Colchester Royal Grammar School

For other schools with the name RGS, see Royal Grammar School.
Colchester Royal Grammar School
Motto Vitae Corona Fides (Faith is the Crown of Life)
Established By 1206
Refounded 1539
Refounded 1584
Type Grammar, Academy
Religion Christian
Headmaster John Russell
Deputy Headmaster Tim Chambers
Chair of Governors Janet Perry
Founders John and Joseph Elianore
Location 6 Lexden Road
Coordinates: 51°53′13″N 0°53′13″E / 51.887°N 0.887°E / 51.887; 0.887
DfE number 881/5443
DfE URN 137814 Tables
Ofsted Reports Pre-academy reports
Staff 110[1]
Students 852
Gender Male (Mixed Sixth Form, but male boarders only)
Ages 11–18
Houses      Dugard's
     Shaw Jeffrey's
Colours Purple      & gold     
Publication The Colcestrian

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

As of January 2014, the school's sixth form has been ranked 1st in terms of A-Level results in the country every year since 2006[3] and was 27th in the country in terms of Oxbridge admissions as of 2007.[4] On 1 January 2012 the school converted to an academy.


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 around 850 pupils aged 11–18,[5] with girls admitted in the two upper years only. The school features extensive gardens, incorporating Gurney Benham House (named after a former Mayor of Colchester) and Elyanore House, as well as playing fields in Lexden.

The school has specialisms in science and languages.[5]


The school has achieved high results, coming first in the A-level league tables every year since the 2006 results.[6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13] The school is also successful at GCSE level.[14] In 2004, it was named as the top state school in the country by the BBC.[15] Headmaster Ken Jenkinson[16] 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."[15]

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.[17]

The school's 'value added' score is higher than the national average.[18]


Subjects studied at the school are:

  • Astronomy (optional GCSE only)
  • Art
  • Biology (from Year 8)
  • Business Studies (optional additional A level only)
  • Chemistry (from Year 8)
  • Classical Civilisation (A level only)
  • Classical Greek (from Year 8, choice between Classical Greek and German)
  • Computer Science
  • Critical Thinking (optional A/AS level only)
  • Design & Technology
  • Economics (A level only)
  • English
  • French

  • Further Mathematics (A level and GCSE sets 1-3 only)
  • General Studies (A level only)
  • Geography
  • Geology (optional GCSE or AS level only)
  • German (from Year 8, choice between Classical Greek and German)
  • Government and Politics (optional additional A level only)
  • History
  • Latin
  • Mathematics
  • Music
  • Physical Education (option to take examinations in 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)


For year 8 pupils get a choice between studying German or Classical Greek. It is then offered 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.[19][20] All students take Latin lessons for their first three years. 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 Classics, and the Headmaster one afternoon in 1970."[21]

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.

The new intake in year 7 consists of now 120 (since 2015, old intake was 96) pupils,[22] split into four classes of 30. The four forms are given the initials of 7C, 7R, 7G and 7S. 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.

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 4 A grades and 1 B grade at GCSE to be accepted, whilst external applicants are subject to a competitive admissions process.[22]


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)
  • Music/Drama Block (Elyanore House,a detached building from rest of the school, and George Young, a new drama building)
    • Elyanore
      • Ground Floor
        • Piano Teaching Room
        • Drum Room
        • Large Room for Teaching
        • Recording Studio
        • Student toilet
      • First Floor
        • Staff Office
        • Staff Toilet
        • Sixth Form Teaching Room (equipped with computers)
        • Fairly Large Computer Room for Teaching
      • Second Floor
        • Score Library
        • Five other small rooms which are reserved for private music lessons
    • George Young
      • 1 Classroom
      • Large Lobby
      • Medium Auditorium
  • Science Labs: 2 for each science, plus 1 other with 3 more in construction

A collection of red-brick buildings, photographed in black and white.
These school buildings, pictured in 1920, remain largely unchanged
  • Technology Block, split into 5 rooms with two rooms complete with ICT facilities as well as a Food Technology room and two workshops which include
      • 3D Printer
      • Laser Cutter
      • Circular Sander
      • Circular Saw
      • Air Filtration Systems
      • Vinyl Cutter
      • Hot Wire Cutter
      • Pedestal Drill
      • Metal Press
      • Chamfering Machine
      • Standing Morticer
      • Grinding Machine
      • Fretsaw
      • Vacuum Former
      • several other pieces of machinery
      • There is also a student and staff toilet, a staff office, a garage, a large sideroom for storing equipment.
  • Art Block, split into 2 warehouses joined together by a staff office
  • Classics and History Block (2 history rooms, 2 classics)
  • Gurney Benham Building
    • 3 Economics Classrooms
    • 3 Smaller Classrooms used for all subjects, but mainly theoretical PE
    • Staff Offices
      • Head of Computer Science
      • Head of Year 7
      • Head of RSS (Religious Social Studies)
      • Head of Sixth Form
      • Head of Economics
      • SEN (Special Educational Needs)
    • Careers
      • Careers Library equipped with computers, sometimes used for lessons
      • Careers Interview Room
    • Archives (see next paragraph)
  • Sixth Form Girls' Common Room
  • Library
  • Restaurant
  • 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)


The school Archives are based in several places round the school. Their rooms are:

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.

School houses

The four school houses, named after past headmasters, are as follows:

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

Named after Samuel Harsnett
Head of House: Mr Seven Loxley
Motto: Perge (Forward)

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

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

The house competition occurs each year, with the winner of the 2012-13 competition being Parr's     , the 2013-14 competition again being Parrs's     , and the 2014-15 competition being Shaw-Jeffrey's     

Awarding of points

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

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.[23] The removal of the need to wear uniform in the Sixth Form happened in 1971 after a campaign by students. 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.[24]


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

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.[25] 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, c. 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[25]), 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[25] 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[26] but this was rejected by Essex County Council.[27] 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.[28]

The school became grant maintained in the 1980s.

Headmaster's house

Until 2000 the headmaster resided in School House, but this has since been converted into 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).[29]

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. People who taught or currently teach at the school are also eligible to membership. Honorary memberships can be given to people who dedicate a portion of their lives to preserving the school's rich history. 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

"Carmen Colchestriense (Music)"
Composed by Cuthbert H. Cronk.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

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 Colcestriense 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


  1. Colchester Royal Grammar School website Staff
  2. Colchester School Publication (1897), Register of the Scholars Admitted to Colchester School, 1637-1740.
  3. "Colchester school named top in the country". Essex County Standard. Colchester: Newsquest (Essex) Ltd. 23 January 2014. Retrieved 23 January 2014.
  4. "Table 2: Top 100 schools by Oxbridge admissions hit rates" (PDF). The Guardian. London.
  5. 1 2 Colchester Royal Grammar School. Ofsted. Retrieved 29 July 2009
  6. "Top A level results". BBC News. 11 January 2007.
  7. "Top A level results". BBC News. 10 January 2008.
  8. "Top A level results". BBC News. 15 January 2009.
  9. "Top A-level results in school league tables". BBC News. 13 January 2010.
  10. "Secondary league tables: Best A/AS level results". BBC News. 12 January 2011.
  11. "Secondary league tables: Best A/AS level results". BBC News. 26 January 2012.
  12. "Secondary league tables: Best A/AS level results 2012". BBC News. 24 January 2013.
  13. "Secondary league tables 2013: Best advanced academic results". BBC News. 23 January 2014.
  14. "Secondary league tables: Best GCSE results". BBC News. 26 January 2012.
  15. 1 2 The best and worst results. BBC. 15 January 2004. Retrieved 29 July 2009.
  16. Interview with Ken Jenkinson, Guardian, September 2003
  17. Blair learns from headteachers. BBC. 9 February 1999.
  18. BBC School League Tables. Retrieved December 14, 2008.
  19. Ben Preston (February 5, 1966). "Budget cut forces Greek off timetable". The Times. London. p. 5. Retrieved 2 June 2011.
  20. Ben Preston (September 19, 1966). "Athens sends a Greek bearing educational gifts". The Times. London. p. 1. Retrieved 2 June 1994. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  21. Colchester Royal Grammar School Publication, (1984). 1206, 1539, 1584, 1984.
  22. 1 2 Prospectus. Accessed 29 July 2009. pg.7
  23. Prospectus Accessed 29 July 2009. pg. 3
  24. Jeffrey, Percy Shaw; Gurney Benham, Sir William (1948). Some Chapters in the History of the Royal Grammar School, Colchester.
  25. 1 2 3 Martin, Geoffrey Haward (1947). The History of Colchester Royal Grammar School, 1539-1947. Borough of Colchester.
  26. Our Correspondent (March 4, 1966). "Colchester Goes Comprehensive". The Times. London. p. 6. Retrieved 1 June 2011.
  27. Our Correspondent (March 25, 1966). "Reprieve Over Plan for Schools". The Times. London. p. 6. Retrieved 1 June 2011.
  28. Our Education Staff (May 25, 1977). "Tameside defiant as Tory rebels toe all-in line". The Guardian. London. p. 2. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 3 August 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."
  29. Colchester: School to sell off Victorian house, Essex County Standard, 23 March 2001. Retrieved 29 January 2010.
  30. "Sir George Biddell Airy". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1911. OCLC 70608430. Retrieved 2008-02-24.
  31. BBC NEWS Profiles: Mike Baker
  32. FCO appoints chief scientific adviser, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 27 July 2009.
  33. "Policy Paper: Biographic Note" (PDF). (163 KB). The Selsdon Group. Retrieved 29 July 2009.
  34. FRANCIS, Rev. Canon Prof. Leslie John , Who's Who 2010. A & C Black; Oxford University Press (online). December 2009; online edn, November 2009. Retrieved 3 August 2010. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  35. HEWES, Robin Anthony Charles, Who's Who 2010. A & C Black; Oxford University Press (online). December 2009; online edn, November 2009. Retrieved 3 August 2010. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  36. "Sir Tom Hickinbotham". The Times. London. October 19, 1983. p. 14.
  37. Gray, Sadie (31 July 2009). "Philip Jones television sales executive". The Times. London. Retrieved 30 April 2010.
  38. ODNB
  39. John Napier at Aegis PLC
  40. Webster, Tom (September 2004; online edn, October 2006). Newcomen, Matthew (d. 1669), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 3 August 2010. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  41. Philip Norrey, Devon CC
  42. OLYOTT, Ven. Leonard Eric, Who Was Who. A & C Black; Oxford University Press (online). December 2007. Retrieved 3 August 2010.
  43. PEGLER, Louis Hemington, Who Was Who. A & C Black; Oxford University Press (online). December 2007. Retrieved 3 August 2010.
  44. Colchester: Oscar Winner's Film Screening at School, Echo, 8 July 1999.
  45. , East Anglian Daily Times
  46. David Sexton Evening Standard
  47. "Charles Sparrow". The Daily Telegraph. London. 3 June 2005. Retrieved 3 August 2010.
  48. Andrew Strathern, Pittsburgh University
  49. Derek Wyatt: Electoral history and profile, The Guardian, Accessed 29 July 2009.

External links

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