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Manchester Grammar School

School rating 4 / 5 by

Old Hall Lane Manchester Lancashire M13 0XT United Kingdom
4th to 12th
Boys only


Manchester Grammar School review by .

The school now offers an IB course to sixth-formers, but when I went there they only offered A Levels (which I gather most Manchester Grammar School, (MGS) students still take) so that's what I'll be basing my review on. The school encourages a competitive and focused ethos through its end-of-year internal testing for all years up to public examination years (i.e. GCSE, year 5), and through prizes. Although the latter can be awarded fairly arbitrarily, both do encourage an atmosphere in which people prioritise academic work. All through the school, teaching is primarily based on lecture-like classes with interspersions of peer-to-peer discussion, except in classes such as English, where the subject is not always intended to be 'taught'. The growing class sizes (and occasionally the teacher's lack of ability to control the class) make this perhaps more difficult although on the whole it is successful. The first 3 years of schooling are essentially intended to give a good grounding for GCSE work before it begins, and to give a broad range of skills and knowledge to the youngest boys before they specialise later on: hence certain subjects like CDT, Computer Skills etc. are compulsory. This didn't suit me personally as I much more enjoy a specialist course of study, but the benefits of a broad base for education, even for me, are undeniable. The decision to make all students take French GCSE in Year 4/10 as opposed to Year 5/11 may seem odd; but in fact it takes the pressure off the next year as French is one of the most formulaic (and therefore easy) GCSEs. However, the school does, I think, over-emphasise the importance of GCSE results as a whole as far as university admittance is concerned (although of course it is true that universities probably expect higher grades from pupils at such a privileged and high-flying school); and especially the importance of a language GCSE. Basically, the way all the Year 5 GCSEs are taught is generally through a two year course that begins in Year 10. Teaching is generally very good, although there is a notable unevenness in the teaching methods of staff, resulting in an unevenness of grades achieved across the year. There is usually very little uniformity in teaching and internal assessment methods (except in Biology and Religious Studies), and more of this would benefit the school greatly, as there are some very excellent teachers there whose ideas should be shared. The same is broadly true of the school's A Level programme, but uniformity is slightly greater here. As someone who took only Arts Side subjects, I cannot talk about the sciences; but the switch of gear at A Level is a good preparation for university (especially the best universities toward which MGS pupils are steered), where time constraints are rarely considered by teachers when setting work. The question of uniformity is more complex here, as student-autonomy and independent organisation of work is also a key part of preparation for university study; but it should probably be considered, as again, some teachers simply teach better than others and should share their methods. With regard to autonomy, the sixth-form is a disappointment to some. It is not like a college, and boys have to be in school until their last class of the day, even if their first period is free. While this generates a firm structure, some find it confining, and a poor preparation for the freedom which is inevitable at university. Time-management skills are essential in higher education, and arguably the sixth-form has a part to play in preparing students for this. The sixth-form is a period of broadening horizons, but in terms of freedom, it is not a place where boys are treated like adults, or as much like individuals as perhaps they should be. However, class sizes decrease in sixth-form (usually around 10 or so, as opposed to 25 previously), and teachers are generally more engaged and encouraging than previously. On the whole, the school's academic side is very good, especially in the sixth-form, but could do with some tweaking to make it excellent across the board.

College Counseling

I personally had absolutely no problems with the school's help with my university applications. It....

Sample insights on college counseling

  • They have contacts at most of the major universities and feel perfectly comfortable picking up the phone and advocating for a student to get accepted somewhere they feel is a good fit for that student. However, these counselors are certainly not magic bullets. They cannot guarantee that a student will get into an Ivy League university...
  • For those wishing to move on to Oxford or Cambridge, the provision is second-to-none. In the months running up to application and interview, every subject faculty offers classes (often run by former Oxbridge tutors) exploring further areas of their subject as well as offering advice on personal statements, interview technique and more...

Admissions - Getting Accepted

The admissions test for boys entering at age 11, as I did, is divided into....

Sample insights on admissions

  • For the interview, dress conservatively. Try to be very clean and put together. Also, I was a tour guide for two years and at the end of every tour, we were asked to evaluate the candidate so if you think the tour is not apart of the process, you are very wrong. Ask questions and be interested. Also, tip for the parents: the kids speak on the tour. Do not ask their questions for them...
  • Most younger siblings have an easy time in the admissions process. I can only think of one case of a younger sibling not being admitted. About half of the students who entered with me had come from public schools. The remainder came from private K-6 schools, or had transferred from other New York private schools The Elizabeth Morrow School and St. Bernard were two of the larger feeder schools...

School Life

The food is generally very good, with plenty of choice and the opportunity to take a meal in a bag (e.g., one or two sandwiches, one or two biscuits, a couple of drinks and fruit). The facilities are generally very good, and books are never a problem. The library is very well stocked, if perhaps underused slightly. There are plenty of computers for everyone's use, and if anybody wants to study at lunch-time they can generally use the library, although the school has an annoying tendency to sometimes use it for conferences or meetings because it's the nicest on-site venue....

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