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Best secondary schools in Exeter

Best secondary schools in Plymouth

Best secondary schools in North Devon

Best secondary schools in South Devon

Best secondary schools in East Devon

Special Educational Needs

The King's School, Ottery St MaryAmongst the 56 secondary schools across Devon there are some fantastic non-selective options. Many are over-subscribed so it’s well worth looking at catchment areas for your preferred choice if you are moving to the area with these schools in mind. Our article on secondary school admissions is recommended reading for anyone going through this process for the first time.

Alternatively, Devon has seven incredibly popular grammar schools, five of which are single sex. It also has one ‘bilateral school’, The Spires College in Torquay, which runs two academic streams, the more advanced of which is selectively offered based on pupils’ results from the same assessment exam used by the grammar schools.

The main entry point for all grammars is the autumn term of year 7, for which pupils sit the standard 11-plus exam. Offers are made to those with the highest results, up to the published pupil admission number for each school. There are no set catchment areas for these schools and they are all over-subscribed with parents often relocating on offer of a place or committing to long commutes across the county. It is worth reading our articles on choosing grammar schools and understanding the 11-plus exam if you are considering this route.

Grammar schools in Exeter

Families in Exeter can access the grammar schools across the county despite there being none in the city centre itself. See the rest of this section for more details.

Secondary schools in Exeter

There are five non-selective secondary schools in Exeter and three shine out as being equally over-subscribed and extremely popular. St Peter’s Church of England Aided School gets very slightly better scores for attainment and progression than West Exe School or St James School, but there is very little in it. All have good cultures for learning and are highly recommended academically and pastorally by parents.

Post 16, Exeter College is the go-to choice for the majority of sixth form students across the whole of Devon with its strong reputation, broad academic options and impressive city-wide spread of facilities. Our review refers to it as, ' A great city college, one of a kind in rural Devon.’

For the seriously bright A level mathematician, there is the outstanding option of the Exeter Mathematics School, ‘A birds-of-a-feather school’ according to our review, with a strong Oxbridge success rate and grade A as an average for A level.

Best state primary schools in Exeter

Best private schools in Exeter

Best nurseries in Exeter

Grammar schools in Plymouth

In Plymouth, the city council runs a ‘one exam for either school’ on behalf of the two single sex grammar options for girls. Devonport High School for Girls is the current favourite among parents, according to our reviewer it ‘attracts girls from some 50 feeder schools…students seem well prepared not just for academic success but also for life after school.’ Plymouth High School for Girls is the alternative single sex option with results not far below those of Devonport. For boys there is one option, Devonport High School for Boys, which our reviewer felt has ‘a great reputation for science and engineering’ but also offers ‘so many more opportunities for the boys; by the time they leave they are not just academically wise but worldly wise too.’

Secondary schools in Plymouth

There are 13 non-selective secondaries in Plymouth. Plymstock School is academically the highest achiever of these, our review describes it as, ‘A popular community comprehensive... the facilities are superb.’

UTC Plymouth is a recent addition to the city’s secondary offerings, a rare STEAM specialist school with strong local industry links and a competitive edge, it is already oversubscribed. Hele’s School and Notre Dame RC School two other popular options in the city, the latter with particularly good A level results and offering sturdy oversubscription priority for baptised Catholics.

Best state primary schools in Plymouth

Best private schools in Plymouth

Best nurseries in Plymouth

Grammar schools in North Devon

There are no grammar schools within easy reach of North Devon but this does not stop some families committing to long journeys so that their children can attend them. See the rest of this section for more details.

Secondary schools in North Devon

North Devon is extremely lucky to have the fantastic Uffculme School in Cullompton, set in a glorious green campus, our reviewer found this to be, ‘A truly outstanding state comprehensive,’ praising everything from behaviour to teaching, sports to music, drama to everything extracurricular.

Further west there is the impressive Okehampton College, which has a huge rural catchment area of over 400 square miles. Academic performance has been above local and national averages in recent

For post-16 education most pupils head either to the much applauded Exeter College (see full details in the Exeter section of this guide) or to Petroc College in Barnstaple, which has arguably even stronger A level results.

Best state primary schools in North Devon

Best private schools in North Devon

Best nurseries in North Devon

Grammar schools in South Devon

Torbay Council manages the 11-plus exam and admissions for all the selective options in Torquay; children can sit one exam and apply for all four schools. For many the choice comes down to whether they want single sex or co-educational. The bilateral Spires College is co-ed but the only pure grammar option for both boys and girls is Churston Ferrers Grammar School Academy, which is based in Brixham. According to our review, it differs from its competitors because ‘it’s more relaxed than your average grammar school, maybe because it’s co-ed or maybe because it’s less traditional.’ Relaxed for a grammar it may be, but its attainment and progress results for pupils remain almost double those of neighbouring non-selective schools.

Opt for single sex and you have a choice of two. Either Torquay Boys’ Grammar School which our reviewer described as, ‘One of the top 20 boys’ schools in the country. Fantastic facilities and teaching that produces top results and very successful young men’. Or Torquay Girls’ Grammar, which our reviewer says is, ‘A haven of inspired, structured academic provision…supported by a nurturing and enlightened pastoral approach and a wealth of opportunities. Girls leave with the belief that everything is attainable.’

Secondary schools in South Devon

The wonderful Kingsbridge Academy is the highlight of state secondary education in South Devon with our reviewer declaring that, ‘If you live in Kingsbridge you are very lucky indeed.’ Attainment and progress scores well above national average and the average A level result an impressive B grade.

The other shining star in this region is King Edward VI Community College (known locally as KEVICCS), it is only marginally behind Kingsbridge Academy in terms of results but is also known for its impressive emphasis on performing arts.

Best state primary schools in South Devon

Best private schools in South Devon

Best nurseries in South Devon

Grammar schools in East Devon

The final jewel in the Devon grammar crown is co-ed Colyton Grammar, ‘Very much the go-to school in this area, ahead of some excellent competitors’, according to our review. It has very impressive results with 80+ per cent of pupils getting grades 9-7 at GCSE and 60+ per cent achieving grades A*/A at A level in recent years.

Secondary schools in East Devon

East Devon is chock-full of fantastic state secondary options. First and foremost it is home to the exceptional King’s School in Ottery St Mary, ‘Does exactly what all parents wish their local school would do: provides a first-class education for everybody,’ according to our reviewer. Top 17 per cent nationally for those achieving grade 4+ in English and mathematics and nearly 60 per cent of pupils achieving A*-B at A level.

Woodroffe in Lyme Regis, although technically in Dorset, is the catchment school for many in this area of Devon and is another phenomenally popular and academically high achieving school. Progress and attainment figures only very slightly different to King’s and with a similarly applauded ethos and approach. Closer to Exeter is Clyst Vale Community College in Broad Clyst, again offering academic progression and results way above the national average.

For post-16 options all three forementioned run to 18 but there is even wider choice and arguably greater freedoms at Exeter College, see full details in the Exeter section of this guide.

Best state primary schools in East Devon

Best private schools in East Devon

Best nurseries in East Devon

Secondary schools for children with special educational needs in Devon

Independent secondary schools which are known for sympathetic nurturing of children with SEND include Sands School in Ashburton, where small class sizes and some extra 1:1 teaching provides for children aged 11-17 with specific learning difficulties, moderate learning needs and some social and emotional issues. Our reviewer commented, ‘The pastoral care here is second to none and on a level that is incredibly hard to match in a large mainstream setting – which is probably why they have more than their fair share of refugees turned phenomenal success stories from other schools.’ Structured support in an on-site base for students with autism can be found at Kingsley near Bideford, in its Greville Centre for autism. CReSTeD status and specialist dyslexia classes makes the school attractive to a lot of families who have one child with a specific learning difficulty and siblings without, but who want their children to be educated together.

Tiverton High School  is a large mainstream secondary school with a resource base for eight students with communication and interaction needs, as well as providing a sanctuary club at break times for vulnerable students. Queen Elizabeth’s in Crediton has its MyPlace learning base for additional support for autism and The Spires College in Plymouth has two additional resource bases, for hearing impairment and for autism.

Additionally, The Outdoors School supports small classes of children with autism and social emotional and mental health needs in four forest sites across Devon whilst Vranch House School,  is an outstanding day school for children with complex needs, including physical difficulties, in Exeter. 

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