New versus old school – what’s the real difference?

David Westcombe

When it comes to schools there’s plenty of choice in Tunbridge Wells, both old and new. But is there a difference between the two? We asked Ed Dickie, deputy head of Claremont Senior, and David Westcombe, headmaster of Rose Hill about the benefits each has to offer

Established 2011
Ed Dickie, Claremont Senior School

The benefits of being a new school is that it presents a blank canvas upon which we are able to establish a clear, strong set of values that permeate through everything we do.

Not weighed down by expectations of alumni and parents who often are seeking a recreation of their own school experience, Claremont has been able to define clearly the values that guide us – attitude, aspiration and activism.

Parents choose the school not for what they perceive it has represented in the past but what it represents now. Equally, starting a school from scratch allows us to avoid the difficulties that can often be presented by dragging an organisation into the new world.

There are no vested interests to combat and no ‘we do it because we always have done it that way’ sorts of conversations. Students benefit from state of the art facilities and an educational philosophy drawn from, and guided by, the cumulative experience of the past.

Above all else, in a new independent establishment there is not the sense that the school is more important than the students – that there have been hundreds of similar students in the past and will be hundreds more in the future. At Claremont it really is the students, rather than the historic buildings and traditions, that define the character and values in the school.

David Westcombe

Established 1832
David Westcombe, Rose Hill School

First-time visitors to Rose Hill are usually taken aback by the fact that, despite being one of the oldest Prep Schools in the country, it is a modern, purpose-built school. It moved from its original site on the London Road in 1966 and hasn’t looked back since.

Our history is very important to us. Baden-Powell was a pupil in 1868 and we continue his tradition by having our own Cubs, Rainbows and Brownie packs. His name lends itself to one of the three Houses in the school, the other two being Mackinnon, a Kent and England cricketer at the turn of the century, and Grange, a former Headmaster, who brought the school to its new site in Culverden Down.

Rose Hill has developed in harness with the social and economic changes that Tunbridge Wells has seen over nearly two centuries. This leaves an indelible mark of tradition – a word unpalatable to some, but one which we take very seriously: traditional courtesies, traditional community spirit, traditional manners, traditional hard work.

These Victorian attributes, however, are mellowed by a 21st century openness and mutual respect between pupils and staff, underpinned by a child-centred focus, very much not the stuff of Dickens.

Children love tradition and, as the school has developed, we have been able to cherry-pick those traditions which support the ethos of the school, for example, attendance at the Remembrance Service in Tunbridge Wells every November.

Although now in a modern, technologically advanced environment, Rose Hill is able to blend the old and the new and we are proud to be a part of the rich history of Royal Tunbridge Wells.

This article first appeared in the Times of Tunbridge Wells’ sister publication So magazine.

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