b'STATE BOARDING SCHOOLSBoarding: Full boarding only although the odd fewwe were warned when we busily scribbled down go home at weekends. Two co-ed boarding housesthe detailsbut all proper real world stuff that for sixth formers, both with a combo of two-bedscould potentially change lives). The sixth form (for year 12s) and singles (for year 13s). Not thecentre is home to a lively common room, with smartest or tidiest weve seen but perfectly ade- a large, all-school, cashless refectory to the side. quate and all have beneted from a recent rollingLovely, well-tended site of a standard unusual in refurb programme. There are cooking facilitiesa state school, featuring quiet and private sitting and a communal area in each house and a goodareas for studentsin full use when we visited.staff to student ratio, with head of boarding livingUniform includes a vivid purple blazer, and in one house plus three sets of boarding parentsfor sixth formers, its smart dress. Loud, old-fash-and a boarding assistant and boarding graduateioned bell system thats a bit of a bone-shaker (the latter is part of a new rolling programmeuntil you get used to it. Food good, with newish whereby sports teaching graduates come fromcatering manager who used to own his own res-North Bucks Uni on a placement). taurantnow also with second food outlet, The Pod, for grab-n-go options.Old boys include Telegraph columnist Giles Smith, economics commentator Tim Congdon, Head calls music the soul of thecostume designer and double Oscar winner Jim school, and parents say it is justAcheson, founder of Freeserve, John Pluthero and former BBC education correspondent Mike Baker. that. Theres live music in everyOur alumni are very supportive, says the head. If assembly, along with the usualwe have a big project on the go, they always try to help and they are very keen to support anyone orchestra, ensembles and choirs who is in a nancially vulnerable positionthose who would otherwise miss out on an opportu-Because boarding is sixth form only, board- nity. They are also supportive when it comes to ers are afforded plenty of independence and havecareers, helping sixth formers move on, offering guidelines rather than rules. Plenty of freedom tointernships, interview advice and networking.go into town, albeit with a strict signing in and out system. Some go into London too, as well as toPastoral care, inclusivity and discipline: Not much stay with local friends, although we need permis- by way of misbehaviourmost students are sion from their parents for that, the housemasterhighly motivated self-starters with little time told us. Big focus on induction including week- for disruption, although there are about five ends away at an activity centre 30 miles away andxed term exclusions and a few permanent ones there are regular trips out ranging from cyclingmost years for those who do mess up. Support, to cinema though for the most part, they seemrespect, generosity and compassion are the core content to hang around the school where they getvalues which students are constantly reminded use of sports and music facilities. On weekdays,of. Robust pastoral system includes new post of free time until dinner at 6pm, then its study timewellbeing manager. Theres also a buddy scheme, from 7-9pm and lights out at 10.30pm (11pm onpart-time school counsellor and an emphasis on weekends). transition to make sure year 7s and new year 12s settle in well. The Tootoot app provides an anon-Ethos and heritage: Directly descended from aymous way for students to raise concerns, with Colchester town school that existed in 1206 andthe opportunity for students to be put in touch granted royal charters by Henry VIII in 1539 andwith a mentor. A fair amount of stress, particu-Elizabeth I in 1584. Set in an afuent residen- larly around exam time but parents say teachers tial area of Colchester, the main buildings dateare on it: My son had a wobble due to the pres-back to the late 19th century. These are home tosures of work and the school dealt with it very some classic grammar school classrooms, withcompassionately, gathering together the relevant big windows overlooking the shiny oored corri- teachers to support him and keep us informed. dors, plus a very traditional, well-stocked library,School is all ears when it comes to student voice complete with oil paintings of old headmasters when CRGS was mentioned on the Everyones on the wall, and additional silent room at theInvited website, students were the rst port of call side. Newer additionswhich include blocksfor the school so it could nd out their views on for science and engineering, computing andthe issues. School also works hard to tackle any art and renovated music and drama facilities racismrecently the African Caribbean Society t well with the attractive old school buildings.agreed there isnt any but said there is sometimes Wonderful to see sixth form engineering studentsa lack of understanding of culture which school hard at work on imaginative projects (top secret,says its currently addressing.1304'