“We are not Hogwarts. We are not about elitism, we are about being inclusive and having the ambition to be the best you can be.”
Those are the words of Anton McGrath, principal of Greenhead College who is keen to debunk some of the perceived myths about the highly successful college.
Greenhead is ranked fourth out of the country’s 93 sixth form colleges - yet its entry criteria are the lowest of all the table toppers.
Because of its national reputation, teenagers make a round trip of up to three hours a day from as far afield as Leeds, Saddleworth and Wakefield to attend. And every year around 800 students from out of area are turned down as the 1,200 places are full.
However, any pupils from the college’s 12 partner high schools around Huddersfield who pass five A* to C grade GCSEs, including English and maths, are automatically accepted at the prestigious college.
A nearby sixth form college in Greater Manchester, for example (lower down the table than Greenhead) demands eight GCSE grade Bs as a minimum entry requirement.
Father-of-two Mr McGrath, 41, is the product of a grammar school education and was the first person in his family to go to university. He fervently believes that Huddersfield youngsters from all backgrounds should aspire to achieve excellence and urges them not to dismiss Greenhead because of preconceived ideas.
He said: “There are certain myths about Greenhead College: one is that you have to get eight A* GCSEs - this is nonsense. Another is that it is all about exams, which is also completely untrue, we have 110 enrichment activities here and are also extremely proud of our involvement in community-based projects.
“Another is that A levels are harder at Greenhead College - they are the same everywhere.
“The fourth is that it is elitist. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is not about elitism, it is about passion and about what you want to do in life. If you are passionate and motivated, we will help you achieve your goals.
“We are a normal, happy inclusive community - there is no place for intolerance here. “We have people here from all walks of life and they all come together to be part of the Greenhead community.
“It is important that students in our local schools have the opportunity to come here, where we really work hard to help them get the best out of themselves, so they can have good careers and a good life.
“We produce well rounded young individuals who are employable and curious about the world we live in and want to improve things.”
Greenhead has a transition mentor to help newcomers settle in and each student has a personal tutor. The school is particularly proud of being in the top 10% of colleges in the country for “Value Added.”
This has nothing at all to do with money and everything to do with students’ progression from their starting points on arrival.
Mr McGrath added: “I would like every GCSE student in Huddersfield to consider Greenhead. If you decide it’s not for you, then that’s OK.”