As well as working as a solo artist Robert is an active keyboardist, performing regularly at gigs across the country. Recent gigs include Ronnie Scott’s and SoFar sounds with 7piece neo-soul group Pangolin and a European tour with NME top 100 band Patawawa.
Rob says: “The main reason Further Maths is useful for maths at university is because it really requires the students to thoroughly understand the theories and concepts at a very fundamental level as the exam questions delve deeply into specific concepts. One way that I help the students to achieve this level of understanding is by always offering rigorous proofs of the theories that they will be using in the course, even if the proofs are beyond the syllabus, and guiding them through this process of proving things so that they get used to the logical thinking required for this kind of rigorous approach. University level maths very much takes this approach of proving everything step by step, making no unnecessary assumptions, so I think it is useful for the higher level students to get used to this way of thinking.
Rob is a contributor to RIC's Philotimaths youtube channel, devoted to fighting mathematical problems one step at a time.
Teaching Chemistry at RIC is Dr Sophie Hilton whose medical research was based around the design of enzyme inhibitors. Sophie says: "Working at RIC is like a breath of fresh air, the small classes and the fact that the students are very well behaved and want to succeed means I can convey my enthusiasm for Chemistry and turn my attention to every student. Chemistry is a hard subject but it is so interesting and it offers openings to great careers. I really hope that at the end of the course, the students studying Chemistry at RIC will feel the same way as I do about the subject."
Imperial College graduate Paul Dutton has been Head of Physics since 2003. The department is hoping to repeat the successful trip to Tenerife where the A level Astrophysics module was taught to a group of sixth formers from Rochester, using the resources of the famous observatory there. This year a group of A level students visited The Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxford to take part in a Particle Physics masterclass. We are also planning a trip to CERN in Switzerland for A level Physicists.
Paul says: "The College attracts very high quality science students from both the UK and overseas who complete A levels, often in a year from scratch, and proceed to university."
Teaching Biology teacher at RIC is Dr Jon Sullivan who says: "Small-group teaching, lots of hands-on practicals, time for discussion around the syllabus topics and six hours of teaching every week by specialist teachers (eight hours for a one-year course). That's science A Levels at RIC. We don't just teach you the syllabus requirements, we encourage you to explore the subject, both in lessons and by pointing you towards resources which will widen your knowledge and excite your interest. With six hours per subject per week in teaching groups of six to eight students, we have plenty of time to complete the theory and required practicals, plus extra practical experience in the lab and on the field course, as well as ensuring your exam technique is really up to scratch to help you achieve the best grade you can."
Many former RIC students are now practising doctors, dentists, vets and pharmacists. Building on this success, we are delighted to be joined in September by a new member of staff Dr Yang Ooi. Dr Ooi is a part time appointment as he continues to practice medicine as a London based GP as well as teaching undergraduate medical students at KCL. Dr Ooi will be teaching A level Biology at RIC and assisting aspiring Rochester medics with their university applications. Dr Ooi has previously worked at leading schools such as Magdalen College School, Oxford and Winchester and says: "I encourage students to think critically, guiding them to become self-sufficient and questioning scientists. I do move outside the syllabus when appropriate but am ever mindful of the need for my students to achieve the best possible grades, many of whom having done so over the years. I am very keen for them to perform laboratory work and to understand how this is the foundation of scientific research as published in the literature." Dr Ooi introduced himself to Rochester students at the end of term by hosting a virtual university lecture on our RIC Without Walls online platform. His lecture, ‘Faints, Fits and Funny Turns’ explored the causes of blackouts and dizziness, how to diagnose and treat them. The lecture included role play by second year medical students currently at King's College London Medical School.
Leading Science teaching in the Lower School is Ben Garton. Ben went to school locally at Maidstone Grammar School before studying Biochemistry at Sheffield and is a graduate of the prestigious fast track Teach First Leadership programme. As well as teaching in a range of local state schools Ben has been involved with various international projects including a community aid trip to house build in South Africa and teaching English at a Hungarian summer camp.
Ben has been involved in British Science Week events in the RIC Lower School that have seen a CSI style investigation on Star Hill and a space race. Students visited The Young Persons Medical Conference organized by our colleagues at Dukes Education last year and Science Live, a chance to see and hear five of Britain’s top scientists, including Prof Robert Winston and Prof Steve Jones working at the cutting edge of their specialisms. Working with Ben is Physics teacher Victoria Ng who has a first class degree in Astrophysics from Nottingham University. She took students to the Royal Observatory Greenwich last year and has launched GCSE Astronomy as an extra Science option.
Dr Rachel Woolley is a Senior tutor and UCAS Advisor in the sixth form. Rachel's PhD was in the work of Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein. She is Principal A level English Literature examiner for one of the main exam boards and sets A level question papers. Rachel says: "Every year I will probably mark, monitor or review the marking of over 800 students. Marking for 18 years has dramatically enhanced my understanding of what students need to learn and enables me and my colleagues in the department assist students to hone their skills for literary study. It instills a sense of confidence that the work is on course for success. Teachers who mark are in a better position to diagnose 'problem areas'. It helps me keep in mind a maximum marks answer so that I can better support the students and keep motivating them to improve." Rachel has taught at RIC since 1999. The department has won a Good Schools Guide award for its A level English Literature teaching.
Lower School English is led by KCL graduate Gemma Sanchez who has taught at RIC since 2006. Gemma says: “Texts studied include a Shakespeare play in each year, Charles Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol', HG Wells' 'The Island of Doctor Moreau' George Bernard Shaw's 'Pygmalion', George Orwell's 'Animal Farm' and RC Sherriff's 'Journey's End' as well as recent fiction such as David Almond's 'Skellig', Benjamin Zephaniah's 'Refugee Boy' and Morris Gleitzman's 'Two Weeks with the Queen'. We intend that students will finish their KS3 study keen, informed and well prepared to embark upon the demands of the GCSE courses.” Last year’s Year 11 students had the opportunity to see Emma Rice’s controversial reimagining of their set text ‘Romeo and Juliet’ at Shakespeare’s Globe the week before their GCSE examination.
George Washbourn is an English Literature teacher and a graduate of UCL at both bachelor's and master's degree level. He pursued a degree in Arts & Sciences at undergraduate level, being awarded the unique degree classification of BASc, majoring in Literature and Languages and minoring in Biological Anthropology. Upon graduation in 2016, he worked as a writer and journalist for a range of publications including The Guardian, The Times Literary Supplement, and The Huffington Post, specialising in Film, Literature, and Theatre. In 2017/18, he trained as an English teacher where he was graded 'Outstanding' and took employment at Dartford Grammar School. Having worked there for two years full time he then switched to part-time work to pursue a master's in English (Issues in Modern Culture), graduating from UCL in 2020. Whilst his core teaching interest lies within the field of literary studies, he is a keen interdisciplinarian. He considers the principal strength of literary study to be its provision of a forum of discussion for other areas of related study, be it language, culture, history, philosophy or further afield. His intrigue and background in interdiscipinary study is something he seeks to instill into his teaching practice. Alongside his teaching, he volunteers at the Refugee Council as an Integration Advisor, providing guidance and support to refugees as they begin their new lives in Britain, often working with Francophones due to his fluent French. He is a passionate linguist beyond French, having studied Spanish, Italian, and Russian, and is currently undertaking a course in Mandarin in order to prospectively teach it. He is also a keen musician and regularly writes, records, and performs his own music.
Classics tutor Dr Alistair Donaldson says: "My PhD is in Classical and Archaeological Studies. I have several years experience teaching and tutoring GCSE and A Level students, in addition to lecturing at the University of Kent. When teaching my students I try to encourage their interest in the debt we owe to ancient cultures ("What have the Romans ever done for us!?"), by arranging trips to museums, heritage sites and performances of ancient plays." Last year he took his students to see a 21st-century take on Homer's The Odyssey: Missing Presumed Dead at the Globe. Alistair has recently started Latin club in the College's Lower School.
Rowena Francis graduated from the University of Oxford with a degree in German & Philosophy. She then trained as a teacher of modern languages (German & French). Rowena has worked as a teacher in a top grammar school and as a manager at an education centre. She has done volunteer work teaching children in Cambodia and leading church youth work. She is delighted to now work at RIC as Boarding Assistant and Academic Coordinator; a hybrid role which perfectly balances the academic and pastoral support of young people, both of which she feels strongly about. Rowena says, “It is wonderful to be able to champion and challenge individuals to be the very best version of themselves at school and beyond.” Rowena loves pursuing goals and making the most of opportunities for fun! She enjoys musical theatre, is able to quote excessively from ‘Hamilton’ and in 2019 performed in an amateur production of ‘Half a Sixpence’. She is also a keen runner and has a growing collection of race medals, including London and Dresden Marathons.
York graduate Richard Blood joined RIC in 2001 to teach Geography. Geography is one of the strongest departments at RIC both in terms of academic and extra curricular provision. The department holds a Secondary Geography Quality Mark from The Geographical Association. Richard has a keen interest in World Development Studies and has worked on a voluntary basis for the British Trust of Conservation Volunteers and Oxfam. Richard is also responsible for coordinating RIC's environmental projects and Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme which we offer to all students from Year 9 upwards. Aspects of the DofE scheme run throughout the curriculum involving everything from first aid to film making as well as popular expeditions. As well as Geography the department offers A level Global Perspectives. This subject takes an interdisciplinary approach to issues related to social and economic development in a globalised world, covering topics such as climate change, aid and debt, migration, gender relations and political development.
Also teaching Geography is Assistant Head of Lower School Chris Barradell. Chris joined Rochester Independent College in 2014 having spent 12 years teaching in mainstream state schools across Kent. Chris made the transition to the independent education sector at the end of 2014 and immediately felt at home at RIC. Speaking of his early days at the college Chris recalls “I was immediately struck by the holistic, student-centred ethos of Rochester Independent College and the positive impacts this has on students learning. RIC students enjoy their learning and strive to achieve to the very best of their ability thanks, in large part, to the college’s refreshingly informal and supportive approach to education. While student achievement and progress is important, there is an equal emphasis placed upon their personal development as individuals and staff strive to empower all students to achieve to their full potential and aspire to be the very best that they can be.”
Head of Economics, Michael Rowlands, joined Rochester Independent College in 2018 after several successful years as Head of Economics at a very prestigious Kent grammar school. At the start of his career Michael won the Economics, Business and Enterprise Association's (EBEA) trainee teacher of the year award. Judges were impressed with his confidence, humour and "superb" subject knowledge. Michael is an economics specialist having graduated from Aberystwyth University with a first class honours degree in economics, and then spending several years as a retail economist for Tesco in their UK headquarters. In addition to his departmental duties, Michael is currently working on a joint project with the University of Bristol. The project is developing new A level and Undergraduate economic teaching resources focusing on the economics of climate change. Michael is also a senior examiner for the exam board Eduqas. This means he is fully up to date with the demands of the A level course. Michael’s current areas of interest are environmental economics and economic educational practices.
Neal Layton who teaches Business Studies and is Head of Careers brought his daughter for an RIC taster day in 2015 and remembers saying to her then "if there was anywhere I was going to teach it would be here". Not only did his daughter end up attending RIC but she was quickly followed by his two nieces and his son along with various other friends of the family. Neal says: "I knew on that first day that RIC was different and yet somewhere that you could really belong." Having spent over 35 years in senior level industry positions Neal eventually came to RIC to teach in September 2019 seeing it as a time of giving back and preparing the next generation for the business world. "I always thought it a shame how little people understood about work and business in general in my years working in industry. Work is so much more than "earning money," it's about understanding how the world goes around and can be a very fulfilling part of your life. My aim in the business department is to highlight what "real-world" businesses are like and how the good ones are so much better than the average ones. After all it is these ones our students should be aiming to work for in the future." In his first year here Neal led the process of the College applying for the ISO 14001 Environmental Award. He has previously completed three ultra-marathons (100km) with a personal best of 13H:59M:59S on the London to Brighton ultra.
The arts are central to the Lower School and students from Year 7 up have the opportunity to explore fashion and textiles, digital multimedia arts and photography as well as ceramics, fine art and design. Joining Lower School art teacher Carmel Park is former RIC student Joe Becci. Joe was in fact one of the College’s first Lower School students, taking GCSEs and A levels before studying at the University of the Arts. Joe is an illustrator and concept artist with an undying love for drawing fantastical characters, weird creatures and the worlds they inhabit! His website can be seen here.
Leading Drama and Theatre Studies in our dedicated underground theatre space at the College is Assistant Head of Lower School and Diversity Coordinator. Deborah Postgate. Deborah studied at UKC and Aberdeen before joining RIC. As well as GCSE and A level students also have the opportunity to take LAMDA grade exams in Speech and Drama. These qualifications also carry UCAS points for university entrance. Underhill Hall, in the grounds is also known as the Womble building. The theatre space is underground, whilst over the top, there's an outdoor seating area used as an open-air auditorium. The College hosts regular performances and workshops from the European Arts Theatre Company.
Film and Media teacher Nicki Komorowski has taught at RIC since 2008. Outside of College, Nikki is a photographer and has been involved in making promotional films for local schools and authoring educational resources and courses including an education pack for Shorne Woods and 'Streetwise' - an educational resource for the 'Clean Kent Campaign.'
Nicki says of her work as a Film Studies examiner: "It helps me to teach the students how to think like an examiner in order to review their own essay writing skills and explain what the enigmatic mark scheme actually means to students and teach them how to think like an examiner in order to review their own essay writing skills."
In 2019 Nicki introduced A level Digital Media and Design to the College.
Mark Young joined RIC in 2018 and currently teaches A-Level Digital Media, GCSE Film Studies and Lower School Film & Media. He is also our online safety guru being a CEOP Ambassador and also running the Digital Leaders Programme. Mark graduated with a BA Hons in Film Studies from Derby and went on to gain a PGCE from the UCL Institute of Education. Outside of teaching, Mark is an experienced independent filmmaker. His first feature film, East 3, a documentary exploring life in the arctic, was broadcast on UK television in 2010 and 2011 and debuted at a film festival in New York. East 3 was filmed in the remote Arctic town of Inuvik. He has also produced many short films and music videos, some of which were broadcast on UK television and screened at over 30 film festivals worldwide. He is currently in production with his second feature film, an experimental documentary called Trip - an ambitious audio-visual poetical soundscape. Mark also creates poetry and soundtracks under the name of 7th Adventure Recordings, releasing a poetry collection called Secret and Gold. Mark has also created video content for a wide range of companies and charities. When not teaching or creating Mark is a football fan supporting both Norwich City and non-league side Lordswood FC. He currently sits on the board as Community Officer at Lordswood FC. Find out more about Mark’s film projects here www.mryoungfilmmaker.com.