Rochester Independent College

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Rochester Independent College
Rochester Independent College, High St, Rochester - - 1147999.jpg
Established 1984
Headteacher Alistair Brownlow
Location Star Hill
51°23′02″N 0°30′31″E / 51.384°N 0.5087°E / 51.384; 0.5087Coordinates: 51°23′02″N 0°30′31″E / 51.384°N 0.5087°E / 51.384; 0.5087
Staff 100
Students 300
Gender Co Educational
Ages 11–19
Website Rochester Independent College

Rochester Independent College (RIC) is a co-educational, independent day and boarding school in Rochester, Medway, United Kingdom. It was established in 1984. It has particular academic strengths in Science and Mathematics and the Creative and Visual Arts including Film, Photography and Media. It also offers retake and intensive short courses at GCSE and A level.

Accepting day students from the age of 11 and boarders from 14 students are taught in very small groups, averaging 8 in a class. There is no uniform and students and teachers are on first name terms.

An article in The Independent Newspaper said: “The teaching at Rochester is rigorous and tailored to the best possible exam results. It offers a broad education combining its original focus on getting students into competitive courses such as medicine and dentistry with a new emphasis on the creative arts.”[1]

Reviewing the College in 2014, The Good Schools Guide said: “It’s a place for individuals, and there’s a lovely air of tolerance and warmth between the pupils. It would be hard to find a better provision for an artist. Parents love the lack of school gate competitiveness. It’s a sound investment. There is a firm concentration on exam technique, but still, the school isn’t seen as an exam factory” and “There’s no uniform or dress code, and the teachers are just as likely as pupils to be wearing a hoody.”[2]

An Adam Smith Institute report said "Rochester Independent College stands out as a notable ‘alternative’ exception for its informal ethos and relaxed learning environment, through rigorous teaching and a strong focus on preparation for assessment, recognised in a recent outstanding Ofsted report, suggest that it might be better characterised as akin to a successful Swedish Free School."[3]

Academic Achievement[edit]

A level Results 2016: A*-A 30%, A*-B 60% [4]

Good Schools Guide Award Winner for Maths, Chemistry, Film Studies and English Literature [5]

Top 5 University placements in the last 10 years: Leeds, Nottingham, Sussex, Cambridge, Imperial [6]

RIC University destinations 2016 – Oxbridge: 6, Medicine: 5, Dentistry: 2, Veterinary Science: 1. [7]


Rochester Independent College has various facilities available. These include Science Labs, a photography block, a MUGA area for sport, a gym, two canteens and a performance area.


Opened in 1984 by mathematicians Brian Pain and Simon de Belder the college was known as Rochester Tudors and was predominantly 6th form, teaching A levels and retakes. Gradually over the next 3 decades the campus grew to 14 (mainly) listed buildings in the heart of Rochester and changed its name to Rochester Independent College. The Lower School was opened in 2007.

The college mascot is the flying pig, a riposte to the cynicism which greeted the college’s chances of success when it was founded.

The college joined the Dukes Education Group in 2016.[8]


The school has a unique campus. It started as one terraced house, but as the school expanded, it gradually bought up 14 (mainly) listed buildings in the heart of a designated conservation area. What would once have been the back gardens to these houses now form the grounds with ancient apple trees and wild garden areas, green paths, a viewing platform to climb – and an oversized garden shed where maths classes are held. Students work on garden projects such as the allotment as part of their Duke of Edinburgh's award and the gardens have won a Kent Wildlife Gold Award.

A pair of steel sculptural musical gates leads to the grounds. The gates are an art installation created by Henry Dagg, sound sculptor, experimental musical instrument builder and Bjork collaborator. Standing almost four metres tall and eight metres wide across the structure is designed to make music with vibraphone bars, tubular bells, and organ pipe-like tubes with resonating strings that can be plucked, struck or bowed.[9]

Medway Council initially refused planning permission for the gates in 2004 on the grounds of noise pollution. But a government inspector overturned the decision on appeal three years later, praising the “innovative” design as "grand and elegant".[10]

The theatre, 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 from the European Arts Theatre Company.[11]

An igloo-like, oak gall structure in the garden is used as an outdoor classroom, shelter, and quiet space. Intended to inspire and motivate, it has a central roof opening for cloud watching.

The Sixth Form[edit]

The Sixth Form still forms the largest part of the school. The Sixth Form is based in the row of Georgian townhouses on Star Hill and the students use the facilities of the whole school campus which stretch from St Margaret’s Banks to New Road in Rochester.


The Sixth Form has a total of about 230 students, with a relatively even mix of boys and girls. About 80 students are boarders and the rest are day students from the local area.

Approximately 15% of the sixth form students are international from countries such as Thailand, Italy, Spain, China, Hong Kong, Nigeria, and Russia.

Of the 230 students in the Sixth Form, around 40 will have stayed on from Years 7–11. The majority join from other schools after taking their GCSEs and most go on to study at UK universities.

About 50 percent of students have been previously in the independent sector, but a lot of pupils come from families with no tradition of private education.

Students from Thailand join the College each year funded by the Royal Thai Government Scholarship programme for A level courses. The scholars return home, often after completing doctoral study, and work in senior positions in the Thai government and in academia. [12]


The College staff includes a number of practising photographers, graphic designers, and fine artists. Former tutors include BAFTA award-winning film director Clio Barnard and well-known artist and musician Billy Childish.[13]

Among the current staff, a number are alumnae of the college.


Students in the Sixth Form study A levels choosing their subjects from a list of nearly 40. Because these are not organised in option blocks, practically any combination of subjects is possible.

The College also offers intensive one-year GCSE and A Level courses as well as retake programmes. Since 2017 the college has offered A level Computer Science. From 2018 the college will no longer be offering A level World Development but will be adding Global Perspectives as a new subject.


Full board accommodation is available for students aged 14 upwards onsite. All single rooms, some with en-suite bathroom facilities, others share bathrooms with 2–3 other students.

Lower School – Years 7–11[edit]

RIC’s Lower School is located in New Road House, on the main college campus. It is co-educational and the principal entry point is at Year 7 but there is flexible entry throughout the school. RIC Lower School is the newest part of the school and took its first pupils in September 2007. All students are taught in small groups – maximum 12 in a class.

The Lower School is non-selective. The vast majority of students are UK. Student numbers are about 70.


The College is located in Rochester, a small cathedral town in the county of Kent. Rochester is 37 minutes from London St Pancras, 47 minutes from London Victoria and 30 minutes from Bromley South. The School is a 10 minute walk from Rochester Station.

80 minutes by rail from Gatwick Airport and 120 minutes from Heathrow Airport.


Rochester Independent College is affiliated to the Independent Schools Council (ISC) and a member of the Independent Schools Association (ISA). The college is also a member of British Boarding Schools Connected.[14]


External links[edit]