A History of Downhills Central School, Tottenham, 1919-1955
by H. C. Davis, M.A. (First published 1955)

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To the future pupils of Downhills Central School, in the hope that they will be inspired by the achievements of their predecessors.


"The reward of one duty is the power to fulfill another."
George Eliot


"Courage, the footstool of the virtues, upon which they stand."
R. L. Stevenson


"The talent of success is nothing more than doing what you can do well; and doing well whatever you do, without a thought of fame."

(In the early years of the School, "Duty, Courage, Success" formed a scroll beneath the School Badge, chosen because the initial letters of these words were also the initials of the school. The quotations appeared in the first number of the School Magazine, "Reflections," in 1921.)


Reading history has always been a favourite pastime of mine, and I have always held historians in great respect. The courage with which they undertake an obviously impossible task, to tell the truth about the complicated affairs of vast numbers of people in the past, calls forth my wonder and admiration. Knowing, as they must, how difficult it is to get the exact truth about the simplest incident of today, the historian yet produces his "History of England," his "History of the Great War," even his "History of Civilisation."

Mr. Davis has attempted a more modest task, the history of a school in a London suburb during the last half-century, and he has been able to call on first-hand information for the whole of his period. Thus he has avoided the pitfalls which lie in the path of more ambitious historians. On the other hand, his work will come under closer scrutiny. Few of us can claim to be authorities on the History of Civilisation, but all who read this book will feel themselves experts on some part of it. Fortunately most of them are now parents, and the knowledge of the extraordinary stories which their children bring home from school must make them suspect that where their memories and Mr. Davis's account differ, the latter is more likely to be correct.

I had the privilege of reading this book in manuscript as Mr. Davis finished each section: in one way it was delightful to be present, as it were, in the workroom; in another it was irritating, as each instalment made me impatient for the next. I feel very grateful to Mr. Davis for what he has done, and I know that all his readers will share my gratitude, not so much for the printed page as for the revival of dormant memories that it will evoke. My knowledge of the School, except as a visitor, goes back only to 1932. When the real old-timers get going I can only listen and marvel. Yet I remember Mr. Roberts as the new boy; Mr. Haber conducting his verse-choir, with the stage so crammed with children that you feared that if one took a deep breath another would fall off; sitting in a dusty railway carriage on a hot summer day in 1939 opposite a row of sweet-sucking children, wondering where the train would stop; the icy winds of the Cambridge winter; the summer cycle rides; Mr. Baker and his boys as the rude mecanicals, and Pamela Spire and Mrs. Parker as Helena and Hermia in "A Midsummer Night's Dream"; Killick as a bo'sun, Pat Atkins as the Bailiff's daughter; the first Beaverford Service... But every reader will have his own list.

I commend this book to all past and present Downhills boys and girls, and to their parents.



It may seem to some people that it is premature to write a history of a school that is only 36 years old. The project first entered my mind when I found that the present generation of scholars is unaware of the origin of the House names, and I soon discovered that some of the documents (the raw material of history) had already disappeared; for example, I have been unable, in spite of diligent search, to assemble a complete set of the issues of the School Magazine.

The objects of this History are:-

(1) To record the formation and early history of a school of a comparatively rare type, a Selective Central School.

(2) To give the pupils a knowledge of the past achievements, with the conviction that they will profit by the example of their predecessors and will strive to achieve a spirit even better than that which now exists.

I would like to record my appreciation of the help given to me by the Borough Education Officer, Mr.John Power, M.A., and the Staff of the Education Office, to the present Headmaster, Mr. N. S. Mercer, B.A., B.Com., to Mr.W. M. Roberts, Headmaster of the John Hampden Secondary School, Barnet, and an original member of the Downhills Staff, to Mrs. Elsie Thompson, an old scholar, and to the many old scholars who have provided me with information and background without which this history could not have been written.

I should like to thank Messrs. Methuen and Co. Ltd. for permission to quote from "The Cambridge Evacuation Survey."

This is a History of Downhills Central School and I have not attempted to tell the story of the School which occupied the building before 1919. It should be recorded, however, that the building was erected in 1912 and was designed as an infants' school. As things turned out, it was first occupied by Downhills Senior Boys' School and Downhills Senior Girls' School.


The Elementary Education Act of 1870 set up School Boards to provide elementary education for all children between the ages of five and thirteen. At first, attendance was not compulsory but the Boards had the power to frame by-laws making it so. By two further Acts of 1876 and 1891 elementary education was made compulsory and free.

The only provision for what we today call secondary education was at the Public School or the Grammar School. The syllabus was academic, with great stress on the classics, and the number of free places, by way of scholarships, was small. There was practically no opportunity for education beyond the elementary stage for the children of those enfranchised by the Parliamentary Reform Acts of 1867 and 1884.

When the School Boards had solved the problem of accommodating all children up to thirteen years of age, a demand arose in many urban areas for the provision of higher elementary education beyond the age of thirteen, or Standard VII, as the highest class in the elementary school was called, and the Boards turned their attention to this problem. In many districts all the children whose parents wished them to remain beyond Standard VII were gathered together in one central school known as a Higher Grade School. In Edmonton there was one such school, which still bears this name. In Tottenham, the Bruce Grove School of Science, which was housed in the Sperling Road building and whose Headmaster became the first Director of Education for Tottenham, was another. Here the curriculum included Latin, French, chemistry and physics, algebra and geometry, and the author has been informed by an old scholar of this school that, on gaining a scholarship to a Grammar School at the age of thirteen, he was able to take his place in the fifth form without difficulty. In 1900 a ruling of the High Court made these schools illegal, because the School Boards were not empowered to use rates for this purpose, but an emergency Act of Parliament rectified the position.

The Education Act of 1902 abolished the School Boards and handed over their duties to the County Councils, who were empowered to delegate their powers in respect of elementary education to the Councils of Urban and Rural Districts of a certain size. Tottenham became one of these Part III Authorities, as they were called. This Act also established state secondary schools to be administered by the County Councils, usually known as County Schools, which grew up side by side with, and acquired status comparable with, the older independent foundations known as Grammar Schools, High Schools, etc. It is necessary here to adopt a convention, and these schools, County and independent Secondary Schools alike, will be referred to hereafter as Secondary (Grammar) Schools to distinguish them from the Secondary Schools created by the Education Act of 1944.

One of the results of the 1902 Act was the decline of the Higher Grade School because:

  1. The new Secondary (Grammar) Schools drew off children who would have gone to the Higher Grade Schools.
  2. Some of the Higher Grade Schools became Secondary (Grammar) Schools, and
  3. The Board of Education Regulations of 1900 prescribed a predominantly scientific curriculum for Higher Elementary or Higher Grade Schools which few such schools were able to adopt.

But although the new schools established by the Act of 1902 widened the field of secondary education, they did not fill the gap formerly occupied by the Higher Grade Schools. Pupils were not accepted in Secondary (Grammar) Schools unless they were going to remain until the age of sixteen and there was no provision for the many children who would enter business or industry at fifteen. Moreover, the fees were not inconsiderable and there were many children who, while unable to reach scholarship standard, would have gained admittance if their parents had been able to afford them. In 1905 the Regulations were relaxed so as to enable Local Authorities to frame a curriculum for Higher Grade Schools provided that certain subjects were included.

In April, 1911, the London County Council introduced the Central School system. The Central Schools were intended to give advanced elementary education and, as the name implies, they served an area, the children coming from other schools at the age of eleven plus and following a four-year course. The curriculum was to have an industrial or commercial bias. London's example was followed by Manchester and a few other large authorities.

So matters remained until the Education Act of 1918 which, in Section 2 (1), provided that,

"It shall be the duty of a Local Education Authority so to exercise their power under Part III of the Education Act of 1902 as to make or otherwise to secure adequate and suitable provision by means of central schools, central or special classes or otherwise

(1) for including in the curriculum of public elementary schools, at appropriate stages, practical instruction suitable to the ages, abilities, and requirements of the children; and

(2) for organising in public elementary schools courses of advanced instruction for the older or more intelligent children in attendance at such schools, including children who stay at such schools beyond the age of fourteen."

It was as a direct result of this Act that the Tottenham Education Committee opened three Selective Central Schools on 1 October, 1919, namely Downhills, Down Lane and Risley Avenue. The detailed story is related in the pages that follow. These Central Schools continued, until 1944, to provide an advanced education for many who, today, receive instruction in the Grammar Schools but who, in those days, could not obtain one of the limited number of free places.

The Education Act of 1944 established three types of secondary education - grammar, modern, and technical - all free. Once again there seemed to be a threat to the existence of that small category of schools which has, at various times, been called Higher Grade, Higher Elementary, or Central. Indeed, there is, today, no official classification "Central School." But just as, in the years after 1902, the provision of secondary schools was found to be insufficient and the curriculum not entirely suitable for all categories, so, in the years since the end of the war in 1945, the tripartite division of grammar, modern, and technical envisaged by those who framed the Act of 1944 has been found, in practice, to be too rigid. The Central Schools have filled a place between the academic approach of the Grammar Schools and the practical approach of the Modern Schools. Indeed, in many districts Modern Schools have been built which are "Central" in all but name, drawing selected children from a wide area who will pursue advanced courses beyond the age of fifteen. That these Schools have filled a gap in the educational system in the past and have a function to fulfil in the future it is one of the objects of this History of Downhills Selective Central School to show.

Reference is often made to the Educational Ladder, but perhaps a tree is a better analogy. Sown in 1833, the seed germinated and the young sapling grew slowly until 1870. In the next 30 years it sent out many branches. In 1900 it was clumsily cut back and, in 1902, subjected to a further pruning, but the roots were then well established, the sap was rising and new shoots appeared where the branches had been pruned. In 1918 fertiliser was applied and growth was quickened but, during the twenties and thirties, was erratic. In 1944 a further careful pruning was carried out, the object of which was to direct the energy of the tree to a few main branches. But a tree is a living thing and will often, in defiance of the gardener, develop healthy shoots which, if allowed to grow, will produce fruit of fine quality.


The first entry in the School Log Book records the beginning of Downhills Central School in the following words:

"The above school was opened on Wednesday morning, 1 October, 1919, with the following staff:- Headmaster, Mr. F. O. Pinchbeck, B.A., Miss F. A. Wilson, Miss M. L. Mandall, Mr. W. M. Roberts, Mr. W. W. Semmons. 78 scholars presented themselves for admission, consisting of 42 boys and 36 girls."

1 October is kept from year to year as the "School Birthday" with appropriate ceremonial. If we have a "Founder" it is the Tottenham Urban District Council Education Committee who, in February, 1919, adopted the Report of its Central Schools Sub-committee recommending the establishment of three Central Schools, one of which was to be at Downhills. The Education Act of 1918 had been followed by a Board of Education Circular (1057) which advised local authorities on the preparation of schemes of education, for submission to the Board, showing how they intended to implement the Act. The Tottenham Education Committee remitted the Circular to the School Management Committee which set up the Central Schools Sub-Committee. The members of this Sub-Committee and the Director of Education, Mr. A. J. Linford, after visiting several Central Schools in the London County Council area, made the following recommendations:

  1. Three Central Schools should be opened in Tottenham; a mixed school at Downhills, a girls' school at Down Lane, and a boys' school at Risley Avenue.
  2. The mixed school at Downhills should have a curriculum on lines similar to those of a Secondary (Grammar) School. The two other schools should have a commercial and technical curriculum.
  3. These schools should commence after the summer holidays.
  4. At the commencement only first year pupils should be admitted.
  5. Scholars in elementary schools who were over eleven and under twelve years of age on 1 August and who had reached a class equivalent to the fifth standard should be eligible for admission. Pupils should be selected at the same time and by the same processes as candidates for the second examination for free places in the Secondary (Grammar) Schools.
  6. There would be a need for maintenance allowances when the pupils passed the normal leaving age of fourteen.

In submitting these recommendations the Sub-Committee said that the purpose of these schools was "to provide for suitable and specially selected pupils an extended course of instruction having a definite bias towards some kind of industrial or commercial work. They differ from Secondary Schools in their earlier leaving age and less academic curriculum and from Trade Schools in their earlier age of admission and in not aiming at providing training for a particular trade or business." It appeared that, in London, pupils were admitted to Central Schools between the ages of eleven and twelve years and were expected to remain for a four-year course, but they could stay, with the approval of the Board of Education, for five years. The Sub-Committee estimated that, on this basis, there were in Tottenham 1,500 prospective pupils for Central Selective Schools. The Report of the Sub-Committee was adopted by the Education Committee on 17 February, 1919.

By June of the same year more detailed plans had been worked out for the admission of the first batch of pupils. Free places were to be given to 160 boys and 120 girls, 62 of these places were to be offered to unsuccessful candidates for the entrance scholarship examination to Secondary (Grammar) schools, the remaining places to be allotted to the schools of the district in proportion to the number of pupils on roll. The pupils were to be chosen on the basis of their class records and an examination conducted by the Headmaster. This may seem rather a haphazard method but it must be borne in mind that it was an emergency measure to get the schools started. As events turned out, this first batch produced some of the most distinguished old scholars.

On 30 June, 1919, Mr. F. O. Pinchbeck was appointed Headmaster, to take up office on 1 September. Mr. Pinchbeck was trained as a teacher at St. John's College, Battersea, and was a Bachelor of Arts of London University. He brought with him the experience of senior assistant at Mansford Street Central School, London, and he had been head of a London County Council Commercial and Technical Evening Institute. In September Miss Mandall, Miss Wilson, Mr. Semmons and Mr. Roberts were appointed to the teaching staff. The names of these four will live as long as the School, as the four Houses are named after them. In November Mr. W. S. Oldland was appointed as manual instructor and was shared with Downhills Senior Boys' School.

At the outset, Downhills Central School shared the building with the Senior Boys' and Senior Girls' Schools which it gradually displaced. An old scholar (G. C. Carpenter) writes: "I was the first boy (indeed the first person of any sort) to join the School. I was attending Downhills Senior School which then occupied our building and I was shot into one of the two rooms which had been cleared for the new Central School a day or two before it opened. Mr. Pinchbeck arrived a good half day after me!"

In November, the Education Committee referred to the Joint Advisory Committee, composed of Councillors and Teachers' representatives, the question of the method of selection of future pupils, and a special Sub-committee recommended that the candidates should be examined at the same time as candidates for the free places at Secondary (Grammar) Schools. There were to be two examinations, a preliminary examination in arithmetic and English, followed by a final examination of selected candidates in the same subjects. The number to be selected for a final oral test was to be 50 per cent in excess of the places available. Marks were allotted thus: Arithmetic 75, English 100, oral 75, and allowance was to be made for age on the basis of so many marks for each month below the maximum. Headmasters' reports were to be taken into consideration. Parents would be asked to state the school they wished their child to attend and the children who came next on the list after the places at the Secondary (Grammar) Schools had been filled were to be offered Central School places. There are many points of similarity to the present day method of selection.

An important recommendation of this Sub-committee was "that the Education Committee be advised that it is impossible to expect large numbers of applications for admission to secondary and central schools without the establishment of an adequate system of maintenance allowances. "A standing Sub-committee on maintenance allowances was thereupon set up and recommended that a maintenance allowance not exceeding £12 a year should be payable from the beginning of the term after that in which the pupil reached the age of fourteen years. This recommendation was accepted by the Education Committee and forwarded to the Board of Education for approval. The Education Acts of 1907 and 1918 had empowered the Board of Education to pay half the cost of approved schemes of maintenance allowances, but 1921 was a year of financial stringency and a Circular (1238) had been issued saying that no new schemes would be considered. The Tottenham scheme had been submitted to the Board before the Circular was issued and it was pointed out that a refusal to sanction the scheme would be a severe blow to the three schools in which 700 scholars had been awarded free places. But the Board of Education regretted that they could not approve and, in the circumstances, the Tottenham Education Committee decided to pay half the cost (£6 per annum) out of the local education rate.

Another recommendation of this Sub-committee was "that the best method of discovering all suitable candidates is to examine in school hours all children within the age limits," which anticipated a recommendation in the report of the Hadow Committee by six years.

In the meantime the School had been growing. The number on roll on 29 October, 1920, was 158, two more classrooms had been taken over from the Senior Boys' School and four additional members of staff had been engaged. Miss M. Brander, Miss F. A. S. Ward, Mr. H. S. Bourne and Mr. D. G. M. Robson. In September, 1921, a further two classes were formed, the number on roll on 30 September being 237, and the staff was enlarged by the addition of Miss F. A. Grigg, Miss S. A. Bottomley, Miss E. L. Wraith, Mr. G. H. Policy and Mr. H. Haber.

At about this time the Education Committee was considering the possibility of building a new mixed Central School on the ground behind the School, and an architect was commissioned to draw up plans. Then we find in the minutes a reference to a proposal for the erection by the County Council of a secondary school at Downhills. In 1921 the Board of Education issued a circular (1235) urging local authorities to engage in works to ease unemployment and the "Works and General Purposes Sub-committee of the Education Committee drew up a scheme for the erection on the field of a two-storey building to contain a science room, hall, domestic subjects room, two classrooms and cloakrooms. The Education Committee decided to defer this scheme pending a report on the possible reorganisation of the School which would permit the use of the whole of the Senior School block for Central School purposes.

At the end of the Easter term of 1921 Mr. Massie, the Headmaster of the Senior Boys' School, retired, and Mr. Pinchbeck was put in charge of the elementary classes still in the building and, in the following December, the 200 scholars of the Senior Boys' School were transferred to Bruce Grove and Belmont. Except for some classrooms on the west side of the Hall, the Central School then had the whole of the building, and these classrooms were still occupied by the Senior Girls' School in July, 1923. In September, 1922, two more classes were formed, bringing up the numbers to 304, and Miss M. L. McConachie and Mr. G. A. Bullen joined the staff.

In October, 1922, the Director of Education, in a report to the Education Committee, could say of the Central Schools that: "These schools have now admitted their fourth yearly draft of scholars and are completely constituted." In his Annual Statement on 26 March, 1923, the Chairman of the Education Committee said:

"The fact that these schools are in the fourth year of their existence and are now fully constituted gives them a claim to special mention in this statement. . . . Two of the Central Schools entered candidates for the Cambridge University Local Examinations and these met with very gratifying success. . . . The co-operation of all the Committee's head teachers in encouraging pupils to compete for places in Central Schools has had much to do with the success achieved."

Of what impression these Schools made on the life of Tottenham during these formative years there remains little evidence. In 1919 the Tottenham and Edmonton Weekly Herald published a series of articles on the Education Act of 1918, written by the Editor of the "Schoolmaster's Review" under the heading of "New Era in Education." In the second article, on 22 August, the writer, after summarising the advantages which these Central Schools would possess, referred to them. as providing "a long wished for opportunity for the worker's child." When, in 1921, the Education Committee published their draft scheme based upon the Act of 1918, and invited observations, the North Tottenham Labour Party said "that it viewed with grave misgivings the establishment of Central Schools as it is of the opinion that the setting up of a proper system of secondary education is being retarded by the establishment of such Central Schools." The South Tottenham Labour Party, not to be outdone, urged "the conversion of Central Schools into Secondary Schools in the interests of secondary education and also to distribute the cost of such schools more widely." But, alas, the establishment of a national system of secondary education had to wait for more than twenty years.


In the preceding chapters we have seen how the idea of the Central School evolved, how it took root at Downhills and how it developed. The strict narrative method must now be modified so that a consecutive account may be given of the various aspects of the school life and the numerous ancillary activities that developed in-the years before the war of 1939-1945.

An old scholar of the first intake returning to the School today would not observe many changes in the appearance of the building. The main block is, from the outside, just as it was in 1919. Certain minor structural alterations were made in these twenty years and must be recorded, although the main purpose of this story is not to concern itself with bricks and mortar. The cost of converting the first rooms taken over from the Senior School was £288, consisting mainly of equipping science accommodation. The chemistry laboratory was situated at the western end of the playground building (now the needlework room) and was opened in March, 1920; an emergency exit, in the form of an external staircase, was provided in 1922 at the cost of £90. In March, 1925, one of the class-rooms in the north-western wing was converted into a housewifery centre at a cost of £24. It was remodelled in 1936 at the cost of £95, when the two classrooms in the wing were knocked into one. The conversion of the staff room and cloakroom into a domestic flat was completed in February, 1937, when it was shown to the parents. The flat, which cost £633, consists of bedroom, sitting-room, bathroom and pantry. Today it is an normal item of equipment, but twenty years ago such projects were authorised only by the more progressive authorities and the Education Committee and the School were rightly proud of it. At the same time the playground building was reconstructed at the cost of £2000.

The "field" requires a paragraph to itself. In the words of an old scholar, "there was a rough old field behind the School on which we used to play the usual games at the usual seasons until it was ploughed, cultivated, and sown with grass in 1922 or 1923." At one time there were grass tennis courts at the top end. More than one attempt had been made to drain the field, which were as successful as could be expected in a field of clay. But sufficient allowance was not made for settlement and today it presents a gently undulating appearance. No longer is it used for the School sports for it is too small, and, for the same reason football and cricket cannot be played there with real success. In winter it is water logged and in a dry summer its deceptively green appearance is due to a flourishing crop of plantains which alone survive the wear and tear and the drought. And yet the "field" is held in real affection by all those who have been connected with the School. The children have the advantage of being able to play on a green expanse and this gives freedom and pleasure which cannot be attained in a drab asphalt playground. When the word is given that the "field" can be used at playtime, this is the sign that summer is here once again with its promise of the long evenings.

In 1919 there was a row of trees and a railing fence between the boys' playground and the gardens of Keston Road. Following complaints by the occupiers of the houses the trees were lopped in 1928. In 1937 they were found to be rotten and were replaced by two laburnums, one flowering almond and .two-copper beeches, of which the latter only have survived. The fence was replaced by the present brick wall surmounted by wire netting, at the cost of £258, and, at the request of the Headmaster, a gate was made in the fence between the "field" and Downhills Park for the convenience of pupils who live in the area north of the School.

In the words of one of the original members of the staff, "a school is not a building, as we all know that a good school can exist in the meanest of buildings. Neither is it the staff and the pupils in it. It is something spiritual which is the outcome of all three." The School building is compact and this must be partly responsible for the feeling of comradeship and friendliness among the pupils and the staff and between both which has, from the evidence in the testimonies of old scholars arid teachers, always existed in the past and exists today.

The School has had only two Headmasters. The place of the first Headmaster of a School is a very special one, and the responsibility resting on his shoulders is very great. The School was fortunate in its first Headmaster, Mr. F. O. Pinchbeck, who retired in July, 1932. He was regarded with great esteem and affection by his staff and the children. Every reference to him, both contemporary and reminiscent, makes this clear. "I believe the secret of his success was his uncanny knack of engaging the right staff and trusting them to get on with their jobs without too much interference. He was always approachable by teachers, parents and children. To the staff he was always very friendly and free but never lost any prestige through this. He was ready to jump with both feet, however, at any slackness. He was a very religious man. Nevertheless he was far from being narrowminded. At the Christmas parties he danced with the wildest. He was a man of great understanding, extremely generous, too. As soon as the first staff were appointed he called them to a meeting and, after explaining his plans, said: 'I have chosen you because you are the type of teacher I need and can trust and I am going to leave you very much alone. As long as I know you are doing your jobs I shall not put my oar in.' I believe these words had a profound influence on the future of the School." These are the words of one who was a colleague of Mr. Pinchbeck for thirteen years.

Under the direction of Mr. Pinchbeck the internal organisation of the School took shape. In the first four years the School was of two-form entry. In 1923, 112 children were admitted, making three forms in the first year, and in 1924 there was three-form entry again. In the next two years the entry was two-form again. This pattern was followed until at least 1930, and it appears that the purpose was to limit the number of classes to ten. There was no fifth form; some stayed on to prepare for Civil Service examinations and these were accommodated in a fourth year form.

Soon after the School opened, the House system was inaugurated. The four Houses of the School are named after the first members of the staff. The School badge was designed by Mr. Roberts; it depicts the water-tower, formerly the most prominent landmark in the district and recently demolished as being in a dangerous state and not worthy of preservation. At first the badge was worn in different colours, crimson on a blue background for Roberts, green on brown for Wilson, blue on orange for Mandall, yellow on blue for Semmons. These badges were home-made and stitched to the clothes. When the School uniform was adopted in 1925 the present colours of red and gold on a black background were introduced.

In February, 1920, some personal friends of the Headmaster presented a shield to be known as the House Shield and competed for annually, the factors governing its award to be efficiency and conduct. In June of the same year a banner worked by the students of the Hornsey Art School was presented by Mr. A. Burgess, of Cheshunt, the winner to be the House amassing most points in sporting competitions. The Shield and Banner were both won by Semmons in 1920, but Roberts seem to have gained a monopoly in the next few years.

On 1 October, 1920, a School tradition was established and recorded in the School Log Book in the following words: "The anniversary of the opening of the School. The children assembled in the Hall in the morning for the School Birthday celebrations. Mr.Linford (the Director of Education) was present, addressed the scholars and presented the School Shield and Banner to the winners, viz., Semmons House." This ceremony has taken place every year and follows the same pattern, the address now being given by the Borough Education Officer, who is traditionally the only guest, as being one of the family.

On 23 March, 1921, the first number of the School Magazine, "Reflections," appeared. For a short while four numbers were issued each year but this was later reduced to two. It sold at sixpence. Mr. Haber was the moving spirit behind the magazine until the war, being the teacher-editor, and under his direction a high literary standard was achieved. Mention should also be made of George Carpenter, the first pupil editor, who continued as an old scholar, and Cissie Woolley. An extract from the first editorial deserves a place here. "So, in conclusion, may we repeat our opening wishes that 'Reflections' may prove good company by the way and a sound counsellor at all times. Thus shall we, in the days to come, be able to retrace our steps at will and in its pages catch afresh the spirit of that fine freedom and friendship which now is ours." And so does the welcome to new entrants in the third issue. "We sincerely hope that they will be very happy; yet we, who are grown old in wisdom, would remind them that they will gain from the School just as much as they put into it."

July, 1923, provided another landmark in the history of the School, the first batch of leavers. Again we quote from "Reflections": "For the first time the full four years' course has been completed and those few - those happy few' who assembled as 'the School' four years ago are about to leave us. During their four years they have more than realised our wildest ambitions. They have created such a tone and set up such a standard that only the highest endeavour on the part of those who follow will enable records to be broken. "They have thrown themselves with enthusiasm into every side of school life and always by the sincerity and intensity of their efforts have they achieved success." In 1922 these leavers had been entered for the Cambridge University Local Examination and in 1923 the School Leaving Certificate. The results were such that the Headmaster received a letter from the Director of Education conveying the congratulations of the Education Committee to the Staff on the success of the School during its first four years. In the inter-war years the pupils of the "A" stream took the School Certificate at the end of the fourth year. The record of success is impressive, and the gratification and justifiable pride at the achievements of the Central Schools which they had founded is frequently seen in the Minutes of the Education Committee, for example in the following passage, referring to the Central Schools, in the Chairman's Report for 1925-1926. "Their list of Examination successes in 1925 was an astonishing one and afforded a clear proof that the foundations were solidly laid." Pupils of the School also achieved a considerable number of successes in the examinations of the Royal Society of Arts, the London Institute of Plain Needlework, the National Union of Teachers, and obtained several scholarships at the Hornsey School of Art. Not infrequently was the School awarded a day's holiday on the strength of its examination successes. An old member of the Staff records that "never in my time did the list of successes drop, and the School had many visitors from all parts of England to find out how such excellent results were obtained. To my mind such success was due to the excellence of the staff, the energy and eagerness of the pupils and, most important, the wonderful spirit which existed throughout the School."

The first batch of leavers determined to maintain their contact with the School and the Old Scholars Association was inaugurated on 23 July, 1923. Mr. Pinchbeck was the President and played a large part in working out the organisation. Mr. Haber supervised the Association, organising dances and social functions, and it was due to his work that, so early in its career, the Association produced, in April, 1924, "The Rivals." The "Tottenham Herald" reported that: "The play was the first public venture of the Association and received a great ovation. The costumes were elegant, the effects delightful and the stage arrangements admirable. The whole production was full of life and energy, it was a great triumph." The Association developed and sections were formed to cater for the interests of the members - tennis, cricket, cycling, art, netball, drama. From the capital built up the Association bought recreational equipment, and meetings were held every Thursday in the School. In 1929 the Education Committee gave permission for the erection of a shed on the field to store games equipment; it was removed in 1950. When war broke out the activities of the Association were suspended and its equipment was scattered.

In June, 1920, the first Annual School Sports was held and, in, September of the following year, the first Annual Swimming Gala. In 1921 the boys won the championship of the Schools Cricket League and in the following year the Football Cup. The girls won the Netball Cup in 1923. But the other schools felt that we had advantages because, although the age of entry was restricted, it was imposed at the beginning of the season and our pupils were more likely to stay right through the year. In the end we withdrew from district competition and entered the North East London Central School League, in which we more than held our own. This league was a war casualty and it has not been revived. In the 1920s an interesting series of matches was played with a Reading School. Two netball teams visited Reading and two Reading teams paid a return visit. The accounts in "Reflections" suggest that great social gains were achieved by these encounters. Inter-district events tend to have rather much of the "needle" element and it might be a good thing if sporting occasions without the incentive of a cup could be arranged today. Funds for games equipment had to be raised by a "Sale" in the summer term, when the Houses competed to raise money and everything saleable was sold.

In 1928, owing to the increase in population of North Tottenham due to additional housing, it became necessary to provide a new elementary school. Risley Central School was closed down, the pupils transferred to Down Lane Central School and the Risley building used for the new elementary school. Arising out of this, the Tottenham Education Committee suggested that the Middlesex County Council should take over the Central Schools and make available free secondary education for the children of parents who could not afford the fees of the Secondary (Grammar) Schools, which only offered a very limited number of free places. It seems probable that the Committee were hoping that Middlesex would extend the Central School idea, in which Tottenham had been one of the pioneers, on a scale larger than that which Tottenham could afford.

The team which started the School remained unbroken until 1931, when Mr. Semmons left to take up a post of Headmaster, and, when Mr. Pinchbeck retired in 1932, of the seventeen teachers who had joined the staff in the first four years, all but five were still serving in the School. Many of them had been attracted by the excitement of working in a school of a new type which was treated with special indulgence by the Education Committee and the Director of Education in respect of staff and equipment, and by the extra pay which was then attached. The enthusiasm thus generated was responsible for the success of the early days which has already been recorded. But as time passed and the staff grew older the first fine enthusiasm faded. They had stepped out of the main stream, and there are grounds for the belief that their prospects of promotion had suffered. In the series of financial and economic crises that characterised the inter-war period, education came up for punishment every time and, when Dr. Strong succeeded the first Director of Education at the time of the depression of 1931, staff, books, stationery and equipment were severely rationed and the Central Schools got nothing more than the others. Thus, by 1932, the School had reached a crisis in its development and the retirement of Mr. Pinchbeck had an unsettling effect, especially as there was an interregnum of some months before a new Headmaster was appointed.

On 17 October, 1932, Mr. N. S. Mercer became Headmaster and a period of calm consolidation ensued. The general organisation of the School remained substantially unchanged, but there was an extension of commercial training. Mr. Sawyer, who had joined the staff in 1923, had been teaching commercial subjects in Mr. Pinchbeck's time and, in 1933, arrangements were made for two parties a week to receive typing instruction at the Polytechnic (the Technical School).

In April, 1936, "Education Week" was held in Tottenham. Many of the staff of the School were active in organising various events but an entry in the Log Book for 15 May shows the other side of the picture. "The ordinary routine of the School was much disturbed from February onwards owing to preparation for Education Week."

It appears from H.M. Inspectors' Reports on the School in 1937 that there were then 410 children on roll; 93 were over 15 and 20 over 16 years of age. There were 11 classes and 16 assistant teachers.

In 1938 the international situation began to cast its shadow over the educational world. The first mention of evacuation appears in the Log Book on 23 September and the Headmaster had to attend several conferences during September and October. Hitler's seizure of Czechoslovakia in the spring of 1939 brought about further preparations and, on 18 May, a Saturday, the school was open for the registration of evacuees. But work continued as usual and a School Festival was held in July. The story of the last days of August is best related in the words of the Log Book.

25 August. Headmaster and Miss Ward present: crisis preparations began.
26 August. All staff present enrolling names for evacuation.
27 August. Sunday. As yesterday.
28 August. Practice evacuation. All staff and helpers present at 7.30 a.m.
29 August. Staff, evacuation children and some non-evacuation children present. Times 9-12 noon, 2-4.30 p.m. This was the nominal day for assembly after the Summer Holidays. Registers not entered.
30 August. As yesterday.
1 Sept. School evacuated to Cambridge.

Inevitably the outbreak of war arrested the development of the School and there were many casualties in September, 1939. The Old Scholars' Association ceased to function and did not recover life and spirit until 1952. The Magazine came to an end and has not yet resumed publication.

In these years before the war the conception of education by teachers, parents and public authorities was broadening. Schools made a great effort to interest parents in what they were trying to do, to explain their work to them and, to some extent, to try to bring them into partnership in the education of their children.At Downhills several exhibitions of the work of the scholars in the Arts and Crafts were held and, in 1937, a "Parents' Week," when 250 parents took advantage of the opportunity to see what the School was doing. Concerts were given. The success of the "Sales" held to raise money for games equipment depended upon the parents' support.

The custom grew up of holding a leavers' party. At first this seems to have taken place in the Summer term but, some time in the 1930s, it was changed to a Fourth Year Christmas Party, in which form it survives today.

Another innovation was foreign travel. In August, 1934, 66 boys and three teachers went to Scandinavia. At Easter, 1936, 18 children and two teachers went to Paris. The worsening international situation caused the suspension of this activity but, as will be seen, it was revived after the war.

These are examples of the ways in which the activities of one School indicate a broadening of the conception of education. But the most striking educational landmarks of the inter-war years did not affect the School, viz., the Hadow Report of 1926 concerning the reorganisation of elementary schools and the Education Act of 1936 which gave effect to many of the recommendations of the Report.

In the wider field, the period showed a great development in the school meals service, the medical inspection and treatment of schoolchildren, the provision of school milk, etc. The Tottenham Authority has always been in the fore in the encouragement of the Arts and, under the auspices of the Tottenham Schools' Music Association, an annual music festival was held in which all schools took part.

Wireless in schools became an accepted aid to education in the 1930s. In 1934 the Headmaster served as a member of the B.B.C. approval panel for the selection of receiving instruments for school use.

Another "aid" to education was provided by the Ship Adoption Society. The Headmaster was able to persuade the Education Committee to support the plan of the Society and to pay the affiliation expenses of any school that joined. Downhills adopted the "Beaverford," a cargo vessel of 10,000 tons owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway, trading between Hamburg, London and Montreal. The object of the scheme was to provide a link between the crew and the school which adopted the ship. Regular reports were received of the ship's progress and when it was in port members of the ship's crew would visit the School and children from the School would visit the ship.


In the previous chapter it was recorded that on 1 September, 1939, the School was evacuated to Cambridge. But this statement rather over-simplifies the event. Evacuation had been planned from the point of view of the Railway Companies getting children out of London. The School did not know its destination before hand and, when it started off, it did not know where it would finish up.

At Cambridge the School was accommodated in the buildings of the Central School, which were in the form of a hollow square with cloisters on the inside of the square. There were two schools in the building, a boys' and girls' Central School, and Downhills occupied a number of classrooms between the two schools, which varied between three and six according to requirements. The organisation of the School was maintained so far as circumstances would permit. About three-quarters of the School were evacuated and a number of the younger brothers and sisters of the Downhills pupils were in the party. Some of these were accommodated in a Roman Catholic School in Houghton Street and there was an Infants' Department at Newnham. A condemned School was opened to house West Green Infants and Junior Schools, and when the Heads of these Schools returned to London the Headmaster of Downhills took charge of them.

The chief problem was billeting. Normally, a large part of the population of Cambridge lives by letting rooms and when, at first, it was rumoured that the Colleges would not re-open, the lodging-house keepers were anxious to take children, but when it appeared that the town would be crammed they naturally preferred better-paying guests. The Headmaster relates that Miss Ward tramped the streets trying to find new billets for children until she returned to London to teach the Central School children who had returned.

Mr. Bullen worked untiringly making new time-tables as the numbers of children, teachers and rooms varied. The Headmaster states that he worked "pretty hard" himself, "round all the schools all day, on billets every night, church parade and correspondence all the weekend." The Cambridge Education Committee and its Director did everything possible to anticipate the needs of the evacuated schools and did their utmost to help.

The problems of evacuation seem to have received more consideration in Cambridge than in most other reception towns. At a meeting of child psychologists and social workers held in Cambridge in October, 1939, it was resolved to undertake an investigation. This was completed in the following July and the results published in January, 1941. (The Cambridge Evacuation Survey: a Wartime Study in Social Welfare and Education. Edited by Susan Isaacs, M.A., D.Sc. Methuen, 1941.) In explaining how the Survey came to be undertaken it is stated that "It so happened that a large Central School had been moved from Tottenham and that some members of the teaching staff were particularly interested in the scheme; indeed, if it had not been for the enthusiastic help of the teachers, it is doubtful whether the study could have ever been carried out at all, and every chapter in this book is evidence of their interest." The School referred to is Downhills and the Headmaster and one of the Assistant Masters, Mr. G. A. Bullen, joined the Research Committee and were part authors of the book. It was decided to confine the study to children from two London Boroughs, viz., 373 from Tottenham and 352 from Islington and, for an interesting account of the problems encountered, readers are referred to the book. For the purpose of this history it is interesting to record the conclusions that the health of the children had improved and that their relations with their teachers had become more intimate, trustful and confident. Although there had been a slowing down of academic learning there had been great gains in other directions, for example, in general outlook, outside interests and in self-reliance.

In the course of the investigation it was thought desirable to obtain direct evidence from the children, and each of the Downhills children was asked to write two essays: "What I Like in Cambridge" and "What I Miss in Cambridge." No previous notice was given but they were told that the purpose was to help them by giving them more of what they liked and by trying to supply what they had missed. Some very candid essays were produced. One boy of twelve wrote: "What I miss most in Cambridge is the thick fogs and fish and chips." A girl of twelve said that "I have all our meals with the maids and not with the lady of the house. The maids are very nice." A boy of fourteen said: "I like my brothers and sisters being at home and not messing up my belongings... I miss getting hidings from my dad when I get into trouble," and another of thirteen: "I like bedtime because I have a very big bed all to myself!" A girl of fourteen wrote: "Cambridge is also interesting because the people seem so different from the Londoners and some of them are most funny and dress very queerly." And this, by a girl of fifteen, is delightful and deserves to be quoted as written:

"When I first came to Cambridge at the end of August, I spent most of the time walking with my friends that's one thing I like, the open space that is good for walks. Sitting by the river watching the punts, fishing for the small fish that are in it. The School here, Cambridge Central School, in some respects is better than D.C.S. in Tottenham. The gym which is set out so good, with changing room and showers. On the other hand the cloisters which are all round the centre of the School are very cold. On Monday evening we are allowed to go to Newnham College where several students look after groups of us. For one evening a week I go dancing with some of my friends and have a lovely evening there. The shops here are rather good for shopping purposes and they are all built close together only it is a rather long way to walk every time I want to buy anything special. I like the concerts they have in the Guildhall especially one by Joan Metcalfe. On Armistice day I thought the students were good sports the way they dressed themselves up in different costumes and didn't mind when every one were laughing at them. The people of Cambridge were very kind when I first came to Cambridge. Cambridge is a very nice place but I shall be pleased when we are altogether once more in Tottenham and the war is over.

"One of the things I miss in Cambridge is when coming home from School in the evening if I'm not going to any school activities (e.g. Newnham College, etc.). I know that the evening will be spent as usual knitting and sometimes reading. When I'm home in Tottenham I often go out to tea to a friend or relation of mine and spend an evening with them. Over the weekends when I feel as if I'd like to stay in by the fireside the lady I'm billeted with generally expects us to go for a walk, and as it is almost wintry it is not very nice. I miss my relatives, parents, and friends who are in Tottenham. And often wish our foster mother wasn't so particular although she does that for our good, as she says."

The teachers, too, had their view about evacuation. "Too long was spent in perfecting the mechanics of evacuation while the personal problems of the evacuee were too often quickly dismissed from the mind." The rôles of home and school were reversed - "School was now their home." The words of one teacher are quoted:-

"There have been times when I have been unhappy. I have been grieved by the ingratitude I have seen and there have been times when I have doubted our resolution and will to endure, but in my quieter moments I have known that the gratitude outweighs the ingratitude and that the resolution is always to be found when the need for if is realised.

"I am still conscious of the pride with which we teachers received the children from their parents. Here was a compliment more real than any words could bring, and I believe that it marked the beginning of a new era of co-operation between parents and schools. I recall with pride the impression created by our youngsters.

"London for me holds little beyond my work and my friends. Now my work lies near to the countryside. The birds and the flowers are never far away, there's a freshness over everything and I am content."

It is fitting that this account of the evacuation should conclude by quoting the tribute paid to our hosts at Cambridge by the authors of the "Cambridge Evacuation Survey."

"In time of grave national crisis, a large number of the citizens of Cambridge have been willing to extend hospitality to other people's children; and have for the most part done so with kindness, with generosity and with a considerable degree of success."

From the very first, the children began to drift back from Cambridge. Indeed, one child was snatched from the ranks as the School was proceeding to Turnpike Lane Station. Not many weeks after evacuation a branch was established in the Education Offices under Miss Ward for the Central School children who had returned. The "Cambridge Evacuation Survey" states that the main reasons for the return of the children were home-sickness, parental anxiety, unsatisfactory foster-homes and finance. It seems strange that the unexpected absence of bombing in the early period of the war was not regarded as one of the main factors. The School Log Book records that, on 29 January, 1940, "Downhills Central School was reopened upon instructions received from the Director of Education. Mr. F. M. Abell (Headmaster, Downhills Junior Mixed School) in charge temporarily. The Staff, many recalled from the Reception area, Cambridge, is as follows: Mr. Larcombe, Mr. Hancock, Mr. Doggett, Mr. Mackay, Miss Ward, Miss Roberts, Miss Brown, Miss Davis. Seven forms, IV; IIIa, b; IIa, b; I.a, b." On 12 February, Mr. J. R. Bolitho, B.Sc., was appointed temporary Headmaster.

In May the war situation became critical with the German invasion of Scandinavia and the Netherlands. The Whitsun Holiday was cancelled and teachers recalled by wireless. All the staff and 72 children were present on 13 May. On 18 May an appeal was made for clothing for refugees.

In June a further evacuation plan was carried out and the School became an assembly point, for Tottenham. 32 children of the School were evacuated to Radyr, near Cardiff. The School was closed for nine days and was re-opened on 20 June with a staff of seven.

On 26 August the School re-opened under Mr. Mercer, who had returned from Cambridge, and thirteen members of the staff. Nearly all the Cambridge evacuees had returned; those that remained were absorbed into the Cambridge Schools. The Log Book for 27 August records: "Very poor attendance, especially in the morning, following an Air Raid warning during the previous night." This was the prelude to the Battle of Britain and the first bombing of London. Nearly all the entries in the Log Book between September, 1940, and May, 1941, are concerned with air raid warnings. When the bombing ceased in May the activities of the School began to widen. Many of these were connected with the War Savings movement and included Open Days, Parents' Meetings, School concerts and Old Scholars' dances. The School Savings records are impressive:-

12 September, 1941, War Savings Week £106
26 March, 1942, Warship Week (Target £300) £613
4 March, 1943, Wings for Victory week (Target £750) £2,331
31 January, 1944, Salute the Soldier Week £2,648
24 September, 1945, Thanksgiving Week £622

It was in 1941 that news was received that the School Ship, "S.S. Beaverford," had been sunk with all hands in action with a German Pocket Battleship on 5 November, 1940, in the North Atlantic, the same action in which the famous "Jervis Bay" was lost. A Memorial fund was started and raised about £150, most of which was given to the Dreadnought Hospital for Merchant Sailors. A small proportion was devoted to the provision of a Memorial in the Hall, which takes the form of a water colour of the "Beaverford," flanked by the Red Ensign and the House Flag of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. Underneath is a bronze plaque bearing the inscription:-

Our Ship,
Lost with all hands
in Action
5th Nov. 1940.

The Memorial was unveiled by Mrs. Pettigrew, the widow of the Master, in the presence of Alderman Morell, Chairman of the Education Committee, Dr. Strong, Director of Education, Captain R. N. Stuart, V.C., D.S.O., relatives of the crew and parents and scholars. A memorial service is held annually in November, to which relatives of the crew still come. Before the War, parties had often visited the Ship in London Docks and members of the crew had come to the School. During the War parcels and comforts had been sent. The School has adopted the new "Beaverford."

On 13 June, 1944, the raids by "Doodlebugs" and, later, "Rockets," began. On 16 June attendance dropped by 50 per cent. On 28 June, "bombs fell dangerously near and so children were kept in the shelters." During these days the children spent much of their time in the shelters and instruction was carried on in the best way possible. One of the classrooms was turned into a shelter, a look-out was posted on the roof and, when a flying bomb came in sight, he gave warning to the School. In the middle of this, ten children were taking their School Certificate examination (and seven of them passed). The Headmaster recalls that he wrote to the Director of Education asking him to make a strong room available for the examination. In the end the examination took place in the needlework room, a room of light wooden construction, and the candidates took shelter under their tables when missiles came near.

The Autumn term was heralded by what used to be known as an "incident." A flying bomb fell in Cornwall Road. The attendance was affected and the School slightly damaged." Nevertheless, all was not lost. On 4 September, "Mr Thomas, H.M.I., called to measure up the various rooms." The change to rockets is recorded on 31 October. "Explosions during the night." Not until 13 November are they called Rocket explosions. 9 January, 1945, must have been a very bad day, and one can imagine the Headmaster's feelings as he wrote: "Rockets during the night, snow all morning. In the afternoon play not taken and the School dismissed at 3.45 p.m." And, on 15 January: "Rockets and alert during the night. T.T. still very disorganised as four teachers are absent or have left." However, the end was near and the last record of an alert is 27 March, 1945. The warnings had been almost daily since 13 June of the previous year.

The end of the War in Europe, in May, 1945, did not, from all accounts, make a great change in the School routine. There were no special celebrations and the change-over took place slowly and unobtrusively as it did in the life of the nation.


An upheaval such as the country had undergone between 1939 and 1945 is bound to leave its marks on every aspect of the life of the community. In favourable circumstances it would have taken time to erase these marks, and the demands of a tense international situation have prolonged the inevitable period of unsettlement. To many people we are still living in a "post-war world". The schools bear their scars, and the main troubles of secondary schools were, perhaps, the lack of consecutive primary school education in their intake and the shortage of books. In a large number of cases the foundations were not stable enough to support a sound secondary education, while the tools to help make up the deficiency were not available. Even today the shortage of books is felt.

The chief feature of the post-war educational world has been the Education Act of 1944, which raised the school leaving age to 15 and laid down the principle of "Secondary Education for all." For the first time the Central Schools attained the status of "Secondary," although, since their inception, they had provided a type of education now regarded as secondary and the Act of 1944 caused no marked change of curriculum. The Act of 1944 has had one important effect upon Downhills. With the raising of the school leaving age there has been a change of public opinion towards education, and this, with the regulation that the new General Certificate of Education cannot be taken until the age of 16, has increased the tendency for children to stay at school for a fifth year. Before the war there was no fifth form, but one has now been firmly established, and at the beginning of the current year (1954) it numbered over 40. This development has had a marked influence upon the tone and standard of the School, and the standing of the fifth form at Downhills is comparable with that of the sixth form of a Grammar School.

In 1947 the School was reorganised into twelve forms with none having more than 30 on roll, in accordance with a Ministry of Education Order. But this did not last long. In recent years there has been an increase in the amount of commercial work and in the level of attainment reached in this department.

In 1949 a H.O.R.S.A. building (huts on raising school age) was erected in the playground. This is now the Geography room and is always referred to as "The Hut." Hot water was installed in the children's cloakrooms in 1953.

Since the War a number of new features have made their appearance in the School life, some of them of great significance.

In 1951 a Parent-Teacher Association was formed and the first meeting held on 15 March. Its aim is to bring parents into closer touch with the School so that they may discuss both general and particular educational problems with the teachers. The Association is represented on the Central Council of Tottenham Schools' Parent-Teacher Associations, which is fortunate enough to have a nominee serving as a co-opted member of the Education Committee. The Downhills Association has three aims.

  1. To bring parents into closer relationship with the School.
  2. By arranging conferences with the staff to promote the welfare of the pupils, and
  3. To organise meetings for the discussion of educational and kindred topics.

The programme and policy of the Association is in the hands of an Executive Committee on which is one parent representative of each year in the School and a representative of parents whose children have left. The Chairman of the Association is the Headmaster. In the four years of its existence lectures have been held on a variety of educational topics, a Social Evening has been held annually at Christmas time and several jumble sales have taken place from the proceeds of which the Association has presented to the School a printing press, a backcloth for the stage and football stockings for the team. The success of the Association has been due to the keenness of the members, the hard work of the Committee and the interest shown by the staff. Through contacts with the parents much has been learned by the teachers about the children, which has, in many cases, enabled them to solve problems and hitherto unexplained difficulties which they had encountered. But a great deal remains to be done. Those parents whose children would benefit most by the facilities offered by the Association and whom the teachers would most like to see do not come to the meetings. It is a problem which faces all schools; how to overcome it has not been worked out with any degree of success.

The Old Scholars Association was revived after the war on a modest scale. Its career was brought to an untimely end by a fog which obliterated a lavish dance upon which most of the Association's funds had been spent, and the calamity discouraged further activity for a time. But in 1951 an old scholar was appointed to the teaching staff and the Association was restarted. Old Students' dances have been held twice a year and, on 1 October, 1954, a dinner was held at which over 100 old scholars who entered the School before 1945 were present. The present intention is to form two sections, one for old scholars over 21 and another for the younger ones. The Association made a generous contribution to the printing press referred to in the previous paragraph. It is gratifying that so many old students, particularly the older ones, continue to take a practical interest m the School, and one of the most impressive occasions was a meeting of the Parent-Teacher Association at which six old scholars formed a panel and answered questions submitted by parents.

In 1949 a French Assistant was allocated to the School. French Assistants are teachers who come to England to increase their qualifications as teachers of English in French Schools. Their work on French oral instruction is invaluable and they provide the children with a window on to the world. Small celebrations are held on French National days and every Wednesday the School Assembly is conducted in French. French Assistants are rationed to approximately three years out of four.

London University Institute of Education sends students to the School for teaching practice. They come from all parts of the world; we have had students from America, West Africa and China, among other places, and what they gain from us is matched by the breath of the outside world that they bring in.

Foreign travel has become an annual event. At Easter, 1951, a party of pupils went to Faverges in the French Alps. In the following year a party went to Kandersteg in the Bernese Oberland of Switzerland. This was found to be such a popular centre and our relations with the hotel proprietor, Herr Reichen, were so cordial that further visits were made in 1953 and 1955. At Whitsun, 1954, a party went to Saalbach on the borders of the Austrian Tyrol. These holidays are strenuous. Most of the time is spent in walking expeditions, with one visit to a large shopping centre, where a variety of presents are bought. There must be a number of homes in Tottenham which are the proud possessors of musical boxes and cuckoo clocks. On the average these parties have numbered about thirty. On the last three occasions a film recording the visit has been made and shown at the School.

Dramatic productions have been put on regularly in recent years. In 1953 and 1954 ballad operas were presented, which "The Times Educational Supplement" hailed as pioneer works worthy of emulation. Of "Shipmates Ashore," the 1954 production, this Journal wrote:-

"... No one, not even in Italy, has made a serious attempt to write an opera that could be performed by schoolchildren alone.

"What does exist is either too hard or too sophisticated or too bad, or all three. Yet the time was never riper in England for such an attempt, with an opera-going public that is nowadays drawn from all walks of life, and with television's teeming, unseen watchers being even now introduced to the old form in a new guise.

"At least one school is not prepared to wait for the attention of serious composers. Last year Miss V. R. Davis presented a short piece of her own writing and composition, based on ballads, at Downhills Central School, Tottenham, where she is music mistress. This year she has repeated the experiment. Seven ballads and a traditional dance went into the making of her ingenious 'Shipmates Ashore,' and if the story is flimsy through being bent to the requirements of the ballads chosen, the work as a whole has great life, and it was obviously thoroughly enjoyed by all, on and off the stage, at the last of its three performances on 29 May.

"The young cast (in which the Boatswain was particularly accomplished) all knew their parts well and sang and acted with scarcely a trace of nervousness.... We know that the best of all ballad operas, 'The Beggar's Opera,' made Gay rich and Rich gay: might not such revivals of a forgotten form as Miss Davis's enrich and rejoice schools all over the country."

Also, in 1954, a programme of three historical plays was presented. The standard of acting, speaking and production was high, having regard to the inadequacy of the stage and the acoustics of the hall.

In the realm of sport the School has done particularly well since 1950. The Tottenham School Sports Championship was won by the boys for three years in succession, and the girls won the Sports Championship for the first time. Successes have also been achieved at the Swimming Gala and in football, net-ball and rounders.

The responsibilities placed upon the shoulders of the children as part of their training have been increased. Since 1950 the prefects have conducted the annual Harvest Festival Service, and the end of term concerts have been organised by the seniors. As part of their commercial training the seniors spend a week in the School Office, where they take telephone calls, learn office procedure and run messages, while jobs such as collecting dinner money, arranging attendance at medical examinations, etc., are given to children wherever possible.

The post-war years have seen an increase in the use of visual aids. The cine and the film strip projectors are in constant use. A Sound Mirror recording machine was purchased with the grant given to the School at the time of the Coronation of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II and is particularly valuable in the teaching of English and French pronunciation. The B.B.C. Broadcasts to Schools are listened to regularly.

School visits have been paid to the Houses of Parliament, the Imperial Institute, and places as far afield as Stratford-on-Avon and Canterbury.

The School is affiliated to the Council for Education in World Citizenship and parties have attended meetings on International affairs arranged by this body. Literature is regularly received on International and United Nations affairs.

This history will conclude with a short account of the organisation of the School in 1955. Children selected for the School are expected to stay for a four-year course; they may stay an additional year. In September, 1954, the number on roll was 433, the number of classes was 14, three in each of the first four years and two in the fifth year. The number of pupils in the fifth year was 45. The staff numbered 20, including the Headmaster.

The curriculum includes the usual subjects in the first three years, i.e., English, mathematics, French, history, geography, music, and religious instruction on the academic side, and science, house-craft, needlework, woodwork, art, and physical education on the practical side. In the third year the girls take shorthand and typing, the boys book-keeping, which entails a reduction in the time spent on practical subjects. In the fourth year technical drawing is introduced for some of the boys. In the fourth year there is some latitude in the timetable - some subjects may be dropped and extra time spent on others. Periods of private study are allowed, in which the children carry out on their own, but under supervision, work which has been set. This is an important part of the training in tackling a job and in only a few cases has it been abused. After the third year it is not practicable, owing to exigencies of time and accommodation, to do all the practical subjects that were taken in the first two years. Usually each class takes two of the practical subjects.

In the fifth year the pupils work to individual timetables. Some stay to sit for the ordinary level of the General Certificate of Education in any number of subjects up to eight; others stay to intensify their commercial training and to take the Royal Society of Arts examinations. Until recently these R.S.A. examinations were taken in the fourth year, but this has been stopped by Ministry of Education order. The staff are unanimous in thinking this order to be a mistake. The examinations served as a useful indication to those who would be likely to profit by a fifth year and, for the many who leave at the end of the fourth year, as evidence for a prospective employer, of the standard reached.

There is no streaming by forms. The forms are named after the letter of the room they occupy. The children are streamed for individual subjects. One may be in the "A" stream for mathematics, the "B" stream for English, and the "C" stream for French. In this way instruction is given to every child in each subject according to his ability. It makes the timetable more complicated but is considered to be worth the trouble.

The School has not returned to its pre-war condition; it never will. The war, for good or ill, swept away things that will never return. The keenness shown by the children toward their studies probably falls below pre-war standard, as does the care they take of their books and equipment. Standards of dress, too, are probably lower and this may be symptomatic of the age. On the other hand, the education is broader, the children are better equipped to deal with the problems of the world and have a greater understanding of that world than those before 1939. The relationship between teacher and pupil is even better than before the war. The children have their complaints, as do the staff, but these are soon forgotten. It is a happy community.



Mr. N. S. MERCER, B.A., B.Com. 1932
Miss V. R. DAVIS, L.R.A.M.






Mr. E. THOMAS, B.Sc.




Mr. F. H. BAKER, B.Sc.


Mr. G. P. COLE






Mr. H. C. DAVIS, M.A.


Mr. R. G. VOS, B.Sc.




(This date would seem to be wrong, as Ron Dolman has a school report, dated Summer '47, signed by Mr. Hoskins.)
Mrs. E. M. LEECH




Mr. G. A. ROWE


Mr. H. WIMBOBNE, M.A., Ll.B.




Mrs. L. M. HENFREY, M.A.


Miss C. L. CLARKE, B.Mus, L.R.A.M.


Mrs. J. DENMAN, School Secretary
Mr. MILLER, School-keeper


Mr. F. O. PINCHBECK, B.A. 1919-1932
Mr. N. S. MERCER, B.A., B.Com. 1932-


Headmaster, John Hampden Secondary School, Barnet.
Headmaster, Byng Road School, Barnet.
Girls' High School, Dorking.
Miss F. A. S. WARD
Died in 1930.
Headmaster, Risley Avenue Junior School, Tottenham.
Down Lane Central School.
Miss F. A. GRIGO
Left on marriage.
Headmaster, Down Lane Central School.
Headmaster, Crowland Secondary School.
Mr. G. A. BULLEN, B.Sc.
Chief Assistant, Minchenden Grammar School,
Left on marriage.
Girls' Secondary School, Grantham.
Headmaster, Belmont Secondary School.
Miss R. SAXE
Left on marriage.
Miss E. M. HAAS
Miss H. BROWN, B.A.
Headmistress, Parkhurst Secondary School.
Mr. P. M. GIBBONS, M.Sc.
Lecturer, Northern Polytechnic.
Central Foundation School for Girls.
Headmaster, Page Green School.
Headship in Dorset.
Belmont School.
Mr. W. W. ASHTON, B.Sc.
Headmaster, Seven Sisters Junior School.
District Organiser to the Central Council
of Recreative Physical Culture.
Mr. H. F. HEMSTOCK, B.Sc. (Econ.)
Head of Department, Hendon Technical College.
Mr. T. W. HANCOCK, B.Sc. (Econ.)
George Spicer Central School, Enfield.
Hendon Technical College.
Rowland Hill Secondary School.
Forest Training College.
Mrs. J. E. MURFITT, B.Sc. (Econ.)
Mr. L. T. DOGGETT, B.Sc.
Headmaster, Croyland School, Edmonton.
Down Lane Central School.
Mr. E. W. MARTIN, B.Sc. (Econ.)
Miss C. D. OAKLEY, B.A.
South Grove School.
Left on marriage.
Miss P. HANLON, B.A. 1945-1949
Mr. W. S. YATES 1945-1946
Mr. A. G. OAK 1945-1950
Headmaster, Crowland Secondary School.
Mrs. D. V. COMET
Down Lane Central School.
Chief Assistant, Bruce Grove Primary School.
Miss S. L. CODA
Chief Assistant in Staffordshire Junior School.
Whitelands Grammar School, Manchester.
Mr. A. M. McINTYRE 1951-????
Emigrated to Australia.