Dr Ruth Norris, Head of Derby Grammar School, discusses the value of Sixth Form independent school education.Derby Grammar School - Dr Ruth Norris

The most heavily subscribed phase of independent education is Sixth Form. Why? Because its ‘product’ is overwhelmingly successful. One of the most gratifying comments I ever hear on a school open day is that parents have been impressed by our students. Without a doubt, parents want their children to look up to and emulate our outstanding young men and women.

At Derby Grammar School our successful graduates are no accident in the making, rather they are the beneficiaries of a well thought out and intricately constructed Sixth Form experience.

Our educational vision begins at the end: who do we want our students to be when they leave us? Well qualified, yes, but top A Level grades are only part of that picture of success. Our young adults need to pair this with all-round accomplishment, confidence, emotional intelligence and a natural charm that will ease them through adult life.

We support our students in achieving this at Derby Grammar by espousing three simple values: Excellence, Encouragement and Enrichment.


We all know that excellent academic grades open doors in life. This is bread and butter in an independent school. We build high expectations around our students, we aim to inspire them to work towards their academic goals and we facilitate this success every step of the way with the best possible quality of teaching, situated within the best possible facilities.

Independent schools are resource-rich, particularly compared with the ever decreasing per capita funding in state schools. The investment of these resources in our students pays dividends. At Derby Grammar we are committed to the belief that our commitment to academic excellence does not stop at the classroom door.

That extra ‘edge’ is gained by our students through extension opportunities such as undertaking the Extended Project Qualification, attending additional curriculum clubs, debating societies, local, regional, national and international competitions. This is one reason why graduates of independent schools disproportionately achieve the top A Level grades and dominate the world of higher education and the top professions.


However, not every pupil embarks upon their Sixth Form life ready to excel. Teenagers need encouragement. They need reassurances that they can risk failure in an environment where failure is regarded as a stepping stone to success.

At Derby Grammar School our dedicated body of pastoral staff is committed to pupil wellbeing and embedding the skills necessary for our students to build emotional resilience and positive mental health. We are fortunate that in our small communities independent schools can take the time to give each child in their care the benefits of a Sixth Form experience tailored to their needs. We understand that education is not just about academic grades.


Our students need to be equipped for their future with a wide range of skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, collaborative working, resilience and emotional intelligence. These skills aren’t covered in your average A Level syllabus. These skills are honed through the careful delivery of a rich and vibrant curriculum that offers a wide range of enrichment opportunities.

As an independent school, we are fortunate to be able to offer exactly this, whether that be on the sportsfield, through the creative arts, in charity work or through extra-curricular clubs that offer both the weird and the wonderful. At Derby Grammar School we offer a whole range of opportunities that stretch from the Formula 24 project to the Tanzanian plains. It is through an experience based education that our students become those well rounded individuals that our parents are impressed by on school open days.

Our teenagers find themselves in an increasingly competitive world and the savvy individual knows that success is defined in many different ways. A good Sixth Form education is one that offers students the opportunity to achieve excellence, to feel encouraged and emerge enriched. It is for this reason that our students emerge triumphant in the adult world.