Stanwell School is a co-educational foundation status comprehensive school and Sixth form college located in Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan, Wales for children aged between eleven and eighteen. The school is located 5.2 miles (8.4 kilometres) south west from the Welsh capital city of Cardiff. The school currently has approximately 1,600 pupils on the roll in years seven to thirteen with a thriving sixth form. The school benefits from excellent facilities, with all the school's buildings either newly built or recently refurbished. Specialist teaching accommodation has been provided for science (featuring eleven modern laboratories), drama, music, media studies, P.E. (including sports halls and a playing field), Information Technology, Art and Design Technology Stanwell School was previously Penarth County Grammar School prior to becoming a comprehensive.


A Victorian beginning
The school originally opened in 1897 as Penarth Grammar School during the rapid Victorian expansion of the Penarth, Cogan, Llandough and Dinas Powys areas following the building of Cardiff and Penarth docks to handle the burgeoning South Wales coal trade. Between 1891 and 1901 the population of the town expanded from 12,000 to over 15,000 people and the need for a new school was paramount. Unusually the school was established for both boys and girls at a time when most British grammar schools were single sex establishments and few girls were even expected to complete a grammar school education. However, within the school the sexes remained segregated during the working day with separate school entrances, classrooms, teaching staff and playground areas. The girls' curriculum included only reading, writing, arithmetic and sewing, but the boys instead studied the sciences, Latin and ancient Greek. All children left school at the age of fourteen until the educational reforms introduced by the Conservative government's Education Board President Rab Butler in his Education Act 1944. Initially the only buildings on the site were the original school building that still stands, facing onto Archer Road, the headmaster's private residence on the corner of Archer and Stanwell roads (later used as a home by the resident caretaker) and a small chapel building that was later converted into a physics laboratory during the 1940s. In the early years the school roll was bolstered by the children from Radyr and Morganstown where there was no secondary school. The nine mile steam train journey to Penarth Grammar and St Cyres Secondary Modern was easier and quicker than the road journey to any closer Cardiff schools. The situation only changed in 1968 when Radyr's own secondary school was built and the direct rail link was removed by the Beeching Axe.

Into the 20th century
Penarth's town rugby pitch had been dug up and used for growing vegetables by local residents during First World War food shortages, so between 1919 and 1924 the traditional annual Good Friday rugby matches between Penarth RFC and the Barbarians were staged instead on the grammar school's playing field, when most of the town's population turned up to watch and cheer. In the autumn of 1924 the new Athletic Ground on Lavernock Road, a gift to the town by the Earl of Plymouth, was opened and the Good Friday matches were moved to their new home the following year. In 1960 the previously segregated sexes were combined into a co-educational school that was renamed as Penarth County Grammar School but the increasing school population had far expanded beyond the available accommodation and a large number of temporary portacabin buildings were added and increasingly built across the original playgrounds and playing fields. These temporary buildings included a gymnasium, chemistry and biology laboratories, domestic science (now food technology) kitchen, woodwork and metalwork shops, several ranges of classrooms and a toilet block. Originally planned to last no longer than ten years, many of the temporary buildings remained in use well into the 1980s and 1990s. In 1971 the local authority funded the building of a new youth club on the school site, near the Stanwell Road side entrance, called Penarth Youth Wing and the facility was utilised by the school during the day as additional accommodation for music and drama classes.

Recent developments
Entry to the school in the early years had been by Eleven plus examination with only those pupils that achieved the highest scores in the area's feeder schools being accepted. However in the late 1960s a Labour government led educational reform, through several ministerial directives and eventually the Education Reform Act 1968, that was accepted and implemented by the education authority, scrapped the 11+ examination and with it the segregated tripartite strata of grammar, technical grammar and secondary modern schools. In 1970 the school became a co-educational comprehensive and renamed as Stanwell Comprehensive School. Between 1990 and 1998 Stanwell was a grant maintained school operating under direct government funding and effecting its own student selection process, outside the normal procedures of the local education authority. It was during this period of grant maintained status that the vast amount of cash investment was injected into providing new school buildings and the superb teaching environment that can be seen today. The grant maintained system ceased in 1998 under the new Labour government and, renamed again as Stanwell School, it now has foundation status within the education authority but with autonomous school governors controlling admissions to the school, employing the school's staff and owning the school's estate. Performing Arts In recent years the school has hosted several dramatic and musical presentations including Jesus Christ Superstar , Alice in Wonderland and Cabaret . The school was the first in Europe to perform the School Edition of Les Misérables in 2002. The state of the art theatre and auditorium is equipped with a range of musical instruments such as modern keyboards, electric guitars, drums and pianos. The latest lighting systems are installed in the auditorium and other performance areas. The Drama department also took part in the Royal National Theatre Youth Connection where pupils in years 10-13 performed a newly commissioned production entitled Success by playwright Nick Drake at the school, followed by a performance at the Wales Millennium Centre on 9 April 2009. The 2010 Senior production will be Gershwin's Crazy for You and the 2010 annual Year Eight Musical was Archer Road. Other schools also perform in Stanwell such as Albert Primary School with their production of Annie in 2009 and their production of Hairspray in 2010.

The school today

Vision statement
An imaginative and inspired use has been made of the school's postcode "2XL" by the school's vision statement of "Learning to Excel". Stanwell school remains clearly focused on learning and excellence as defined by "improving on your previous best". Many aspects of the school's educational standards have been recognised nationally, through awards, as areas of good practice.

Most pupils transfer at age eleven from one of the four main partner primary schools: Albert Road Primary, Evenlode Primary, Victoria Primary and Sully Primary. The first three schools being within a walking distance and designated buses transporting the pupils from nearby Sully. Pupils are drawn from the full range of abilities although the majority of pupils are of average ability and above. Only three pupils have statements of special educational needs (SEN) and a further 143 have been identified as having particular needs. Additionally pupils come from a wide range of social circumstances. The school feels that half are neither prosperous nor disadvantaged, with half equally divided between the other two extremes. Only six per cent of pupils are registered as entitled to free school meals, which is lower than both local and national averages. Few pupils come from ethnic heritages or have a language other than English as their first language. Very few (less than 1 percent) pupils speak Welsh as a first language or to an equivalent standard. Welsh is taught and examined as a second language only. No pupils currently receive support teaching in English as an additional language.

Stanwell's 2008 A level results broke previous school records with 122 students achieving four A grades or better, with the top ninety students achieving five grade As or better. Half of Stanwell pupils achieved three A grades or better, with the average points score per pupil exceeding three A grades (81 points per student).

Sixth form and beyond
At sixteen years of age, most pupils choose to remain at the school to continue with their studies in the sixth form. Stanwell has over 400 6th form students, over 95% of which also studied GCSEs at the school at Key stage 4. To be eligible for 6th form, a student must have achieved at least 5 A*-C grades at GCSE. There are many A-level courses on offer for students to study including:
  • Art
  • Biology
  • Business Studies
  • Chemistry
  • Computing
  • Drama
  • Economics
  • English Literature
  • English Language & Literature
  • French
  • Geography
  • German
  • History
  • I.C.T
  • Mathematics (and Further Mathematics)
  • Music
  • Physics
  • Psychology
None of these subjects are compulsory in their own right but at least 3 must be studied at AS level and 2 at A level. Most students study 4 subjects at AS level and 3 at A level. Another aspect of the curriculum is the Welsh Baccalaureate which is compulsory. The head of Sixth Form is Mr.R.Relph, the head of Welsh Bacculauriate is Mrs.P.Menhenitt and the Sixth Form secretary is Mrs.S.Adams. The school has recently undergone building work to create a (approximately) 15x20m 'study area' (only available to the upper-sixth form; Year 13) with scenic views across the courtyard through the full-height windows, soundproof 'quiet rooms', an informal lounge seating area, 12 computer workstations, a hot beverage vending machine and tasteful shrubbery to add to the calming atmosphere. A high proportion of students go on to continue their studies at university, and the school well exceeds the national average for Oxbridge acceptances (for state-funded schools).

Most recent ESTYN inspection
ESTYN is the office of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education and Training in Wales. The most recent ESTYN school inspection report records:
  • There has been a considerable improvement on the results achieved at the time of the previous inspection.
  • The school's success in GCSE examinations for grades A* to G is better than that achieved locally, nationally and in the unitary authority overall.
  • In the KS3 national tests, success at level 6 and above exceeds national and local averages.
  • The pupils' very good literacy and communication skills are used to very good effect in most subjects.
  • Pupils use their very good information and communication technology skills advantageously in most subjects. They often choose to do so independently and appropriately.
  • All pupils are challenged suitably and achieve very well in the majority of subjects.
  • Based upon pupils' prior attainment, the school's results in external examinations exceed expectations at every level.

School badge
The school badge represents the coat of arms of Robert Windsor-Clive, 1st Earl of Plymouth.

Notable alumni
  • Sir Archibald Rowlands GCB MBE (26 December 1892 ”“ 18 August 1953) was a British civil servant. After serving as private secretary to three Secretaries of State for War, he was Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Air Production during the Second World War. He then worked in India and later acted as a special advisor to Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the Governor-General of Pakistan. Rowlands was born in Penarth and educated at Penarth Grammar School.
  • Denys Graham (born 25 January 1945) ”“ TV, film and stage actor was born in Newport and attended Penarth Grammar School. He has appeared in films such as Zulu , The Dambusters and Dunkirk , also TV shows including Angels , Lovejoy . The Bill and Rumpole of the Bailey .
  • Richard William Leslie Wain VC (5 December 1896 ”“ 20 November 1917) ”“ a Captain in the Tank Corps was a recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces, was born in Penarth and attended Penarth Grammar School.
  • Samuel George Pearse VC, MM, (16 July 1897 ”“ 29 August 1919) ”“ a Sergeant in the Royal Fusiliers and a recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. Pearse was born in Penarth and educated at Penarth Grammar School before moving to Australia with his family in 1911 after leaving school.
  • Sir Henry Lewis Guy CBE, FRS, (15 June 1887 ”“ 20 July 1956) was a leading British mechanical engineer, notable in particular for his work on steam turbine design.
  • John Smith MP (born 1951) ”“ Labour party politician and former Member of Parliament for the Vale of Glamorgan was educated at Penarth County Grammar School. Smith served as a member of the UK's Defence Select Committee during 2005 to 2007.
  • Colin McCormack (December 1941 ”“ 19 June 2004) ”“ Actor and member of the Bristol Old Vic and the Royal Shakespeare Company, famous for his stage, television and film roles over fifty years including Macbeth (1988), The Tempest (1988), Two Gentlemen Of Verona (1999) and Julius Caesar (2002). He was also in the RSC's production of A Clockwork Orange (1990). His TV roles were numerous but included Dixon Of Dock Green (1955 and 1974), Z Cars (1966), Please, Sir (1970), The Sweeney (1975), The Good Life (1978), Yes Minister (1980), Martin Chuzzlewit (1994), Inspector Morse (1987), Casualty (2000) and Longitude (2000). He appeared in several films the latest ones being Let Him Have It (1991) and First Knight (1995). Colin will probably best be remembered by television audiences for his recurring role as Alan in the 1984 science fiction series Chocky and his 1991 stint playing Kevin Masters in Eastenders . He also tutored at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and his students included Ewan McGregor, Alistair McGowan and Daniel Craig. Colin died of cancer aged 63. He was born in Penarth and attended Penarth Grammar School.
  • Steve Parr (born 1952) ”“ the multiple award winning record producer and sound engineer, UK pioneer of 5:1 and 6:1 sound recording and owner of successful recording studios in London and Austin, Texas was born in Penarth and educated at Penarth County Grammar School. Originally the keyboard player with 1970s Penarth based Glamrock band "Ingroville" followed by a stint with Arista recording artists "Burlesque", Steve has recently recorded the themes and soundtracks for TV programmes such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation , Primeval and films like St Trinian's , Fade to Black and over 300 similar projects. Steve is also the Vice Chairman of the Music Producers' Guild of the UK. In the popular music arena Steve has recorded artistes such as Natalie Imbruglia, Bryan Adams, The Who, Iron Maiden and Super Furry Animals as well as acting as music director and senior sound engineer at the John Lennon and Nelson Mandela tribute concerts.
  • Jemma Griffiths (born 18 June 1975) ”“ a singer-songwriter better known as Jem. She was born in Penarth where she attended Stanwell School and went on to attend Sussex University, obtaining a degree in law. Along with Guy Sigsworth, she wrote the song " Nothing Fails", which was later reworked by Madonna and appeared on her 2003 American Life album.
  • Amanda Haswell ”“ the Welsh Commonwealth and British Olympic high diver in the 1960s was born in Penarth and attended Penarth Grammar School.
  • Peter Philp (10 November 1920 ”“ 5 February 2006) ”“ a Welsh dramatist and antiques expert, best known for his television series, Collectors' Club.

Building Activity

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