Headington history: Schools

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St Andrew’s School

Headington National School

This photograph, reproduced with the permission of Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive (Ref. 1994/5/1), shows Headington National School in March 1904. Although George Stace, the Master of the Boys’ School on the left, was one of the first people in Headington to have a car, he only lived around the corner in Windmill Road, so the car in the picture is more likely to be that of the photographer (Percy Elford, the County Council’s first Education Secretary)

This is Headington’s longest-surviving school: it has occupied its present site on the south side of the London Road since 1847, when Charles Tawney the brewer gave half an acre of land to the Vicar of Headington for the purpose of setting up a National School.

The delight of the people of Headington when the foundation stone of Headington National School was laid is described at length in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 29 May 1847: “So great and universal was the interest which the proceedings excited in the villagers, that we believe there was scarcely an inhabitant left at home; the place looked like a deserted village.”

The school originally had no infant department: children entered at the age of about seven from Old Headington Infant Schooll, and then after 1873, from New Headington Infant School as well.

Front elevation of 1847 school

The original school was designed by Thomas Grimsley (see his drawing of the front, above). It stood further back from the London Road that the present school, and was a red-brick Gothic building consisting of a boys’ schoolroom (left) and a girls’ schoolroom (right). Each measured only 40 × 18 feet, but 90 children were crammed into each room. These 180 children had to share three toilets in the yard at the back. The schoolmaster was not much better off: his house can be seen above, squashed between the two schools. Downstairs was just a scullery and living room, and upstairs two bedrooms, and it is very hard to see where he could stow his large family and a housemaid. Eventually in 1865 part of the girls’ schoolroom was allocated to the master.

The photograph below taken in 1886 shows the window of the boys's school (to the left of the teacher's house) matching that in the plan above. There are 87 boys with their Master and Assistant Master, plus (inexplicably) a little girl seated on the left.

St Andrew's boys school

Although its official name was Headington National School, this school was known by locals as the Field School for its first hundred years, as it occupied an isolated position in the Quarry Field.

Discipline was very strict: in 1893 the case against Headmaster George Stace was dismissed at the Oxford Petty Sessions after he violently punished a boy for attending the funeral of the local police constable.

Statue of St Andrew


The need for a new school in 1894

In 1880 education had beem made compulsory for all children between the ages of 5 and 10, and in 1893 the school-leaving age was raised to 11. This, combined with the fact that New Headington’s population was growing very fast, meant that the 1847 building (which had become dilapidated) became too small for the needs of the two villages of Old and New Headington. So in 1894 a new pair of schools (the present western half of St Andrew’s) was opened for boys and girls (in front of the old school, half of which was then demolished).

Each new school had its own side entrance, and in the middle (on the site of the present cloakrooms) was a garden, with the statue of St Andrew (right, now hidden around the back of the school) looking out to the turnpike road.

The plan below shows the layout of the 1894 building. This building still survives relatively intact, but the central garden at the front has been built over and now accommodates cloakrooms, so that St Andrew, who proudly looked from his niche above the foundation stone over towards Old Headington, now skulks around the back (right).


Ground plan of 1894 schoolp

When Old Headington Infant School closed down at the beginning of the twentieth century, the new schools must have been very cramped; and in the 1920s the 1894 building had to accommodate 50 infants as well as 284 juniors. More land was purchased to the east and south of the old school, and in 1928 a second school (to the east of the present site) was erected. Headington Senior School was designed to take the senior children (up to the age of 14) from the junior section next door (as well as those from Quarry School). The remains of the 1847 building behind were demolished at this time.

This senior section only survived for eight years: it was closed in 1936, as from that date the school sent its seniors to Headington Senior Council School in Margaret Road. The two schools on the London Road were then joined by a connecting strip and new entrance to form Headington Church of England Junior Mixed & Infant School, which in 1961 adopted the new name St Andrew’s Church of England Primary School.

In 1975, when Oxford adopted a three-tier system of comprehensive education, it became St Andrew’s Church of England First School for children aged 5 to 9.

In September 2003, when Oxford returned to a two-tier system of education, it became St Andrew’s Church of England Primary School again, taking children from the ages of 5 to 11.

St Andrew’s School today

Press report showing the joy of the people of Headington
when this school’s foundation stone was laid in 1847

Early history of the school (1847–1894) ( PDF)

© Stephanie Jenkins

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