Aylesbury Grammar School, mid Bucks
Muddy says: This all boys' Aylesbury Grammar School in mid Bucks for kids 11-18, has an strong reputation for academia, music and sport, particularly rugby.
The all boys’ Aylesbury Grammar School in the centre of Aylesbury town, has an enviable reputation for academia, music and sport. Established since 1598, it’s had plenty of time to hone its offering!
AYLESBURY GRAMMAR SCHOOL, AYLESBURY
What? Where? An all-boys grammar school dating back to 1598, and a big one too, with over 1300 kids from secondary 11+ entry to sixth form. Last year Aylesbury Grammar was placed in the top 100 in national league tables of schools and is regularly in the top 1% of all schools both state and independent. The school can be found amid the (*splutter*) glorious architectural beauty of Aylesbury and is central in the town (so good bus/train links). The present buildings date largely from the Victorian era, so there’s a mixture of grandeur, clean lines and outdated plumbing.
Facilities: Very good. The school has several sports fields, a swimming pool, a brand new gym, squash courts (unusual for a state school and currently being refurbished), a fully equipped drama hall, and a student/athlete partnership with superhot Halton Tennis Centre in place. Sport is a massive part of AGS, with the rugby team regularly playing against the big private schools. Cricket and rugby are the main sports, but football, hockey, basketball and athletics are also strong.
There’s been a recent upgrade to the main hall, and a pretty quad outside, but don’t expect private school manicured this and that. As a grammar school it’s a bit rough around the edges in parts, but there’s been a recent £400k posh upgrading of the sixth form area – think lots of glass, two new study areas, a sixth form library, a zsushed up common room. Apparently the boys’ toilets are next on the list – hold your breath!
Music: Lest you think that only smelly jocks can get on well at AGS, let me tell you that the music here is phenomenal. It’s next door to the Aylesbury Music Centre with whom it has a close relationship, and its award-winning jazz bands tour all over the place. The day I came to the school there was some improvised jazz being played in one of the practice rooms, and a brass group playing in the hall and both sounded amazing.
The academic results: Results that could make private schools gnash their teeth. 62.4% of entries graded A* or A and 30% of entries graded A*. 87% of entries were awarded A*-B and 70.5% of students received 5 or more A* and A grades. 38 students were rewarded with all A* and A grades in their subjects.
Results in A levels are whopper. In 2016, 74% of entries were graded B or higher, with 44% of the entries achieving an A* or A grade. 13% of entries were graded A* with an overall pass rate of 99.8%. Over the last five years an average of 9 students per year have scored Oxbridge.
The headmaster: Mark Sturgeon, a former head of geography and head of Year 13 during his time at the school (from 1998 – 2005 fact fans) and into his third year in the hot seat and is a real doer, having pushed the £2.3 million completion of the science centre, updated the Sixth Form centre and the library.
Quirks: With 1300 boys to keep on the straight and narrow, AGS is not big on quirk! There are rules and discipline but if you have a boy (and I have two, Lord help me) this can only be a GOOD THING. But there’s plenty of opportunity for individuality – some of the clubs on offer include chess, war hammer (I’m not kidding), eco schools, film and Japanese in addition to all the sport and music clubs/societies. New subjects on offer including Business Studies, Sports Science and Italian, Computing, Electronics and Statistics, which no doubt work like catnip on 16 year old boys. It’s worth noting that the head of Sixth Form is a woman, Lilla Venning – I’ve met her and she’s very impressive. In a large Sixth Form at an all boys’ school I like the idea that there’s a strong female role model at its head.
Anything else worth mentioning?: AGS seems very forward thinking in trying to grow an Old Aylesburians network to help younger students coming through, and support the school financially. It feels like it’s trying to take some of the undoubted networking benefits of private school and feeding through to its own pupils which is a great idea. If you’re slightly worried about your boys mingling with only their own sex, fear not for there is an all-girls school next door, so plenty of opportunity for spin the bottle and dalliances with the opposite sex.
Word on the ground: I hear a lot about AGS as it’s the nearest boys grammar to where I live, and it’s almost universally positive. Obviously the academic side of the school is incredibly strong, but a lot of parents that I’ve talked to also seem very pleased with the pastoral side of things. Bullying happens of course – with over 1000 teenage boys that’s inevitable – but it’s dealt with quickly and the kids are well-grounded. Rugby is exceptionally strong, as is music.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: It’s strong on all areas of the curriculum so if you’re kid is supersporty, musical or even just swotty, they should fit in fine. Perfect for those who want a private school ethos without the buttock-clenching fees.
Not for: Those who prefer a co-ed experience, who worry about such a strongly ‘rugby’ school or who balk at some older facilities – the science block is mid refurb and some of the older labs will take you back to your own school days. Also, I’d say that it’s quite a competitive environment, so it’s worth thinking about how your child handles pressure.
Dare to disagree? Check it out for yourself! There are several Open Days for prospective pupils for Sept 2018 entry. As always, let me know what you think, or if your child already goes to the school, feel free to comment below.