Frewen College is a day and boarding dyslexia-friendly school for seven to 19 year-olds with excellent sport facilities and a countryside campus.
Located in East Sussex, Frewen College is divided into three parts: the Prep School, the Senior School, and the Sixth Form. It runs alongside its partner school, the dedicated sixth form Bexhill College, which means that it can offer a wider range of academic and vocational courses at a range of levels. Students comes from across the UK for the specialist support and education they can receive here, and there’s a small number of international students too.
Many parents choose a school like Frewen because their child is struggling or unhappy at a traditional school. In a mainstream school, where teachers may not have the time or expertise to teach SEN students effectively, children can feel different to their peers and this can affect their own confidence and self-esteem. Moving to Frewen helps to remove the stigma of being labelled a ‘special needs’ child and offers the holistic education needed to close the gap between what your child is achieving and what they have the potential to achieve.
“At Frewen, we aim to turn those negative feelings in to positive ones - and we aim for pupils to make progress and achieve to their full potential, both socially and academically.”
The location is wonderful – in the grounds of a Grade I listed Jacobean mansion in the beautiful Wealden countryside; this rural location is a real plus as students get acres of playing fields and grounds, as well as access to another 100 acres of ancient deer park for cross-country runs, orienteering and nature rambles. Each school has its own purpose-built teaching block; facilities in the Senior school, which include an auditorium, science labs, and two ICT suites, are shared with students throughout the school.
The school was founded in 1972 and was previously home to the Frewen family for over 300 years. Today, students dress in navy blue and gold to honour the school’s founder Admiral Sir John Frewen. Since moving from an all-boys school to co-ed in 2004, there are still more boys than girls, particularly in Years 10 and 11. Around one-third of current students are girls, but the school expects this to increase “quite soon”.
It’s a small school of around 150 students. Students come from a wide area and over 10 different local authorities (there’s many students receiving local authority funding), as well as a small number of overseas students coming from the US, Germany and Hong Kong. While some Prep students move back into mainstream schools, the majority continue into the Senior school, meaning the student community is not too transient.
Principal Nick Goodman has led the school for nearly a decade having been appointed in 2014; he previously spent 10 years as Head of Creative and Performing Arts at Munich International School.
The school is an expert in dyslexia; it’s been specialising in dyslexia and related learning difficulties since 1972; every classroom teacher, including therapists and teaching assistants, has specialist dyslexia training.
There’s certainly no traditional ‘one size fits all’ approach to learning at this school, which recognises that “no two dyslexic pupils are ever the same”. Instead you can expect your child to have a very personalised approach to learning that is based on their own Individual Education Plan (IEP). They are taught in small class sizes of up to eight students, so each child can get the attention they need from their teacher, and also encouraged to take part in class discussions.
Teaching follows the National Curriculum for England but there is a greater emphasis on literacy and numeracy skills and, where required, additional support and therapy. Trained teachers use dyslexia-appropriate strategies, and students are given the extra support where needed from a team of professionals including speech and language and occupational therapists and physiotherapist. It’s a real strength of this school, and access to this level of specialist support is less likely to be offered within a mainstream school.
In Years 10-11, students have the option of studying GCSEs or other Level 2 courses (Creative iMedia, BTEC, Functional Skills Level 2), as well as Level 1 Courses (Level 1 Functional Skills). All students study English, maths and science, plus options including humanities, art, design technology, PE, and modern foreign languages.
In the Sixth Form, there’s a choice of A Levels and BTEC qualifications, and the school’s partnership with Bexhill College means that it can offer a great choice of academic and vocational courses.
Arts subjects, which do not rely so heavily on literacy skills are most popular, with many students taking GCSE and A Level art and design, music and drama.
Frewen is very fortunate to have a vast campus including 60 acres of playing fields and grounds; facilities include a large outdoor swimming pool, rugby, cricket and soccer pitches, a tennis and netball court, five-a-side hard court, bush craft and a fitness centre. It means the school can offer a huge range of outdoor pursuits and sports including rugby, football, cricket, netball, swimming, tennis, orienteering, archery, mountain biking and rounders.
It also hosts regional sports fixtures for mainstream as well as special needs schools, which means there is a very active schedule of matches and competitions.
Students who enjoy drama or music will find there are many opportunities to join in, from individual instrumental lessons to concerts and performances.
There are lots of after-school clubs giving students an opportunity to learn new life skills and explore new interests – art, crochet, cycling, board games, bushcraft, gardening, chess, photography, pottery, archery and horse riding are on the list.
Students can choose to join the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, beginning with the Bronze award in Year 10; the school uses its own extensive grounds for camping and orienteering, so students can complete parts of the programme in a familiar and safe environment.
There are also house activities (each house is named after famous dyslexics), optional language lessons in German, Italian and French, and an active programme of weekend activities for boarders.
2022 GCSE results: 95% of exams taken were at Level 2. 100% were graded 9-2 (or equivalent) and 66% were 9-4 (or equivalent) compared to 100% and 79% in June 2021.
When looking at the academic performance of students at Frewen, it’s most important to look at the value add – the progress that students make from when they arrive at the school to when they sit their exams.
Many students will join with “grades well behind where they should be for their age and well behind their peers” – and it’s the school’s specialist support and dyslexia-friendly teaching strategies that can be credited for the progress students make. In 2021, students exceeded their starting grades by an average of 0.9 at GCSE across all subjects taken.
There’s a choice of full or flexi boarding at Frewen, and all boarders live conveniently on campus in two single sex houses. Sixth Formers are encouraged to consider boarding to develop personal, leadership, organisation and independent living skills, and there’s an option of flexi-boarding for one or two nights a week.
Frewen enrols boys and girls, with dyslexia and associated needs, aged from seven to 19, and there’s a rolling admissions policy which means that students can join mid-year. Students can board from Year 7, or Year 6 if there is a suitable cohort.
International students can apply, provided that English is their first or strong second language.
Annual fees range from £19,746 to £29,994 for day students and from £29,193 to £42,450 for boarders.
Good for: Frewen is an excellent choice if your child has Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD) such as dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia, and Speech, Language and Communication needs. This is not a traditional school with extra help for dyslexia – it is a specialist school where your child will be given the support they need in all lessons, all of the time.
Its excellent sport facilities and countryside campus means the school can offer a broad outdoor programme, and the option of flexi boarding can really help students to develop their independence.
Not for: Frewen House is not a mainstream school so enrolment is for children with dyslexia and other learning difficulties only. Also, if your child has mild dyslexia they may still benefit more from being a mainstream state or private school where they can get the help they need.
It’s an outdoorsy school, which won’t suit every child, although Frewen does offer alternative activities for children with sensory integration issues who may struggle with sports and other outdoor activities. It’s also a (small) all-through school, which offers many benefits, but may not be the right fit for a child looking for a standalone prep or senior school.
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