Skip to main content
  • Frewen College
    Rye Road
    Northiam
    Rye
    East Sussex
    TN31 6NL
  • Head: Mr Nick Goodman
  • T 01797 252494
  • F 01797 252567
  • E [email protected]
  • W www.frewencollege.co.uk/
  • A special independent school for pupils aged from 7 to 18 with specific learning difficulties (dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia), and related difficulties such as speech and language and sensory integration problems
  • Boarding: Yes
  • Local authority: East Sussex
  • Pupils: 129 ; sixth formers: 21: 20 boys, 1 girl
  • Religion: Non-denominational
  • Fees: Day £18,348- £27,870; Boarding £27,126 - £39,444 pa
  • Open days: Contact school
  • Review: View The Good Schools Guide Review
  • Ofsted report: View the Ofsted report

What says..

Committed maths teachers who love their subject always seem to have a Tiggerish aspect to them and the head of maths pleasingly satisfied our unscientific categorisation. Eloquent about the barriers with which students arrive in his classroom, with low confidence and phobias about maths, he sets about making maths accessible to all, engaging them in number through cunning devices such as playing poker...

Read review »

What the school says...

An independent specialist school in East Sussex for students with specific learning difficulties (dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia), and other related difficulties such as speech and language and communication disorders.
Frewen was recently voted 'Best Dyslexia School' in the British Dyslexia Association's 2018 dyslexia awareness week awards.
A new sixth form was launched in 2014 in partnership with two other colleges, and external applicants are welcome. Approximately two-thirds of the pupils have EHCPs (LA funded), and a third are private. We specialise in building confidence and self-esteem, and ensuring academic progress through small classes, the use of specialist strategies, and a high level of pupil engagement. The arts are an area in which many pupils excel, and the school is set in a country estate of 160 acres ideal for sports. ...Read more

Do you know this school?

The schools we choose, and what we say about them, are founded on parents’ views. If you know this school, please share your views with us.

Please login to post a comment.

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.

What The Good Schools Guide says

Principal

Since 2014, Principal, Nick Goodman, BA (Hons) PGCE NPQH. His path to teaching originated in art at St Gregory’s Catholic School in Tunbridge Wells, followed by head of the arts faculty at Munich International School, and then Assistant Head at Mascalls, a large Kent comprehensive, gaining the school specialist status in visual arts, before moving to Vice Principal at CATS College Canterbury. In 2013, his attention was drawn to the post of Principal at Frewen College and he arrived for two days of interviews by governors, who were persuaded by his vision of Frewen becoming more than a haven for dyslexics, but a centre of excellence for dyslexia teaching. Unusual to spend the morning with the head of a school and hear no bull, no flannel, no jargon; it happened. Goodman speaks with quiet self-assurance, ranging through topics associated with his school with a clarity that comes from knowing what the school does and how it does it. No smoke and mirrors required here. He is careful to point out that this is not the same as aiming to crank up the results relentlessly or only to admit children who are capable of achieving high grades. Children usually arrive years behind in the curriculum and often having had a rough ride, which has lowered their self-esteem. The happy result of this vision is that GCSEs have moved from 17% A*-C (now 9-4) when he arrived, to the current figure of 79%. Another consequence of this approach is the raising of Frewen’s profile. Exposure via videos made in conjunction with the British Dyslexia Association and an increasing reputation have led to an increase in the school’s size; the roll exceeds 120 pupils with some year groups full. However, he does not envisage the school increasing to more than 150/160 at most, preserving the benefits of being small and so supporting the population in achieving the very best that is possible for them.

Entrance

A specialist school for children whose primary need is dyslexia, speech and language difficulty, dyscalculia and sometimes dyspraxia. The entry procedure is very careful and designed to identify those who fulfil Frewen’s criteria. Dyslexia often co-occurs with another difficulty and Frewen looks at the balance of a child’s profile and establishes that the primary need is specific learning difficulty. If the primary need is, for example, autism, then the applicant would be advised to look for another school more suited to that need. After their application is assessed, a day pupil will complete two days evaluation at the school and a boarder three days, including overnight. Pupils can enter into any year group up to year ten, or at the beginning of sixth form, but the school will not take students into year eleven

Exit

After GCSE, some pupils will leave to pursue courses elsewhere, the rest will continue into the sixth form. At the end of sixth form, students leave for a variety of destinations. These have recently included University of East Anglia and University of Essex to study History and Politics, and Bristol School of Art for an Art Foundation year. All students go on to further training/education courses, apprenticeships or employment.

Teaching and learning

The old maxim, “If the child cannot learn the way you teach, then change the way you teach,” is here in spades. The curriculum is broad and encompasses the subjects you would expect to see in a mainstream secondary, except (unsurprisingly) modern languages. English, maths, science (double), history, geography, art and DT follow the GCSE course; “After Mr Gove changed assessment to a memory test after two years,” IT, drama and music now follow BTec courses, which have a modular structure with continuous assessment. All classroom staff undergo level three training with the British Dyslexia Association in their first year, with some going on to attain level five or level seven. The school knows the benefits of technology to dyslexics and all students have a Microsoft 365 account on which they can use the full range of built-in adaptations for reading and writing. The school is expert at preparing for exams with the appropriate exam access arrangements.
Teaching group sizes vary, but no group is larger than eight students, which means that staff members have “chapter and verse on every student”, remarked the head of English. Clearly very used to talking to parents about an anxiety-inducing subject, he chats easily about the experience of his students in the classroom and how the emphasis on pace in mainstream school is the undoing of many Frewen students. Many have short-term memory difficulties, or slow processing, and at Frewen, staff are skilled in overlearning (this means repeating information in different ways so the student doesn’t end up weeping into their laptop with boredom). One feature of Frewen is that students join at various points in their education, so those who arrive later have less time to close the gap. English GCSE can be taken in the sixth form for those who need extra preparation, or retaken to increase the grade. Functional skills levels one and two is also an option as stepping-stones to the GCSE. The astonishing result is that only four per cent of students do not achieve GCSE English level four or above, though they will still gain functional skills levels one or two. Goodman describes this with a grin as, “Reaching the parts that other beers cannot reach.”
Committed maths teachers who love their subject always seem to have a Tiggerish aspect to them and the head of maths pleasingly satisfied our unscientific categorisation. Eloquent about the barriers with which students arrive in his classroom, with low confidence and phobias about maths, he sets about making maths accessible to all, engaging them in number through cunning devices such as playing poker with them. Unlike the standard maths classroom, this one is stuffed full of physical objects for learning. One girl is on the computer, shopping for cosmetics from Boots online, busy comparing prices, savings, budget, totals and so on. In the sixth form, maths A level is offered and further maths can be catered for. One girl’s verdict was, “I know I find it hard and I’ll always find it hard but I think I have more chance now of sorting things out.”
The art and design-technology rooms are situated in the beautiful stable block, topped by a light and airy belvedere. DT is well equipped with computers and the high-ceilinged workroom is filled with the scent of cut wood and photos on the wall of projects such as a wheelbarrow and a wine store. Food and nutrition, which all students study up to year nine, is in a slightly less beauteous 20th century outbuilding and is scheduled for a move when possible. The hub of teaching and learning is the auditorium. This is a large area, centred on a lowered rectangle, set out for exams at the time of our visit, surrounded by classrooms on three sides and a space on the fourth, which can be used as a stage with the audience seated below. It was busy with students moving lessons and we watched teenagers chatting, picking up water from the cooler and settling down. Mr Goodman is greeted by some pupils and hurries others along. It could be any school, except that the classes are so much smaller.
The sixth form (around twenty students) has a separate block with common room and teaching rooms. This is one of the tired outbuildings and plans for a new building are in the pipeline. A levels and BTecs are on offer; the school has a partnership with Bexhill College whereby students spend two and a half days and the rest with the sixth form team at Frewen. A member of staff also attends Bexhill to liaise and keep an eye on things. Support in the sixth form is gradually decreased as the students become more confident at using their study skills to work independently. The students we met were studying a variety of subjects such as music technology, photography, art and design, media, maths and physics. There is plenty of guidance about what path to choose after Frewen, practical, vocational or academic; one sixth former told us he was intending to gain his private pilot’s licence and there is clearly no lack of ambition for the futures of the students.

Sport

If you are looking for traditional sports teams bundling out every weekend or have a budding sports star, then Frewen is probably not the place for you, though there is plenty of variety of exercise on offer within the structure of the school day. The grounds are a large sixty acres with one hundred acres of ancient woodland attached. This is used for outside activities such as cross-country, camping and a gleeful game called “Jack Strike a Light”, which is a wildly exciting hide and seek caper in the dark with a torch. There is also the outdoor swimming pool, once an ornamental pond (hence the long, narrow rectangle shape) for summer bathing.

Boarders

Approximately one third of the students are boarders. The youngest are in year seven, although in special circumstances, year sixes have boarded. No weekly boarding, but boarders are free to go home at the weekend. Of the 40 or so boarders, (a few internationals) generally around 15 remain at the weekend unless there is a special event on. Girls are housed in a light, modern house in the grounds (the old head-teacher’s house). The boys are housed in the old part of the main building and most of the rooms look over the gardens to the back. Juniors (years seven, eight and nine) may share three to a room, pairs up to year eleven. Sixth formers may have a single room. Boarders have plenty of contact with boarding staff. Each student has a designated adult whom they meet every week for a pastoral chat, going through achievements, setting and discussing small personal targets.
Once a week, boarders walk into the village and buy themselves snacks and little treats at the village shop. Whilst the school encourages healthy eating (at break time we saw an orderly queue of teenagers waiting to be served a cup of steaming, hot, homemade soup), the boarding staff clearly knows that strawberry laces, onion rings and fizzy cola bottles are all crucial to well-being. There are kitchens in the boarding common rooms where students can make hot chocolates, toast and so on. Occasionally the minibus is commandeered to make a joyful trip to the big supermarket in the nearest town. Activities are arranged for the weekends; Bedgebury with its cycling and outdoor activity areas is close, and other trips include crazy golf, paintballing or paddle-boarding. Everything seems very low key and homely, the atmosphere of the squeaky floorboards, rakishly angled door lintels and ancient criss-crossed windows feeling like a well-lived in place (if your attitude is ‘slightly scruffy’, then you probably don’t get this school).

Ethos and heritage

The school thinks it may be the first school for dyslexics in the world. It is the successor to Down House which was established in Rottingdean, near Brighton in 1910, and moved to the current site after World War Two. The Frewen family have put the house and grounds into a trust for the benefit of the school.
The ethos of the school can neatly be summarised by these words used by parents in their communications with The Guide. “Welcome. Understanding. Care. Devotion. Kindness. Respect. Compassion. Nurture.” There was a sense of surprise from parents that such a place existed, where their child could finally thrive. The other aspect of the ethos is the unwillingness to allow students to underachieve, as expressed by the head, “More than a haven.” This is amply illustrated by the steady climb in results and the expansion into sixth form courses.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

Pastoral care is a standout feature of Frewen. Many of the students arrive very beaten down by their previous experiences. One parent described her child’s feelings on their first day, “He arrived full of fear and anxiety. He had very little self-belief and low confidence.” Goodman is understated about the school’s impact, “We give them a feeling of belonging; here they are understood…it is a relief. They are accepted and not on the periphery.” One parent said, “The kindness and understanding of the staff of my child’s struggle up to that point spoke volumes.”
The mutual supportiveness of students towards each other was also mentioned by both school and parents. One parent talked about the solidarity between students and another commented, “My daughter is so happy; everyone understands and is in the same boat.” Mr Goodman points out that bullying is not really an issue as most children have met bullying before and it is the last thing they want in the school. We chat about social pressures; the students tend not to be that streetwise (hard to be streetwise in the middle of the Kentish countryside) but are not isolated from social pressures. The difference at Frewen is that if a student “gets themselves in to a bit of a muddle,” it is going to be known about and staff will help sort it out. Boarders have phones in the evenings and year tens upward are allowed phones during the day, partly as learning aids.
The school also understands that parents can be exhausted and stressed by the time their child reaches Frewen and in need of some care. Communication is far beyond the offerings of a standard school and the class tutor is the first point of contact. There were parental comments about “fantastic communication” from staff.
Disruptive behaviour is not a feature of life at Frewen, possibly because of its admissions criteria. As one parent commented, a diagnosis of dyslexia does not include behavioural problems. Their policy on behaviour is detailed and available to all on the website.

Therapy and staffing

The school has onsite therapists, speech and language, occupational therapy and counselling, and approximately one third of pupils have had therapy at one time or another. Some children are prone to anxiety because of their previous experiences and can be offered counselling if it is felt necessary. There is no withdrawal support given for learning. With all the staff trained in dyslexia support at least level three, all necessary support can be given within the classroom.

Pupils and parents

Students are drawn from a wide area and a wide range of backgrounds. Those funded by local authorities mostly come from Kent and East Sussex. Some families relocate in order to enable their child to attend the school. Minibus routes start from Bexhill, Tunbridge Wells and Ashford for day pupils. The ratio of boys to girls is about two thirds boys to girls. Mr Goodman comments that the distribution of the sexes can be a bit haphazard throughout the school; one parent said that her teenage daughter was exceptionally happy in the school but does miss not having more female friends. However, the school is aware that because of its small size, there is more mixing between year groups than in a larger school.

Money matters

Approximately two thirds of students are funded by local authorities and one third are self-funded. More children in the prep school tend to be self-funded, as diagnosis of dyslexia becomes more possible over time. Some pay privately and then look into getting local authority funding at a later stage. The number of funded students has gone up in recent years, and the school helps to support parents through the Education Health and Care (EHC) process, up to and including, where necessary, attending tribunal. One parent talked about how helpful the school was at explaining letters received from the LA and her gratitude for their presence at the tribunal, “They didn’t have to!” The school can also put prospective parents in touch with professional organisations who specialise in supporting parents through the EHC process.

The last word

The school house is extraordinarily serene (ignore the parked cars) as you approach; as if time has passed on without changing it. However, inside, it is specialist teaching on steroids. There is an overwhelming sense that the students have possession of a place that is all their own. They are free here to have time to develop into the people they want to be. Staff encourage them to value themselves and eventually walk, fully-equipped, over the bridge to face the world beyond. What more could you ask from their schooldays?

Please note: 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

The central aim of the school is to help every child realise and achieve their full potential, whether great or modest. Most pupils will have encountered difficulties during their previous educational experiences and many will be far more aware of their limitations than their capabilities. At Frewen, each pupil is seen as an individual with unique talents and abilities. By working to emphasise and develop their strengths, we create the confidence to address their limitations in a positive and creative environment. We offer the full National Curriculum, teaching in small groups (average class size 5.5) through specialist staff, supported by our own full time speech and language and occupational therapists. All new pupils undergo thorough assessment and educational and therapy programmes are tailored to their individual needs. While placing great emphasis on literacy and numeracy, we have particular strengths in IT, art and design, and music. We have a wide range of excellent facilities, including extensive playing fields, gardens, and access to parkland of more than 100 acres. Our principal area of specialisation is specific learning difficulties. Above all Frewen College is a community in which respect for the individual is at the core of our philosophy. Each member of the community has an important role to play and is expected to understand their responsibilities and help others whenever possible.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Aspergers
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia Y
Dyscalculia Y
Dysgraphia
Dyslexia Y
Dyspraxia Y
English as an additional language (EAL)
Genetic
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class
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 Y
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty Y
VI - Visual Impairment

Subscribe for instant access to in-depth reviews:

30,000 Independent, state and special schools in our parent-friendly interactive directory
 Instant access to in-depth UK school reviews
 Honest, opinionated and fearless independent reviews of over 1,000 schools
 Independent tutor company reviews

Try before you buy - The Charter School Southwark

The Good Schools Guide subscription

GSG Blog >

The Good Schools Guide newsletter

The Good Schools Guide Newsletter

Educational insight in your inbox. Sign up for our popular newsletters.

The Good Schools Guide manifesto for parents