Visit to Eastbourne College, Eastbourne

Set just back from the seafront, Eastbourne College with its playing field before it, is an iconic sight in the cultural centre of Eastbourne.  The area hosts the Towner Art Gallery, no less than 4 vibrant theatres, a new shopping centre and the internationally recognised Devonshire Park Tennis Centre.  There is also easy access to the Downs, The Royal Eastbourne Golf Club and of course miles of beautiful beach.  In short, a socially rich, safe and healthy environment for inspiring young students.  I was also aware on planning my visit here that major developments had taken place at the school recently, so I was looking forward to seeing it all for myself.

My first introduction to the school involved touring a couple of boys’ and girls’ day houses.  Here at Eastbourne, day and boarding pupils are fully integrated as one community (about 50:50 ratio) and all enjoy the same school day with everything that is offered.  The only difference for the day pupils is no overnight accommodation – they still have studies, common rooms, kitchens for snacks and the full pastoral and tutorial support they need in house.   A definite homeliness prevails.  There is also an extremely comprehensive minibus service taking children to and from home which makes all this possible for many families – and a new initiative to add flexibility is the introduction of bookable overnight stays in Arnold Lodge as and when required, which has proved very popular.  From September 2019, the College is extending its flexible provision with a timetable change that aims to transform the educational experience for families while continuing to raise the academic profile of the school; watch this space.

On returning to the admin offices, I was invited to have a chat with the Headmaster, Tom Lawson, who was keen to share his take on the fulsome education Eastbourne College has to offer, together with the cultural advantages offered by being so close to the town centre, and the benefits to the physical and mental wellbeing of his students derived from the coastal and countryside surroundings.  His aim is clearly to give every child in his care a healthy and well balanced education fitting each individual with a blueprint for the future.

My visit continued with a tour of the school, with Eloise Cheary the Registrar.  We enjoyed a companionable conversation going along, as I heard all about what the school has to offer and the greater benefits of being in Eastbourne.  Project 150 – developments celebrating 150 years – has culminated in the addition of the Winn and Nugee buildings at the centre of the school.  The modern look has been beautifully integrated with the traditional, and these new facilities are extremely impressive offering state of the art classrooms, a dining hall and cafe, conference and function suites, and comprehensive indoor sports facilities.   There is a huge extra-curricular offering at Eastbourne College – some would say the real ‘added value’ of an education here.  Dance in the new dedicated studio attracts many and can be studied to A level, and the ‘singer/songwriter’ club has become enormously popular with the addition of a recording studio already in high demand.  Performing Arts are very strong here and participation is wide, bringing all youngsters of differing interests together – quite an inspiration to the most junior.  The Birley Centre is the school’s venue for performances, concerts and exhibitions – with public access for the local community to enjoy its programme. Sport is also strong, with some assisted places available for the most talented.  Of particular note are cricket, hockey, rugby and tennis, which are core sports on the curriculum, with elite programmes available all year round.  Far from being elitist, 97% of pupils access competitive sport across the 20 or so on offer. The support network for sport is impressive, with the core sports supported by internationally recognised coaches and a strength and conditioning expert who is on-site during the week to oversee all training in the new fitness suite. Pupils also enjoy one of the largest Combined Cadet Force (CCF) and Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) contingents in the country. The school is also committed to helping the local community with their timetabled Service at School (S@S) programme and their award-winning Eastbourne Schools Partnership (ESP), which they founded, along with 12 other schools, to enhance the educational opportunities of around 14,000 local pupils in the Eastbourne area.

Selection for places is now increasingly made at an earlier stage based on references from junior school, with emphasis on ensuring  that a child will thrive here.  Choices at GCSE and A level have something for all, including French/Spanish/German, DT and Textiles, and Classical Civilisation and Greek (as well as Latin) at GCSE, and then also Business, Drama and Theatre Studies, Dance, Music Technology and DT Product Design at A level – as well as all the usual subjects.  Academic results through the school are good at both GCSE and A level, and there is excellent advice available on future careers and university choices.

Eastbourne College is full of self assured and confident young people who enjoy a happy and fulfilling life here.  Mature relationships are evident between students and staff alike, standing them in good stead for their future lives – along with the wide ranging, healthy and grounded education that they will take with them.

May 2019