Bexley Grammar School

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Bexley Grammar School's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Bexley Grammar School is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Highlighting best practice
Head teacher Stephen Elphick
with students at lunch
A fully IB sixth form of
460 students
In September 2017, Bexley Grammar School (BGS) welcomed
its first fully International Baccalaureate (IB) year 12 cohort,
and in September 2018 welcomed its second, making its sixth
form the only fully IB sixth form in a South East London borough.
BGS no longer teaches A levels, which have been offered
since the school opened in 1955. This bold change feels even
more prescient now than it did when governors agreed to the
transition eight years ago. Head teacher Stephen Elphick believes
his school’s story demonstrates that all school leaders should
have the courage to follow the evidence of which curriculum is
best for their children, even if it goes against the grain of league
tables and the plethora of initiatives thrust upon them.
BGS surprises visitors who have fixed expectations about what a selective school
feels like. We are proud to take a diverse range of able students from primary
school, through a rich curriculum and broad extracurricular life, to many of the
most prestigious universities in the world. Our outstanding academic record speaks
for itself and we are heavily over-subscribed. One would expect nothing less from
a grammar school. Yet every visitor to our school comments first upon the warmth
of the student–staff relationships in our vibrant community, and secondly on our
outstanding academic achievement. The school always caters to the strengths of
individuals as well as striving for academic excellence. It is this positive culture,
rooted in the history of our school, that opened the door to the International
Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP), the natural progression from our
students’ mastery of our broad and challenging GCSE curriculum.
»Head teacher: Stephen Elphick
»Founded in 1955
»Based in Welling, Bexley
»Type of school: Mixed selective
school, state-funded
»No. of students: 1,400,
including a sixth form of 460
»No. of teaching staff: 105
total, 90 full time equivalent
»Pupil premium: 10 per cent
»EAL: 20 per cent
»Ofsted: “Outstanding”
»The only fully IB sixth form in a
southeast London borough
»Oxbridge acceptance rate is
the highest of any grammar
school in Bexley
Bexley Grammar
School ethos
Our school ethos is expressed in three
words: intellect, empathy and courage.
We might group the ten capacities and
responsibilities that the diploma seeks
to cultivate – the IB Learner Profile –
under these words as follows: intellect
– knowledgeable, thinkers; empathy
– communicators, open-minded,
caring, balanced, reflective; courage
– inquirers, principled, risk-takers. We
want our future leaders to embody
these qualities and use the slogan,
“developing compassionate leaders”
to highlight particularly the elements
of empathy which we sometimes find
lacking in our role models.
How our ethos aligned with
the IB
Every school leader strives to develop
intelligent, articulate, well-rounded
young people ready to take up
their place in society as responsible
and active citizens. At BGS we do
this by providing: a challenging
yet personalised curriculum which
prepares young people for both further
education and a rapidly-evolving
world of work; a broad extracurricular
experience including travel, work
experience, voluntary work and a lively
and competitive “house” system;
opportunities to develop “soft”
skills such as independent learning,
organisation, presentation skills,
problem-solving and leadership skills;
and opportunities to develop personal
qualities such as compassion, tolerance
and resilience.
The IB Diploma Programme (IBDP)
is designed to cover and reward
all these elements. Three “higher”
courses provide the challenge and
depth of students’ subject choices,
those used for university applications
or their educational equivalents.
Three “standard” courses provide
the flexibility and breadth of learning
which employers frequently say are
missing from narrow A level choices.
The “core” provides opportunities to
receive official credit for developing
hobbies, voluntary work, work
experience, sports and other
extracurricular activities, as well as
honing skills such as critical thinking
and extended report-writing. The way
the courses are taught and assessed
encourages independent learning,
presentation skills, problem-solving
and high levels of organisation.
Our journey to the IBDP
We realised more than 15 years
ago that our ethos closely aligned
with that of the IB. We had recently
expanded our languages provision
and soon all students were completing
two language GCSEs alongside their
three separate sciences. Our students
rose to the challenge and gave us
the confidence to introduce greater
stretch into the sixth form. We were
concerned at the grade inflation of
A levels and were searching for a
challenging, stable alternative. The
IB, founded in 1968, has experienced
virtually no grade inflation and yet
has developed its curriculum, in the
widest sense, in response to a rapidly
changing world. It accorded perfectly
with our ethos.
We consequently introduced a “dual
economy” – students could choose We develop “soft” skills
such as leadership and
Every visitor to
our school
comments first
upon the
warmth of the
relationships in
our vibrant
community, and
secondly our
Highlighting best practice
to take four full A levels or the IB
Diploma. The first cohort only just
made double figures in 2003, but in
subsequent years it varied between
15 and 30 per cent of about 240
students. In the final two years we had
over 100 students in each IB cohort
and so were well-prepared for the
over 200 IB students who started in
September 2017.
The impact of the IBDP
At first, the smaller IB cohorts tended
to attract the most able students but
over the years this shifted, and our
research showed that, if anything,
the IB gave a considerable advantage
to those who only just achieved the
generous admission criteria to our sixth
form. At the same time, universities
across the UK were waking up to the
strengths of the IB and were making
their UCAS offers more attractive. We
are now the top-performing school
in the London Borough of Bexley for
securing Oxbridge and Russell Group
university places for our students.
Our governors were impressed with
the evidence, and, at around the same
time as the A* was being introduced
to combat A level grade inflation, they
gave the go-ahead for us to plan a
move to a fully IB sixth form starting
We have aligned our ethos more
closely with the IB and adopted the
teaching and learning methods and
styles throughout the school. We
started IB “core” activities in year 7
and developed them across KS3 as
cross-curricular and extracurricular
projects. Our GCSE offer was closely
aligned to the IB early on and we
have resisted shifting the balance
of subjects, despite pressure to
increase the time given to new
GCSE specifications, especially in
mathematics and English.
We raised aspirations and grew
confidence in our students by
developing a leadership course in
year 9, and by introducing more
student leadership roles to our already
extensive list.
At the very centre of all our work has
been our daily drive to personalise
learning the way the IB does, to focus
on the individual students who make
up our community. Our students come
from diverse backgrounds culturally
and economically and each adds
richness to the school. We are not
an international school but we seek
greater international awareness. The IB
has brought a broader perspective and
a head-start in life to our community in
South East London.
We are now
the top-
school in the
Borough of
Bexley for
Oxbridge and
Russell Group
places for our
The IB provides depth
and breadth to support
lifelong learning

This article was sponsored by Bexley Grammar School. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister