A leading independent Staffordshire school is relaunching as a “ grammar ” after a Wolverhampton businessman – the father of two pupils – stepped in to provide new financial backing.
St Dominic’s Grammar School – formerly known as St Dominic’s Brewood – will, from September, introduce the 11-plus for its preparatory pupils, alongside a package of support to make the most of their academic performance.
The fee-paying school – based in the village of Brewood and taking boys and girls up to the age of 11 and girls only through to sixth form – was this year rated by the Department for Education as “number one” in Staffordshire for its GCSE and EBacc performance.
Head of school Peter McNabb said the top rating merited “grammar” status and the name change would build upon St Dominic’s “excellent” reputation.
The move comes as St Dominic’s gets ready to welcome pupils back from their summer holidays. It will prepare junior pupils to take the 11-plus in ‘Year 6’, equipping them to choose whether to move on to a free selective school – or another independent one.
Girls only also have the option of graduating into St Dominic’s senior department, while newcomers must either have passed their 11-plus or take the school’s own admission exam.
There is new financial and administrative back-up from the award-winning St Philip’s Care Group, based in Wednesfield and jointly owned by Gary Hartland – whose two daughters, Harriet, aged 13, and Lucy, nine, attend St Dominic’s – and his brother, consultant physician Dr Andrew Hartland.
Mr Hartland said: “The level of education at St Dominic’s has always been fantastic and my daughters are really enjoying their experience there. Like other pupils, they thrive in this friendly school, with small class sizes, where the teachers know the children very well.
“I am delighted that my company is now able to help by providing a sound financial platform for the head teacher and his staff to further develop their work in turning out well-rounded children, with good manners, who are supported to seek out their best talents and develop them.
“Now the school has registered with the Department for Education for ‘grammar’ status, it is moving to a level offered by only a few private schools. This provides scope for us to offer an even greater service to the community, parents and children.
“We believe this will take St Dominic’s – and most importantly its pupils – from strength to strength, giving more options for families who may be able to afford fees at junior level but might struggle to continue to pay through senior school.
“Basically, we will provide children, by the age of 11, with a benchmark – the 11-plus ticket to grammar school education, with us or elsewhere.”
The transfer to St Philip’s Care follows the voluntary liquidation of the charitable St Dominic’s Brewood Trust, which ceased to exist from June 30 because of historic debt. St Philip’s, which had already purchased the school’s buildings, fixtures and fittings two years ago, will provide further administrative and financial support, running St Dominic’s as a not-for-profit organisation.
Mr Hartland steered through recent improvements, costing £300,000, including investment to refurbish the tennis courts and dining hall, two brand new ICT suites with Wi-Fi throughout the school and the creation of an outdoor classroom.
Head of school Peter McNabb said: “Becoming a grammar school will raise the profile of St Dominic’s, building upon our excellent reputation – our performance over the years proves that we are worthy of the title.
“It shows that we can steer pupils through to success in the 11-plus exam, whether they wish to move on to our girls only secondary school or any child aiming to gain places at free selective or other independent schools.
“We continue in our ethos of nurturing our pupils in mind, body and spirit but with an increased focus upon laying the foundation for them to achieve even higher academic goals.
“We have a great track record in adding value, doing amazing things to help children of all abilities to reach their potential.
“Girls who are newcomers to the senior school will take an entry exam and, if they have not passed their 11-plus, can still enroll, provided they take part in a tailored programme of support.”
Mr McNabb added: “St Dominic’s has always been the choice for parents who require a unique learning environment tailored to their child’s needs, inspiring pupils to give their best. We consistently deliver high academic results and pastoral excellence within a tranquil setting and our pupils always reach their potential, with none left behind.
“Many parents targeting free selective schools for their sons or daughters could benefit from the individual learning programmes we offer, including one-to-one sessions and other support from unrivalled, excellent teaching staff.”
Fees at St Dominic’s, which currently has almost 190 pupils, start at £2,190 per term for the preparatory department, rising to £4,234 for seniors. Students can apply for scholarships or bursaries, giving a reduction in fees.