Stanwell School

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Stanwell School, Penarth
Motto Goreu arf, arf dysg
"Knowledge the best weapon"
Established 1897
Type Foundation status Comprehensive
Headmaster Mr D Jones
Deputy Heads Mr A Lewis
Mrs C Kynaston
Chair of Governors Mr A Rogers
Founder Sir Robert Windsor-Clive,
Earl of Plymouth
Location Archer Road
Vale of Glamorgan
CF64 2XL
Local authority Vale of Glamorgan
Staff 96
Students 1,800
Gender Co-educational
Ages 11–18
Houses Morgannwg, Dyfed, Gwent, Powys, Gwynedd

Navy Blue

Former Pupils Old Penarthians
Website Stanwell School Website

Stanwell School is a co-educational foundation status comprehensive school and Sixth form college located in Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan, Wales for children aged between eleven and eighteen. The school is located 5.2 miles (8.4 kilometres) south west from the Welsh capital city of Cardiff.

The school currently has approximately 1,800 pupils on the roll in years seven to thirteen with a thriving sixth form. The school benefits from excellent facilities, with all the school's buildings either newly built or recently refurbished.

Specialist teaching accommodation has been provided for science (featuring eleven modern laboratories), drama, music, media studies, P.E. (including sports halls and a playing field), Information Technology, Art and Design Technology

Stanwell School was previously Penarth County Grammar School prior to becoming a comprehensive.


A Victorian beginning with a fresh twist[edit]

School foundation stone, laid in 1894 by the founder's wife, the Baroness Windsor
The now disused former girls entrance, to the original school building. The tall window to the right gave light to the school's main assembly hall
The main entrance
A small section of the 1990s additions

The school originally opened in 1897 as Penarth Grammar School during the rapid Victorian expansion of the Penarth, Cogan, Llandough and Dinas Powys areas following the building of Cardiff and Penarth docks to handle the burgeoning South Wales coal trade. Between 1891 and 1901 the population of the town expanded from 12,000 to over 15,000 people and the need for a new school was paramount.

Unusually the school was established for both boys and girls at a time when most British grammar schools were single sex establishments and few girls were even expected to complete a grammar school education. However, within the school the sexes remained segregated during the working day with separate school entrances, classrooms, teaching staff and playground areas. The girls' curriculum included only reading, writing, arithmetic and sewing, but the boys instead studied the sciences, Latin and ancient Greek. All children left school at the age of fourteen until the educational reforms introduced by the Conservative government's Education Board President Rab Butler in his Education Act 1944.

Initially the only building on the site was the original school building that still stands, facing onto Archer Road, the headmaster's private residence on the corner of Archer and Stanwell roads (later used as a home by the resident caretaker) and a small chapel building that was later converted into a physics laboratory during the 1940s.

In the early years the school roll was bolstered by the children from Radyr, Morganstown, Whitchurch and Rhiwbina where there was no secondary school. The nine mile steam train journey to Penarth Grammar and St Cyres Secondary Modern was easier and quicker than the road journey to any closer Cardiff schools. Penarth served the County of Glamorgan, whereas Cardiff schools only served those within the city limits. The situation only changed in 1968 when Radyr's own secondary school was built and the direct rail link was removed by the Beeching Axe. With the introduction of comprehensive schools, there was no further need to travel outside Cardiff to the County Grammar School.

During the second world war, the school took in evacuees from other parts of the UK. Pupils from Whitchurch continued to travel from Cardiff despite air raids and bombing. There was also a barrage balloon unit posted on the playing field, and pupils were allocated local houses to run to in the event of an air raid.

Into the 20th century[edit]

Penarth's town rugby pitch had been dug up and used for growing vegetables by local residents during First World War food shortages, so between 1919 and 1924 the traditional annual Good Friday rugby matches between Penarth RFC and the Barbarians[1] were staged instead on the grammar school's playing field, when most of the town's population turned up to watch and cheer. In the autumn of 1924 the new Athletic Ground on Lavernock Road, a gift to the town by the Earl of Plymouth, was opened and the Good Friday matches were moved to their new home the following year.

In 1960 the previously segregated sexes were combined into a co-educational school that was renamed as Penarth County Grammar School but the increasing school population had far expanded beyond the available accommodation and a large number of temporary portakabin buildings were added and increasingly built across the original playgrounds and playing fields. These temporary buildings included a gymnasium (1955), chemistry and biology(1952) laboratories, domestic science (now food technology) kitchen, woodwork and metalwork shops, several ranges of classrooms and a toilet block. Originally planned to last no longer than ten years, many of the temporary buildings remained in use well into the 1980s and 1990s.

In 1971 the local authority funded the building of a new youth club on the school site, near the Stanwell Road side entrance, called Penarth Youth Wing and the facility was utilised by the school during the day as additional accommodation for music and drama classes.


Entry to the school in the early years had been by 11-plus examination with only those pupils that achieved the highest scores in the area's feeder schools being accepted. However, in the late 1960s a Labour government led educational reform, through several ministerial directives and eventually the Education Reform Act 1968,[2] that was accepted and implemented by the education authority, scrapped the Eleven-Plus examination and with it the segregated tripartite strata of grammar, technical grammar and secondary modern schools. In 1970 the school became a co-educational comprehensive and renamed as Stanwell Comprehensive School.

Between 1990 and 1998 Stanwell was a grant maintained school[3] operating under direct government funding and effecting its own student selection process, outside the normal procedures of the local education authority. It was during this period of grant maintained status that the vast amount of cash investment was injected into providing new school buildings and the superb teaching environment that can be seen today.

The grant maintained system ceased in 1998 under the new Labour government and, renamed again as Stanwell School, it now has foundation status within the education authority but with autonomous school governors controlling admissions to the school, employing the school's staff and owning the school's estate.

Performing Arts[edit]

In recent years the school has hosted several dramatic and musical presentations including Jesus Christ Superstar, Alice in Wonderland and Cabaret. The school was the first in Europe to perform the School Edition of Les Misérables in 2002, and the first school ever to perform The Phantom of the Opera, in December 2011, in celebration of the musical's 25th anniversary. The state of the art theatre and auditorium is equipped with a range of musical instruments such as modern keyboards, electric guitars, drums and pianos. The latest lighting systems are installed in the auditorium and other performance areas. The Drama department also took part in the Royal National Theatre Youth Connection where pupils in years 10-13 performed a newly commissioned production entitled Success by playwright Nick Drake at the school, followed by a performance at the Wales Millennium Centre on 9 April 2009. Other schools also perform in Stanwell's auditorium, such as Albert Primary School with their production of Annie in 2009 and their production of Hairspray in 2010.

Senior Production (Years 10-13):

  • 2002/2003 - Les Misérables (Première)
  • 2003/2004 - Guys & Dolls
  • 2004/2005 - Sweet Charity
  • 2005/2006 - Jekyll & Hyde
  • 2006/2007 - We Will Rock You
  • 2007/2008 - Little Shop of Horrors
  • 2008/2009 - National Theatre New Connections - Success
  • 2009/2010 - Crazy For You
  • 2010/2011 - Grease
  • 2011/2012 - The Phantom of the Opera (Première)
  • 2012/2013 - Miss Saigon [4]
  • 2013/2014 - Beauty and the Beast
  • 2014/2015 - Aida
  • 2015/2016 - Evita
  • 2016/2017 - West Side Story

Junior Production (Years 8 & 9):

  • 2005/2006 - The Dracula Rock Show (The Rocky Horror Show)
  • 2006/2007 - Musical Medley
  • 2007/2008 - Alice in Wonderland
  • 2008/2009 - Fame Game
  • 2009/2010 - Archer Road
  • 2010/2011 - Bugsy Malone
  • 2011/2012 - High School Musical
  • 2012/2013 - Oliver
  • 2013/2014 - Sweeney Todd
  • 2014/2015 - Lion King
  • 2015/2016 - Aladdin

The school today[edit]

School sign on the corner of Archer Road
Salisbury Avenue entrance gates, the roof of the main hall and auditorium can be seen in the background

Vision statement[edit]

An imaginative and inspired use has been made of the school's postcode "2XL" by the school's vision statement of "Learning to Excel". Stanwell school remains clearly focused on learning and excellence as defined by "improving on your previous best". Many aspects of the school's educational standards have been recognised nationally, through awards, as areas of good practice.[citation needed]


Most pupils transfer at age eleven from one of the four main partner primary schools: Albert Road Primary, Evenlode Primary, Victoria Primary and Sully Primary. The first three schools being within a walking distance and designated buses transporting the pupils from nearby Sully. Pupils are drawn from the full range of abilities although the majority of pupils are of average ability and above. Only three pupils have statements of special educational needs (SEN) and a further 143 have been identified as having particular needs.

Additionally pupils come from a wide range of social circumstances. The school feels that half are neither prosperous nor disadvantaged, with half equally divided between the other two extremes. Only six per cent of pupils are registered as entitled to free school meals, which is lower than both local and national averages. Few pupils come from ethnic heritages or have a language other than English as their first language. Very few (less than 1 percent) pupils speak Welsh as a first language or to an equivalent standard. Welsh is taught and examined as a second language only. Only one pupil currently receives support teaching in English as an additional language.


Stanwell's 2008 A level results broke previous school records with 22 students achieving four A grades or better, with the top nine students achieving five grade As or better. One quarter of Stanwell pupils achieved three A grades or better, with the average points score per pupil exceeding three A grades (81 points per student).[5]

Sixth Form and Beyond[edit]

At sixteen years of age, most pupils choose to remain at the school to continue with their studies in the sixth form. Stanwell has over 400 6th form students, over 95% of which also studied GCSEs at the school at Key stage 4. To be eligible for 6th form, a student must have achieved at least 5 A*-C grades at GCSE. The school has recently undergone building work to create a (approximately) 15x20m 'study area' (only available to the upper-sixth form; Year 13) with scenic views across the courtyard through the full-height windows, soundproof 'quiet rooms', an informal lounge seating area, 12 computer workstations, a hot beverage vending machine and tasteful shrubbery to add to the calming atmosphere.

A high proportion of students go on to continue their studies at university, and the school well exceeds the national average for Oxbridge acceptances (for state-funded schools).[citation needed]

Most recent ESTYN inspection[edit]

ESTYN is the office of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education and Training in Wales. The most recent ESTYN school inspection report[when?] records:

  • There has been a considerable improvement on the results achieved at the time of the previous inspection.
  • The school's success in GCSE examinations for grades A* to G is better than that achieved locally, nationally and in the unitary authority overall.
  • In the KS3 national tests, success at level 6 and above exceeds national and local averages.
  • The pupils' very good literacy and communication skills are used to very good effect in most subjects.
  • Pupils use their very good information and communication technology skills advantageously in most subjects. They often choose to do so independently and appropriately.
  • All pupils are challenged suitably and achieve very well in the majority of subjects.
  • Based upon pupils' prior attainment, the school's results in external examinations exceed expectations at every level.[citation needed]

School badge[edit]

The school badge represents the coat of arms of Robert Windsor-Clive, 1st Earl of Plymouth.

Notable former pupils[edit]


See also[edit]

Coordinates: 51°25′59.96″N 03°10′58.57″W / 51.4333222°N 3.1829361°W / 51.4333222; -3.1829361