County Upper School

County Upper School
Bury St Edmunds County Upper School
CUS crest.jpg
Type Academy
Headteacher Mrs Vicky Neale
Specialism Science College & Language College
Location Beetons Way
Bury St Edmunds
IP32 6RF
Local authority Suffolk
DfE URN 124787
Ofsted Reports
Staff 80
Students 1,039 (259 in 6th Form)
Gender Coeducational
Ages 13–18

Coordinates: 52°15′24″N 0°42′08″E / 52.25662°N 0.70217°E / 52.25662; 0.70217

Bury St Edmunds County Upper School is a 13 to 18 co-educational comprehensive high-performing academy[1] part of the Bury St Edmunds Academy Trust comprising County Upper School, Horringer Court Middle School and Westley Middle School.[2] It is one of three 13-18 schools serving the town of Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, England and its surrounding villages. Pupils enter Year 9 primarily from three catchment Middle Schools in Bury St Edmunds but students are drawn widely from across the villages and towns of West Suffolk particularly Newmarket and Mildenhall.[3] The school is regularly[1] over-subscribed with 266 first-choice applicants in 2009/10, 287 in 2010/11 and 282 for 2011/12 against a LEA Planned Admission Number of 260.[4] In September 2011 the number of students on roll was 1,039 and it is expected that will remain relatively unchanged for the foreseeable future. Attached to the main school is a Sixth Form, which at present stands at around 260 students spread between Years 12 and 13 an increase of 40 on 2010-11.[5] The school is located on Beetons Way, on the outskirts of town, next to St Benedict's Roman Catholic Upper School, which has close links with the County Upper Sixth Form.

As a school rated by Ofsted as "Outstanding" (1999, 2005, 2008, 2011) [6] under the Academies Act 2010 County Upper School applied to become an Academy – a publicly funded independent school – in a chain with Horringer Court Middle School and Westley Middle School,[7][8] joined together by an “Umbrella Trust”, allowing the three schools to work together strategically to drive up even further their standards and results.[9] The schools' applications to convert simultaneously to three separate academies were approved by the Department for Education[10][11] and they all opened as academies within the overarching 9-18 Bury St Edmunds Academy Trust on 1 August 2011 thereby preserving a distinct Middle and Upper phase in the proposed two-tier education system after 2016 for the west of Bury St Edmunds and beyond.[12]

Bury St Edmunds County Upper School Academy sign 2011

County Upper School is designated a High Performing Specialist Science and Language College with a Gifted and Talented Focus,[13] and is also accredited as a "Consultant School" by the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust[14]



The Original West Suffolk County School Northgate Street Bury St Edmunds

County Upper School traces its origins back to the Education Act 1902 that gave County Councils the status of Local Education Authorities, greatly expanding their powers and their expenditure. Within a few years it was normal for half a county's budget to be devoted to education and the West Suffolk County School was opened in Northgate Street in Bury. A large red brick building, the former Falconbury School and site of the original Northgate House, had been purchased for the purpose in 1904, then altered and improved. This original building was then extended in 1907. At this time it was co-educational (for both girls and boys), with separate playgrounds. In the early 1950s the school became The County Grammar School for Girls with eligible boys from Bury and its surrounding villages attending the King Edward VI Grammar School.

In 1964 The County Grammar School for Girls moved from its Northgate Street site to brand new premises at the end of Tollgate Lane (now known as Beetons Way) in north west Bury St Edmunds. For many years the girls had walked to this new site to make use of the playing fields that the Local Education Authority had acquired there. These long walks now became unnecessary. The school premises in Northgate Street gradually became used as an annex to the West Suffolk College until 1988. Today, the old red brick building forms the core of the Northgate Street Business Park, housing, amongst other enterprises, a Dance school, a Chiropractic clinic, the Headquarters of the East of England Ambulance Service and the East of England Museums Libraries and Archives, the original West Suffolk County School crest is still visible to passersby. In 1971 The County Grammar School for Girls became the co-educational and comprehensive County Upper School. The old single-sex state grammar school system, which divided children by gender and ability in Suffolk was now dead.[15]

The original West Suffolk County School crest, shown above the old Northgate Street building entrance, consisted of a gold cross fleury between five martlets on a blue shield and were the arms of Edward the Confessor, who in the 11th Century granted land to the Abbey of St Edmund,[16] and those of the old West Suffolk County Council.[17] The contemporary County Upper School crest has four birds around a cross surmounted by the Saxon Crown[18] of St Edmund, the last King of East Anglia.[19] The blue sweaters with an all gold crest worn by today’s pupils echo the colours of Edward the Confessor and are used by the school sports teams and on the school flag.


Bury St Edmunds County Upper School today

The original girls' grammar school building, opened in 1964, provides the main teaching and administrative area. There are additional specialist facilities, built in the 1970s, to support the teaching of science, art, design technology. New facilities for humanities were built in the 1990s. In 2004 the school's kitchens were refitted, and a new block containing a secondary eating area was created alongside a gym, above this two classrooms were constructed, which are now the Sixth Form common rooms.

A new library opened in October 2007, and a completely refurbished Performing Arts Centre opened Easter 2007 which contains facilities for Dance, Drama and Music. This was dedicated to the memory of Michael Woodhouse, a wheelchair bound student, who unexpectedly died during Easter 2007.[20] Work on new facilities for Food Technology and Art were completed in Summer 2008 which forms part of a Visual Arts Centre, a Business Studies Centre was completed during Summer 2010 and the Science Block was refurbished in Summer 2011.


Since September 2005, the school has been led by Mrs Vicky Neale, following the retirement of Adrian Williams, who obtained an CBE for Services to Education after many years at the school. As of 2011, there are around 80 teaching staff.[21] The most recent workforce statistics from the Department for Education[22] indicates the Academy's pupil-teacher ratio of 14.4:1 is lower than both the Suffolk LEA average of 16:1 in Secondary Schools and 15.7:1 for England as a whole.[23]

Ofsted Inspections

The 2011 Education Act [24] proposed that schools assessed as being Grade 1 "Outstanding" on their last inspection will not be subject to routine inspection unless concerns are raised with Ofsted about their performance. As with similar schools Ofsted wrote to County Upper School on 28 March 2011 with an "Interim Assessment"[25][26] stating that based upon pupils' academic performance,[27] very low rates of absence [28] and having taken into account the results of survey visits carried out since the last routine inspection.[29] they considered that the Outstanding performance had been sustained. Ofsted stated they would continue to undertake annual assessments of County Upper Schools' performance.

In February 2008 County Upper School had obtained the distinction of being designated 'Outstanding' by Ofsted[30] for the third successive time. It placed the school amongst the top four rated in the East of England[31] and it was the only school in Essex, Suffolk or Norfolk to have achieved such a long run of outstanding marks.[32]

Academic Achievements

County Upper achieved an 86% A*-C pass rate in the Summer 2011 “A” Level examinations,[33] an improvement of 1% on 2010, versus a national percentage of 76.2%. This, together with neighbouring St Benedict's Roman Catholic Upper School and its shared Sixth Form, was the joint best state school "A" Level result in Suffolk.[34][35] 11% of County Upper passes were at A* (8.2% nationally), 31% at A*/A (27%), 86% A*-C (76.2%) [36] with over 49% of papers in English, Mathematics, Sciences and Modern Foreign Languages.

Between 2009 - 2011 nine County Upper Sixth Form students have achieved entry to Oxbridge Colleges.[37][38] and research by the Sutton Trust shows around three-quarters of students leaving Year 13 attend university after leaving County Upper with a third attending the 30 most selective universities and colleges.[39]

The 2011 GCSE results showed similar success with a record 85% of students gaining 5 or more passes at grades A*-C across all subjects[40] (compared with 72.1% for Suffolk and 78.8% for England overall[41]), up from 82% in 2010,[42] with 71% of students gaining 5 or more A*-C passes including English and Mathematics, compared with 54.4% in Suffolk and 58.3% for England nationally,[43] and 100% of pupils gained 5 or more A*-G passes including English and maths.[42] 34.5% of all passes were at A* or A compared with 23.2% for England as a whole[44] and 24% of students achieved at least 8 A or A* grades.

35% of students also achieved an A*-C pass rate in the GCSE subjects required to gain them the new English Baccalaureate qualification,[45] (English, Mathematics, 2 Sciences, History/Geography and a Modern Foreign Language) meeting the planned 2012 35% government target.[46] This attainment was up from 26% in 2010 against an average of 13.6% in Suffolk for 2011 (unchanged from 2010) and 16.5% across England.[47][48]

Science College

County Upper is a designated Science College with a Gifted and Talented focus. An Ofsted subject inspection in May 2009 judged the overall effectiveness of science to be outstanding with no areas for improvement.[49]

The school is the Suffolk partner school in the East of England Science Learning Centre[50] promoting professional development amongst science education and learning professionals.

County Upper runs a Science and Engineering outreach programme including visits to universities and other science centres as well as workshops for gifted and talented students from feeder Middle Schools in West Suffolk. Year 9 Science students also participate in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) days run by the Smallpeice Trust[51] promoting engineering careers for young people and lower school students participate in the new Go4Set[52] STEM residential courses run by the Engineering Development Trust.[53]

In summer 2010 the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT) designated County Upper as a Consultant School [54][55] in recognition of its assistance in helping other schools in Suffolk raise standards and achievement.

Language College

Following its 2008 Ofsted inspection County Upper was invited to apply for a second specialism. With effect from 1 February 2009 the school was designated as a Language College with a Gifted and Talented focus.[13][56]

The school offers French, German, Japanese, and Spanish for all pupils with Italian in the Sixth Form. It runs an overseas exchange programme to Kyoto in Japan, the Ancona region of Italy, Guadalajara, Spain and the Rhineland area of Germany.[57][58] The Japanese programme involves annual language and scientific exchanges, summer camps and extensive cultural activities between Japan and Bury St Edmunds.

The school runs a Modern Foreign Language outreach programme with its feeder Middle Schools in West Suffolk where Gifted and Talented pupils take part in workshops and activity days hosted at County Upper during the course of the academic year.

Sports & Physical Activities

The school sports facilities include a sports hall, gymnasium, a mini-sports hall, a fitness suite, a PE lab, six tennis and netball courts, two full-sized soccer pitches, cricket nets and a floodlit all-weather hockey/five-a-side soccer pitch all on site.[59]

County Upper School won the Suffolk Sport "Secondary School of the Year" Award sponsored by Ipswich Town FC Community Trust in 2011,[60] won the St Edmundsbury "School of the Year Award" for sport in both 2008 and 2011,[61] is partner school of both Sport England and the Youth Sport Trust via the Sportsmark Scheme[62] and offers a wide variety of sport and team games. It has achieved Football Association Charter Standard Secondary Development School status in recognition for the quality of its coaching.[63] The school works with the East Of England coach for British cycling[64] and also fields an equestrian team.[65][66][67]

School teams are the Suffolk U15 cricket[68] and U16 netball champions for the 2010-11 season [69] and the U17 rounders team reached the semi-finals of the English National Schools Championships in July 2011.[70]

The captain of Suffolk County Cricket team, Mr Justin Bishop, is a PE teacher and cricket coach for the school[71] and Miss Heather Lymburn, also on the PE staff, is a member of the England Senior Korfball Squad.[72]

County Upper Basketball Academy

In addition to the main school sports activities County Upper also hosts a dedicated Basketball Academy.[73] The academy has its own Sports Director with students from across East Anglia attending the County Upper Sixth Form. Students are accommodated locally, attend the school and regularly[74] enter regional and national-level competitions.

Music, Drama & Visual Arts

County Upper has achieved an Artsmark Gold award for its wide range of musical, dance and theatrical groups and events. The school is an accredited Arts Award Centre[75] for the Trinity College London and Arts Council England scheme and an Examinations Centre for the Associated Board of the Royal School of Music and Rockschool.[76]

School ensembles regularly perform in public holding numerous concerts and choral events in and around Bury St Edmunds including performances at the town's new Apex Venue.[77][78][79] There are over 20 music ensembles including 2 orchestras, several choirs, string & jazz ensembles and wind bands. There have been three Swing Band tours of Suffolk Virginia USA[80] together with music tours of Somerset and the Channel Islands. The bi-ennial school production takes place at the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds.

The school holds an annual Art Exhibition for the community displaying students' work. Paintings, textiles, pottery and visual arts installations are shown to the public each summer with some of the very best going on display in public buildings in and around Bury St Edmunds.[81]

Awards and achievements

County Upper is recognized by Healthy Schools Suffolk and is accredited as an Investor in People. The History Department participates in the Prince of Wales' Prince's Teaching Institute Schools Programme[82] to enhance the quality and breadth of the history curriculum including visits to Berlin, Rome, the Somme battlefields and Auschwitz[83] and County Upper received an International School Award[84] in 2007 and 2010[85] from the British Council both for its strength in foreign language teaching and its scientific and cultural links with Europe, Japan and the USA. It earned a "Distinction" designation from Education Extra[citation needed] for its extensive range of extra-curricular activities consisting of more than weekly 60[86] clubs and activities, its musical, drama & dance productions, the Duke of Edinburgh Award[87] scheme and its frequent sports and music tours abroad to countries including Malta, Jersey, Spain, Germany, Turkey and the USA.[58][88]

St Edmundsbury Borough Council awarded the school catering department a maximum 5 star rating in October 2010.[89]

The schools' Charity Fortnight raises around £12,000 annually for three good causes; one local, one national and one international.[90]

External links


  1. ^ a b County Upper School page on Suffolk County Council Education and Learning web site abstracted 14 Sep 2011
  2. ^ DfES List of Open Academies and Schools Submitting Applications
  3. ^ Suffolk County Council map of CUS Catchment area
  4. ^ Suffolk County Council Guide to Upper/High School Admissions 2011/12
  5. ^ School population taken from latest DfE statistics September 2011
  6. ^ Ofsted Interim Assessment dated 28 Mar 2011
  7. ^ Bury Free Press article 18 Apr 2011
  8. ^ DfE Listing of institutions applying for Academy status
  9. ^ Letter from Chair of Governors CUS to parents 3 May 2011
  10. ^ Bury Free Press article dated 6 May 2011
  11. ^ East Anglian Daily TImes article dated 9 May 2011
  12. ^ Bury Free Press article dated 31 May 2011
  13. ^ a b Specialist Schools and Academies Trust school search page
  14. ^ Bury Free Press article 8 Oct 2010
  15. ^ St Edmundsbury Borough Council web site - The Twentieth Century (edit)
  16. ^ English Heritage Bury St Edmunds Abbey History
  17. ^ West Suffolk County Council Coat of Arms
  18. ^ Arms of St Edmund King and Martyr
  19. ^ "The history of the legend of Saint Edmund" Stedmundsbury Borough Council web site
  20. ^ Bury Free Press Article 26 April 2007 Retrieved 16 April 2009
  21. ^ County Upper Teaching Staff
  22. ^ DfE 2011 School-level Workforce statistics (provisional) released 20 April 2011
  23. ^ DfE 2010 School Workforce in England statisics published 26 May 2010
  24. ^ BBC Article on 2011 Education Bill dated 27 January 2011
  25. ^ Ofsted Letter dated 28 Mar 2011
  26. ^ Bury Free Press Article 15 April 2011
  27. ^ DfE Performance Tables 2010 for Suffolk Schools
  28. ^ DfE Suffolk School Absence Rates 2011
  29. ^ Science Subject Visit 12 Mat 2009
  30. ^ Ofsted inspection report 315059 6-7 February 2008
  31. ^ Bury Free Press Article 3 October 2008
  32. ^ Bury Free Press Article 13 March 2008
  33. ^ Bury Free Press Article dated 19 August 2011 abstracted 03 September 2011
  34. ^ West Suffolk 2010 A Level Results East Anglian Daily Times 19 August 2010 abstracted 22 August 2010
  35. ^ East Suffolk 2010 A Level Results East Anglian Daily Times 19 August 2010 abstracted 22 August 2010
  36. ^ National A Level results subject by subject 20 August 2010 abstracted 22 August 2010
  37. ^ Bury Free Press Article 21 August 2009
  38. ^ Bury Free Press Article 20 August 2010 abstracted 22 August 2010
  39. ^ Degrees of Success - University Chances by Individual School, Sutton Trust, 8 July 2011.
  40. ^ Bury Free Press Article 26 August 2011 abstracted 03 September 2011
  41. ^ Interim DfE 2010/11 GCSE Results Published 20 Oct 2011
  42. ^ a b Bury Free Press Article 27 August 2010 abstracted 27 August 2010
  43. ^ Interim DfE 2010/11 GCSE Results Published 20 Oct 2011
  44. ^ BBC News Education and Family 18 August 2011 abstracted 03 September 2011
  45. ^ DfE English Baccalaureate web page dated 25 March 2011
  46. ^ Daily Telegraph article dated 12 January 2011 abstracted 6 September 2011
  47. ^ DfE Performance Tables 2010 KS4 Tab
  48. ^ BBC Education News Website "Rise in pupils getting five good GCSEs including maths and English" abstracted 20 Oct 2011
  49. ^ Ofsted Science subject visit feedback letter re: Inspection 12 May 09
  50. ^ Science Learning Centre reference page for CUS
  51. ^ "STEM Day" Page 1 Bury St Edmunds CUS Accolade December 2008
  52. ^ Go4Set Home Page
  53. ^ Engineering Development Trust Home Page
  54. ^ SSAT Accreditation page
  55. ^ Bury Free Press article Friday October 8, 2010
  56. ^ Page 1 Bury St Edmunds CUS Accolade February 2009
  57. ^ School Document
  58. ^ a b List of school major residential trips September 2009
  59. ^ Prospectus listing sports facilities
  60. ^ Suffolk Sports 2011 Awards winners list
  61. ^ Abbeycroft Leisure Ports Awards Nmination & Winners 2011
  62. ^ "Sportsmark 2008" Page 6 Bury St Edmunds CUS Accolade February 09
  63. ^ "Charter Standard for Football" Page 5 Bury St Edmunds CUS Accolade January 09
  64. ^ "Cycling with a British Coach" Page 6 Bury St Edmunds CUS Accolade February 09
  65. ^ "Equestrianism" Page 7 Bury St Edmunds CUS Accolade June 09
  66. ^ "All the Sport for October" Page 4 Bury St Edmunds CUS Accolade October 09
  67. ^ "Equestrianism" Page 6 Bury St Edmunds CUS Accolade Oct 11
  68. ^ Page 1 CUS September Accolade
  69. ^ Bury Free Press article "County top of the class after Suffolk triumph" dated 3 June 2011 abstracted 5 June 2011
  70. ^ Rounders England National Championships results webpage abstracted 26 Oct 11
  71. ^ Bury Free Press article dated 3 Jun 2011
  72. ^ [1]
  73. ^ Suffolk Basketball Article 8 April 2009
  74. ^ CUS Basketball Academy Fixture List
  75. ^ List of Arts Award Centres in the East of England
  76. ^ County Upper School [age on Rockschool Website
  77. ^ Bury Free Press Article 25 July 2008
  78. ^ Bury Free Press Article 18 Apr 2011
  79. ^ Bury Free Press Article dated 18 Apr 2011
  80. ^ Swing Band Concert Apex Bury St Edmunds June 2011
  81. ^ [Bury Free Press Article "Praise for annual school exhibition" p119 1 July 2011]
  82. ^ The Prince's Teaching Institute
  83. ^ List of Prince's Teaching Institute participating schools
  84. ^ Global Gateway DCSF International School Award
  85. ^ List of Schools in 2007 receiving the International School Award
  86. ^ List of Clubs and Activities Autumn Term 2008 County Courier No.2 Dated 12 September 08 Spring Term 2009 County Courier No.15 Dated 9 January 09Summer Term 2009 County Courier No.26 Dated 24 April 09
  87. ^ County Upper School page of Suffolk DofE Website
  88. ^ Bury St Edmunds CUS Accolade Archive 2007-2009
  89. ^ St Edmundsbury Borough Council Food Hygiene Ratings
  90. ^ Bury Free Press Article 25 Dec 2010

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