Earlscliffe is a small, boutique-style college offering GCSE, A Level and pre-university programmes to international students.
For its youngest students (15 years-plus) there’s a fast-track, one-year GCSE programme, while the majority of students here are on the two year A Level course. Weekly progress testing, small class sizes (average of seven per class), and a wealth of academic enrichment opportunities are all hallmarks of an education here.
Located in the seaside town of Folkestone in Kent, Earlscliffe is a day and boarding school for around 120 students, coming from all over the world. It’s part of the Dukes Education group, which has a collection of schools and nurseries each with their own brand, style of education and feel. It’s also a UNESCO-associated school (one of only a few in the UK), which enables students to take part in overseas field trips and projects in countries including Hungary, France and New York – and is an example of the international approach to education here.
The college is housed within a collection of renovated Victorian and Edwardian buildings in the town, which contribute to the intimate, highly-personalised education offered here. Once a summer home for a wealthy family, and then a school for German Jewish children who were brought from Berlin to the UK, Earlscliffe was opened in 2012 by Tim Fish (an educator with experience in international boarding schools including St Clare’s, Oxford).
Since its opening, Earlscliffe has been ranked 38 out of 4,300 schools teaching A Levels is league table compiled by The Telegraph. Its most recently published A Level results for 2019 show that 36% of garden were A* and 63% were A*-B.
The current headteacher Joss Williams was previously head of an international school in Jordan, and has held Deputy Head posts at Culford School in the UK, as well as a school in Dubai.
Students coming to Earlscliffe are expected to work hard, and the college’s rigorous curriculum and intensive teaching style will not suit every child. However, ambitious, dedicated students aiming for a place in one of the UK’s top universities can really benefit from the challenging, hothouse environment here. The timetable is filled with intensive face-to-face lessons; there are nine lessons per A Level subject each week, which is about 30% more teaching time than you’ll find in most schools.
The focus here is very much on results and progress, so much so that the college has developed its own Test, Rank and Coach’ (TRaCTM) system of frequent academic testing and monitoring. Students complete weekly tests, parents receive the results, and teachers offer extra academic help or coaching.
Students in the two year A Level programme study four subjects, one in their own language. The focus here is very much on traditional subjects, but newer subjects including photography, psychology and politics are also on offer. Most of A Level students complete the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ), which is increasingly a part of any university offer.
Earlscliffe also offers an International Transition Year (ITY) for students needing to improve their English while studying five GCSEs and getting a taster of UK boarding life. Other courses include a one-year Level 3 Diploma in Business and Management, a university Foundation Year for students who have completed their own country’s formal secondary education, and Easter and summer school programmes.
The school has three Advanced Skills Academies – business, creative arts, and basketball – which offer some incredible add-on experiences such as one-to-one skills coaching, the chance to gain additional qualifications, workshops and lectures, and trips.
There’s also a huge focus on guiding students through the university application process here; there are university counsellors to help students navigate the UCAS process, every student sits at least one mock university interview, and all students have one-to-one support from college’s founder and director Tim Fish.
An education at Earslcliffe is all about preparing students for university, and that cannot be achieved by focusing on academics alone. To help keep things broad and balanced, the college offers various sporting, cultural and enrichment opportunities.
Wednesday afternoons, weekends and weekday evenings are kept free for sports and activities, and students play football, basketball, volleyball, squash, badminton and table tennis in their spare time using local facilities. Students also have free access to a local gym and fitness centre. There’s a termly college concert, an annual art exhibition of student work, and several clubs and societies; only the meaningful and academic make the list, which includes the UNESCO Youth Ambassador Programme, Model United Nations, debating club, global politics, public speaking, chess, poetry and creative writing.
Students stay in one of five boarding houses, two for girls and three for boys, all within easy walking distance of the main college. The houses all have common rooms, kitchens and gardens, and students live in twin or single, en-suite rooms, and there’s a House Manage living in each house with the students who plays a key role in making sure they are happy (and completing their homework).
To apply for a place at Earlscliffe, students need to attain 4.0 IELTS level (or equivalent) for the one-year GCSE course, and 5.0 IELTS level (or equivalent) for the A Level or Year 13 programmes, as well as attend an interview.
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