Guide to Independent Schools

School details

Portsmouth Grammar

The Portsmouth Grammar School, High Street, Portsmouth, Hampshire PO1 2LN

Enquiries & application

the Admissions Secretary

T:  023 9236 0036
F:  023 9236 4256

Co-ed, 11-18, Day
Pupils: 980, Upper sixth 108
Fees: £3630 per term
Affiliation: HMC


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School details

Portsmouth Grammar

What it's like

Founded in 1732 by Dr William Smith, Mayor of Portsmouth and physician to its garrison. The main buildings, now listed, were opened in 1927 and stand in the High Street of Old Portsmouth. The school has recently acquired the historic Cambridge Barracks site and now has a refurbished library, new science labs, an all-weather pitch and a theatre. It is closely connected with Portsmouth Cathedral (whose choristers are mainly pupils), but religious instruction, in accordance with the principles of the Christian faith, is non-denominational. The school is now fully co-educational, having admitted girls throughout since 1991. A sound general education is provided and there is a large sixth form with a broad curriculum; the International Baccalaureate is offered alongside A-levels. Academic standards are high and examination results excellent. Music and drama are strong. There is a good range of sports and games, including judo, squash, rowing (at sea) and sailing, for which the facilities are first-rate. A strong CCF contingent comprises Navy, Army and Air Force sections. Considerable emphasis is placed on open-air pursuits and on the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme (which involves local community service and charity work). The school has vigorous local support.

Pupils & entrance

Pupils: Age range 11-18, 980 day pupils (635 boys, 345 girls). Entrance: Main entry age 11, growing numbers at 13 and 16. Own exam at 11 (including pupils from own junior), Common Entrance at 13. For sixth form entry, usually 6 GCSEs at least grade B (grade A in sixth form subjects). All prospective entrants are interviewed. State school entry, 30% of intake at 11, plus 20% to sixth form. 50% of pupils from own junior school (enquiries to the Junior School Admissions Secretary, tel 023 9268 1336, email

Scholarships & bursaries

Academic and music scholarships (awarded at 11, 13 and 16); plus art, drama and sports scholarships at 16. Variable number of bursaries, including bursaries of full fees to talented state-school pupils at 11 and 16; and supplements to scholarships for those in need.

Head & staff

Headmaster: James Priory, in post from 2008. Previously Deputy Head at the school. Teaching staff: 80 full time, 17 part time. Annual turnover 5%. Average age 40.

Exam results

GCSE: 170 pupils in Year 11, 98% gaiing at least grade C in 8+ subjects (75% at grade A/A*). A-levels: 145 in upper sixth, passing an average of 3.2 subjects, with an a final point score of 382.

Pupils' destinations

96% of sixth form leavers go on to a degree course, 10% to Oxbridge. 10% take courses in medicine, dentistry and veterinary science, 23% in science and engineering, 42% in humanities and social sciences, 16% in business-related subjects, 5% in music and drama.


GCSE, AS and A-levels. 20 AS/A-level subjects. Sixth form: All sixth formers take 4 subjects at AS-level, 4 at A-level; no general studies exams taken but all take a life-long learning programme (focusing on the professions, the law, photography, journalism, food technology and relationships). 30% take science A-levels; 36% arts/humanities; 34% both. Key skills integrated into sixth form courses. Vocational: Work experience available. Languages: French, German and Spanish offered to GCSE, AS and A-level. Regular exchanges. ICT: Taught both as a discrete subject and across the curriculum, eg web browsing, graphics design, spreadsheets. 250 computers for pupil use (8 hours a day), all networked and with email and internet access.

The arts

Music: Over 40% of pupils learn a musical instrument; instrumental exams can be taken. Some 15 musical groups including orchestra, concert band, rock bands, choirs, swing groups. A number of distinctions at music festivals; 1 pupil in National Youth Orchestra. Major involvement in Portsmouth Festivities; established partnership with the London Mozart Players. Drama: Drama compulsory initially and an option at GCSE and A-level; also LAMDA exams (private lessons). Pupils are involved in school and other productions. Art and design: On average, 20 take GCSE, 7 A-level. Design, pottery, sculpture offered. 75% A-level candidates enter foundation courses.

Sports & activities

Sport: Rugby, hockey, cross-country, tennis, athletics compulsory for boys; netball, hockey, cross-country, rounders, tennis for girls. Optional: rowing, basketball, squash, badminton, swimming, judo. Sixth form only, sailing. GCSE sport, BAGA, RLSS exams may be taken. Pupils in national hockey, fencing, sailing, swimming, orienteering, hovercraft teams; U19 boardsailing champion; regional squash player; some 40 county representatives (rugby, hockey, netball, cricket, athletics, tennis, squash, swimming, sailing). Team successes, especially in hockey, girls' athletics, netball. Activities: Pupils take bronze, silver and gold Duke of Edinburgh's Award. CCF optional; community service course in 3rd year and an option in fifth and sixth years. Over 50 clubs, including photography, technology, electronics, debating, judo, computers, fencing, wildlife, war games, dance, creative writing, Christian Union, radio-controlled models.

School life

Uniform: School uniform worn throughout. Houses and prefects: Competitive houses. Senior prefects (appointed by the Head), house captains and school prefects. School Sixth Form Council, elected by the sixth form. Peer-counselling. Religion: Non-denominational. Attendance at religious worship compulsory for most pupils. Social: Debates, choirs, orchestras and foreign trips jointly with other local schools. Exchanges with France, Germany, Spain and USA; visits to Italy and Czech Republic; choir and concert band trips to Europe and USA; ski and white water rafting holidays, expeditions to Borneo and Uganda. Pupils allowed to bring own car, bike or motorbike to school with parental consent. Meals self-service.


Pupils failing to produce homework once might expect an oral warning; those caught smoking any illegal substance on the premises could expect suspension certainly, expulsion probably.

Former pupils

Wally Hammond (England cricket captain); Roger Black (athletics international); James Ware (ophthalmologist); Ian Osterloh (Viagra researcher); Simon Gray (dramatist); Christopher Logue (poet); James Clavell (novelist); Christopher Walsh (cathedral organist); Paul Jones (pop singer); Alan Bristow (entrepreneurial industrialist); several admirals, generals, air marshals, judges, civil servants etc.