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RIC history

The College’s unofficial mascot – The Flying Pig – embodies the RIC belief that everyone can fly and achieve their dreams and ambitions

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RIC takes as its unofficial logo not an emblem of classical myth but a flying pig, a riposte to the cynicism that greeted the College’s chances of success when it was established in 1984

The many thousands of students who have passed through its doors and the outstanding grades so many have achieved have long since successfully proved those cynics wrong. 

Most important though are the number of former students, parents, staff and friends who keep in touch, return for legendary garden parties and follow the growth of the College with affection and enthusiasm. 

Much to the astonishment and consternation of some more traditional establishments ‘Rochester Tutors’ has grown year on year and as Rochester Independent College is now one of the UK’s most well known and highly regarded alternatives to traditional independent education. RIC now teaches students from year 7 and boasts one of the largest independent sixth forms in Kent. Students over the years have gone on to flourish, sometimes despite earlier hurdles in their education.

The flying pig remains the name of our student magazine and is proudly immortalized on our newly installed musical gates sound sculpture, an ambitious public art project, perfectly embodying the College’s never forgotten aim of proving that pigs really can fly.

RIC’s success is firmly based on a mature, relaxed, yet academically challenging working environment. At RIC we aren’t driven by an airy philosophy or a corporate mission statement. If we do something, we do it for a reason and because it contributes to our students doing well in their exams and enjoying school. 

Changing faces

The College was founded by Maths teachers Brian Pain and Simon de Belder. In 1984 Brian visits Rochester on the Lady of the Lea sailing barge and finds the most derelict Georgian building he could to start a school. 

He then talks the bank manager into lending him and Simon £40,000 and so Rochester Tutors as the College was then known and is still often referred to as locally is born with a grand student roll of 6. 

The simple representation of a Thames Sailing Barge set within Rochester Castle was our official logo for much of the time the College has been in existence.

The College has grown since it started in one house-25 Star Hill- and now occupies 14, mostly listed buildings. Not only do all these acquisitions make sense in creating a connected campus they also surround sufficient land to allow the creation of a very pleasant city garden, a wonderfully civilized environment with a unique sense of place in which to live, work and study.

Non uniform education

The College’s academic credibility was built on the excellence of our Mathematics and Science teaching but we have always been committed to offering a full curriculum and broad education. 

Since 1990 we have welcomed a small number of Thai students who have won prestigious Government scholarships. The students all return to work at top academic or government posts after completion of their education in the UK. 

Our well-established Art Department has a first class reputation and many students have gone on to become artists, graphic designers and illustrators. The College was awarded the ISA Award For Excellence and Innovation in Fine Arts in 2021. 

RIC’s success is firmly based on a mature, relaxed, yet academically challenging working environment. At RIC we aren’t driven by an airy philosophy or a corporate mission statement. If we do something, we do it for a reason and because it contributes to our students doing well in their exams and enjoying school. 

We've grown together through the years

The College attracts a fair amount of attention in the local and national press. The Daily Telegraph featured us as a non-uniform school and a feature article previously appeared in The Independent. 

RIC was a pioneer of the Easter Revision course that is now offered by many independent schools and private providers. RIC’s work developing innovative courses for home-educated children was at the forefront of the growing trend towards flexi schooling options in the UK.

Our Lower School welcomed its first intake of 11 year olds in April 2007. The model of education and pastoral care offered by the College was successfully tailored to fit the different requirements of younger children with Ofsted judging the quality of education as “outstanding” when they first inspected RIC as a secondary school. The Adam Smith Institute (!) said- " Rochester Independent College stands out as a notable ‘alternative’ exception for its informal ethos and relaxed learning environment, through rigorous teaching and a strong focus on preparation for assessment, recognised in a recent outstanding Ofsted report, suggest that it might be better characterised as akin to a successful Swedish Free School."

Our successful bid to join the Independent Schools Association was an important part of our evolution from being primarily a centre for A level students into a distinctive independent school. 

We were listed by Carfax Education's prestigious Schools List in the "Something Different" category in 2023, which showcases "schools that break the mould, offering unconventional and innovative approaches to education" and "possessing distinctive qualities, setting them apart from the mainstream."

Discover the magic of the RIC gardens

It wasn’t accidental that RIC grew up around a hidden garden which has itself won awards from The Kent Wildlife Trust. We have always developed the campus in a way that grew the historically distinctive site in an environmentally responsible way. Our students, many of whom are engaged by the climate change action movements, have been asking us to do even more as a school. Leaving spaces for nature and wildness is becoming more crucial for carbon sequestration and the garden is our own small contribution to that. 

When we have built on the site we’ve always done so in a responsible way- our underground theatre benefitted from low voltage electrical installation and modern construction techniques, combining to give the unique performance space a minimal carbon footprint.

The College is continuing to develop exciting international and environmental projects, interests that are embedded in our ethos, our curriculum and our programme of trips, exchange visits and charity fund raising work.

The College has always supported the environmental projects of the Woodland Trust. We encourage older students to use public transport for their journey to College where possible. 

We also promote recycling and the limiting of waste.  Students use the College gardens as a resource for both teaching and recreation and volunteer to help in its maintenance. The aim is to encourage students to accept responsibility for their behaviour, show initiative and understand how they can contribute to community life. The College has a policy of supporting local bookshops, maintenance, garages and food suppliers rather than chains.

RIC staff through time

Changing faces

The strength of any school is the quality of its staff and over the years there have been many gifted teachers and colourful characters. 

Amongst the longest serving members of staff still at the College are Jackie Clark (Arts and Marketing), Dave Tittensor (Maths), Principal Alistair Brownlow, Senior Vice Principal Kelly FlatmanMaeva ElliottPaul Dutton (Physics), Lisa Herron (Film and Media), Ian Savage in the Maintenance department and Head of Art Robin Macintosh. We are lucky to have an excellent team- teachers, administrators and ancillary staff - all highly committed to the education and welfare of our students.

Stars of Star Hill from the past former students remember with gratitude include Film teacher Dr Todd Dedman, EAL and Economics teacher Sue Cooper, Biology teachers Brenda Harrison and Janet Cargill, Chemistry teachers Julian Cass and Hugh Laverty, Economics teacher Jim Mumford, Cook Floss Hatton, Administrator Meg Chapman, Chemistry teacher Graham Anderton, Gardener Trevor Williams and German teacher and the first Head of Lower School Tony Smith. In the early days of the College Dr Ian McFox was a legendary Physics teacher whose 4pm Friday afternoon tests were a not to be missed highlight of his students’ week.

The College has often been a home to tutors who eventually move on to academia including two former Heads of English- Dr Michael Flavin who is now at KCL and David Thornthwaite, now at Bristol University. Other A level tutors turned high flying academics include Economics teacher Dr Annika Johnson now at Bristol University, Art History teacher Dr Michael Walsh now at Savannah College of Art and Design and Music teacher Dr Michael Downes now Director of Music at St Andrews University. Former RIC Physics and Astronomy teacher Dr Rad Topalovic is now Lead Astronomy Education Officer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich.

Back to the classroom

RIC has a tradition of growing its own teachers. Perhaps most noteworthy is current Maths teacher Danny Chueng from Hong Kong who started at RIC not as a student but as a cook! Boarders soon appreciated his traditional roast dinners and baking skills. RIC awarded Danny a full scholarship to study Engineering at City University where he achieved a first class degree. He became a full British citizen in 2017.

Former College student Hoi Yung from Hong Kong spent 3 years back in Rochester as a teacher of Maths. Hoi previously attended the College to learn English and study for his A levels. He did exceptionally well, gaining Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Chemistry in a year. This secured him a place at Imperial College. Hoi says: “As an ex student of the College it was great to have the opportunity to return and work alongside those who taught me.” Hoi finished his PhD in Singapore. 

Another former student, Dr Sheetal Patel taught alongside her own A level tutors and spent 3 years as our UCAS Advisor. Sheetal joined RIC from Rochester Grammar School, took A levels here as a sixth former and proceeded to secure a first class degree in Genetics from UCL, an MSc Distinction in Bioinformatics from York and a PhD. 

One of the College’s earliest younger students was Alice Sage first came to RIC at the age of 13 back in 1998. She graduated with a first in Art History from UCL then taught at RIC and worked as our first Co-Curricular Coordinator before landing her dream V&A job. 

Former students currently on the staff list include Admissions Manager Rohan Froud and Graphic Design teacher Joe Becci, one of the first home-educated students to complete his education at the College. 

RIC remembers

We remember with respect and gratitude some key members of RIC staff who made important contributions to the College’s development- Co Principal Pauline Bailey, Bursar and Cook Helen Harlow and Sociology and Politics teacher Paul Bucknall

Amongst the most fondly remembered is Art teacher Pete Gowers. Pete was an exceptional fine artist, both painter and sculptor and teacher of Art at Rochester Independent College for more than 25 years. Pete was an inspiration to generations of students, to local people who attended his popular life drawing classes and to his colleagues at RIC. Our new visual arts centre is named in his memory.

College futures

Dukes Education

In 2016 the next chapter of the College’s development began and we joined the Dukes Education Group. Our students now benefit from specialist university admissions advice from Oxbridge Applications and The Medic Portal. Lower School students have the opportunity to take part in The Dukes Young Leaders Award scheme and spend a mini-gap term at Copperfield International School in Switzerland. Our work experience and Careers programme is now supplemented by InvestIN allowing our students to test drive dream careers. Our teachers benefit from exchanging ideas with staff from other top schools in the group like Cardiff Sixth Form College and Hampstead Fine Arts College. 

We are continuing to expand our facilities but will not lose the small and personal nature of the College environment. We believe education is not just about examination and hope to create a lasting, dynamic and innovative educational experience that will make a true contribution not only to the education and personal development of the students we teach, but to everyone who works here and more ambitiously to the world in general. 

We are always keen to involve those who have known us and, hopefully benefited from what we have provided in the past. We welcome any interest from those who may be interested in joining the team and are always interested in receiving updates from former students and teachers about their post-RIC lives. 

Project 2025 and the Northbank campus

RIC’s Project 2025 sees transformative plans for campus development. It’s a hugely significant moment in the College’s history, supported by significant investment from Dukes Education, our parent company. It will allow us to offer boarding for younger students and improve facilities across our Star Hill home. 

RIC recently acquired the former Seaman’s Mission Institute and the AF Smith & Sons building opposite the College’s main campus at Bardell Wharf. This will see the development of our Northbank Campus- a residential village with study bedrooms and a new home for our award winning art department. In consideration of these historically significant buildings, we will retain and restore the original facades.

We’re keen to reflect our priorities at the college in the design- health and wellness literally at the heart- with a wellbeing garden in the atrium, mirroring the way we have the gardens at the centre of the existing campus. Our boarding students are not permitted to bring cars and there will be a smaller traffic footprint than if the site had been developed for housing.

We look forward to working with local residents and businesses as we try and contribute to the exciting development of the Sun Pier to Star Hill conservation area as a creative quarter. This flagship development will complement the Heritage Action Zone that surrounds it, helping to engage local communities through art and cultural projects. 



College aims and boarding principles