United Kingdom / South East England / Brighton / Brighton College

Brighton College Review

A progressive all-through co-ed day and boarding school with outstanding academic results, first-class facilities, a strong social responsibility, and a very charming coastal location.
At a glance
School type
Private
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Excellent
Curricula taught
Availability 2020/21
not_interested No
Availability 2021/22
not_interested No
Annual fee average
GBP 18,500
Annual fees
GBP 11,205 - 25,770
Price band help
Mid-range
Status
Open
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Richard Carins
Main teacher nationality
British
Main student nationality
British
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Brighton College
School type
Private
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Excellent
Curricula taught
Availability 2020/21
not_interested No
Availability 2021/22
not_interested No
Annual fee average
GBP 18,500
Annual fees
GBP 11,205 - 25,770
Price band help
Mid-range
Status
Open
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Richard Carins
Main teacher nationality
British
Main student nationality
British
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A progressive all-through co-ed day and boarding school with outstanding academic results, first-class facilities, a strong social responsibility, and a very charming coastal location.

Just a pebble’s throw away from the beach, Brighton College is a forward-looking co-educational day and boarding school. As well as being known for its academic strengths, this all-through UK curriculum school has a reputation for innovative initiatives such as creating a gender-neutral school uniform, having mixed boarding houses, and becoming a plastic-free campus.

With a student body of around 1,600 boys and girls aged three to 18, Brighton College has a seaside campus with a collection of historic and modern buildings, the traditional values of a 175 year-old public school, and a strong sports department particularly – in rugby, netball, cricket and athletics. A leading independent private school in the UK, Brighton College is a school that focuses on the whole student. As well as being academically strong, it has a high level of pastoral care, a strong commitment to co-curricular activities, and the expectation that students will contribute more to the school community, whether in the arts or other areas. 

Brighton College’s academic credentials are impressive. Its GCSE and A Level results are consistently high; and it was ranked as the Top Co-educational School in England in 2019 and named Independent School of the Year by The Sunday Times. 

The prep, pre-prep and nursery sit on adjoining sites, where the school has recently opened a School of Science and Sport with university standard laboratories, a 25-metre swimming pool, an indoor and rooftop running track (with sea views), a double-height sports hall, greenhouse, cinema, breakout spaces, fitness suite and aerobics studio; there are also plans for a new Performing Arts Complex. It’s this scale of development that highlights Brighton College’s commitment to adapt to changes in education and to inspire its students.

The curriculum

Here’s a school that is very much focused on developing the academic and non-academic strengths, and specialist teaching is woven into its DNA from Nursery upwards. Being taught by specialist teachers with subject knowledge at the highest level from such a young age has many benefits, and we would expect the experience, knowledge and ability of these teachers to draw out the very best in Brighton College’s students.

The school has been led by headmaster Richard Cairns since 2006, who was previously Usher of Magdalen College School Oxford (1999-2005). And, since Cairns’ appointment, the school has moved from education strength to strength; this is most simply highlighted by the school’s graduation from 136th place in 2005 UK league tables to the top 10. His influence has been described widely in the media as the “Cairns touch”.

Children in pre-prep follow the Early Years Foundation Stage from pre-nursery through to reception, before starting their first year of the UK National Curriculum in Year 1. Throughout these early years, Mandarin, French, PE and art are taught by specialist teachers. Moving up to the prep school, and the UK curriculum covers the core subjects of English language, English literature, maths, history, geography, science, religious studies and PSHE. Years 1 to 5 have specialist lessons in music, Mandarin, French, art, PE, games and swimming; from Year 4 upwards this expands to include curriculum lessons in drama, design & technology and home economics.

Taking full advantage of its coastal location, Brighton College runs a Beach School for Years 1-3; it’s refreshing to see how the school uses the beach’s resources across the curriculum, from exploring marine life in rock pools to crafting a boat from what could be found along the coastline.

Pre-Prep teacher Ali Ross says:

“We can weave in ‘beach school’ across so many subjects. In English, we make up stories and poems about coastal life, in science we look at the many living things that inhabit our shoreline and in geography we discuss the world’s oceans and continents.”

From Year 5, students are set academically in English, maths and science – and in Years 6 and 7 the curriculum focuses on preparing students for the Common Entrance exams. The Common Entrance exam is required by many of Britain’s top prep and independent schools, and it’s renowned for its rigorous syllabus and breadth of subjects

The Senior School (Years 9-13) continues with the UK National Curriculum, and follows the IGCSE curriculum up to Year 11 and then A Levels and the Extended Project Qualification up to Year 13. There is a broad range of IGCSE options in academic subjects and creative and practical choices, including dance, art, photography, design and technology, drama, music, and PE.

There’s a wide choice of language options – Mandarin, French, German, Russian, Latin and Spanish – science is taught as three separate subjects in dedicated facilities, and there’s a unique 'Story of Our Land' course which tells the story of Britain from the beginning of time.

As well as encouraging high academic standards, Brighton College gives students plenty of opportunity to display their sporting, singing, dancing, artistic, dramatic and musical talents from foundation stage through to graduation.

Brighton College is very much built for sport, with the recent opening of it School of Science and Sport, where facilities include a double-height sports hall, rooftop running track, a 25-metre swimming pool and strength and conditioning suite. The focus on sport is nothing new, though, and for decades students have used the Jubilee sports ground, where the England rugby team sometimes trains, as well as local facilities including beach courts. PE is offered at both GCSE and A-level, there are sporting scholarships available, and the school enters national competitions in rugby, cricket, netball, girls’ hockey, football, cross country, athletics, tennis and swimming.

The school’s arts calendar is just as busy, and Brighton College has the facilities, specialist teachers, extra-curricular opportunities and passion to develop students’ passion for art, drama, dance, photography, art and design, and music. From specialist music teaching in Nursery to individual instrumental lessons, music is an integral part of school life here; the Sarah Abraham Recital Hall, with its floor to ceiling windows, is an impressive space for students to rehearse and perform in; students learn RAD ballet, ISTD modern, jazz, tap and street dance in the school’s dedicated dance studios; there are LAMDA lessons from Year 5; dance is popular with both boys and girls here; and there are specialist teaching areas for photography, design, ceramics, life drawing, printing and textiles.

Academic results

Results at both GCSE and A Level are outstanding, with many Brighton College students wining Oxbridge places; 20% of students here are typically offered places at Oxford or Cambridge every year and many others attend Russell Group universities,

Despite a challenging year for students, in the 2020 A Level results 99% of grades were A*-B, and 47% of grades were A; in GCSEs, 96% were A*-A. These results continue the trend of previous years, when Brighton College has been ranked by the Sunday Times as having the highest results ever for any co-educational school.

Beyond the classroom

Independent schools are renowned for taking learning beyond the formal classroom, and Brighton College is no different. 

In the school’s most recent report by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) in 2018, it was noted that, “Pupils exhibit high levels of social development through their excellent awareness of the world beyond the school.”

This is achieved through the school’s wide choice of extra and co-curricular programmes for students, which give them the opportunity to pursue different interests. There are more than 100 different clubs and a year-round programme of service and school-related international trips that sees students learning everything from how to knit and play chess to helping the homeless in one week. The school dedicates Wednesday afternoons to developing leadership and community skills, and introduces innovative entrepreneurship programmes in the Fourth Form and Sixth Form.

School community

The ISI reports that there is a “caring and supportive ethos that permeates all aspects of school life”, and this is created in part through an active house system. In an all-through school with more than 1,000 students it helps to build a close-knit community by having the older students acting as buddies for the younger children, each House having its common room, inter-house competitions, and dedicated house tutors.

Brighton College has a strong wellbeing programme, including weekly mindfulness classes, the Brighton Five-A-Day healthy eating programme, and parent seminars ranging from social media to revision. Described by one teacher at the school as “a village”, Brighton College certainly has a culture of kindness running through its corridors.

Campus and facilities

Spacious and green, this coastal campus has been transformed over the last decade under headmaster Richard Cairns’ leadership. As you will find in many UK independent schools today there is a combination of beautiful, centuries-old buildings with a mix of modern classrooms and state of the art architecture. For example, wander across the manicured lawns of the campus and you’ll pass both a beautiful nineteenth-century chapel and a very new and modern School of Science and Sport.

This new building accommodates the mix of large sports spaces including a double-height sports hall, rooftop running track, a 25-metre swimming pool and a state-of-the-art strength and conditioning suite and smaller science classrooms and university-standard laboratories, a cinema-style auditorium linked up to international science departments, and break out study spaces. Flooded with natural light, and filled with some quirky design features, this centre offers some fantastic learning spaces where students have as much space to work in the corridors as they do in the classroom.

Explore the campus further and you’ll find a traditional library with plenty of historic splendour, modern media suites and music halls, renovated Victorian boarding houses with boutique interiors, a traditional oak panelled dining hall, trendy cafes – and plenty of seagulls!

Admission and fees

Brighton College is a selective school which enrols day pupils from Nursery and then day and boarding pupils from Year 9 upwards; there are around 350 boarders. Many students do come from public schools in London, and there is speculation that Prince George may join the school as he is currently attending one of Brighton College’s key feeder schools in Battersea.

Scholarships are available for 11+, 13+ and 16+ admission, with categories including Academic, Art, Chess, Choral, Dance, Drama, DT, Music and Sports, and term fees for day students range from £3,520 in Reception to £8,590 in Upper Sixth.

Best for

• Children who are well-rounded with broad interests
• International parents seeking a modern, progressive education
• Broad choice of scholarships

Not for

• Families looking for single-sex education
• Students looking for an academic hot house
• Children who have no interest in exploring sport or the arts

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