Brixham, Paignton and Torquay Schools
Torbay is a large bay on the south coast of Devon, famous for its long sandy beaches, stunning views, red sandstone cliffs, and of course our national treasures, Basil Fawlty and Agatha Christie, Torquay’s most famous residents. Once optimistically advertised in the 80’s as the ‘St. Tropez of England’, it is now slightly more realistically known as ‘The English Riviera’. With the palm trees to prove it, Torbay is edged by steep hills creating a local microclimate that is warmer than the rest of the country. It’s a favourite choice for hen and stag weekends, but also an affordable and popular retirement destination. In fact there is a higher proportion of people over the age of sixty-five in Torbay than in the rest of the South West, and nationally. The balance is positively tipped in the school holidays when young foreign students come en masse to learn English.
The Bay is made up of the three distinctly different seaside towns. In the south, there’s the very respectable Brixham, a picturesque fishing harbour with brightly painted cottages, it’s home to artists, sailors, and escapees-from-the-rat-race. Steeped in maritime history, famous for tales of smugglers and pirates, and yes, an annual Pirate Festival, it is, by far, the most appealing area in the Bay. However, it is also the most inaccessible, it’s cut off from the rest of the Bay, it’s not on the way to anywhere else; never a passing place, always a sole destination. It is also the most expensive place to live in Torbay, on a par with the South Hams. Then there’s Paignton, the paddle-friendly, sandy seaside town with a pier, kiss-me-quick tourist attractions and rowdy nightlife. Paignton is a seaside town heavily dependent on tourism. It is the least desirable of the TQ’s and the most deprived. Finally, there’s Torquay, an up-and-coming area where Fawlty Towers and B&B’s are now competing with Michelin-star restaurants and seafront luxury apartments. The Abbey Sands development is hopefully just the tip of the iceberg; rumours of rich foreign investors buying up the new penthouses will hopefully kick-start the long-promised regeneration of the area. There’s still a long way to go, (who goes to arcades these days?), and let’s be honest, most agree it’s behind the times (by at least a decade), but Torbay deserves a break. The location is stunning; it just needs investment, and a lot of it.
Exciting ‘master plans’ for the future of Torbay were proposed back in 2012, and have been going through consultations. New theatres, cinemas, retail giants, new look promenades and hundreds of new homes have been imagined in the ambitious regeneration schemes. The main areas include Torquay town centre, Paignton town centre, the Torquay Gateway at Edginswell and Collaton St Mary. The proposals tie in perfectly with the new link road that is due to open at the end of 2015. The new South Devon Highway, the multi-million pound dual carriageway, complete with new flyover at Newton Abbot’s Penn Inn, will ease the notoriously congested route into Torbay, and bring with it some positive economic revival. It has created hundreds of jobs so far and if all goes to plan, its long-term effects should increase job opportunities and attract businesses and investors aplenty. There are also plans for a new railway station in Torquay by 2017. Currently there’s no train station in Brixham, and from Torquay and Paignton it’s a train or bus ride to the mainline at Newton Abbot. From there, Exeter and Plymouth are easily accessible, and London is three hours away. For jetsetters, and more recently commuters, regular flights go from Exeter airport to London City.
When the master plans were unveiled, businesses and developers were keen to become part of the future of Torbay, but as objections have continued and delays increased, some are losing heart, and some plans are looking less and less likely. Just recently, a proposal for a new Bay-wide business improvement district was scuppered by the business residents themselves. Locals have been shocked by the negative ballot result. In return for a 1.75 per levy on business rates, the project promised to improve the area, support businesses and deliver a national marketing campaign to help both retail and tourism in Torbay. Another proposal facing strong objection is the regeneration of the decaying Pavillion building in Torquay. The hope is to turn it into an up-market foyer and spa, which will link to a new hotel/apartment block alongside the harbourside. The bottom floor will have restaurants, pubs and shops facing the waterside. Supporters insist that this will create jobs and rejuvenate the harbour, but objectors argue that ‘it is a monstrosity’. Hopefully some common ground can be found here, as this makeover is well overdue.
Affordable? Properties in Torquay and Paignton are cheaper than in Brixham. On the whole, Torbay is cheaper than in the ever-popular South Hams, but near enough to take full advantage of it. Torbay has three state-funded grammar schools, (Torquay Boy’s, Torquay Girls’ and Churston Ferrers, a co-ed grammar school) which could save a packet on school fees or fund a longer daily commute.
You may not be able to earn as much as in other parts of the country, but there are savings to be had here. Property experts are predicting a “wave of migration’ due to cooling house prices in the South East, improving transportation links, and the rollout of superfast broadband across rural areas. Estate agent statistics show a 30 per cent increase in new London-based buyers making the decision to move to this part of the country. For commuters and professionals who work from home, this is becoming a more feasible option. Changes to pension rules, together with low interest and mortgage rates, may also mean that many homes are snapped up as buy-to-let investments. There are far more tenants than there are properties here, so this is a fairly lucrative option and one way to supplement the lower-than-average local wages.
House prices in the South West are about to rocket 29 per cent over the next four years, according to the consultancy BNP Paribas Real Estate. The most reliable bets are coastal homes apparently. So that includes Torbay. In Torquay, terraced properties sell for an average of £156,734, with detached properties fetching around £366,517. In areas like Wellswood - great local shopping, community spirit and within walking distance of the beaches, two-bedroom homes sell from around £175,000. Like-for-like homes in Paignton are about 15 per cent cheaper. In Brixham, the overall average price is £205,584, slightly higher than Torquay.
One thing that must be kept in mind when perusing property here is ‘the Devon rule;’ some properties stipulate that you must have lived and worked in Devon for the last three years if you wish to purchase. Another influencing factor for buyers is crime. Reported crimes in Torbay increased slightly during 2015, but fell in neighbouring Teignbridge and the South Hams. More than 13,500 crimes were reported across Torbay. 60 per cent were in Torquay, mainly in the lower half of Torquay town centre and the harbourside. 30 per cent were in Paignton, with Winner Street and the town centre highlighted as the hotspots. Just 10 per cent In Brixham, mainly around the Fore Street area. As with all seaside towns, the nightlife can be somewhat rowdy and troublesome. A recent shake-up in the police force has seen some changes. There are now more Bobbies on the beat in all areas, increasing response times and establishing a better presence within the communities.
Torbay is one of just 22 local authorities in the UK that can boast that not one of its primary schools falls below Government expectations. However, much like the area, the standards of the secondary schools are divided into very separate camps. After all, not many areas have three grammar schools in such close proximity, and they are obviously the highest achievers - the boys and girls schools in Torquay more so than the co-ed in Brixham. Many complain that the grammar schools take ’the cream of the crop’ and so the others trail behind. This is certainly true of the Torquay and Paignton secondary schools. However, St Cuthbert Mayne, Torquay, the only church school in the area, and Tower House School, Paignton, the only independent school, fare better. In an attempt to bridge the gap between the grammars and states, Torquay Boys Grammar School now sponsors Torquay Academy. The aim is to help to raise standards and provide all students in the bay, regardless of ability, the same opportunities and access to a top rate education. All agree, TBGS has an outstanding academic reputation, and it is good to see that this will be reaching more and more locals. In Brixham there’s less of a divide and the schools perform well across the board. Out of the three areas, Paignton secondary schools are definitely at the bottom of the pile, but surprisingly, the primary schools are very good there. There are two good SEN schools in Torbay, both in Torquay, (one has smaller sites in Brixham and Paignton too). Some tend to head straight to the South Hams for special needs as the rural locality works so well there, but the SEN schools in Torbay have fantastic facilities, and between the two schools all needs, from mild to severe, are looked after.
Unlike the other areas that fall within the TQ postcode, all applications for schools in Torbay go through Torbay Council, and not Devon County Council. All state secondary and primary schools admissions are based on designated catchments areas. Except for the primary school academies and the aided or church schools, they require supplementary information. The three grammar schools, Torquay Boys, Torquay Girls and Churston Ferrers, operate a co-ordinated entrance examination with all students taking the same tests on the same days. The tests will consist of two CEM Entrance Assessment Tests (Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring), an English paper and a maths paper. The CEM tests assess verbal ability (comprehension, vocabulary and verbal reasoning), numerical reasoning and non-verbal reasoning. Applications are sent directly to the schools and around 70 primary schools from Torbay, South Hams and Teignbridge feed-in.
There’s a general feeling in this part of the country (not just Torbay) that there is not enough ‘ambition and drive’ in the secondary schools. Parents feel there is room for improvement, one told us ‘Given that the school is a grammar school in an area of low wealth and low expectations, it is disappointing that the school does not do more to lift the ambitions and aspirations of its students leaving school. Given the academic potential of its students, it perhaps should be sending more students each year than it does to Russell Group or equivalent universities. However, that is as much a reflection of the geographical area and the families here as it is of the school.’ There have been two new schools opened in Torbay recently - The Devon Studio School in Torquay specialises in Health, Early Years & Social Care, and South Devon High School in Paignton offers technical qualifications alongside GCSEs. The aim and hope is to change the dynamics of the education in the area by providing better vocational options. This may not drive more pupils to university, but it could boost ambitions, and build a more qualified local workforce.
For further education there’s South Devon College. With more than 1,000 apprentices and more than 600 employers actively engaged on apprenticeship schemes every year, it is a popular choice for local young people keen on learning a trade. In fact it’s so popular that a 15-year expansion plan has just been proposed starting with a £17million Hi-Tech Centre in Paignton. Ambitious plans for a university style campus, a new teaching space and residential accommodation to help attract students from outside South Devon. Plus a partnership with Newton Abbot-based Linden Homes to create all-weather college and community sports pitches and facilities at White Rock. The local hi-tech sector expects to create between 300 and 400 jobs in Torbay and South Devon over the next five years. The college will be working with key partners to ensure that the right training and development to support highly skilled employment opportunities are in place. This further enhances the already positive relationships that the college has with employers in the local area. The college’s other latest partnership project, the £10.5million South Devon University Technical College at nearby Newton Abbot, is already under way with the first students enrolled for 2016. Other FE options within reasonable travel distance are Exeter College, Plymouth College of Art and Design and Plymouth College of FE. For Higher Education, apart from local South Devon College, options further afield include, Bicton College of Agriculture, Dartington College of Arts, Marjon (College of St Mark & St John) and Peninsula Medical School. Nearest universities are Exeter (part of the Russell Group) and Plymouth.Employment
Torbay was recently named as the most deprived council area in the whole of the South West. It is the 46th most deprived area in the country, Teignbridge is 177th and South Hams is 209th out of 326 councils. (Plymouth is 82nd and Exeter is at number 165). There are issues of low wages, currently a third of South Devon workers earn below the living wage. In Torbay, 31.8 per cent of all employee jobs were paid below the living wage, compared to 29.1 per cent in Teignbridge and 30.1 per cent in the South Hams. Seasonal employment in the Bay is partly to blame; it needs more permanent skilled work. There is no doubt a link to the increase in deprivation in Torbay is down to loss of public sector well paid jobs being replaced by zero hours and fixed term and casual labour. The new road link and railway should help to turn this around. The new station in Torquay will particularly help to attract more qualified workers to Torbay Hospital, another big employer in Torbay. Other dominant job markets include childcare, teaching and social work, but again they need a more skilled workforce.
The construction industry in South Devon is giving many young people much needed hope. The work is well paid, and there’s plenty of it. Main employers, Galliford Try, currently building the bypass, and Cavanna Homes, the Torquay-based property developer, (one of the top ten fastest growing companies in the Westcountry) actively support the apprenticeship schemes and courses at South Devon College. The current boom in house building is creating a huge demand for skilled workers. There is a shortage of people with skills such as bricklaying and groundwork because the industry has experienced a sudden revival thanks to the Government's Help to Buy scheme. The college, by working closely with local employers, is helping young people learn the trade skills and find work locally in the Bay. Other big local employers include Glendinning who are proposing an expansion to one of its quarries, and engineering firm Centrax who have unveiled plans for a new business park in nearby Newton Abbot providing hundreds of jobs.
Tourism is undoubtedly one of the largest industries in the area. It is paramount to the economic growth of the area, but needs continued investment to ensure it can develop. The beaches are award winning, but many of the tourist attractions and cafes never made it out of the 80’s, and fail to earn a penny in low seasons. With investment and the ‘master plans’, Torbay could be a seaside destination to be proud of, as it was in years gone by when the Great Western Railway helped to turn it into a major holiday resort. It could do it again, and could provide much needed year-round, well-paid jobs.
To live in Torbay it would be foolish not to take advantage of the 22 miles of coastline and clean beaches; boat trips, fishing, sailing, watersports, swimming, paddling, walking, cycling, horse-riding, it’s all here. For sports, Torbay has good facilities, plus many of the schools open up to the local community out of hours. There are parks, a Geo park. an aqua park and there’s even a Velo park for cycling and multisport. For animal-themed days out there’s Paignton Zoo or Living Coasts in Torquay. For swashbuckling fans there’s the full-size replica of the Golden Hind in Brixham, or the Smuggler & Pirates Experience. Just down the road is Dartmoor, and just as near are the surf beaches of the South Hams. There’s even a steam train nearby. Plenty of pubs for after dark, most characterful ones in Brixham, some with ghostly residents. For entertainment there’s The Princess Theatre in Torquay, coming soon, Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap (obviously), comedians Ed Byrne and Bill Bailey, Go West and Nik Kershaw in concert, and where would we be without a whole evening of Bobby Davro. For Jack and the Beanstalk and Aladdin, The Palace Theatre in Paignton is the place to be. Live music is mainly in local pubs and clubs.
Schools Torquay TQ1 & TQ2
The best thing about Torquay is that there are a girls and a boy’s grammar school. Both schools perform remarkably well, and for most families in (and out of) the area, they are the ultimate destination. Torquay Boy’s Grammar School is one of the top 20 boys’ schools in the country. Next door to the girls’ grammar school, and just a stone’s throw from Torquay town, it’s sprawled across 40 acres. The school has extended, refurbished and built extensively, resulting in a well-presented and well-planned campus. This is a traditional grammar school that produces top results and very successful young men. All types of boys will find their niche here. As one parent put it, ‘TBGS has been extremely supportive to all of my sons and has nurtured their individual talents. We couldn’t have asked for any more. TBGS gives every child the opportunity to achieve their full potential.’ The schools mantra has long been to maintain the best of the old and combine it with the best of the new’. Sport is strong at TBGS and the reputation is good; national football champions three times in recent years. Music is another top subject. Parents say, ‘the school has a very strong music department which encourages musicians and puts on numerous concerts including a musical every year.’ And for budding city boys there’s a boardroom with 25 computers, dual flat screens and Reuters links, all thanks to a previous business and enterprise sponsorship by HSBC. A good insight to the real thing and high numbers of boys are choosing economics at university. **Read the full GSG review**
Torquay Girls’ Grammar School is, first and foremost, a school that sees the achievement of outstanding academic results as its primary responsibility. It does not disregard those towards the lower end of its academic intake, however, it is unashamedly about nurturing excellence for as many girls as possible. Some facilities are shared with the boys’ school next door, including sports and some A level teaching resources, but generally the schools are very separate. The school is proud of its membership of the South West Academic Trust, an elite ‘Russell Group’ of nine Wessex schools in association with the University of Exeter, which brings shared values and commitment to excellence. Although TGGS is a humanities specialist school, with geography being particularly strong; it has strengths across the curriculum, including good biology, maths and art departments. Good sports facilities but sport appeared to us to be more about ‘rounding’ the girls, and an opportunity for them to let off steam, than central to school life. If you are looking for a single-sex haven for your daughter, which places great emphasis on intellectual gifts and the future employment prospects of its girls, this is the school for you. ‘The school punches well above its weight’ according to parents. **Read the full GSG review**
The grammar schools take the top 25 per cent and are considered the ‘elite’. Churston Ferrers Grammar School, the co-ed grammar down the road in Brixham is considerably less elitist. However, competition is rife for all three schools and without a place, options are limited in Torquay. The best comprehensive option is, St Cuthbert Mayne, a joint Catholic and C of E school. Around 70 per cent of pupils consistently achieve at least 5 higher grade GCSE passes with more than half usually gaining A*-C grades in at least 5, including mathematics and English. The vast majority of sixth formers go onto higher education or further training. The school has well-equipped, modern facilities and specialises in maths, computing and science. Over the last five years they have updated the science laboratories, added a new ‘e-learning’ classroom block, and a new sixth form centre. Religious education is at the core of the curriculum, even for sixth formers, and a commitment to the Christian ethos of the school is a pre-requisite for admission. If this school is not an option and a grammar place is out of reach, parents who can afford it tend to look to the private school in Paignton, or to Teignbridge or the South Hams, rather than other comprehensives in Torquay.
The secondary admissions are based on catchment areas, and Torquay Academy and The Spires College take half of the Bay each. Both schools have issues with attendance and behaviour. The Spires College, formerly Westlands, is larger than most, and not only did it have a name change in September 2015, the uniform also had a makeover. It is the designated secondary in Torbay for hearing impairment and has a specialist unit for dyslexia. The designated primary school for hearing impairment is St. Margaret’s Academy. Torquay Academy, a small secondary school, is showing signs of improvement; it’s had a major staff overhaul, and is also starting to benefit from some shared resources through collaboration with the boys grammar school. Devon Studio School, (the catchment area covers the whole of Torbay) opened in 2013 and was the first of its kind in Devon. It has since had mixed reviews. Built on the Torbay Hospital site, it specialises in Health, Early Years & Social Care and is a partnership between South Devon College and two NHS trusts. The aim is to prepare 14 to 19 year-olds for careers in health and social care. This is an important industry for the area and more qualified people are needed. It’s early days for the school, but it is a welcome vocational option for students in Torbay.
Since Stoodley Knowle closed in 2015, there are only two private schools in Torquay, one is a prep, Abbey School, and the other is EF Academy, an international boarding school for 14 to 19 year olds. They offer GCSEs, A levels, IB Diplomas and a US High School education. It’s a private high school with a global curriculum and multi-cultural students. Torquay is very popular with foreign students and there are language schools aplenty for those wanting to do short or summer courses.
Abbey School, in St. Marychurch is an independent nursery and a prep school. It’s a co-ed, non-selective school that is very highly regarded by parents. The children are geared up to take the grammar school exams, taking interim SAT’s at the end of years 3, 4 and 5, and expectations are high. Success and winning is key here, and music exams, swimming awards, sports days and plays are a big part of life.
The most desirable places to live in Torquay are up on the hills overlooking the sea. In Babbacombe and St Marychurch there are two state primaries. Both are C of E schools and are not bound by a catchment area, but do have other admissions criteria. St Marychurch C of E has fantastic grounds including a playing field, two playgrounds and a lovely environmental area. Babbacombe C of E is part of Torbay Sport Partnership and through their links with Spires College pupils participate in a good number of sports festivals and tournaments. There are five Academy primary schools in Torquay and none of them have designated catchment areas. Isham Academy is Torbay’s best performing school, in 2014, 95 per cent of pupils achieved level 4 or above in reading, maths and writing. Ofsted has rated Ellacombe Academy, Warberry C of E and Cockington Primary School all as ‘good’. However, the school leading the way, according to Ofsted, and backed up by local reputation, is Shiphay Learning Academy. The school has good facilities, great teachers and very happy parents. Another worth noting is Preston Primary. Preston is a ‘child-friendly’ place to live, it’s very family-orientated with affordable homes. The school has struggled in the past, but has been modernised extensively in recent years and has a new classrooms block, an outdoor heated swimming pool, a playing field, a playground and an environmental area. It also has an enhanced provision for autism. Other schools with enhanced provision include St. Margaret’s Academy with a specialist provision for hearing impairment.
There are two SEN schools; both are in Watcombe, the northern part of Torquay. Both schools have a good reputation and top facilities. Coombe Pafford is particularly well known and seems to be constantly expanding and evolving. Here, they teach 8 to 19 year olds with MLDs, physical difficulties, ASC, or complex needs. They now have a sixth form, and recently opened a cafe, also open to the public. The Yellow Frog Café is a state-of-the-art, animal-themed café designed to help train apprentices in the catering and hospitality industry. Eating here is a tropical adventure as other diners include snakes, frogs, tarantulas and lizards. It has a purpose built climate control and also contains giant fish tanks containing fresh water and salt-water fish. It is the latest vocational facility to be built and the school also boasts a construction unit, hairdressing salon and car maintenance workshop. Around 180 children take part in the vocational courses on a weekly basis and the school is given lots of support from local businesses and the community.
Mayfield School teaches 2 to 19 year olds with severe and profound learning difficulties. As well as the Torquay site, they opened a site in Brixham called The Chestnut Centre for EBDSD pupils, and in September 2015, a new upper sixth form was opened in Occombe, Paignton. The site in Torquay is purpose-built with sensory and soft playrooms, a hydrotherapy pool, specially adapted classrooms and spacious grounds including a disabled playground. Pupils here take part in swimming galas, water polo and there are trips galore, some are currently touring China.
Schools Paignton TQ3 & TQ4
Paignton Sports and Community Academy was part of the first academy chain to fold in the UK in 2014. It has now joined forces with Kings Ash Primary and Curledge Street Primary as Bay Education Trust. With almost 2,000 pupils, it is the largest school in Torbay and is based on two sites. The biggest change recently has been the sixth form makeover. It is called Aspire and aims to prepare students for work or university with a unique set of courses that educate, train and essentially allow them to gain some experience. One construction course even offers free driving lessons. Incentive is key here as attendance can be an issue. Ofsted stated that the school ‘requires improvement’ and this is mainly aimed at the teaching standards and the unacceptable rates of progress of pupils. Where the school fares better is obviously in the sports field and the outdoor pursuits opportunities. Year 7 rugby team even made it all the way to Twickenham for the Six Nations this year to play a match while England warmed up. This is a new programme from the RFU to try to get rugby into more schools.
South Devon High School opened in 2014 and is based on the Paignton campus of South Devon College. It’s a co-ed school for 14 to 16 year olds, offering technical qualifications alongside GCSE core subjects including English, Maths and Science. People with industry experience and training teach the technical qualifications, and the aim is to give students the opportunity to link up with key local employers and businesses. Subject areas include eco-technology, digital media, creative arts, and leadership and coaching in sport and adventure. At 16, successful pupils are guaranteed a place at South Devon College to continue with their technical studies, or A levels or an apprenticeship.
The best secondary school in the area is Tower House School, a small, independent co-ed for 2 to 16 year olds. A traditional school, its main aim is to gear pupils up for the local grammar schools. The school claims to be the most affordable independent in Devon, and pupils come from all over Torbay and neighbouring South Hams. Tower House ticks a lot of boxes for parents not keen on the mainstream options. 11+ results are above average year on year and in 2015, GCSE’s results reached an all-time high – 94 per cent of pupils gained 5 or more higher grade passes. However, there isn’t a sixth form here, and being so small, it lacks some facilities, particularly in sport.
There are two primary schools that have been judged as outstanding by Ofsted. Firstly, Oldway Primary, a big school, nearly 700 pupils, with great facilities. One of the most surprising things about this school is the huge number of extracurricular clubs and activities on offer; chess, dancercise, knitting, Japanese, sports clubs, music groups, makaton, cooking, anyone for maypole dancing? Secondly, Roselands Primary on the outskirts of Paignton is set in extensive grounds with some top new facilities. Sport is big here as is art; every year they dedicate a week to an ‘arts extravaganza’.
At the other end of the scale is Kings Ash Academy, where pupils are performing well below the national average. Tower House School is the only independent option in the area and takes 2 to 16 year olds, (see above in secondary schools). Paignton has a high rate of teenage pregnancy and the evidence of this can be seen in the recent ‘baby boom’. The silver lining is that because of this boom, Paignton is now benefitting from some extra funding. The plan is to create a new primary school on the site of the existing Torbay School (see SEN schools below), with a multi-use sports area built on the housing estate next door. Torbay School is to move to the former Hillside Children's Centre in Barton, Torquay, as will the pupil referral unit in Higher Polsham Road and the YMCA.
Torbay school is a special school for 11 to 16 year olds who suffer from emotional, social and behavioural difficulties including ADHD, MLD and SLD. Many have communication difficulties and autistic spectrum conditions. Many have been excluded from other schools. The school is split across three sites including a pupil referral unit; The Preston Centre, The Assessment Centre (PRU), both in Paignton, and The Hillside Learning Centre in Torquay.
The new upper sixth for The Mayfield School, Torquay, opened in September 2015 on a new site in Occombe, Paignton. It is a specialist school for cognition and learning and at Occombe House the post-16 students learn life skills for independent living.
Schools Brixham TQ5
There is a choice of two state-funded secondary schools in Brixham, Churston Ferrers Grammar School or Brixham College. Both are good options, so parents rarely look outside the area unless they are set on a single-sex school. Originally Dartmouth Grammar School, Churston Ferrers Grammar School is one of 42 co-educational grammar schools in the country, and one of 3 grammar schools in Torbay. It doesn’t feel like a traditional grammar or public school, no sign of old school traditions; it feels and looks much more like a modern comprehensive. Churston is a school ‘for the most able local students irrespective of social background.’ the school says. Pupils come from Brixham and all over Torbay and South Hams. On average, 40-55 pupils join the sixth form, mainly from Brixham College and Dartmouth Community College. Results are good, but not as impressive as their grammar school peers in Torquay. One parent told us, ‘Academically Churston Ferrers teaches some subjects extremely well with teachers that enthuse students. Those subjects include languages, maths, history, economics. On the other side some subjects manage to turn off students; those would include English and some of the sciences.’ It’s best known for sport. Great facilities, and success in many areas. The arts are improving. A new drama studio has been built, and funding is underway for a new music and art department. A great school that is maybe a little less intimidating than other selective schools, it’s keen to help local families who are worried about the cost of attending a grammar school, and have programmes like – ‘Seven years at Churston’ to help them plan financially for trips. **Read the GSG review**
Brixham College, an academy since 2012, is the designated secondary school for the whole of TQ5. In 2011, they were recognised nationally as one of the most improved schools for continued success. This is an average sized school with good facilities including a community sports centre on campus and sports and clubs to suit any young sportsperson. Having said that, they also perform well in the arts; Brixham College has a specialist visual arts status. In 2015 their first-ever sixth form students celebrated A level results with an overall pass rate of 97 per cent. GCSE results have risen year on year. For younger pupils there’s a five-day Summer Transition School organised with the local primary schools. Parents said, ‘they came home buzzing at the end of every day.’ Good SEN department with specialist provision for pupils with autistic spectrum disorder. Overall, it is a good school, especially compared to the equivalents in the rest of the Bay, but it’s worth noting that the boys don’t do as well as the girls here, and attendance is sometimes an issue.
Brixham is split into two primary school catchment areas. One for Brixham C of E Primary School, the only primary school considered ‘outstanding’ in all areas by Ofsted. The other catchment area is served by Furzeham Primary, a larger than average school that actively promotes British values. They are currently undergoing another phase of refurbishment and development after receiving more funds. The other two primary schools do not have a designated catchment area. Eden Park Primary is an academy and St Margaret Clitherow is a Catholic school.
The Chestnut Centre, part of The Mayfield School in Torquay, is a specialist school for cognition and learning and this site specialises in emotional and behavioural difficulties for 2 to 16 year olds.