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Teaching highly regarded. Any glitches seem to be dealt with quickly; one parent who noted a new teacher was going at too fast a pace, found the school very responsive in dealing with it. The school’s locational name – Stockport – is one which perhaps precludes those starry footballer parents sometimes seen prospecting for schools in the north west. But while most...

 

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What the school says...

Stockport Grammar School is a vibrant, fully co-educational school with over 100 extra-curricular activities taking place each week. The school has high academic standards and great emphasis is placed upon the all round happiness and success of each child.

Entrance examinations (in January) consist of: 11 - Maths, English and verbal reasoning (VR) followed by an interview. 13+ entry: Maths, English and a modern language paper. 16+ entry: A* and As plus interview, acceptance is at the discretion of the school. Specimen questions given in the form of a book to registered candidates. ...Read more

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All-through school (for example 3-18 years). - An all-through school covers junior and senior education. It may start at 3 or 4, or later, and continue through to 16 or 18. Some all-through schools set exams at 11 or 13 that pupils must pass to move on.

Sports

Fencing

What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since 2018, Dr Paul Owen, previously head of Birkdale School. BSc and PhD in physics from Cambridge. After a spell in industry – where he felt he was not using his full skill set – he decided to ‘have a go’ at teaching physics, only to discover that he loved it. He started out at Wellington School in Somerset where he became a day housemaster and latterly deputy head there, joining Birkdale as head in 2010.

Although he values academic ambition (clearly stitched into his DNA), he knows this is only part of the picture for each child and that curiosity, creativity and responding to challenge are almost as critical: ‘From the age of 25, it’s not about academic success, you need character strengths.’ The five key strengths he seeks to imbue in SGS pupils are enthusiasm, grit, curiosity, social intelligence and community and they are emblazoned on walls all over the school, integrated in lessons and by now, he thinks, embedded in pupils’ minds. He understands the importance of positive psychology in feeding into success – success being defined in the far healthier sense of ‘being a happy productive human being’.

On his watch, the co-curricular (a priority) has expanded, especially across drama (school is about to add theatre studies A level ) and other creative areas. Parents approve of this increase in breadth – 'It's no longer just about sport and music’. Likewise PE coaching has been rolled out across all abilities, not just the elite teams.

Even through the challenges of lockdown, Dr Owen seems to fuse preternatural calm with refreshing candidness, never flinching from our searching questions about pastoral care or resorting to educational platitudes at any point. Parents say he is more visible than his predecessor, more accessible, ‘very hands on’ and has introduced changes (such as the effort grading system) sensitively – 'He takes the children with him’. One commented that having a child at school himself meant that he always ‘saw it through parent eyes’.

Married to Gail, three children (one at SGS). Keen on outdoor pursuits, trumpet playing, and watching sport.

Head of the junior school since September 2020, Matthew Copping (BEd Anglia Ruskin), previously head of Brooklands Primary in nearby Sale. Very experienced (in 16th year of headship) who has spent the last 25 years working with children aged between 3-11 in schools across London, the West Midlands and North West. He works closely with Dr Owen – the academic provision and values of junior and senior seem very much aligned (not always the case). Married to Alison, also a teacher, with two children age 11 and 16. A keen runner, paddle boarder and traveller.

Entrance

At junior level, most come from the nursery. At reception – two classes of around 20 children - entry is a matter of observation, how a child interacts and responds to simple instructions. For years 1 or 2 it’s a taster day which includes tests in English, maths, reading – all done with a light touch. Head stresses it’s not about judging them, but about working out whether this is the right school.

For entry to senior school around 350-400 children take the entrance exam (comprehension, essay, maths and verbal reasoning papers), competing for 130 or so places (60 of the 192 total places are generally taken by Stockport Junior pupils who also take the entrance exam). Report from previous school plus informal interviews for both parents and children. Those who apply for entry later on, up to year 10, sit maths and English papers. Sixth form admissions by interview and generally require 6+ 9-6 grades at GCSE with grade 6 or 7 in the subjects to be taken at A level.

Exit

Almost all move across from the junior to senior school – a few go elsewhere, to local high schools or relocate. By year 2 the school has a sense of which children may need an alternative environment and an extended conversation begins with the parents. Parents and children are supported towards a decision around year 4 or 5.

Most senior school pupils stay for sixth form. Two to Oxbridge in 2021 (unlike other schools in the area, head is clear that while this figure is often higher, it is entirely dictated by cohort rather than increasing level of competition from state schools). Others go off to eg Bristol, Nottingham, Manchester and Leeds.

Latest results

In 2021, 76 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 58 per cent A*/A at A level (86 per cent A*-B). In 2019 (the last year when exams took place), 60 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 46 per cent A*/A at A level.

Teaching and learning

At infant stage subjects include modern languages, computing and music. Science and the arts integrated at junior level. Work is differentiated with a bespoke plan for each child – the watchword at this school where individual progress is more important than grades. Parents tell us that their children have fantastic form teachers who 'won’t allow mediocrity' but drive them to achieve in a positive way.

Children move between iPads, Chromebooks and exercise books with fluidity, although one parent felt it was quite a traditional way of learning. Are the more able children stretched? One parent told us that she had to pursue extra work for her child; another said that one of her children, who was a little slower than his siblings, had been given excellent support and made huge strides forward. 'It’s not about A grades, effort is rewarded and recognised.'

Senior school curriculum is fairly traditional with statistics and Greek GCSEs offered as extracurricular. Maths and single science subjects particularly strong (and with five female physics teachers, gender across these subjects ‘not an issue’) – but this ‘strength’ is perhaps more a reflection on the numbers opting for these subjects at A level. Head observes pupils often fix their sights on a future career and choose STEM subjects accordingly.

Languages also figure highly – French from the first year, German and Latin introduced in the second year, and from the third year students choose two of French, German, Spanish and Latin. The take-up at A level, though, is modest.

Teaching highly regarded (school was graded as excellent in a recent ISI report). Any glitches seem to be dealt with quickly; one parent who noted a new teacher was going at too fast a pace, found the school very responsive in dealing with it.

During lockdown timetables for both junior and senior schools moved online via Google Classroom. Five hours of live lessons were delivered to senior school pupils, but wary of too much screen time school also designated sessions for independent project work. Junior pupils being able to concentrate for less time, had some (not all) live lessons online. Parents seemed very happy with the provision. Head says assessments since have shown that the majority of pupils stayed on track, although more attention has been devoted since returning to practical work in areas like science. Those who struggled with the online teaching format – perhaps due to a particular learning need – received additional sessions during lockdown and recovery plans on return.

Learning support and SEN

Around a quarter of pupils in the junior school receive some kind of learning support. The recently expanded junior and senior learning support teams aim to identify issues early on; additional help may be extra classroom work or time in a booster group. A few receive a small amount of one-to-one support for issues such dyslexia. The school can also accommodate a limited range of SEND requirements eg physical disabilities, sensory problems, EAL and specific learning difficulties – but mainly dyslexia. Learning support department works with pupils, parents and teaching staff to ensure pupils make progress in line with their ability. Specialist timetabled teaching (no additional charge) in small groups or one-to-one. Four full-time members of staff in the senior suggests back-up in this area is genuinely solid (other teachers have had SEN training) but the reality is that the entrance exam/bar to get in means most SEN issues are mild.

The arts and extracurricular

Parents we spoke to commented on the ‘amazing’ range of activities in the junior school. Alongside the usual sports, more unusual options include archery, puppet making and fencing and new activities are evolving all the time. Mr Copping firmly believes a wide range of co-curricular activities is a critical part of enabling the children to begin to discover what ignites their enthusiasm for learning. Everything is gender inclusive – one parent liked her boys being encouraged to sing in choirs. Ambitious drama productions, a recent one being Mary Poppins.

A broader range of clubs now exists in the senior school eg Big Band, Mandarin Chinese, philosophy, tactical games, debating. Some fun challenges – a MasterChef competition, judged by a Bake-Off celeb, had clearly gripped the school’s imagination. Participation is an important driver – one parent summed up, ‘If you turn up to practice, you will get a go’. So there is swimming training for the gala and swimming for fun. There didn’t seem to be a gender divide about activities, a noticeboard showed photos of boys and girls involved in a dance show (a parent told us a male dance teacher had been hired to encourage boys to join in). One parent mentioned that while girls outnumbered boys at the English club, it wasn’t an issue.

Extensive concert programme (more than 400 pupils learn instruments). Pupils have been selected for the National Youth Orchestra and the National Youth Music Theatre.

Diverse plays and shows run the thespie gamut, from
modern drama to the classics. One play had a cast of 86, with 50 people involved in the production side. Recent productions include Chicago and A Christmas Carol.

For aspiring politicos, there is lots of opportunity for public speaking – the school team at the Model United Nations conference usually does well. Visiting speakers regularly come in to give talks on matters ranging from careers in engineering to game design.

Sport

Junior school children can use the sports centre and all-weather turf in the senior school grounds. In senior school, the core sports fare very well – when we visited, the girls’ netball, hockey and football teams had excelled, so too the boys’ rugby. For the more niche pursuits, such as for climbing and golf, there are specialist teachers. Lots of outdoor opportunities too eg climbing and kayaking club.

Many national achievements clocked up. The U14 Girls’ Netball team secured third place at the National Schools Finals recently, the U15 Boys’ Rugby squad reached the quarter finals of the National Cup, the U15 Hockey girls reached the Quarter Finals of the National Plate and the U13 Girls’ Football team reached the quarter finals of the Sisters in Sport National Plate Competition. Not bad. In fact, SGS was ranked the top independent school in the North West for sport by School Sport Magazine in their annual Top 200 schools list in 2021.

Frisbee, gymnastics, water polo, dance, triathlon, fencing and archery are just some of the sports beyond the usual team activities. Yes, frisbee.

Also – rather good, this – the SGS Talks Sport series speaks to figures from the world of sport. Recent interviewees include former England cricket captain Sir Alistair Cook CBE, Olympic gold medallist Sally Gunnell OBE and SGS former pupils including Olympian Ross Millington and British cycling endurance coach Monica Greenwood.

Ethos and heritage

Established in 1487 by Sir Edmond Shaa, who became the Mayor of London. The move to its current site took place in 1915 and the original buildings, now part of the senior school, are charming and cloistered. School is spread out over a large site with flashes of green everywhere and while it makes for a slightly fragmented feel, it is nonetheless impressive in its sweep and facilities.

Numerous attractive modern additions including the library, placed at the heart of the school. New sixth form provision completed in 2020 ( a larger, more modern social space, all glass roof, giving students a better study area).

Junior school opened in 1944 but moved to its current building in 1975 and has expanded considerably since then. The moment you step through the door into the entrance hall flooded with light – a collaborative space where a community of animated children gather in throngs of chat – there is an overwhelming sense of vibrancy, warmth and happiness. This is reinforced by corridors and classrooms, which are an explosion of colour with innovative art displays everywhere you look. A new nursery building opened in April 2021, along with the creation of outdoor learning and adventure play areas.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

Pastoral care in the junior school is strong. A parent whose child had specific health needs was glowing about the emotional and practical support she had received, the delicacy and tact with which it had been handled. All the children we saw were happy, bubbly and deported themselves admirably. Pupils are gradually given responsibilities – first in their form, later via opportunities like the school council. All year 6 children are prefects with duties which, says the head, ‘won’t eat into their time’. He is very respectful of the latter, always bearing in mind that children need their downtime.

At senior school, form tutors are first port of call and they in turn liaise with heads of year and upwards with the deputy head (pastoral). The school has expanded the pastoral staff in recent years, along with the school counselling facility (which head says is delivered discreetly). Head very aware that the pandemic has seen an increase in mental health issues in young people and ensured the infrastructure is there to support (many of the staff have had first aid mental health training).

Head is frank and happy to discuss openly all the uncomfortable topics raised about the need to keep educating pupils around use of language and culture. At the time of writing SGS had not been mentioned on any website carrying testimonies from those who have suffered sexual abuse in an educational setting, usually from fellow pupils, but head is mindful that education around provocative or disturbing material online is critical. So too around ‘banter’ and what is and isn’t hurtful. One parent felt the boys and girls interacted well, that they were all just ‘mates’ together.

School produces its own definition of bullying for pupils so there is clarity and there are anti-bullying ambassadors and an anonymous report facility. Bullying (often online out of school) happens in every school and the head is clear that when instances come to his attention he feels it is dealt with well (parents, he says, are satisfied both with the punishment and levels of support provided). One parent told us of an incident regarding an inappropriate use of a mobile phone – the school, she said, was ‘really on it and dealt with it brilliantly. There are lots of talks for pupils on the dangers of misusing social media. Although all schools are grappling with these sorts of issues, our sense is that Dr Owen does not shy away from grasping any nettles and despatching them.

Parents spoke glowingly of their children’s happiness, saying the teachers seemed genuinely interested in what made each child tick. One parent felt her three, very different, children had flourished. 'Every achievement is really valued – you are no better just because you are A* pupil.' Lots reiterated how happy their children were and how well rounded they had become with all the diverse activities on offer. One made special mention of how the public speaking opportunities had given to bolster her child who had needed that extra bit of nurturing. Another said she had been ‘bowled over’ by staff who had ‘bent over backwards’ when her high-achieving academic child hit tricky times in sixth form for personal reasons. And when one parent had to care for her own sick parents, she felt the school helped tremendously keep her children on track with their organisation.

Pupils and parents

The school’s locational name – Stockport – is one which perhaps precludes those starry footballer parents sometimes seen prospecting for schools in the north west. But while most parents may not have star striker level salaries, what they do earn they want to channel into education. Very much a local school and as such is a diverse environment, reflecting all social and ethnic backgrounds. Where parents in other high profile schools in the area might be termed ‘driven’, the junior head says parents are 'grounded, solid and loyal’. The senior school described parents as 'proactive and representative of its broad social intake', so not particularly of the sharp elbowed variety.

The usual comms channels prevail – newsletters, parent portal, parents’ evenings – which are described as ‘absolutely fantastic’. Most parents said you could speak to a teacher on that same day. One said, 'If you work in conjunction with the school, you get the best out of them'. So all very fluid, relaxed and not too competitive. One parent, though, suggested that a timeline for events in the sixth form – university open days, applications – would be helpful.

Money matters

School says it is committed to keeping fees as low as possible. Some bursaries available, based on family income and a child’s performance in the entrance exam; music scholarships too. In addition, Shaa Scholarships are offered to children based on ‘outstanding performance’ in the entrance exam.

The last word

An excellent 360-degree education in a relatively diverse and supportive environment, where achievement at every level is celebrated. Pupils not only succeed academically but also leave well prepared with skills for life ahead.

Please note: Independent schools frequently offer IGCSEs or other qualifications alongside or as an alternative to GCSE. The DfE does not record performance data for these exams so independent school GCSE data is frequently misleading; parents should check the results with the schools.

Who came from where

Who goes where

Special Education Needs

Stockport Grammar School is a selective school which accepts pupils on the basis of aptitudes and abilities. The School welcomes enquiries from parents of pupils with additional and special educational needs. Reasonable adjustments can be made within the classroom to support such pupils and the school has a Learning Support Department to co-ordinate this. Nov 09.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia
Dysgraphia
Dyslexia
Dyspraxia
English as an additional language (EAL)
Genetic
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class Y
HI - Hearing Impairment
Hospital School
Mental health
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
PD - Physical Disability
PMLD - Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty
SEMH - Social, Emotional and Mental Health
SLCN - Speech, Language and Communication
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
VI - Visual Impairment

Who came from where


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