Based in a grand building enjoying scenic downs views and bracing coastal air in Seaford, it prides itself on being ‘traditional yet quirky’, sharing a trusting respect between pupils, parents and staff.
“We’re a talking school,” says Headteacher Tula Dyer – herself a living embodiment of the school’s vibrant and colourful character. “The essence of the school can be seen in our pupils – they are our ambassadors.”
In charge of pastoral care at Newlands before taking on the role as Head, she still has a comfy sofa and a listening ear ready.
“We give support in an informal, relaxed way,” she says. “Staff sing, children perform. We can communicate and share ideas without judgements.”
“We give support in an informal, relaxed way. Staff sing, children perform. We can communicate and share ideas without judgements.”
Newlands welcomes boys and girls from just a few months old in the nursery, right through its prep and senior classes to A levels. With just over 150 on the roll at present, classes are small and nurturing. It is non-selective and, due to its size, it’s able to tailor the timetable to meet pupils’ individual educational requirements.
Additional GCSE options can be offered off timetable to the brightest pupils.
While maintaining focus on academic expectations, Newlands’ compassionate and caring staff work to find ways to bring out the best in all its pupils. The result can be a startling improvement in confidence for those children who may have floundered in mainstream or may have been home educated.
The Yes Centre provides specialist support to children with dyslexia and dyscalculia both in and out of the classroom.
One year 10 student said: “I’m dyslexic and I used to hate my last school. Then I came here, four years ago. The one-to-one support has really helped; it’s made a big difference for me.”
Another pupil has found an opportunity to gain experience in childcare and prepare for vocational qualifications in the on-site nursery. The emphasis is always to find a solution, sometimes by thinking outside of the box.
“Our goal is to make the children aware of what they are capable,” said one teacher.
Newlands’ eye-catching building was built for the school when it relocated in 1903.
Founded in Hertfordshire in 1854, Newlands moved to Seaford which was known as ‘School Town’ because of its then thriving community of hundreds of prep schools. As years have passed the others have all closed, and Newlands itself was briefly shut after it became overwhelmed by financial pressures in 2006. It reopened two weeks later, having been saved by two determined parents.
“We’ve had fantastic support and investment from Beaconhouse which has allowed us to bring education into the 21st century. We have to educate children for a world that doesn’t exist yet. We do this by giving them a love for independent and life-long learning.”
That determination to embrace the future has seen a move to equip all pupils – from reception onwards – with their own iPad. Learning how to use the mass of information available on the web has become a key skill for the children, and the tablets are used for everything from research projects, to writing music.
That doesn’t mean the demise of hands-on lessons. Recent additions include a purpose-built food technology room providing life skills and inspiration for budding chefs. The smell of sawdust and glue still fills the air in the design technology room.
While digital technology is fully embraced in the Art Department, they retain a traditional dark room too, where children can experience the magic of seeing their photograph appear on the paper. And the art department is a joyful demonstration in the pleasures of getting your hands dirty in the pursuit of something beautiful.
Newlands’ day pupils are joined by a small number of boarders. Fourteen have currently made their home in the boarding houses, including visitors from sister schools overseas and other students with parents living abroad. As well as fun social trips in evenings and weekends, cultural integration trips are arranged each term, encouraging international students to learn about life in the UK. These students make a great contribution to the diverse school family.
Links with the wider community are also highly valued at Newlands. Outside groups are welcomed in to use the well-equipped sports hall, swimming pool and outdoor sports pitches. Many pupils are involved in these clubs, giving a sense of fluidity between their outside interests and school life.
Headteacher Tula Dyer says: “Many of our pupils have links with Newlands going back generations. Those studying here now will be the start of future generations who will come back to us. It’s important that parents ‘feel’ what we’re about. Those who do feel it, love it.”