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

The main school buildings are located in the Lexdenmarker area of Colchester, with the school's playing fields located nearby on Queen's Road.

The school has achieved high results, often ranking in the top five schools nationally in A-level and GCSE league tables, and regularly placing above public schools such as Etonmarker. The school has around 700 pupils aged 11–18, 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, and has recently built a new chemistry block.In April 2009, CRGS was awarded specialist status for language.


The school is consistently placed within the top few state schools in the country for A-level results and achieves similar success at GCSE. In 2004, it was named as the top state school in the country by the BBC. Headmaster Ken Jenkinson 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."

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.

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


Subjects studied at the school are:

The school is also trialling an extra single Year 10 GCSE in Astronomy and GCSE Physical Education.


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, thanks to a pupil-led campaign. 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."

Admission 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 96 pupils, 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) 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. Applicants must achieve 3 A grades and 2 B grades at GCSE to be accepted after undergoing an interview.


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
  • 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
  • Library
  • Restaurant
  • Boarding Houses

(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 Kongmarker and from the United Kingdom 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 :
  • 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: Mrs K Livingston / Mrs F Heaton

Motto: Dex Aie ([May] God help [us])

The house competition occurs each year, with the winner of the 2007-08 competition being Dugard's, winning the competition for the first time since 2001.

Awarding of points

There is an annual house competition, with points awarded with reference to Houses' performances in various competitions, including: :
  • 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)
  • Song Competition (a recent event that has been running for the past few years)
  • 24 hour famine (a recent event which has only been running for a few years and won by the house donating the most money)
  • House Chess (new for 2007-2008 year)
  • Shakespeare slam (new for 2007-2008 year)

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. 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.


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 Cambridge Universitymarker.

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. 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 W Gurney Benham chairing its inaugural meeting on 23 June 1901.
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 Ipswichmarker and Earls Colne Grammar Schoolsmarker. 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 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), 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.

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 and remains in use. 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.

Until 2000 the headmaster was resident in a house in the school grounds, but this has since been converted into extra classrooms and boarding facilities.

Old Colcestrians

An Old Colcestrian is the phrase given to a person who formerly attended the school. They are also known as old boys. There is a society of OCs who have a cricket team who annually play against the school's 1st XI. The society was founded during Shaw Jeffrey's term as headmaster.

Some notable OCs include:

School Song

The school song greatly resembles that of The Skinners' Schoolmarker, 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.

See also


  1. Colchester School Publication (1897), Register of the Scholars Admitted to Colchester School, 1637-1740.
  2. (One case). BBC. Retrieved 3 July 2009.
  3. Colchester Royal Grammar School. Ofstead. Retrieved 29 July 2009.
  4. Colchester Royal Grammar School. BBC. 2004.
  5. The best and worst results. BBC. 15 January 2004. Retrieved 29 July 2009.
  6. Blair learns from headteachers. BBC. 9 February 1999.
  7. BBC School League Tables. Retrieved December 14, 2008.
  8. Colchester Royal Grammar School Publication, (1984). 1206, 1539, 1584, 1984.
  9. Prospectus. Accessed 29 July 2009. pg.7
  10. Prospectus Accessed 29 July 2009. pg. 3
  11. BBC NEWS Profiles: Mike Baker
  12. FCO appoints chief scientific adviser. Foreign and Commonwealth Office. 27 July 2009.
  13. . The Selsdon Group. Retrieved 29 July 2009.
  14. Colchester: Oscar Winner's Film Screening at School. Echo. 8 July 1999.
  15. Derek Wyatt: Electoral history and profile. 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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