Colchester Royal Grammar School

Colchester Royal Grammar School
Colchester Royal Grammar School
Crgs logo.png
Motto Vitae Corona Fides (Faith is the Crown of Life)
Established By 1206
Refounded 1539
Refounded 1584
Type Foundation Grammar
Religion Christian
Headmaster Ken Jenkinson
Chairman of Governors Dr J G Tillett MBE
Founders Master John and Joseph Elianore
Specialisms Science, Languages
Location 6 Lexden Road
England England
Local authority Essex County Council
DfE number 881/5443
DfE URN 115359
Ofsted Reports
Staff 105[1]
Students 793
Gender Boys (Mixed Sixth Form, but male boarders only)
Ages 11–18
Houses      Dugard's
     Shaw Jeffrey's
Colours Purple      & gold     
Publication The Colcestrian

Coordinates: 51°53′13″N 0°53′13″E / 51.887°N 0.887°E / 51.887; 0.887

Colchester Royal Grammar School (CRGS) is a grammar school in Colchester, Essex, founded in AD 1206[2] and granted two Royal Charters by Henry VIII (in 1539) and by Elizabeth I (in 1584).



The main school buildings are located in the Lexden area of Colchester, with the school's playing fields located nearby on Queens Road / Athelstan Road. It is situated just south of Lexden Road (A1124) in the west of Colchester near Essex County Hospital. The Colchester Garrison is not far to the south.

The school has achieved high results, often ranking in the top five schools nationally in A-level and GCSE league tables.[3] The school has around 700 pupils aged 11–18,[4] with girls admitted in the two upper years only. The school features extensive gardens, incorporating Gurney Benham House (named for a former Mayor of Colchester) and Elyanore House, as well as playing fields in Lexden.

The school is officially a specialist science school,[4] and has recently built a new chemistry block. In April 2009, CRGS was awarded specialist status for language.[4]


The school is consistently placed within the top few state schools in the country for A-level results, being top school nationally by results in 2009 and 2010, and achieves similar success at GCSE.[5] In 2004, it was named as the top state school in the country by the BBC.[6] Headmaster Ken Jenkinson[7] has explained this success by saying that "although as a grammar school the academic success of our students is our principal priority, I tend to see the results as the by-product of an ethos where we encourage students to aim high in all that they do and approach challenges with confidence."[6]

The school's success was recognised by Prime Minister Tony Blair who in 1999 invited the then headmaster of CRGS, Stewart Francis, among other heads of the country's top schools, to a meeting to discuss the improvement of education in Britain.[8]

The school's 'value added' score is higher than the national average.[9]


Subjects studied at the school are:

  • Astronomy (GCSE only)
  • Ancient Greek (from Year 8, choice between Ancient Greek and German)
  • Art
  • Biology (from Year 8)
  • Business Studies (optional additional A level only)
  • Chemistry (from Year 8)
  • Classical Civilisation (A level only)
  • Computing (from GCSE)
  • Critical Thinking (optional A/AS level only)
  • ICT (only to GCSE)
  • Design & Technology
  • Drama (Year 7 only, merges into English after that)
  • Economics (A level only)
  • English
  • French
  • Further Mathematics (A level only)
  • General Studies (A level only)
  • Geography
  • Geology (optional GCSE only; students taught in a partnership at another local school)
  • German (from Year 8, choice between Ancient Greek and German)
  • History
  • Latin
  • Mathematics
  • Music
  • Physical Education (option to take examinations in at GCSE and A level)
  • Physics (from Year 8)
  • Politics (optional additional A level only)
  • Religious Studies
  • Science (year 7 only but with a single science GCSE qualification in year 9 and Additional Science offered at GCSE as an alternative to separate sciences)
  • Spanish (A level only, but after school GCSE sessions are also offered)
  • Statistics (GCSE only, by set)


CRGS offers Ancient Greek for GCSE and A-Level. Between 1994 and 2004 the Greek government funded teaching of the subject, in an effort to halt its decline in the United Kingdom state sector. This was the result of a pupil-led campaign following a decision by the governors to cease teaching the subject following financial difficulties caused by becoming a grant maintained school.[10][11] All students take Latin lessons for their first three years, and have the option of Ancient Greek in the second. The school was also the first in the country to teach Classical Civilisation at A Level, as the subject was drawn up at CRGS, indeed "arose from a conversation between Arthur Brown Head of Classic, and the Headmaster one afternoon in 1970."[12]

Intake and classes

Being a selective school, in the Consortium of Selective Schools in Essex ("CSSE"), entrants are required to pass the eleven plus exam.

The eleven plus exam has a variable pass rate of 3% to 20% depending on the set of students[citation needed].

The new intake in year 7 consists of 96 pupils,[13] split into three classes of 32. The three forms are given the initials of 7C, 7R and 7G. At the end of the year, when pupils are asked to choose between Greek and German as a language, the groups of pupils are changed around. This changing around of forms continues until year 10, when students are placed in permanent forms for their GCSE courses, unless an express wish of a student, his parents or a teacher cause a particular student to be moved forms. However this is extremely rare.

There is also a small intake of four students at age 13 (after Year 8)[13] to make four classes of roughly 25 (the fourth class taking the initial S).

The sixth form has a separate admissions policy, and its forms are not labelled C, R, G and S but instead 12Aa where Aa is the two letter teacher code of the form tutor. All applicants must achieve 3 A grades and 2 B grades at GCSE to be accepted, whilst external applicants are subject to a competitive admissions process.[13]


A collection of red-brick buildings, photographed in black and white.
These school buildings, pictured in 1920, remain largely unchanged

Classrooms and other buildings

The school has the following facilities:

  • Classrooms:
    • English: 3 (+1)
    • Modern Foreign Languages: 4
    • Mathematics: 3 (+3)
    • Geography: 2
    • Religious Education: 1
  • ICT Suites: 4 (two of which sometimes used for lessons in Mathematics and a third used as a Lecture Room for lessons which require ICT work)
  • Science Labs: 2 for each science, plus 3 others
  • Technology Block, split into 5 rooms with two rooms complete with ICT facilities as well as a Food Technology room.
  • Art Block, split into 2 rooms
  • Classics and History Block (2 history rooms, 2 classics)
  • Music/Drama Block (Elyanore House, detached from rest of school)
    • Elyanore has 11 rooms, three on the ground floor, two on the middle floor, and 6 smaller rooms on the top floor for lessons/rehearsing
  • Gurney Benham House (Sixth Form)
    • 6 classrooms (2 Economics)
    • Connexions (computer suite & careers library)
    • Staff Offices
    • Sixth Form Girls' Common Room
  • Library
  • Restaurant
    • Takeaway
    • Sixth Form Common Room
  • Boarding Houses (Gilberd House and School House)

(numbers in brackets show rooms that are shared between two subjects, e.g. English and Mathematics share a room)

Boarding house

One of CRGS's defining characteristics is its boarding house, which is home to 30 sixth form students predominantly from the Far East (most are from Hong Kong and occasionally from elsewhere in the European Union).

The school is noted for the large number of overseas students, primarily from Asian countries, who come to the school in its sixth form and stay either at the boarding house or under the care of host families.

It is felt by the school that as well as offering excellent opportunities for academic progress, life in the boarding house prepares the student for the future, when he or she is separated from their family and subject to the demands of university life.

School houses

The four school houses, named after past headmasters, are as follows[citation needed]:

  •      Dugard's

Named after William Dugard
Head of House: Mr A Livingston
Motto: Dieu Garde ([May] God protect [us])

  •      Harsnett's

Named after Samuel Harsnett
Head of House: Miss H McFadden
Motto: Perge (Forward)

  •      Parr's

Named after Samuel Parr.
Head of House: Mr R Heard
Motto: Tout Prêt (All Prepared)

  •      Shaw Jeffrey's (Jay's)

Named after Percy Shaw Jeffrey
Head of House: Mr N Murray
Motto: Dex Aie ([May] God help [us])

The house competition occurs each year, with the shared winners of the 2010-11 competition being Shaw Jeffrey's      and Harsnett's     .

Awarding of points

There is an annual house competition, with points awarded with reference to Houses' performances in various competitions, including:[citation needed]:

  • House Quiz (Junior, Middle School and Senior)
  • Sport (Including rugby, cross country running, football, swimming gala, year eight cricket day, sports day, tug-o-war and hockey)
  • Commendations (awarded on behaviour and work, counted at the end of the Autumn term and the Summer term)
  • Song Competition (a recent event that has been running for the past few years, based on various themes (including Abba, Queen, the 1960s and boybands/girlbands)
  • 24 hour famine (a recent event which has only been running for a few years and won by the house donating the most money)
  • Shakespeare slam (new for 2007-2008 year)

Points are distributed with the winners of each contest getting 4 points, the next house with 3, the next house with 2 and the losers with 1 point. The points are doubled for the Summer commendations and the Song Competition. At the end of the year the house with the most points wins the house trophy.


Pupils in the main school wear a distinctive uniform comprising a purple blazer and tie with house badge, as well as a white shirt and black trousers and socks. Various 'custom' ties are available, recognising achievement or dedication to the school. Students in the Sixth Form do not wear the uniform, but must instead wear smart clothes, typically a suit.[14] The removal of the need to wear uniform in the Sixth Form happened in 1971 after a campaign by students.[citation needed] Until 1908 the school blazer had been green - but the same colour was adopted by other schools in the area. Wanting the school to be recognisable, the then Headmaster (Shaw Jeffrey) approached the main local tailor and asked what the most expensive dye was. Having been told that it was purple, he decreed it to be the colour used in future.[15]


Past headmaster Shaw Jeffrey attributed the founding of the school to two key people prior to the granting of its charters:

  • Master John, burgess of Colchester and later rector of Tendring, who founded the chantry of St Helen's Chapel in Colchester, in 1322, and
  • Joseph Elianore, MP for Colchester in 1312 and later Bailiff of Colchester, who founded the chantry of St Mary's, Colchester, in 1348.

With the dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry VIII, the Royal Charter of 1539 ensured revenues were granted to the bailiffs and commonality of Colchester on the condition that they founded a school; this was then enacted by the Charter of Queen Elizabeth in 1585, on condition that at least £13 6s 8d be set aside annually for the schoolmaster. Revenue from other property was also granted, but this was later challenged in court during the reign of King William III, and the arrangements were legally reconfirmed. By 1750, under the stewardship of Philip Morant, these revenues were worth £45 per annum, as well as providing scholarships for two boys to go up to Cambridge University.

The school was small and run mainly out of the headmaster's house for most of its early life, with only minor changes until 1852 when the "Big School" was built. At this time there was very little secondary education in this part of Essex, and difficulties were exacerbated through friction between the then headmaster of the school and the town's Corporation. Pupils numbers dropped although the school took in a few "parlour boarders" to prepare for Army or University entry. This changed with the appointment of Shaw Jeffrey to become headmaster in 1900.[16] He took over a school with 29 boarders, and barely any staff. Shaw Jeffrey's reforms rapidly turned the school about; he introduced day boys and a prep school, a cadet corps, orchestra, bugle band, school entertainments and theatrical performances. He was a national pioneer of the teaching of modern European languages through phonetics, employed language teachers from Germany and France, and set up arrangements for foreign study during holidays. He also founded the Old Colcestrian Society to reconnect the school with its old boys, with Councillor William Gurney Benham chairing its inaugural meeting on 23 June 1901.

Acquisition of main school buildings

An ivy-covered brick building, photographed in black and white
The existing schoolhouse, circa 1908

The resulting academic success, scholarships and local goodwill that followed thus enabled Shaw Jeffrey to expand the school buildings, inspired by the designs of rival Ipswich and Earls Colne Grammar Schools. Firstly Mansfield House was bought in 1903 and renamed Gilberd House. In 1908 he convinced the Governors and local Education Board to expand the Big School and build a New School building for £4000 on land that was previously the kitchen gardens. This was designed by architects Newman, Jaques and Round, and was opened by Lord Rosebery with Colchester Corporation dignitaries in May 1910. In 1911 the school was gifted 12 acres (49,000 m2) of playing field, and opened tennis courts and a small rifle range.

By 1912 numbers had grown to 144 pupils in the main school, split into four houses (School House, Parr's House - formerly North Town - Harsnett's House - formerly South Town - and Dugard's House[16]), and 169 younger boys in an attached preparatory school that the headmaster also started as a private venture. Pupils wore different coloured caps depending on their house, until Shaw Jeffrey noted that other local elementary schools were copying the colours. To confound this, he asked the local hatter "what was the most expensive colour and most hard to get", and hence chose purple and gold, which established the colour of the school uniform.

New buildings and expansion in the 1960s

This growth continued through the world wars until, in 1947, under headmaster A S Mason, there were 700 boys, and five scholarships for pupils to pursue university education. An outdoor swimming pool was constructed in the 1920s[16] and remains in use. In 1966 Labour-controlled Colchester Borough Council put forward proposals to close the school and Colchester County High School and move to a comprehensive system[17] but this was rejected by Essex County Council.[18] The educational expansion of the 1960s allowed the construction of new classrooms and gym; but the scholarships were no longer required with the introduction of free university education. The 1960s buildings have mainly been replaced; a new art building was opened in 2003 and the technology block was upgraded. In 2006 a new extension to the science building was completed and two new chemistry laboratories were opened.

In the late 1970s, under legal pressure from the Secretary of State for Education Shirley Williams, all counties with selective schools were made to submit plans to turn them into comprehensives or remove them from the state system. School pupils marched through the town centre in protest. The Labour Party lost the 1979 election, Shirley Williams lost her seat and the relevant part of the Education Act was repealed. Essex County Council's plans were said to have been designed to delay the requirement until a change of government could remove the threat.[19]

The school became grant maintained in the 1980s.

Headmaster's house

Until 2000[citation needed] the headmaster was entitled to a residence in the school grounds, but this has since been converted into extra classrooms and boarding facilities. As a result of this change, in 2001 the school was able to sell Lessenden House in Lexden Road (previously the residence of the boarding master).[20]

Old Colcestrians

An Old Colcestrian is a person who formerly attended the school. They are also known as 'Old Boys'.

The Old Colcestrian Society of the School has over 1,200 members. Its objectives are to help members to stay in touch with each other and the school through a variety of events, to support the school and to support past and present students of the school with their studies and their careers. The society was founded during Shaw Jeffrey's term as headmaster. The society raises a cricket team who annually plays against the school's 1st XI.

Some notable OCs include (by order of surname):

School song

The school song greatly resembles that of The Skinners' School, Tunbridge Wells, with Shaw Jeffrey writing the lyrics to both. It was introduced within his first year at the school and remains sung today, though infrequently, picking up on themes such as the Tudor history of the school and the popularity of the Old Colcestrian (OC) society.

Carmen Colchestriense by Shaw Jeffrey

First Verse:

Now hands about for Colchester
And sing a rousing chorus
In praise of all our comrades here
And those who went before us.
For to this lay all hearts beat true;
The loyal hearts that love us;
So fortune fend each absent friend
While there's a sun above us.


Sing! boys, sing!
Floreat Sodalitas
Little matter, well or ill,
Sentiment is more than skill,
Sing together with a will
Floreat Sodalitas
'tas Colchestriensis

Second Verse:

By mullioned panes the ivy climbs,
On Tudor masks and faces.
So mem'ry adds an evergreen
To well remembered places.
And grave OC's still dream besides
Of days long since departed;
And some have expiated crimes
For which their backs have smarted!


Third Verse:

Tradition gives us pride of birth,
Brave hearts and gentle manners,
For we are sons of men who marched
Beneath the Tudor banners!
So as we pass the torch along
Aglow with high endeavour,
One kindly mother we acclaim
That she may stand for ever.

An alternative chorus and third verse were provided in the first issue of the old series of The Colcestrian which also explained that the "Tudor masks and faces" referred to the busts of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I in the mullions of the entrance to Big School (now the Library). The chorus had "Vivat Academia!/Demia Majorum!" in place of the "Floreat Sodalitas" refrain. The third verse was almost entirely different and was closer to that of The Skinners' School:
Then here's a toast before we part,
To Henry's old Foundation
And may its friends be stout of heart
To win your approbation.
So we will pledge our noble selves
To use our best endeavour
That, as the merry world goes round,
Our school may stand for ever.

See also

  • List of headmasters at Colchester Royal Grammar School


  1. ^ Colchester Royal Grammar School website Staff
  2. ^ Colchester School Publication (1897), Register of the Scholars Admitted to Colchester School, 1637-1740.
  3. ^ Top A-level results 2007 (One case)], BBC. Retrieved 3 July 2009.
  4. ^ a b c Colchester Royal Grammar School. Ofsted. Retrieved 29 July 2009.
  5. ^ Colchester Royal Grammar School. BBC tables 2004.
  6. ^ a b The best and worst results. BBC. 15 January 2004. Retrieved 29 July 2009.
  7. ^ Interview with Ken Jenkinson, Guardian, September 2003
  8. ^ Blair learns from headteachers. BBC. 9 February 1999.
  9. ^ BBC School League Tables. Retrieved December 14, 2008.
  10. ^ Ben Preston (Feb 05, 1966). "Budget cut forces Greek off timetable". The Times (London): p. 5. Retrieved 02 Jun 2011. 
  11. ^ Ben Preston (Sep 19, 1966). "Athens sends a Greek bearing educational gifts". The Times (London): p. 1. Retrieved 02 Jun 1994. 
  12. ^ Colchester Royal Grammar School Publication, (1984). 1206, 1539, 1584, 1984.
  13. ^ a b c Prospectus. Accessed 29 July 2009. pg.7
  14. ^ Prospectus Accessed 29 July 2009. pg. 3
  15. ^ Jeffrey, Percy Shaw; Gurney Benham, Sir William (1948). Some Chapters in the History of the Royal Grammar School, Colchester. 
  16. ^ a b c Martin, Geoffrey Haward (1947). The History of Colchester Royal Grammar School, 1539-1947. Borough of Colchester. 
  17. ^ Our Correspondent (Mar 04, 1966). "Colchester Goes Comprehensive". The Times (London): p. 6.!xrn_426_0_CS102066788&hst_1?sw_aep=ess_earl. Retrieved 01 Jun 2011. 
  18. ^ Our Correspondent (Mar 25, 1966). "Reprieve Over Plan for Schools". The Times (London): p. 6.!xrn_431_0_CS102328953&hst_1?sw_aep=ess_earl. Retrieved 01 Jun 2011. 
  19. ^ Our Education Staff (May 25, 1977). "Tameside defiant as Tory rebels toe all-in line". The Guardian (London): p. 2. ISSN 02613077. Retrieved 03 Aug 2010. "Essex proposes converting 12 Southend schools into comprehensives by 1982 and reorganising Colchester Royal Grammar School and Girls High School by 1980 at the earliest. Gilberd Grammar School, Colchester would go comprehensive by 1980 instead of next year as expected locally. King Edward VI Grammar School, Chelmsford, would pull out of the State system. But Essex begs Mrs Williams to reject its proposals because of the high cost of carrying them out and "the strong expression of opinion of parents from public meetings."" 
  20. ^ Colchester: School to sell off Victorian house, Essex County Standard, 23 March 2001. Retrieved 29 January 2010.
  21. ^ "Sir George Biddell Airy". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1911. OCLC 70608430. Retrieved 2008-02-24. 
  22. ^ BBC NEWS Profiles: Mike Baker
  23. ^ FCO appoints chief scientific adviser, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 27 July 2009.
  24. ^ Policy Paper: Biographic NotePDF (163 KB). The Selsdon Group. Retrieved 29 July 2009.
  25. ^ FRANCIS, Rev. Canon Prof. Leslie John , Who's Who 2010. A & C Black; Oxford University Press (online). Dec 2009; online edn, Nov 2009. Retrieved 03 Aug 2010. 
  26. ^ HEWES, Robin Anthony Charles, Who's Who 2010. A & C Black; Oxford University Press (online). Dec 2009; online edn, Nov 2009. Retrieved 03 Aug 2010. 
  27. ^ "Sir Tom Hickinbotham". The Times (London): p. 14. Oct 19, 1983. 
  28. ^ "Philip Jones television sales executive". The Times (London). 31 July 2009. Retrieved 30 April 2010. 
  29. ^ ODNB
  30. ^ John Napier Aegis PLC'
  31. ^ Webster, Tom (Sept 2004; online edn, Oct 2006). Newcomen, Matthew (d. 1669), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 03 Aug 2010. 
  32. ^ Philip Norrey, Devon CC
  33. ^ OLYOTT, Ven. Leonard Eric, Who Was Who. A & C Black; Oxford University Press (online). Dec 2007. Retrieved 03 Aug 2010. 
  34. ^ PEGLER, Louis Hemington, Who Was Who. A & C Black; Oxford University Press (online). Dec 2007. Retrieved 03 Aug 2010. 
  35. ^ Colchester: Oscar Winner's Film Screening at School, Echo, 8 July 1999.
  36. ^ David Sexton Evening Standard
  37. ^ "Charles Sparrow". The Daily Telegraph (London). 3 June 2005. Retrieved 3 August 2010. 
  38. ^ Andrew Strathern, Pittsburgh University
  39. ^ Derek Wyatt: Electoral history and profile, The Guardian, Accessed29 July 2009.
  • Some Chapters in the History of the Royal Grammar School, Colchester P Shaw Jeffrey & Sir Gurney Benham, 1948

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