Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe

The Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe
Motto Schola Regia Grammatica
Established 1562
Type Selective Grammar School
Headmaster Philip Wayne
Location Amersham Road
High Wycombe
HP13 6QT
Coordinates: 51°38′28″N 0°44′20″W / 51.64109°N 0.73879°W / 51.64109; -0.73879
DfE URN 136484 Tables
Ofsted Reports Pre-academy reports
Staff c. 100
Students 1389[1]
Gender Boys
Ages 11–19
Houses                          Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo
Colours              Maroon, Navy, Green
Former pupils Old Wycombiensians
Specialist Language
Maths and Computing

The Royal Grammar School High Wycombe (RGS or RGSHW for short) is a selective boys grammar school situated in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England. As a state school it does not charge fees for pupils to attend, but they must pass an entrance exam (the 11-plus). It bears many traditions - for example, the headmaster and deputy headmasters often wear academic gowns. In February 2011 the school became an Academy.[2]

Established by Royal Charter in 1562 (though originally established as a school in 1548), it is situated on Amersham Hill to the north of the town and has a capacity of about 1,450 boys aged between 11 and 19, open Monday to Friday from 8:00am to 3:40pm, students can then stay at the school later for homework club or other activities. The school has boarding facilities and is a DfES-designated Language College. In 2007 it was also awarded the privilege of becoming a Mathematics and ICT College due to its outstandingly high performance in these areas which led to Ofsted recommendation.[3] It is highly regarded by bodies such as OFSTED, which gave it a Grade 1 ranking in every area of its 2015 inspection,[4] and it regularly achieves high rankings on a country-wide scale for GCSE and A-level results.[5]


Originally established by the mayor and burgesses of the town in 1551, in the ecclesiastical premises previously acquired by Sir Edmund Peckham (c. 1495 – 1564) during the Dissolution of the Monasteries,[6] the school received its Royal charter in 1562. It was based in the buildings of the former Hospital of St John the Baptist in the town centre until 1883. After the old hospital was demolished, the school was moved to new buildings nearby for a short time, and was moved to its current location in 1915. T. S. Eliot taught at the school during this time.

The school expanded greatly under the headmastership of Edmund Tucker from 1933 to 1964, celebrating the 400th anniversary of its Royal Charter in 1962 with a visit from Queen Elizabeth II. To commemorate the visit, the school's main hall became Queen's Hall and bore an engraving to mark the occasion. In 1997 a new building was erected (the Language Block) entirely dedicated to the teaching of languages, which was opened by the Duchess of Gloucester.

There are several Royal Grammar School sites in the UK, of which High Wycombe, Colchester, Clitheroe and Lancaster have maintained their grammar school status, whilst Guildford, Newcastle upon Tyne and Worcester are now privately funded, independent schools.


The Headmaster is Philip Wayne, who was Headmaster of neighbouring Chesham Grammar School for eight years before joining RGSHW.[7] He succeeded Roy Page in September 2015.[7]


In order to gain entry to the school, pupils from primary schools in the local area are invited to do an entrance exam, the eleven-plus exam.[8] Entry to a grammar school usually requires a score of 121/141, though pupils who gain scores of 117 and above are invited to appeal their case. RGS admits 192 day boys each year and 10 boarding boys. Entry for boarding is somewhat different, with the school creating its own entry test. Prospective boys who did not take the 11+ (e.g. those who join in later years or those who come from different counties or countries not taking the 11+) also take the school's own entry test.


Though primarily a day school, some pupils have boarded at the school since its foundation. For most of the 20th century, boarders were lodged in one of three boarding houses: School House, a purpose-built residence on the school premises, and Uplyme and Tyler's Wood, two converted private houses located near the school. In September 1999 the entire boarding facility was consolidated into the newly built Fraser Youens Boarding House.[9] It incorporates en-suite bedrooms, cutting-edge communication technology, three resident Housemasters and a committee of House Tutors. It has room for 70 resident boys, who stay throughout the week and return home for weekends (it is possible to stay weekends as well, if desired). This facility enables pupils to attend RGS, who would otherwise be unable to: pupils from Malaysia, Hong Kong, Japan, Kenya and Singapore reside in Fraser Youens. The house is named after alumni Ian Edward Fraser and Frederick Youens, who were awarded the Victoria Cross during the Second World War and First World War respectively.

Boys may be awarded scholarships if they cannot afford the fees but nevertheless wish to attend the school and are too far away.

Sixth Form

RGS also has a sixth form which the majority of boys in lower years will continue onto. The sixth form have their own private mezzanine within the school grounds where they can do private study. All RGS boys joining the sixth form are expected to study 4 A Levels for the first year and then at the second year drop one or continue with all 4.

Entry Requirements

To enter the RGS sixth form, boys must meet the following minimum requirements:[10]

OR The equivalent in points (47) from your best 8 GCSEs, including English and Mathematics at Grade 6 / B (minimum). Points: A*=8, A=7, B=6, C=5.

Available Subjects

The following subjects are available for A Levels:[11]

  • Ancient History
  • Art
  • Biology
  • Business Studies
  • Chemistry
  • Computing
  • Design and Technology
  • Economics
  • English Language & Literature
  • English Literature
  • French
  • Geography
  • German
  • History
  • Latin
  • Mathematics
  • Further Mathematics (may only be taken with Mathematics)
  • Physics (A Level or PreU)
  • Psychology
  • Spanish
  • Sport BTEC


The school has over 120 classrooms, two sports gyms, a large multi-purpose hall named "the Queen's Hall", several ICT rooms with computers for boys use, several art workshops and technology labs, an interactive library, two large sports fields, an indoor swimming pool, sports hall,[12] a canteen, modern language block and a three floor science block.

As a Language College, it is compulsory for boys to study French until GCSE. Other modern language subjects include Spanish and German as the main choices. In addition, boys have the opportunity to study Japanese, Russian, Swedish, Mandarin Chinese, Italian, Latin and Ancient Greek.

A music centre was opened in late 2004, improving the school's music facilities, including the ability to now offer A Level boys the subject Music Technology.

RGS High Wycombe is also recognised as a top sporting school. Amongst the many extracurricular activities, boys can participate in the on-site Combined Cadet Force, the Public Speaking Society, music and orchestras, drama, social service, fencing and a very large variety of sports. The school has two very large playing fields for its sporting use. The RGS also has its own .22 25 yard indoor range which is used by the shooting team of the school.

In winter 2010, building work started on the Shaping Our Destiny campaign, a large-scale plan produced by the school's senior staff and board of governors to expand and renovate existing facilities. Phase I was completed in June 2011, and the new Sixth Form Mezzanine opened in 2012. The whole campaign added extra maths classrooms, improved Sixth Form study facilities and school changing rooms, added more toilets and expanded the fitness/gym suite.

In 2013, planning permission for an All Weather Pitch was granted, and in 2014, work began raising £1m to fund the creation of this 3G floodlit pitch,[13] a new grass pitch, which was completed in April 2016,[14] and also to renovate the 100-year-old Main Block classroooms.


Stage Lighting and Sound Team

The Stage Lighting and Sound Team (SLST) run school assemblies, plays and functions, and may be joined by boys at or after, Academic Year 9. Kit purchases are primarily funded by the RGS PA.[15] The team can be dated back to 1994 and provides lighting for school events (such as concerts and Jeans 4 Genes) and sound for assemblies whilst also being a prominent contributor to the school's drama scene with a March 2016 production of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.[16] They also have their own YouTube channel.[17] Many of the boys in the team also are part of a local theatre group, and some go on to drama schools to study in the profession such as at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

Combined Cadet Force

The Combined Cadet Force has Navy, Army and RAF sections open for boys in KS4 & 5 (Years 10 and above) where they learn new skills such as field-craft, map and compass, drill, leadership and first aid, while also taking part in activities such as weapon handling, sailing and flying.[18] It forms a part of a larger range of options that these year groups can choose to do during time-tabled-in free time on Thursday Afternoons, including sports, clubs, internal and external projects.


RGS has a strong sporting tradition, especially in rugby football. Its alumni founded the town's local rugby club High Wycombe RUFC, originally known as Old Wycombiensians FC.[19] Sporting alumni include golfer Luke Donald,[20] 2003 Rugby World Cup winner Matt Dawson[21] and 1993 Rugby World Cup Sevens winner Nick Beal.[22]



Starting in the 2016-17 academic year, the RGS has launched a houses system (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo).[23] There are 6 houses, and each house has one form from every year in the school with Heads and Deputy Heads chosen from the 6th form for each house. Each year the RGS will also hold a school-wide sports day where all can compete to earn points for their house. Sports are not the only way to earn points as academic success is also counted, allowing even the non-sporty to help out!

Notable alumni

Chris Grayling

Alumni of the RGS are known as Old Wycombiensians, or OWs, and include Chris Grayling,[24] UK Secretary of State for Transport, and the singer Ian Dury.[25] The Old Wycombiensians' Committee hosts an annual reunion dinner for Old Wycombiensians at the RGS.

Public controversies

Timothy Dingle

In February 2006, Timothy Dingle (then Headmaster) appeared in a double-page Daily Mail article, alleging he led "a fantasy life fuelled by sex and drugs".[26] Dingle, already scheduled to leave in April 2006, was claimed to have had various extramarital affairs and false identities.

A report on the drug claims was published by independent investigation team in March 2006 and was passed to the governors of the Royal Grammar School for scrutiny. Dingle was forced to resign from his post at St. George's School, Buenos Aires, which he was due to take up after Easter 2006. He was later sacked from his post at the Royal Grammar School by the school governors, for "gross misconduct".[27] The governors did state that there was no evidence to support the claim that he had used cannabis confiscated from pupils.[28]

In February 2008, Dingle was banned from teaching for two years by the General Teaching Council after being found guilty of "unacceptable professional conduct".[29]

Dr David Wolfe

In 2004 the school was at the centre of a debate based around the qualifications required to teach. Dr David Wolfe, a physics teacher with a PhD and emeritus professor of Physics at the University of New Mexico, had been working as a school teacher for the maximum time allowed without having Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), one requirement of which was a grade C or higher in GCSE mathematics, or an equivalent qualification. Wolfe refused to take the GCSE, saying that at 65 he was "too old for that sort of thing", even though in his opinion he could easily pass it. The problems began when, despite an official stance of "flexibility" by the Department for Education and Skills with regards to equivalent qualifications, correspondence sent to the school was more bureaucratic.

However, after much media attention (during which time the DfES announced that the mathematics GCSE was not in fact a concrete requirement) Wolfe was told that he could obtain QTS by submitting to a short teaching assessment, and he continued to teach at the school until 2006.[30] The GTCE backed down and apologized for not being clear about the alternate route to a QTS.

In 2001, the school was used as one of the sets in the 2001 thriller film The Hole, as a county prison. Various scenes were also filmed inside the school's old boarding house.

Later, in 2003, the school was thrown back into history when it served as the location for two seasons of the television series That'll Teach 'em for Channel 4. The school was re-branded as "King's Grammar School" and took thirty sixteen-year-olds for a summer of '50s style boarding school education. This first series was nominated for a BAFTA. The second series saw thirty sixteen-year-olds of lesser academic achievement experience '60s style Secondary Modern School education; in this case the school was re-branded "Hope Green Secondary Modern". However, different parts of the school were used in each series, giving the impression that the school used in the second series was not that used in the first.

On 1 May 2009 BBC TV show Top Gear recorded at the school. They filmed in the Quadrangle (teacher's car park) against the old main building and clock tower for a segment where Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May were undertaking the challenge, Finding the perfect car for 17-year-olds.[31] Clarkson used a Volvo estate, Hammond a Hyundai S-Coupe and May a Volkswagen Golf. The episode was aired in June 2009.[32]

Two years later, the corridors of the same building appeared in the opening and closing scenes of the BBC Documentary series, Our War, in which current history teacher and CCF leader Bjorn Rose talks about the tragic loss of comrade Chris Gray during his service for the British Army in Afghanistan.[33]

Gilbert and Sullivan operas

In 1947 Bernarr Rainbow directed the first of the Gilbert and Sullivan Savoy operas to be performed at the school and these continue up until recent times.

See also


  1. "URN 136484 The Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe". Edubase/DfE. Retrieved 25 August 2016.
  2. "Open academies map and schools submitting applications". Department for Education. Retrieved 23 May 2011.
  3. "2006 OFSTED Report" (PDF).
  4. "2006 OFSTED Report". Grade 1 is "outstanding".
  5. "BBC Report". BBC News. 2 November 2004. Retrieved 4 January 2010.
  6. A Note On The Foundation Of The School by Leslie J Ashford, The Wycombiensian, April 1954
  7. 1 2 "Article regarding new headmaster Mr Wayne".
  8. A class apart: How does this state school get so many boys into Oxbridge? Published 7 October 2007 in The Independent, retrieved 28 November 2016
  9. "Boarding".
  10. "RGSHW Into the Sixth Form 2017 Entry" (PDF). Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  11. "RGSHW Into the Sixth Form 2017 Entry" (PDF). Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  12. "RGSHW Sports Facilities".
  13. "Buy a Square Campaign".
  14. "RGSHW All Weather Pitch Opening Ceremony".
  15. "Funding of SLST equipment through the Parents Association" (PDF).
  16. "RGSHW Parents Letter - Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass School Show" (PDF).
  17. "SLST YouTube Channel".
  18. "RGSHW CCF Activities Page".
  19. HWRUFC History
  20. Mair, Lewine (13 July 2005). "Donald makes a positive of plodder reputation". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
  21. "Me and my school photo: Rugby star Matt Dawson". Daily Mail. 22 May 2009.
  22. "Rugby stars in shock report". Bucks Free Press. 20 July 2000. Retrieved 24 January 2013.
  23. "Letter to Parents Including Houses" (PDF) (pdf).
  24. Who is Chris Grayling? Meet the new Transport Secretary
  25. "UEL History".
  26. "Internet archive of original Daily Mail article".
  27. "Governor's response to allegations against Dingle".
  28. "BBC News on the dismissal of Tim Dingle". 27 April 2006. Retrieved 4 January 2010.
  29. "Headteacher sacked for pursuing lovers on the school webcam". Daily Mail. London. 4 March 2008.
  30. "Wolfe report from BBC". BBC News. 12 October 2004. Retrieved 4 January 2010. "BBC Video". BBC News. 12 October 2004. Retrieved 4 January 2010.
  31. "Jeremy Clarkson and Top Gear stars in town". Retrieved 4 May 2009.
  32. "Top Gear Videos - Cars for Teenagers, part 1/3 (Series 13, Episode 2)".
  33. "BBC Three programmes - Our War: Ambushed". Retrieved 10 July 2011.
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