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The boarding houses are all different, but each with a strong sense of home. A house mum bakes pancakes and fudge crumpets for movie night. Houseparent dogs bounce into the common room in the evening. The kids love it. Seaford proudly locates learning support in the centre of the campus, ‘not the usual broom cupboard under the stairs’, said a parent wryly. Nearly half the pupils at the school use the unit at some point, by teacher or self-referral. Parents like its…

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What the school says...

Learning Support tuition at Seaford College is charged as extra to the fees, as is EFL tuition for our overseas pupils.

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Curricula

Cambridge Pre-U - an alternative to A levels, with all exams at the end of the two-year course.

Other features

All-through school (for example 3-18 years). - An all-through school covers junior and senior education. It may start at 3 or 4, or later, and continue through to 16 or 18. Some all-through schools set exams at 11 or 13 that pupils must pass to move on.

Sports

Fencing

Shooting

What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since 2013, John Green. Background in professional rugby – he teaches the first team, donning wellies with suit. Taught previously at Barry Boys’ School, Ardingly College and Hurstpierpoint, before becoming deputy at Seaford. Married to Sîan with three children.

Tiggerish energy, staunch and unapologetic supporter of the underdog, with a clear vision of how he wants Seaford to be. Works hard to install a sense of value and self worth in all his pupils: A* pupils at Seaford now consider Oxford; BTec pupils are told ‘you could be employing those A* pupils in a few years time’. Quality he most desires for his pupils: pride in self.

Academic matters

In 2018, good solid results: 33 per cent A*-A/9-7 at GCSE; 47 per cent A*-B, 32 per cent A*/A at A level. Judged on its place in a league table – unremarkable. But the remarkable exists within these figures at this non-selective school. The most able are achieving the high grades you would expect; but so are a good number of those of more average abilities: Seaford generally adding at least one grade to pupils’ attainment.

New pupils at Seaford all have a data interview: a detailed meeting showing parents and the pupil their CAT scores and the national picture of attainment for someone of their abilities. ‘Children in the middle can achieve highly and shouldn’t put a ceiling on expectations’. Top grades can suddenly seem like something attainable: one parent told us about her son, told by his previous school that he was a no hoper. His confidence has soared at Seaford: he’s predicted good grades at A level, and led Young Enterprise last year. When he went up on speech day for an academic prize, ‘it was worth every penny’.

‘Seaford was seen as a school for dunces,’ said a parent who was initially dubious about the school, thinking it was a ‘too relaxed environment.’ On meeting the head, the parent quickly felt that things had changed. Rigour is now a word which could apply to Seaford. One parent described how her son did a mock paper which went wrong: ‘they were all over it and him, in a supportive, but thorough way’.

There’s a new focus on high flyers here: a head of enrichment now guides the Oxford application process, and an enrichment programme selects high performers in each subject and adds a layer on top of syllabus stuff – masterclasses in maths this term with lectures on chaos and infinity. Lecture doors are open to anyone truly interested (while trying to exclude crafty prep dodgers).

The head has made several staff changes, to the relief of parents: ‘The dead wood’s gone’, said one briskly. There was a lot of praise for the effort put in by teachers: ‘what makes this school special is its staff’; ‘teachers go above and beyond to help failing pupils… three extra sessions a week to help my son get a pass’.

An extremely active tutor system, with a weekly meeting of an hour, and daily catch up of five to 10 minutes every morning. Pupils are also part of vertical tutor groups spanning year groups.

Homework is marked with comments, not grades – ‘if pupils get a grade, they immediately want to know what their friend got’. Effort grades have been abandoned – only pupils can really know. Instead, effort and attainment have been absorbed into the Challenge Grade system: grades set are a indication of potential – what a pupil could achieve if they work hard. Different colours indicate how well they are progressing towards their challenge grades, from significantly underachieving red, through amber, green and gold to extremely high-achieving platinum. Challenge grades are set with tutors and can be upped by pupils if they feel the challenge is not sufficient (hollow laughs from students).

A good array of subjects on offer at both GCSE and A level, plus BTecs (most recent additions hospitality and countryside management) and EPQ. Most subjects have a spread of attainment in grade terms, with grades in English, history and maths clustering towards the top end.

Learning support here is done extremely well by a staff of nine specialist teachers, five full-time, four part-time. Nearly half the pupils at the school use the unit at some point, by teacher or self-referral. Seaford proudly locates learning support in the centre of the campus, ‘not the usual broom cupboard under the stairs’, said a parent wryly.

‘I’ve been to a lot of schools who say they are good at SEN’, said a weary mum, ‘but here it isn’t just a soundbite’. The unit describes an approach that involves nurturing and developing individual potential, working hard to increase confidence, by pointing out what’s right, not wrong, and how to improve. High degree of joined-up thinking to enable dyslexics to access the curriculum, with the unit meeting with other teachers regularly.

And their approach yields results. A parent described how her severely dyslexic son ‘changed overnight’ here. He was told at his prep that he wouldn’t be able to sit GCSEs, but is now at the school of architecture in Oxford, having left Seaford with three A levels and an EPQ. If things weren’t working, Seaford always looked for alternatives which fitted him better, she explained.

Mild to moderate dyslexic pupils in general, though the door is not closed to those at the severe end of the spectrum if they have a high IQ or good underlying ability, but they need to be able to access the mainstream curriculum with the help available. The unit assists pupils with dyspraxia, speech and language problems, slow processing speeds and memory problems. Would consider mild Asperger's, but not the place for autism. Help also given for ADHD (experienced but not specialists in this).

There is one guaranteed one-to-one session a week (which is charged as an extra). Extra sessions are offered to pupils if they become available, on the basis of need. There is a little in-class support.

Seaford has had a number of high-achieving dyslexics, one achieving his eight As and one B at GCSE with the help of a scribe; another part of the current small group of high flyers trying for Oxford.

Games, options, the arts

A new focus on games with the rugby-playing head: hockey’s always been strong here (county winners); now rugby’s just as good. Girls were languishing behind the boys a year or so ago, but head has given girls’ sport a new emphasis: hockey and netball are flourishing. Cricket and tennis for both girls and boys are taking off.

Teams for all, the best playing every week, less able around six times a term. Specialist coaching for all ability levels here; and it’s not just the top performers who get the accolades: recent team of the term was the U14 hockey C team.

Music at Seaford is glorious.Singing is outstanding here – the head of voice is also head of voice at junior Royal Academy in London. The head soloist describes ‘music coming up through my toes’ – it’s no surprise that she and the choir were selected to support Gary Barlow on the last night of his tour. The music block is all white paint and new wood – smooth, calm surroundings to complement the mellifluous sounds.

Not as great an emphasis on drama as music (‘not enough,’ said one parent bluntly), but drama is now part of the year 9 carousel, some pupils do LAMDA, and there are productions each year: Dr Faustus the last, a dyslexic pupil taking the lead part, learning his lines by drawing pictures.

Compulsory CCF in year 10: the parades are dull, say pupils, but CCF camp was a favourite memory. DofE also available.

Art here is superb, with a big range on offer, from fine art to creative media production. Exam work included dresses of balloons and feathers; curvy wooden speakers and fabric stags' heads (they look so much better in tartan). Ghoulish sci-fi heads in the animation area; a fabric prawn (Shaun), life-like and eerily huge, hung casually from the ceiling. Sixth form art students almost live in the block – there’s even a kitchen so they can brew – ‘we look after them’, said the head of art, comfortably. Students depart for art colleges across the country.

Boarders

It’s particularly nice here, and one of the nicest things is its lack of uniformity. The four boarding houses are all different, each with a strong sense of home. Most are weekly, full timers largely being international (10 per cent of boarders are from overseas). Flexi-boarding is also available, and it’s usually possible to get a room at the last minute by emailing houseparents.

Boys (years 9-12) are in a crisp new building (which parents love), run by houseparents with fluent ease. Basket drawers for shoes as soon as boys come through the door – they generally remember: it’s nice to walk around in socks with underfloor heating. If they don’t – hoover duty that night. Rooms for two, with temperature gauges in each room and a sofa which can turn into another bed. New wood furniture, built in above bed lights. Rooms compact, but not tight. Worth getting the big jobs - head of house gets a comfy chair and ensuite, TV and fridge (wow).

Wifi throughout (indeed, throughout the campus), and a system so house parents can see if pupils are online when they shouldn’t be (after 11.30pm); younger pupils hand in tech at bedtime. Comfortable common room, kitchen for snacks, fruit and toaster. Homework is supervised, houseparents pleased that their only niggle (‘haven’t got any homework sir’) has been resolved by the internet site which makes it clear what everyone’s got. A house mum bakes pancakes and fudge crumpets for movie night. Houseparent dogs bounce into the common room in the evening. The kids love it.

Girls in years 9-12 are housed in the Mansion: rooms of all shapes and sizes for one or two, some extremely spacious – elegant windows, dreamy views. Graceful spiral staircase up to the boarding floor. In various states of paint, just done and needs doing (‘needs to be modern and fresher’, said a parent). Good quality wood furniture, comfortable furniture, the usual kitchen provision.

Sixth form boys housed in what parent and pupils refer to as ‘the youth hostel’ (aka Hedon Hall); ‘but the boys are all happy in there and love the housemaster’. The fabric is old, and inside it is painted lime green (gulp); but the furniture in bedrooms and common room is smart and new, bathrooms are clean, and the common room is decorated with sports paraphernalia, donated by past and present sixth formers. Residents have a fierce affection for the house and its head, who is a staunch supporter of them. He enforces an hour’s leisure reading every afternoon in the winter term (proper books, not magazines), having found out that dyslexic commuters do better because they read on the train.

Sixth form girls live in a bungalow, well-mown lawn with gnomes out front, patio with BBQ around the back. Some feeling of arriving in antipodean suburbia. Scottish giant of a house dad, casually consuming his Magnum, showed us a bright pink sitting room with golden buddha in the fire place – teenage heaven. Kitchen and seated area – they can go to the dining hall for breakfast, but most prefer to eat ‘healthy girly breakfasts’ in house. Cosy rooms, with the usual high quality fittings. A warm friendly relationship between pupils and houseparents.

Plenty going on for boarders at weekends, with the Sainsbury's trip on Friday evening, sports and shopping trips on Saturday, and trips to places of interest on Sunday.

Background and atmosphere

A long driveway, past golf flags waving the in the breeze and ancient trees up to the mansion house: stately home turned school. Seaford College sits at the foot of the downs, wooded hills rising immediately behind it, mists caught in the trees on the drizzly day of our visit – brewers’ dubbin, said the head of English dreamily. A beautiful flint chapel nestles in the grass behind the school. Compulsory weekly service, but all beliefs welcome.

Stately elegance mixes with old cottages and swish new build. A few tatty Portakabins, due to be ripped down soon. Most parents we spoke to would like things to be a bit smarter –‘there shouldn’t be peeling paintwork – it needs a bit more polish’; and the head is working hard to spruce up buildings as well as pupils. Manners are of the old-fashioned variety, and include standing up for visitors and handwritten letters of thanks.

There’s an emphasis here on giving something back: community service activities every week, and community action day once a year, which includes activity programmes with local primary school children, or clearing beaches.

It would not suit a child who was full on academic with no other interests, said a parent. ‘Very intelligent children will thrive there if they do other things…it could be a very lonely place for those just absorbed by maths and physics. Everyone’s outside at the end of the day – you need to be able to mix and be a bit independent’.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

Pastoral care at Seaford is ‘unbelievable,’ said a parent, as she described the extraordinary level of kindness and understanding from the school when facing family tragedy. And they’re very aware of the pressures of growing up. Staff in the Pink House provide a listening ear at any time – pupils can even ask to be excused in a lesson, and staff will email the Pink House to say a pupil is on the way. It's staffed by one full-time director of care and welfare, a part-time safeguarding officer, the rev, a counsellor and Poppy the dog (who is particularly busy in September helping homesick pupils). At least 10 pupils turn up at the Pink House every day, but problems can be also be picked up by phone, tutors or peer mentors. Any bullying is dealt with promptly, confirm parents. One described how her daughter would pop in to the Pink House to get some perspective on school squabbles – 'so and so’s being a bit nasty, I’ll go the Pink House and see what they think'.

In discipline terms, rules are firmly based on traditional good manners and strict enforcement of standards. No more easy-going Seaford: the head is ensuring the school is up to the mark, from looking smart to the top 10 rules: break them and you risk exclusion (interestingly, dishonesty is ranked outside the top 10 as a less serious offence, alongside chewing gum…). No second chances for sex or drugs (although first time joint users might get a managed reprieve, depending on the circumstances). And to make sure no one flouts the rules, sniffer dogs (a crazy spaniel and a labrador) check the lunch queue. They’re much loved by kids - and have never actually found anything. Two exclusions in the last year: for persistent disruption, and bullying. No surprise, in this caring school, that those suspended or excluded can go the Pink House for a chat with support workers ‘to feel the love.’

Delicious lunch served for us in the head’s study – is it always this nice? ‘It doesn’t look quite like this’, said the head boy carefully, regarding a swirl of purée, ‘but it tastes good’.

Pupils and parents

Posh, and not, here – ‘I know someone with a jet, and others working three jobs to get their kids through’. Lots of weekly boarders from London, and school buses serve the surrounding area.

Fewer girls than boys (around a third), but the head is keen to attract more, and ran an everywoman conference to provide aspirational role models for girls.

Parents are happy with a good level of communication, with frequent emails from school, and teachers letting parents know if there’s a problem – ‘in the past we’d have had to work this out for ourselves’.

Entrance

Fifty per cent of year 9 from Seaford Prep, the rest from a range of preps and local primaries. ISEB pre-test in year 6. Non-selective until GCSE; thereafter need 45 points to enter sixth form. Screening for SEN on entry.

Exit

Some 20 per cent to local sixth form colleges, usually for financial reasons. Around 20 per cent to Russell Group; Oxford Brookes most popular destination by far in 2018 with 13 students going there.

Money matters

Fees good value for money, said a parent; but she wouldn’t want them to be any more. Means-tested bursaries; range of scholarships available at 13+ and 16+.

Our view

A happy, exceptionally caring school, which strive to do well by all who cross the threshold, whatever their ability.

Independent schools frequently offer IGCSEs or other qualifications alongside or as an alternative to GCSE. The DfE does not record performance data for these exams so independent school GCSE data is frequently misleading; parents should check the results with the schools.

Who came from where

Who goes where

Special Education Needs

Pupils are accepted on the basis of a trial day and ability testing, supported by a reference from their current headteacher. If there is a learning difficulty. a report from an Educational Psychologist is useful and may be used in conjunction with our own assessment when making decisions on places. On arrival, all new pupils are given screening tests to check for any difficulties or signs of dyslexia. The Head of Learning Support re-assesses each pupil who has difficulties, and designs a programme for their needs. This programme will be different for every child and may require extra tuition, usually one to one, but sometimes in pairs, on a once or twice a week basis. Individual reports are written on each child and copied to all teaching staff. 09-09

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Aspergers
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia
Dysgraphia
Dyslexia Y
Dyspraxia
English as an additional language (EAL)
Genetic
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class Y
HI - Hearing Impairment
Hospital School
Mental health
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
PD - Physical Disability
PMLD - Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty
SEMH - Social, Emotional and Mental Health
SLCN - Speech, Language and Communication
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
VI - Visual Impairment

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