The Blue Coat School, Oldham

The Blue Coat School, Oldham

Infobox UK school
name = The Blue Coat School

size = 200px
latitude = 53.546
longitude = -2.1083
motto = Semper Quaereamus Virtutem
("Let us always seek virtue")
established = 1834
type = Comprehensive voluntary aided school
religion = Church of England
head_label = Headteacher
head = Julie Hollis MA (Oxon) (Mrs)
r_head_label =
r_head =
chair_label = Chair of Governors
chair = A. Taylor
founder = Thomas Henshaw
specialist = Science College
street = Egerton Street
city = Oldham
county = Greater Manchester
country = England
postcode = OL1 3SQ
LEA = Metropolitan Borough of Oldham
ofsted = 105739
staff =
enrollment = 1,250 (200 in sixth form)
gender = Co-educational
lower_age = 11
upper_age = 18
houses = Birley Hall
Lord Mothersill
Rountree Wrigley
colours = Navy Blue color box|#000080
publication = The Blue Print
free_label_1 =
free_1 =
free_label_2 =
free_2 =
free_label_3 =
free_3 =
website =
website_name = Official site

The Blue Coat School [cite web|url=|title=Welcome to Blue Coat School||date=2007|accessdate=2007-09-14] is a mixed gender voluntary aided Church of England secondary school and sixth form for 11 - 18 year olds, located in the town of Oldham, Greater Manchester, England.

The school caters for pupils aged 11 - 18, offering A-level and GCSE courses. It is one of the few schools in the country to hold Leading Edge Partnership programme and "science college" status. Prior to becoming leading edge, Blue Coat had been a beacon school. This means the school has social responsibility to help develop other secondary schools in the area, as well as themselves.

The motto of the school is from the Latin: "Semper Quaereamus Virtutem" – "Let us always seek virtue".


Thomas Henshaw, the founder, who died in 1810, left the sum of £40,000 for the endowment of the Blue Coat School. [cite web|url=|title=Welcome to Blue Coat School||date=2007|accessdate=2008-07-04] As no provision had been made for the cost of the building, a public meeting was held in Oldham in September 1825 by Henshaw, when offers of land were received, and a public appeal was launched for funds to build the school. From the design of the architect Richard Lane, a start was made in 1829 when the foundation stone was laid, and the school was opened in 1834 by Henshaw. Throughout the remainder of the 19th century, the school continued to maintain and instruct between 100 and 130 boys.

In July 1952, the trustees decided that, as the number of Boarders in residence was gradually decreasing, Blue Coat should be closed as a residential school and the building converted for use as a secondary modern day school. This plan was effected, and the school became co-educational accommodating approximately 400 students.

The Oldham Henshaw and Church of England Educational Trust, constituted in 1950, had as one of its aims the building and maintenance of new secondary schools, and one of its objectives was to provide a "Special Agreement" secondary school by extending and reorganising the Blue Coat into a comprehensive school. This plan was realised in September 1966 when The Blue Coat School became fully comprehensive. It is now a nine form entry voluntary aided comprehensive school admitting 211 boys and girls each year, with a sixth form, the majority of whom go on to Higher Education. Voluntary aided status means that the governors of the school are responsible for the upkeep of all buildings and have to rely on the financial support and generosity of parents and friends of the school.

Current information

Recent Government grants have enabled the school to venture into a multi-million pound building scheme. So far additions have been a wheelchair lift to increase disabled access; and the reconstruction and further reconstruction of the school's Main Entrance. This involved the erection of a handrail-free, lighted walkway and single double-glazed door. In 1994 the school completed a major fundraising campaign, enabling it to build a new Science department building, which was completed in 1995. Completed in 2005 the new multi-million pound sports hall opened on the west side of the school grounds, and due to this increase in PE space, the school has converted the old girls gym into the new whole school restaurant, also this building was extended with more eating areas downstairs, and a second floor mezzanine for the 6th form students. With the whole school catered for in the restaurant, the house block which contained the old cantines was closed down. This has now been turned from a dated 60s 6 classroom building into a 12 classroom 21st century building still housing the 3 houses on each floor.Also, the building near the entrance gates has been refurbished and had structual work done, forming a new building for more music activities, such as those who have music lessons (vocal, strings, brass and more) to improve musical abilities.

The Blue Coat school provides an education for those who live in the areas of Oldham, Manchester, Tameside and Rochdale. A short walk from the town centre, The Blue Coat School is at the heart of the community. Currently, there are around 1050 pupils in the main school, with an additional 200 in the sixth form. There are also almost 100 members of staff, teaching or otherwise.

During a school year, there are three communions (Christmas, Easter and End of year) and the assemblies during the school time have a strong Christian theme.

In years seven to nine, pupils study a broad range of subjects in Key Stage 3, before taking Standard Attainment Tests (SATs) in the core subjects of Mathematics, English and Science in year 9. These examinations test the competency of both the pupils' understanding of each subject as well as the standard of their teaching. Years ten and eleven Key Stage 4 involves work which leads to General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) qualifications. Pupils must take the core subjects of Mathematics, English (Language and Literature), Science Double or Triple R.S, Religious Studies. In addition to these, pupils are given the option of four more subjects, which could be an additional language, History, Geography, Drama Studies, Information Technology, Physical Education, Business Studies, or one of several Design and Technology courses. They will also choose a reserve subject, in case they cannot get in a class of one of the subjects or there isn't enough people to make a class. The reserve subject will then replace this subject.

After finishing GCSEs, further education is not compulsory. Pupils can choose to stay at the sixth form for years twelve and thirteen. Alternatively they could choose another sixth form college, such as Oldham Sixth Form College or Ashton Sixth Form College. However, some students look for work by this stage, for a variety of reasons. Should pupils stay on at Blue Coat in year 12, they will be required to choose four subjects to study for AS-level. The school currently offers around 30 different and diverse courses. In year 13, each student keeps at least three of these subjects for A2-level. Students will have the option of keeping all of their subjects through A2, doing three A2-levels and one new AS-level, or just three A2-levels in year 13. The intensity of sixth-form is high, with a large amount of coursework expected in each subject, as well as exams at the end of each year. Having completed sixth form, students have several options. These include going to University, finding work or taking a gap year.

The most recent Ofsted inspection was in 2008 [ [ Winsley Church of England Voluntary Controlled Primary School ] ] . The school received an outstanding report overall, receiving an excellent rating for teaching in several areas and for management and leadership.

Pastoral care

Blue Coat School uses a "house system"; for all students within the school. When students join the school they are allocated to one of three houses - "Birley Hall", "Lord Mothersill" and "Rountree Wrigley" - all named after former headteachers at the school. Students whose elder family members have studied at the school are usually put within the same houses as those relatives. In some cases both parents and children have studied at the Blue Coat School and have been in the same house as each other (in some more extreme cases, with the same head of house).

There are nine "forms" in the School between years seven and eleven, and each house looks after three. The names of the forms are Birley, Hall, Birley Hall, Lord, Mothersill, Lord Mothersill, Rountree, Wrigley, and Rountree Wrigley. They will then have their year number added onto the name of the form to get their exact form name e.g. Birley in year 7 is Birley 7, Rountree in year 11 is Rountree 11. In the sixth form, there are eight forms within each year.

Each house has a head and deputy. They look after pastoral care and discipline for students within that house in the year 7 - 9. They also look after other house responsibilities such as planning trips for students within that house, organising assemblies, making sure that houses are represented in sporting contests. They also look after the house social facilities. Before September 2005, each house would also look after a floor within the "House Block", where house activities usually took place. The head and deputies of the houses select the house prefect (in year 10) and the house head boy and girl and deputies (these will be student in their final year of study in the sixth form).

The students have a twenty minute break after two, one hour lessons and a one hour break after a further two, one hour lessons then assembly then one more, one hour lesson.

In later years, pastoral care is coordinated by year groups, however students are still affiliated with the houses they were in during the early years. They will still take part in social activities organised by the house, and will represent their house in competitions. The Year Eleven and Sixth Form students within a house are expected to offer guidance and leadership to students in the lower years of the School. Older students are more likely to take an active part in the houses religious celebrations around Christmas and Easter.

In Year Ten and Eleven there is a separate year head and deputy. The Sixth Form (Years 12 and 13)has an Assistant Head Teacher in overall charge supported by separate Heads of year. These take over the main pastoral responsibilities from the house heads for students within that year group . They also take on greater responsibilities for that year group such as preparing the student for external exams and guiding students on their future after leaving the School. They also write the reference for the student on application forms for higher education and jobs after leaving the school. The position of Head of Sixth Form is seen as one of the most important roles within the school, and current head, Mrs Woolfe is regarded and respected as one the senior members of the school. The Sixth Form and year eleven have their own social facilities and usually have their own assemblies on a Friday Afternoon.

Annual events

*Founder's Day - The commemoration of the school's founder Thomas Henshaw. This is usually held towards the end of July and involves the school's pupils parading in front of the residents of Oldham as they march down to the parish church. Here, there is a service which recognises the achievements of the founder, with a wreath laid at "the Old Blues' Grave". The assembled school then proceeds back to the grounds of the school where a wreath is laid in front of Henshaw's statue.

*Speech Night - Usually held on the second Friday in November, this recognises the achievements of pupils over the past academic year. Notable feature of the ceremony are the speech by the headteacher and the many awards given to pupils for the previous year's work. Over previous years, the ceremony has taken place at Manchester Cathedral and Oldham's Queen Elizabeth Hall.

*Christmas Fayre - It occurs on the last academic day of the year and the pupils are encouraged to raise money for charity by paying to wear non-uniform, watch/take part in a talent show and buy items at the fayre itself. Over £6000 is raised in the one day benefiting 3 charities nominated by the pupils

*Community (service) Day - This occurs towards the end of the year. It involves pupils integrating on a social plane. A typical day may involve picking up litter inside the school grounds (encouraging social responsibility), playing softball (encouraging teamwork), clearing rivers and other community activities. Before the days of Julie Hollis, this was known as 'Activities Day' and involved pupils choosing to go to one of a variety of school trips run by members of the staff. It was changed to Community Day in 2002 due to the worry that some pupils would not be able to afford the more expensive trips and to encourage a positive work ethic amongst pupils.

*Work Experience - This is usually a week-long time where pupils in Year 11 participate in schemes in the work place. This usually occurs in the first week in September.

Admissions Policy and Criticism

In the past to gain entry to the school evidence of an active Christian background was necessary. This faith-based admissions policy proved controversial , and led to accusations that the predominantly white, Christian school was wholly unrepresentative of the ethnic makeup of the local area. It should be noted that approximately 25% of Oldham's 250,000 strong population consists of muslim families, the majority of which are originally of Pakistani and Bangladeshi extraction [Tough lessons in ending racial tension, Independent Education, February 15 2007] The area in Oldham where the school is based consists predominantly of the most deprived areas in the North West.

Both Blue Coat and also daughter school Crompton House in Shaw have maintained Christian-only admissions policies in the past. Both schools also have a consistently excellent track record of high achievement at GCSE and A-Level. Consequently in the past the children of non-anglican families have found themselves excluded from the two best schools in the Oldham area on entirely religious grounds. This policy caused the school to be thrust uncomfortably into the glare and scrutiny of the media spotlight in the aftermath of the Oldham Riots, and the schools attracted criticism. The Liberal Democrat education spokesman Phil Willis cited Blue Coat as an example of a school which has only a few non-white pupils despite being in a predominantly ethnic-minority area [Church says its schools must be open to all, Independent Jan 15, 2002, Richard Gardner] . This erroneous statement was made even though he had never visited the area, which is in a predominantly white working class area. Consequently both schools found themselves open to accusations of racism, and that they were helping to foster educational "apartheid" [Lets Keep God Out of Class, Poly Tynbeee, The Guardian, Friday November 9 2001,,590352,00.html ] by helping to further perpetuate the high-levels of racial segregation in the town. Both schools preach however, a very strong message that love should be shown to all members of society, all claims of racism have been made on entirely unstable grounds. The Blue Coat School teaches students much about other faiths in Religious Studies lessons and also supports the idea of racial harmony in the area.

However, the admissions policy has changed in recent years. The 2008 school admissions policy [The Blue Coat School, Oldham, Admissions Policy 2008 For Year 7 Entry in 2008] for Year 7 pupils welcomes applications from any religion that is part of the UK Inter-Faith Network [ [ The Inter Faith Network for the UK, promoting good interfaith relations ] ] This includes the Muslim, Sikh and Jewish faiths, along with many others. This document states that applications from members of these faiths will be judged using the same criteria as for Christian applicants.

Even with this recent change the fact remains that Blue Coat is still a selective school albeit on religious rather than financial or academic grounds. Church schools such as Blue Coat are keen to stress their egalitarian philosophy and principles. However critics of selection argue that selection exclusively on religious grounds might seem outwardly egalitarian, it actually does just as much to reinforce inequality as the academic selection practiced by grammar schools or the implicit financial selection inherent in independent schools. The Blue Coat school is a voluntary aided school funded by the Church of England, and takes part in numerous charity events.

* Demanding, regular sustained Church attendance over the course of many years arguably screens out those children from dysfunctional families, arguably most in need of a good education.

* It was recently noted by the right-wing think tank Civitas that nationally, many church schools are not doing well [ [,,590352,00.html Polly Toynbee: Keep God out of class | News crumb | ] ] . According to the think-tank the good results of such schools generally reflects the far-higher quality of their student intake as a direct consequence of religious selection. They argue that when value-added measures of pupil performance are considered, church schools should actually be doing much better than they actually are,(the 2007 results indicate that Blue Coat is doing extremely well on all value added measures at all levels). Civitas argues that performance should be comparable to that seen in the Private Sector for their pupils who are predominantly from stable, affluent, middle-class families. Whilst not wishing to demean the good efforts of Blue Coat pupils and staff, the fact remains that the school is "very" popular. [ [ Religions to unite for faith school - News - Rochdale Observer ] ] .
* Ofsted noted in its 2004 report that the socio-economic average of the school above average whilst the percentage of special need students is well below the national average. However under the new guidelines the most at risk pupils are placed first and many now come to Blue Coat. [ [\\school\\105\\s10_105739_20050113.pdf Microsoft Word - 105739.DOC ] ]


*Main Building - the original structure from the 19th century and designed by Richard Lane. Contains the school library, and also holds the maths classrooms and staff rooms.
*Main Hall - Used for most assemblies, and also school concerts and performances. The surrounding rooms are used as music classrooms, rehearsal space and a drama theatre.
*North East Building (formally known as Junior Block) - A three story structure which contains twelve classrooms, used to teach English and RS. Recently part of the roof blew of in the high winds of January 2007, and pupils were forced to evacuate the area in and around the block. Fortunately nobody was hurt.
*Kirkman House - the old vicars house, contains many classrooms, designated for sixth form classes. Also has a secret staircase leading to the attic of the building.
*Art and Technology Block. - Contains the art classrooms, as well as design technology, product design, graphics, food and textiles.
*House Block - Three stories each belonging to one of the school houses. The top floor is run by Birley Hall, the middle by Lord Mothersill and the bottom by Rowntree Wrigley. The space is mainly used socially at break times, also since the recent refurbishment geography, history, maths and MFL departments have moved into the building.
*Sports Hall - the newest edition to the school. Containing a huge sports hall, 2 classrooms changing rooms and staff facilities.
*Restaurant - previously the gym, on one side is the whole school restaurant, and on the other side the recently refurbished old boys gym, and now upstairs the 6th form mezzanine used during free periods and at lunch and break times by the 6th form.
*Science Block- A two-storey building with rooms dedicated to science teaching. The cellar has recently been converted into a social space for pupils in year 10.
*Fifth Form Building - the downstairs is mainly used as a social space for year 11 pupils. Upstairs contains IT and business studies classrooms.
*JT Block- Used for Modern Foreign Languages, commonly known amongst pupils as 'a cardboard box'.
*Sociology Block - contains two modern classrooms equipped with store rooms dedicated to each classroom. It is used to teach social sciences such as psychology and sociology. Teachers such as Miss A Ash and Mrs S Devine now teach there. Commonly known amongst pupils and staff as 'the caravan'.
*The Lodge - built around the same time as the main building, situated at the bottom of the drive, as a gatehouse. This was the caretakers lodge, but has now been converted into a set of music practice rooms.

Other notable members of staff

*Tony Ballantyne - Author, best known for writing the novel Recursion.
*Tony Wilson - acclaimed record label owner, radio presenter, TV show host, nightclub manager, impresario and journalist was a teacher of English and Drama in 1968. [citation|title=Tributes to the former town teacher... known also as Mr Manchester|last=Ferguson|first=James|date=2007-08-16|publisher=Oldham Advertiser|page=3]
*Stephanie Sinfield -Head of Geography at the school. Is the sister of the rugby league player Kevin Sinfield, who plays for Leeds Rhinos.

Notable alumni

* Stephen Bywater - A notable football player, Stephen was signed for West Ham United in 1997, after being spotted by a talent scout whilst training for Rochdale A.F.C..
* Matthew Wolfenden - Another footballer, Wolfenden is currently a player for Oldham Athletic Association Football Club, although he has played in relatively few professional matches.
* Alex Carter - drama student who attended Blue Coat, Alex played 17 year old Lee Hunter in the television programme Hollyoaks, aired on Channel 4, before joining the cast of Emmerdale in 2006. Prior to joining Hollyoaks in 2001 he appeared in "Adam's Family Tree" and "Where the Heart Is" on TV as well as some plays for Radio 4.
* John Digsby - Computer science academic and part time bummer
* Paul Oldham - Actor
* Dale Longworth - of the group N-Trance
* Stephen J. Gordon (born 4 September 1986) is an International Master chess player. In September 2004, he took a break from his A-level studies of Further Mathematics and Physics to compete in the thirteenth Monarch Assurance Isle of Man International Championship, where he achieved 33rd place.
* Sally Ann Matthews - drama student who attended Blue Coat, Sally Ann appeared in Coronation Street as an adopted daughter to Rita Sullivan.
* Tommy Cannon - Comedian

Students in the 6th Form usually take 4 AS subjects and it is tendency to drop one of those in the upper sixth and continue studying three A2 subjects. The Blue Coat School has the most successful state Sixth Form Centre in the Metropolitan Borough of Oldham, from A/AS Level Results in 2007cite web
title = BBC News - Education - League Tables - Secondary Schools - Oldham
publisher = BBC News
url =
accessdate = 2008-04-09
] cite web
title = BBC News - Education - League Tables - Secondary Schools in Oldham - The Blue Coat CofE School
publisher = BBC News
url =
accessdate = 2008-04-09
] .


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