United Kingdom / South East England / Kent / Dartford Grammar School

Dartford Grammar School Review

This all-boys grammar school with a co-ed Sixth Form offers a broad and challenging education for high achievers, and has a reputation for being one of the UK’s leading state schools for the IB.
At a glance
School type
Grammar
School phase
Secondary
Inspection rating
Outstanding
Curricula taught
Availability 2021/22
No data
Availability 2022/23
No data
Status
Open
Opening year
1576
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Mr Julian Metcalf
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Dartford Grammar School
School type
Grammar
School phase
Secondary
Inspection rating
Outstanding
Curricula taught
Availability 2021/22
No data
Availability 2022/23
No data
Status
Open
Opening year
1576
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Mr Julian Metcalf
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This all-boys grammar school with a co-ed Sixth Form offers a broad and challenging education for high achievers, and has a reputation for being one of the UK’s leading state schools for the IB.

One of the oldest state schools in the UK, Dartford Grammar School offers something quite unique. This Essex-based day school is one of the leading state schools for the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme in the UK, and one of only a few to follow the IB Middle Years Programme. 

A grammar school education is an attractive option for many reasons; it offers the combination of a highly selective, high achieving education for free. Grammar schools are a small minority of the state schools in England – less than 1% according to the National Grammar Schools Association – and those offering the IB are even fewer in number. So, the opportunity to study the IB MYP and the IBDP in the Sixth Form at Dartford Grammar School certainly singles this school out.

Dartford Grammar School will not suit every family. It is an all-boys’ school throughout secondary, and girls can only enter the Sixth Form. It is, like all grammar schools, selective and all students sit the demanding 11+ exam as part of the admissions process.

However, for some students, it is the school’s single sex education, global mindedness, high aspirations and academic challenge that will appeal the most – and it’s for these many reasons that the school is oversubscribed.

This is a school where students are guided to achieve impressive levels of confidence, independent thinking, communication skills and problem-solving abilities. As an IB school, it’s also unsurprising that this school has a strong international outlook; students study Mandarin Chinese or Japanese from Year 7, for example, and diversity is celebrated through events such as the International Day of Languages.

It’s a large school with around 1,500 students, including 600 in the Sixth Form, and it is the sister school to Dartford School for Girls, a selective all-girls grammar school. It sits within the county of Kent, which has one of the highest namer of grammar schools in the UK (there are over 30); so unlike in other parts of the country, you do have a degree of choice if wanting to focus on a grammar school education.

Dartford Grammar School is run as an Academy, which does provide extra funding to the school. It is fortunate to have an exceptional, modern and well-resourced campus that certainly provide its students with the right environment to be enquiring and intellectually ambitious. As well as well-equipped labs and classrooms, there is the Beckets Sports Centre (shared with the public) and the Mick Jagger Centre for performing arts.

The school also receives additional funding as a specialist school for languages, science and computing – and the extra investment in these areas is most certainly benefiting students.  There are annual creativity weeks, bilingual learning offered in a gifted and talented programme, and study visits and exchanges; the school is also driving to increase the number of students studying GCSE Computer Science.

In its most recent Ofsted inspection in 2008, it was rated Outstanding in all areas.

Headteacher Julian Metcalf only joined the school in September 2021; he was previously Senior Master at The Skinners’ School, Kent.

Curriculum

Dartford Grammar School has developed a blended curriculum that follows the IB MYP for Years 7-9 before moving onto GCSEs for Years 10-11, and the IBDP in the Sixth Form. 

The IB is more normally associated with fee-paying private schools in the UK and both local and international schools in countries such as the US, Singapore and the UAE. However, there are 62 state schools in the UK, most of them selective grammar schools, that offer at least one of the IB programmes; this compares to a total of 76 private schools offering the IB.

Dartford has been an IB school since 1995 and has been recognised nationally as one of the leading IB state schools in the UK. It not only beats the world average IB Diploma scores in all subject areas year on year, but also outperforms many other grammar and some independent IB schools in the country.

The school is a strong advocate for the MYP, which it considers to be the best – and most rigorous – preparation for the diploma programme. Although each IB programme has a standalone framework and curriculum, students with an MYP can find it easier to meet the varied demands of the DP. For example, the experience of the MYP can equip students with the research skills need for the DP’s Extended Essay.

In the MYP, students study eight subject groups. These include language and literature, sciences, mathematics, design (may include resistant materials, graphics, textiles, food, computer studies), arts, individuals and societies (philosophy, geography, history), physical education and health, and language acquisition in languages including French, Chinese, Spanish or English. All students complete a Community Project in Year 9, planning and developing a project which aims to have a real impact on the local community. 

GCSEs can then be seen as a valuable ‘add-on’ for parents who are concerned about the lack of measurement in the MYP; they also offer more opportunities than the MYP for students to start to specialise and focus on their strengths. At Dartford, there is a wide choice of GCSE options, including an excellent choice of six languages. All students sit GCSEs in two Modern Foreign Languages, one from Mandarin Chinese or Japanese then either French, German, Latin or Spanish. This does mean that students only get one creative option, which is something to consider if your child would like to focus more on music, art, PE etc.

Computer science, the individual sciences, and further maths are all very popular; there are smaller numbers taking creative subjects such as music, drama, and art and design which is an indication of the more academic focus throughout the school.

The IBDP is a challenging programme and is well-suited to the academically able students here. It requires them to take a broader range of subjects than they would at A Level, complete an extended essay, take a course in the theory of knowledge and participate in a range of community and extra-curricular activities

Beyond the classroom

The Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS) element of the IB is embedded throughout the school, and students are offered a wide choice of extra-curricular activities to help expand their horizons beyond the academic. There are annual drama productions, orchestras and choirs, and the Duke of Edinburgh award. Students can also play competitive rugby, cricket, athletics and netball, and the school runs annual tours in rugby and netball and bi-annually in cricket.

Thanks to facilities on campus including music venue, theatre, dance studio, grass pitches, indoor sports courts and gym, students have plenty of opportunity to explore the arts and sport.

Academic results

GCSE: In 2022, 34.2% of the cohort achieved Grade 9 and 81.3% Grades 9-7. 

IBDP: Dartford has a large IB cohort every year of around 290 students. In 2021, the average score was 38.8 and in 2022 it was 37.7.

Campus and facilities

Located in the heart of Dartford, this is a town-based school with a surprising amount of outside space. Dartford stands out as a state school with some exceptional facilities, including the Mick Jagger Arts Centre, the Becket Sports Centre, extensive sport fields and a very well- equipped library.  

Admissions

Dartford is a selective grammar school and there’s strong competition for places (in 2021, around 20% of those who put Dartford Grammar School as their first choice secured a place). Students coming here need to be academically able and strongly motivated to ensure that they can thrive in an environment where standards are exceptionally high. 

Students come from Dartford, neighbouring towns and villages, and nearby London boroughs.

Admissions for Dartford Grammar School is made through the Common Application Form (CAF) to the Kent local authority, and students must apply in Year 6 for a Year 7 place. All students must sit the Kent PESE 11+ Test. 

The deadline to submit the application is October 31 in the year preceding entry. There is often a high demand for the 180 places available in Year 7 ever year. You will find out if you have been offered a place on National Offer Day, which is March 1 every year.

Priority for Sixth Form places is given to existing Dartford Grammar School who transfer from Year 11 and meet the entrance criteria.

As a UK state school, there are no fees.

Our View

Good for: Dartford is a consistently high-achieving UK grammar school that will really appeal to families searching for a very academically-focused school. It has a culture that parents have described as “both caring and challenging” and manages to balance academic excellence with some strong extra-curricular opportunities. However, its main strengths are its delivery of the IB programmes in a country where A Levels are the norm, its focus on languages, and some wonderful facilities. Also, as this is a selective school, your child will be studying alongside students with a similar baseline ability, if that is important to you.

Not for: For some students, a grammar education is too challenging, too academically rigorous; some children may find the 11+ exam too stressful and you may prefer not to place them under that kind of pressure for a school place. Also, the school is only co-ed in the Sixth Form; however, if you prefer for your son to have a co-ed education throughout secondary then the choice of grammar schools is very limited as most will be single sex.

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