RIC Good Schools Guide Review
Schools can’t pay or lobby to be included in the fiercely independent and widely respected The Good Schools Guide.
Only 1200 of the UK’s 30,000 primary and secondary schools are chosen to be featured in what has become the country’s most talked about parents’ manual where the reviews are famously opinionated, unbiased and no nonsense.
When RIC was featured we were told it was very unusual for a school to have a report with such a degree of glowing quotes and lack of criticism from both parents and pupils.
The College is described as a “place for individuals” where “the campus is as unique as the school” and “the students are a strikingly nice bunch and there’s a lovely air of tolerance and warmth.”
The review quotes one mother saying: "That playground talk, everyone wanting their child to be in the top set, you don’t have that” but makes the point that this lack of “school gate competitiveness” and traditional formality is not at the expense of academic results or artistic high flying: “The top five student destinations in the last eight years are Leeds, Nottingham, Sussex, Cambridge and Imperial. Two RIC students have won places on the prestigious Fine Art degree course at UCL’s The Slade School.”
Describing the no uniform, first name terms environment, the review observes that parents say the teachers are “very passionate about their subjects” and another pupil, comparing the teaching to that at his former grammar school said: “The teaching is of a better quality and the teachers know their subject to a greater depth.”
The review notes “a firm concentration on exam technique, but still the school isn’t seen as an exam factory” and highlighted the “rich cultural programme.” Subjects singled out include “Maths, English Literature and Film Studies (RIC A level results in these subjects have won Good Schools Guide Awards)” and the Creative and Visual Arts provision: “It would be hard to find better provision for an artist.”
“Parents especially appreciate the efforts made to ensure each pupil gains the best possible grade. One said: ‘There are a lot of extra lessons before exams, in the holidays and so on. They will do as much as they can if they think you can improve your grade.’”
“Another praised the fact that they don’t charge for extra tuition in the evenings and holidays, adding: ‘I was concerned about my son’s maths and suggested getting him some tuition. They said it was their responsibility, and I should not be looking for tutors. They did some extra work with him and he got an A, so I was ecstatic.'”
A school for artists
A levels and GCSEs are “offered in fine art, graphics, photography, textiles, ceramics, and 3D. Some students take three of these to A level, which enables them to bypass a foundation year. There is terrific work on display, and facilities include a dark room and ceramics room.”
“The theatre in the grounds is known as the Womble building – underground houses the theatre space, whilst over the top there’s an outdoor seating area which can be used as an open-air auditorium.”
“Those whose strengths lie outside the traditionally alpha areas of academic or sporting have their own kudos. ‘There is a lot more respect for art and creativity,’ said one pupil.”
Student support and discipline
“Parents all speak highly of the pastoral care and the growth in confidence they have witnessed in their children. One has three children at the school and she says: ‘They are all very different but they are spot on at all of their weaknesses and strengths.’”
“They are strict about homework and behaviour, but removing petty rules means the rapport between pupils and teachers is much better. Or, as one pupil put it, ‘The only thing to rebel against here is education itself’.’”
Switching schools for exam success
“Many students transfer here after poor progress at AS or A level and the effect can be dramatic. One pupil told us he was predicted to get Ds and Es at AS; he moved from his grammar to the college in February, and in July he achieved three As at AS and an A at A level. Another student moved after getting a U at AS, and she says, ‘In my first two weeks here I learned more than I had in the whole previous year.’ ”
“Testing means you can’t get delusions, you really know where you are at any point,’ said one pupil. Another, who was told by her grammar school that she needed to ‘lower her sights’ said: ‘The teaching style is completely different, we are tested all the time and my grades have gone up consistently.’”
“Other pupils have come from grammars where they felt under too much pressure, or from large schools where they felt overwhelmed, and all say they are learning better and enjoying school more here. ‘I worried a lot at my old school, here it’s a better environment,’ said one. ‘At my old school if you improved, they didn’t notice,’ said another.”
“The courses students go on to reflect the broad range of abilities and interests catered for: some go on to read law, maths, medicine or classics; others have taken up courses in animal behaviour, film studies, marketing, photography or midwifery.”
The review notes that parents’ money won’t be spent on “the trappings of a public school – no mahogany-rich headmaster’s study, certainly no suave head in a handmade suit.” RIC is judged “a sound investment- 21 per cent of all students got AAB in facilitating subjects last year, and among the retakers, all got into university, and three-quarters won Russell Group places.”
To read the full GSG report on Rochester Independent College visit the website here.