Visit to Frewen College, Northiam
Frewen College has quite a history, starting with the impressive Grade II listed building I arrived at on this early, mild and damp January morning. Brickwall House was the family home of the Frewen family for generations and was transferred to the school in an educational trust by Admiral Sir John Frewen GCB in 1972. From its early roots in 1910, it was thus renamed Frewen College, and has specialised since then in Dyslexia and associated Special Educational Needs. This old, much loved building is the administrative hub of the school and it is here that I met the Principal, Mr Nick Goodman, who was to show me around his school and tell me all about its unique approach and ethos.
All staff are experienced and well qualified, and there is a high staff to pupil ratio with typical class sizes of 8, although often less. Teaching firmly follows the best practice guidance of the British Dyslexia Association (BDA) and many and varied strategies are used to allow all children to access learning in their own way. In house therapists offer support in all areas, including counselling and psychotherapy where required, underlining the ‘holistic’ approach to supporting every child, to include their social and emotional well being. Voice recognition and reading softwares are readily available, and time allowances are applied to tests and exams as required. The focus is naturally on literacy and numeracy, but a full range of complementary subjects is taught. Modern languages are not offered as a matter of course, but can be arranged if requested (and appropriate). All students take GCSEs or Level 1 qualifications in Year 11, with some then choosing to stay on for Sixth Form studies – provided in collaboration with Bexhill College. The Prep School, for 7 to 11 year olds, is on an adjacent site close to the main campus and is self sufficient, but has the benefit of access to the facilities and specialist support in the senior school.
My tour of the school took me into several classrooms, where children were very ready to describe their activities to me confidently. All came across as happy and self assured in their environment and the teachers clearly knew their students extremely well – getting the very best out of them. As the morning progressed, classroom time gave way to Assembly and I was invited to sit in as the children gathered in the ‘auditorium’ – a privilege for a visitor and I appreciated seeing the natural interaction of the students amongst themselves and with staff. Following assembly the children queued for their hot, mid morning soup. Food is enjoyed here, and healthy eating encouraged with home cooking paramount and some home grown ingredients on occasions. Boarding is enjoyed by about a third of the community, including overseas students, and can be flexible. Home from home is upstairs in the main house and is cosy and comfortable, with special activities and outings arranged out of school and strong pastoral care – a very warm and caring place. Minibuses take day children on regular routes to and from local towns and villages, morning and evening, according to demand – a service which is much appreciated by parents.
Outdoor education and extra-curricular activities are important here. Many sports are offered in the 60 acres of grounds and a varied programme of activities from cookery to archery is available at the end of the school day, with all staff involved. The Duke of Edinburgh award is also pursued by many. With sports teams competing with main stream schools, students naturally develop in self confidence. Frewen College also fosters relationships with other schools to help identify and manage any children that may need help, and has a programme of annual conferences on all aspects of Dyslexia. In 2018, it received the ‘Best Dyslexia Friendly School’ award from the BDA. With children coming here from far and wide, and the evident impact being achieved across the Dyslexia community as a whole, this is clearly a very special school in every sense.