Colyton Grammar School secures £490,000 to support access for students from disadvantaged backgrounds

Mary Youlden
Authored by Mary Youlden
Posted Thursday, December 6, 2018 - 10:39am

Colyton Grammar School in Devon is one of 16 selective grammar schools in the country to secure a share of a £50 million fund from the Department of Education to support better access for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The school has received £490,000 to which it has added its own funds, and money from other external sources of funding, to create a total pot of almost £612,000. The investment will be used to develop its already ambitious and successful initiatives designed to encourage entry for able students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Work by the school over the past two years has already seen numbers registering to take the entrance test treble, and the number of Pupil Premium students in the school since the work has begun is nearly double the national and county level of highly achieving disadvantaged Key Stage 2 students. It has achieved this by working closely with 10 local primary schools on a range of projects to boost educational aspiration and applications to the school. Support and resources are available to all primary schools within Colyton’s commutable area.

Specific examples of activities include delivering assemblies, hosting visits, offering STEM outreach activities (delivered by Year 12 students and so far to 20 primary and four secondary schools), providing courses to improve the standardised KS2 for Year 5 and Year 6 students, and familiarisation activities for prospective students and their parents so they can ‘see what a modern selective school looks like’.

As well as providing support to prospective Year 7 students from disadvantaged background, Colyton Grammar School is also working with applicants to its Sixth Form from similar backgrounds – particularly vital as the provision of post-16 education has dramatically reduced in East Devon over the past few years. As a result, 74% of applications to its Sixth Form have come from local comprehensive schools.

The support and preparation provided by Colyton Grammar School to prospective students from disadvantaged areas means that not only has it increased the number of such students, it has also done so while maintaining the excellent educational standards for which it is known.

Colyton Grammar School is not working on the inclusion agenda in isolation: it is part of a group of four selective grammar schools based around the country which are taking the lead in creating, assessing, evaluating and delivering innovative ways in which to improve access for the ‘disadvantaged able’. It is working with the Universities of Exeter, Durham and Plymouth to understand the barriers to applying to a selective education provider, and to develop the evidence base to support both current and planned initiatives.

The funding will allow the school to further develop its widening participation activity and create the infrastructure to accommodate a growing number of students.

Tim Harris, Headteacher, commented: “We are delighted to have been awarded funding by the Department of Education for our work in improving access to our school for able students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Our work to date has been hugely successful and is thanks entirely to the dedication of colleagues and students, and the willingness of schools in the area to partner with us. We have achieved results so far without additional funding from outside the school – this recent award will help us to build on our initial successes.”

He added: “The Department of Education has made it very clear that the schools which have received this funding must show evidence of impact, benefit and improvement. We are confident that our track record, our plans, our partnerships and our capital investment will achieve this. Previously, selective schools had been excluded from applying for expansion funding – with this new funding we can make a real difference.”

Jim Skinner of the Grammar School Heads’ Association commented: “We are delighted that selective schools are being supported to expand.  It is really important that, just like other good and outstanding schools, they are able to expand to meet parental demand, especially at a time of significant growth in the number of pupils reaching secondary age.

“The large majority of selective schools now prioritise access for disadvantaged pupils, which is backed up by outreach and partnership work with local schools. Selective schools are therefore well placed to contribute to meeting the ongoing need for more school places and supporting high quality education provision elsewhere.”

According to latest figures from the Department of Education, Colyton Grammar School is the best-performing co-educational secondary school in England. The recent Sunday Times Parent Power league table identified it as the top state secondary school in Devon, Cornwall, Somerset (including Bristol) and Dorset and outperforming all independent schools in the area.

League table positions reflect the examination success the school has enjoyed this year across a wide range of subjects. In all, 87% of Colyton students who sat GCSEs this year achieved the top three grades of 9 to 7, and 40% achieved a grade 9, ten times the national average of 4%.

Some 21 students achieved the coveted eight or more subjects with grade 9, around 18% of this year’s GCSEs cohort. This compares to the national figure of 0.2%.

Across subjects, 100% of students who sat Computer Science achieved grade 7 or above. Subjects where 85% or more students achieved grade 7 or above include Biology, Chemistry, English Language, English Literature, Geography, History, Maths, Physics and Religious Studies.

Students who studied for EDEXCEL Business Studies sat the ‘old style’ GCSE and 100% achieved A*– the best results for this subject in the country. One student achieved the highest mark in the country and with three others is in the UK top 10 – meaning that four of the highest-marked top 10 Business Studies students in the UK come from Colyton.

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