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Best UK school award for Pates Grammar 'down to hard work'

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: November 21, 2012

Headteacher Russel Ellicott

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HARD work by pupils and staff was the key to a Cheltenham school being named as the best state secondary in the country.

That's the view of Russel Ellicott, headteacher at Pate's Grammar School after it was handed the accolade in the Sunday Times Good Schools Guide.

It was the first time since the inception of the awards 21 years ago that a school from the South West had been awarded the title.

Mr Ellicott said: "We are delighted and thrilled to be awarded such a prestigious honour. It is the result of hard work and dedication from our outstanding teachers and is a public reward for their efforts.

"Any plaudits we are given are down to the hard work of the staff and the students, who are amazing."

Originally founded by in 1574 by Richard Pate, the voluntary-aided school now has 1,000 pupils. This year, 27 won places at Oxford and Cambridge universities – only four below its record figure.

Mr Ellicott is very proud of the numbers going to Oxbridge from Pate's, and said: "We have a team of staff who work with students to ensure they have the best possible preparation for their university application." He added that he was equally delighted that its pupils invariably go to their first-choice university, regardless of where that is.

In awarding the honour to Pate's, the Sunday Times said: "A remarkable 95 per cent of A-level entries this summer gained A* to B grades, while 89.1 per cent of GCSEs were given an A* or A.

"A regular in the upper echelons of our league tables, Pate's moves from sixth to fourth place and it is this consistently strong academic record that wins it our UK State Secondary School of the Year award."

Mr Ellicott took over from Shaun Fenton as head at Pate's in September, after four years as its deputy head.

He said: "We pride ourselves on our high aspirations. We are lucky that we have bright, very able students."

Pate's is a specialist languages and science college and was named the best science department in the country at the 2011 National Business Awards.


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  • yumtum20  |  November 22 2012, 3:08PM

    I fully agree with the comments that the selection process for Pates will always result in having higher and better results for the school than other non selective schools. The 'brighter' the pupil in the first place, the better the school standing will be. This will inevitably result in higher quality teachers wanting to be at Pates than say Pittville. This comment is not sour grapes either as i attended Pates many years ago!

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  • IsitJimKerr  |  November 22 2012, 2:37PM

    I obviously hit a nerve, but I think wrongfully. What I actually meant to explain was the grading of schools, then publishing them for the public to see, is fundamentally flawed, as is borne out of the fact that most on here think it's the intake not the teachers. That was actually going to be my very first comment, but I thought it controversial. However, I know a teacher that teaches at Pate's, and they agree entirely, in fact they are quite dismissive of the teachers abilities, saying they wouldn't last five minutes in a more challenging environment. I'm all for grammar schools and the old secondary modern. Comprehensive schools have been a disaster. Children should reach the upper band of their ability, rather than averaged to that of the total class.

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  • thesmithster  |  November 21 2012, 9:20PM

    I think it's a combination of the two; the standard of teaching at Pate's is excellent and the school has a great ethos, but of course, it takes on some of the brightest students. The fact is, a school like Pate's stands a strong chance of winning an award like this because presumably it is based primarily on results and other such measures of performance. There are many, many different awards out there and different schools stand different chances of winning them depending on their own strengths and weaknesses.

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  • Takeaway22  |  November 21 2012, 8:48PM

    thesmithster - True words...so it is the pupils moreso than the teachers?

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  • thesmithster  |  November 21 2012, 8:28PM

    Well done Pate's. Thoroughly deserved. In response to the other comments - gifted pupils deserve the chance to thrive in a more challenging environment. Pupils are regularly split into groups based on their ability throughout their school lives in order that their learning can be tailored as it needs to be. I don't think there is anything wrong with grammar schools - some pupils would be held back and not challenged enough at a comprehensive school, because there simply isn't the capacity to offer them the teaching at the level they need. It would be unfair to expect gifted pupils to just breeze through school (unfair on the other pupils too) without offering them the opportunity to better themselves. Just as special schools provide directed learning for those with special educational needs, grammar schools provide directed learning with higher level educational needs. There are plenty of excellent comprehensive schools in the county. There's no need for bitterness towards the grammar schools! I went to Pate's. My son probably won't because I don't think he would pass the entrance exam. Does that bother me? No way. All children are different and have differing abilities. There is nothing wrong with providing for that.

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  • Takeaway22  |  November 21 2012, 7:38PM

    Could the results have anything to do with the selection process of this 'state' school. I have no doubt that that there has been a lot of hard work by both teachers and pupils alike, but if you have the cream of Gloucestershires pupils by selection, I would summise that results would exceed those in surrounding schools. A nice experiment would be the teachers at Pates and say, Pittville School to swap places (similar size school), would Pittville school improve dramatically and Pates results diminish dramatically concurrently? I would guess that the grammar school teachers will struggle with classroom control and hence will stifle their ability to teach and the Pittville teachers will have relief and released to teach. I would suggest that the biggest contribution towards this accolade is the selection and admission process of their current pupils.

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  • IsitJimKerr  |  November 21 2012, 12:30PM

    While we should all aim for top results, this grading of schools is generally, most unhelpful. Not ALL children can attend Pates, so many will be disappointed, plus of course the usual inter-school rivalry will themselves as better than anyone else. The children of this country deserve the best education possible, so ALL schools should be evenly balanced with both the abilities of teachers and the abilities of children. Good luck to them, but how about reaching out and helping the less gifted?

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