United Kingdom / South East England / East Sussex / Eastbourne College

Eastbourne College Review

A co-ed school in a coastal Sussex town, Eastbourne College delivers a whole-of-learning approach with a newly calibrated timetable that caters for the needs of both boarders and day students.
At a glance
School type
Private
School phase
Secondary
Inspection rating
Excellent
Curricula taught
Availability 2021/22
No data
Availability 2022/23
No data
Annual fee average
GBP 24,000
Annual fees
GBP 23,895–24,375
Price band help
Premium
Status
Open
Opening year
1867
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Mr Tom Lawson, MA (Oxon)
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Eastbourne College
School type
Private
School phase
Secondary
Inspection rating
Excellent
Curricula taught
Availability 2021/22
No data
Availability 2022/23
No data
Annual fee average
GBP 24,000
Annual fees
GBP 23,895–24,375
Price band help
Premium
Status
Open
Opening year
1867
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Mr Tom Lawson, MA (Oxon)
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A co-ed school in a coastal Sussex town, Eastbourne College delivers a whole-of-learning approach with a newly calibrated timetable that caters for the needs of both boarders and day students.

Eastbourne College is a co-educational, independent, day and boarding school for 650 students aged 13 to 18 years, offering GCSEs and A levels. It was founded 150 years ago in 1867, which makes it relatively new for a British public school. It is situated on the edge of Eastbourne, a Victorian seaside resort, on the South coast of England, in-between the seafront and the glorious South Downs. Close to Gatwick Airport it has easy train links to London and surrounding areas. 

Thomas Lawson was appointed Headmaster in 2016, having previously been Deputy Head at Christ’s Hospital. He read Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford and taught Economics at Winchester College for 15 years. He was a Housemaster at Winchester for eight years and Under Master for two years. In 2019, he introduced a brand new seven-day timetable to “better fit around the demands of modern family life”.

The traditional timetable, with its five-day week plus compulsory lessons on Saturday morning for all students (boarding and day), gave way to a more focused five-day week, with optional Saturday morning enrichment sessions. The requirement for pupils to wear week-day uniform on Saturday mornings was also dropped in favour of a more relaxed approach within the boundaries of an 'acceptable dress code' policy. The changes to the shape of the week have created more educational contact time while broadening co-curricular provision; it has given greater flexibility to both boarding and day pupils, which the Head realises is incredibly important for modern day family life.

Notably, the Eastbourne Schools Partnership, founded in 2014, comprises 13 schools and colleges. Together they account for around 15,000 children living in Eastbourne and the surrounding area. The Eastbourne Schools Partnership is a fantastic example of schools working together for the benefit of the pupils and the wider community. Eastbourne College’s Sixth Form students mentor GCSE pupils who attend nearby schools, they offer weekly Modern Foreign Language clubs to help improve French, German or Spanish, help with revision sessions and more.

The College introduced a new uniform in 2021 for Years 9, 10 and 11 (Sixth Formers continue to wear business suits). The new relaxed, sophisticated look intends to represent a modern school and by literally wearing the colours of the sea, they are bringing their motto “Ex Oriente Salus”, translated as “Health from the East” to life. They want to be recognised as a healthy, “outdoorsy”, sporty school.

Eastbourne was rated Excellent in its last full Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) report in 2014; the ISI's Regulatory Compliance Inspection took place in November 2018 and all compliance standards were met. 

The curriculum

Core subjects (mathematics, English, geography, history and sciences) are taught with French, Spanish, German for Modern Foreign Languages; there are external tutors for Mandarin and Russian if required for GCSEs and A Levels. IGCSEs are offered in English and mathematics.

The College says that its GCSE timetable is "tailored to ensure that all pupil-option choices can be accommodated" so you can expect several unique programmes of study. The majority of Sixth Formers go on to study for three full A Levels over two years, as well as working towards an Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) or an Arts Gold Award. Students are also prepared for life beyond Sixth Form with other enrichment activities such as programmes for medicine, Oxbridge, USA universities, and applications for specialist subjects such as engineering or law.

Sports and the arts

Eastbourne’s core sports are athletics, cricket, netball, rugby, hockey and tennis and it offers options of riding, fencing, cross country, football, golf, rugby fives, football, squash, swimming, sailing and rounders. It has a brand new state-of-the-art, six-lane swimming pool; for rugby, Eastbourne has 25 coaches.

The art department has excellent facilities including a ceramic studio which is equipped with two large kilns, drying rooms, glaze room, plaster studio and outdoor sculpture area, and a spraying room, while the large computer room offers an Apple computer suite with a variety of photo-manipulation and editing programmes, a photographic classroom, studio and dark room, and a light box for silkscreens and polymer etchings. It also has three large painting and printmaking studios.

Music is “an integral part of the school", which has two theatres on site; the drama department is thriving with many productions per year. The Music Department is accommodated in the Birley Centre, which is a purpose-built music facility. This houses an auditorium with a recently refurbished Steinway concert grand piano, a foyer and exhibition area, fully equipped recording studios, a rock room, and two music technology suites with Apple Mac computers. 

Beyond the classroom

Its co-curricular programme is called Blue Sky Learning because the school says it is inspired by the sea and thinks of itself as the “Blue Health” school. Day pupils often stay until 8pm; this means that they can partake in all the co-curricular programme. Its whole-of-learning approach means that a newly calibrated timetable caters for the needs of boarders and day pupils.

The list of activities is long, including Barber Shop, Swim Stroke Development, Zumba, Languages and Shooting. The weekend activities programme is dominated by weekend sports matches, and those not playing or training can choose an activity. Sundays involve house trips to bowling, waterparks, Laser quest and the like, or inter-house tug of wars and matches.

CCF is strong and compulsory for all Year 10s, with a choice of Army, Navy and RAF sections, and the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme is offered for Year 10s and Sixth Formers. There are several societies including Law, Chess, Astronomy and more.

Visits to many countries are run regularly and include geography field trips to Iceland, Morocco and Spain, language exchanges to France, Spain and Switzerland, and history trips to Belgium, France and the US. Overseas tours for each of the major sports take place every three years and these have included cricket in Nepal, netball in Barbados and rugby in South Africa.

Service at School ([email protected]) is compulsory if the student is not participating in CCF and takes place on one afternoon a week. Eastbourne is keen to introduce the students to all forms of community work; as well as interaction with the young, the elderly and disabled people, they are introduced to many charities such as the RNLI, Amnesty International, many UK based charities and to human rights issues. Outside lecturers also visit regularly.

Academic results

In 2020, 55% of A Level grades were A*-A and just under 80% achieved A*-B. In GCSEs, over 40% achieved Grades 9/8 with 67% achieving Grades 9-7.

Campus and facilities

There are five boarding houses and five day houses, with a 50:50 ratio day to boarding students and 60:40 boys to girls.

Eastbourne has its own Chapel on site, being a Church of England school. All students attend once a week, and it welcomed all faiths and none.

Admission and fees

Eastbourne is a selective school but does not ask for top grades. There are no pre-tests and just 50% is required in the Common Entrance. Entry to the Sixth Form depends on GCSE results; students must achieve an average Grade 6 but higher grades are required for their chosen A Level subjects.

Annual day fees range from £23,895 for Years 9-11 and £24,375 for Years 12-13; boarding fees are £36,420 for Years 9-11 and £36,975 for Years 12-13.

Best for

  • Seaside environment
  • Not an academic “hot house”

Not for

  • No IB offered
  • Small number of international students

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