Barton Court is a coeducational Grammar School with approximately 900 students between the ages of 11-19, including a thriving sixth form. We have recently been awarded language college status and all sixth form students will study International Baccalaureate (IB) from September 2007.
The school is situated near the centre of the historic Cathedral City of Canterbury in a World Heritage site. The main house of the school, built in 1750, and ancient trees, gardens, lake and playing fields make Barton Court an idyllic place in which to learn.
We are a coeducational Grammar School set around an ancient lake in beautiful walled grounds on the edge of Canterbury. We have just over 900 students on roll, including a Sixth Form of over 200.
The city of Canterbury and Canterbury Cathedral are within easy walking distance as are the coach, bus and main line railway station. Barton Court has been awarded CPD status by the Specialist Schools Trust for training staff from other schools on the use of ICT in MFL & Music, and is also one of eight schools in the county affiliated with Serco Learning. We are also applying for Language College Status from the Specialist Schools trust. If you think you may be able to help with our bid, please contact Dr. S. Manning by any means listed on the Contact Information page.
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A Haven of Happy Learning
Barton Court Grammar School, Canterbury was nominated as one of 32 outstandingly successful' schools throughout the country a few years ago. The school has changed markedly since then and Headteacher Dr Stephen Manning believes that it is even better now. This is the first of six articles in a special series in which we feature the much-admired grammar schools of Kent as the debate continues on the re-organisation of secondary education. Barton Court Grammar School lies close to the old city walls of Canterbury in the conservation area and World Heritage Site of St. Augustine's Abbey. It was the farm of the Abbey from its foundation in 605 AD (?Barton? stemming from ?bere tun? or ?barley enclosure?). The school is built around the lake in which the monks of the Abbey farmed fish. When Henry VIII destroyed the Abbey, he gave the farm to one of his faithful. Its lake remains and is a haven for wildlife, still teeming with fish despite the resident herons.
External speakers, including MP Roger Gale at the Year 12 induction course.
The gardens and grounds of the school contain many fine old trees, including the sixth Gingko to be introduced into the country from China (the first five were planted in Kew Gardens). Gingkos are single-sexed, so Barton Court students grafted on a branch from another tree so that now it can produce fruit. Our new ?2 million teaching block had to be designed around it.
We are also very fortunate to have large playing fields behind the school, unusual for a city centre site, schools generally being built on the outskirts of cities to obtain sufficient space. Being a few minutes walk from the centre of Canterbury means that not only is the city an invaluable resource on our doorstep, but also that daily travel is much easier for students who would otherwise have to catch a second bus out to school.
The present old house, a fine Georgian manor house, was built in 1750. It has been completely restored and is the heart of the school, containing classrooms, offices and networked computer suites. It comprises one of the three sides of a would-be quadrangle around the lake, the others being a 1960s wing and a newly completed building housing laboratories, technology workshops and classrooms. In the garden behind the house is a splendid new library. It is a great credit to imagination of our architects and the Canterbury planning department that such building can take place and fit so well into this very delicate and closely protected conservation area.
Do such features matter in a modern, highly academic and successful grammar school? I certainly think so. I think that it is good for our students to see such features carefully preserved to give them the most pleasant surroundings for their education. They are a constant reminder of things other than the daily routine and an encouragement to be forever looking beyond one's own immediate work and existence.
Although the house is old, the school itself is relatively modern. Barton Court was still a farm until early this century, approached up a long drive from New Dover Road. Much of its land then went to make way for housing and college developments. The manor house was pressed into use for teaching purposes during the 2nd World War, just for girls, the boys being taught in the city hospital building down the road. It began to be fully used as a girls' school after the War and became fully coeducational in 1991.
Being a grammar school means that we are a school specialised to cater for the most academically able children. The education which we provide is fast and intense and would not be suited to the majority of students, who are well provided for in the excellent High schools in the area. Academic ability, as measured in the county-wide assessment procedure is the sole criterion for entry and our students come from far afield and from all backgrounds.
In educational systems in other parts of the country, this is not always the case. If there are a number of schools in an area, so that those seen as the best are over-subscribed, only children of those parents able to afford to live in the vicinity of the favoured school may be able to obtain places. Although nominally comprehensive, selection may thus still operate, but on the basis of wealth. The grammar schools in Kent provide exactly the same opportunities for all academically able children, regardless of their background or financial circumstances.
Year 8 Science
Since we admit only the most academically able children, our exam results should be good. Any school should be able to achieve good exam results with very bright students; the question is are they achieving as well as they should? Analysis of Barton Court's exam results in comparison with those of hundreds of schools throughout the country shows that our students are consistently achieving significantly higher grades than would be expected, even taking into account their high ability.
This is just one of the reasons why, following its OFSTED inspection, Barton Court was nominated as one of 32 'outstandingly successful' schools throughout the country. That inspection, however, was a few years ago; would its judgements still apply? The school has changed markedly since then, I believe that it is even better now.
Academic achievement is only one facet of our provision. Like all good schools, we strive to provide as many opportunities as possible to broaden our students' awareness and experience outside the classroom. In addition to the sport almost every day after school, there are musical and dramatic productions, including a major musical every year and carols in the Cathedral, visits at home and abroad, residential field-courses and exchanges.
Each July, during our Enrichment Week, we suspend the classroom-based curriculum and all our students choose from a vast range of new activities and experiences. At the Year 9 outdoor activities camp, overlooking the sea, each tent cooks for itself on open fires. Large numbers of singers and instrumentalists travel to other countries giving concerts. This year we shall be taking footballers on a playing tour of Spain. Our Enrichment Week is designed to enable our students to learn new things together in new groups and surroundings, and to develop new abilities and enthusiasms which will be of life-long benefit.
Visitors to Barton Court frequently comment upon the friendly and civilised atmosphere of the school. This is due, I believe not only to our delightful buildings and surroundings, but also, firstly, to the school?s being coeducational. During these crucial years of their development, I believe it highly important that boys and girls should work and study together. In this way they learn to understand and respect one another in their everyday lives, and to relate to one another in a mature and perfectly natural manner.
Secondly, our students are continually encouraged to care for and take responsibility for themselves and one another; it is fundamental in everything we do. In addition to working very, hard and achieving everything of which they are capable, I want them to be happy and to enjoy life here. I see Barton Court as a haven in which they can learn and experiment and sort out their thoughts and ideas in a safe, supportive environment. In this way, they will become the responsible, well-balanced people which they and their parents would wish.
Barton Court is a school with delightful buildings in a superb position and environment. But what makes the school really successful are the people who choose to work here, students and staff. Children and their parents choose Barton Court because they sense and value that it provides something unique and they want to be part of that; our students are considerate and responsible and we are very proud of them.
My colleagues really care for their charges and work very hard to enable each of them to achieve the great things of which they are all capable, The school is the very antithesis of complacent. We are forever looking for new and better ways of providing for our students, to enable them to achieve their potential and take full responsibility for their own lives and the needs of' others, and to prepare them for a world of ever-increasing change.
Edited by Amanda Dove.
Text credit Kent Life Magazine