Talking heads: how has your school changed over the past 100 years?

For our 100th issue of IE, we asked five heads about the transformation of their schools over the past 100 years

“100 years ago, the school was recovering from losing 513 pupils in the First World War. The headmaster had spent all of his working life in the school and these boys, who included the son of the prime minister, had been his family. We live in happier times, but we hope that our values are steadfast. We still offer a unique education. We offer it to a wider and a more peaceful world. We offer it with the support of a greater bursary fund than ever before. Come to think of it, we weren’t so different in 1382 either.”

Dr Tim Hands, headmaster, Winchester College


“St Mary’s School is celebrating its 120th anniversary as the leading independent day and boarding school for girls aged four–18 in Cambridge. We no longer teach botany but do teach computer science and resistant materials! Acrylic paint has replaced water colour, and PE incorporates Zumba. Facilities include a new junior school and boarding house. Close associations with the University of Cambridge continue and we are currently in partnership with Homerton College to redevelop our sports facilities. Our school spirit has remained the same: we empower girls to aim high, follow their dreams and make a positive contribution to society.”

Charlotte Avery, headmistress, St Mary’s School, Cambridge


“100 years ago, Abingdon was a microcosm of today’s school. It was small – there were only 121 pupils including 50 boarders. These came from across Britain and from France, Spain, India, Japan and South America. The seven members of staff taught in 12 classrooms. Fees were £15 pa and 25% of places were free. Fast forward to Abingdon today and, although we are now a school of over 1,000 boys and our buildings look different, there’s little change. The academic focus remains strong as is the determination to broaden access, while boarding is integral and the cross-cultural benefits enormous.”

Michael Windsor, headmaster, Abingdon School


“In 1919, the King’s School Ely had 50 pupils, all boys and mostly boarders, aged 13 to 18. Gas-lit classrooms and cold water may seem primitive now but a new laboratory, art room, gymnasium and workshop had been all created within the previous decade. Today King’s Ely has 1,050 pupils, boys and girls aged one to 18, around 220 of whom are boarders. Home to two cathedral choirs, the school has a passion for holistic education and a reputation for innovative practice. Now we have a palace as our centre of gravity but still a cathedral stands symbolic of the way we interact within and beyond our community, and of the joy of friendship born of shared experience.”

Sue Freestone, principal, King’s Ely


“Ipswich High School is unrecognisable from the school it was 100 years ago! Twenty-five years ago, we moved from an Ipswich town centre building to idyllic Woolverstone Hall with an 87-acre campus. Some of our most momentous changes have happened over the past 18 months as we went from being a girls’ school to welcoming boys via the innovative Diamond Model. This year, we will offer boarding after 141 years as a day school. I am proud to say that while the school has undergone huge changes, the enthusiasm and happiness of our pupils has remained a constant characteristic of our unique community.”

Oona Carlin, head, Ipswich High School

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