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."
"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
(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,"
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.
N. S. MERCER.
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
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.
CHAPTER ONE - THE DEVELOPMENT OF CENTRAL SCHOOLS AND THEIR PLACE
IN THE EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM
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:
- The new Secondary (Grammar) Schools drew off children who would
have gone to the Higher Grade Schools.
- Some of the Higher Grade Schools became Secondary (Grammar)
- 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
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.
CHAPTER TWO - THE FORMATIVE YEARS
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- These schools should commence after the summer holidays.
- At the commencement only first year pupils should be admitted.
- 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.
- 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
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'
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
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.
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.
CHAPTER THREE - THE PRE-WAR 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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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.
CHAPTER FOUR - EVACUATION AND THE WAR
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
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
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:-
Lost with all hands
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
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.
CHAPTER FIVE - AFTER THE WAR
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
- To bring parents into closer relationship with the School.
- By arranging conferences with the staff to promote the welfare
of the pupils, and
- To organise meetings for the discussion of educational and kindred
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
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
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
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
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.
STAFF OF THE SCHOOL AT SEPTEMBER, 1954
| Mr. N. S. MERCER, B.A., B.Com.
| Miss V. R. DAVIS, L.R.A.M.
| Mrs. M. T. PARKER
| Miss F. M. RAINES
| Mr. E. THOMAS, B.Sc.
| Mrs. S. A. MARTINEZ
| Mr. F. H. BAKER, B.Sc.
| Mr. G. P. COLE
| Miss B. G. BROOKER
| Miss E. A. ALLINSON
| Mr. H. C. DAVIS, M.A.
| Mr. R. G. VOS, B.Sc.
| Mr. F. E. HOSKINS
| (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. R. GREGORY, B.A.
| Mr. G. A. ROWE
| Mr. H. WIMBOBNE, M.A., Ll.B.
| Mr. D. A. DEIGHTON
| 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
HEADMASTERS OF THE SCHOOL (to 1954)
| Mr. F. O. PINCHBECK, B.A.
| Mr. N. S. MERCER, B.A., B.Com.
STAFF OF THE SCHOOL SINCE 1 OCTOBER, 1919 (to 1954)
| Miss M. L. MANDALL
| Miss F. A. WILSON
| Mr. W. M. ROBERTS
Headmaster, John Hampden Secondary School, Barnet.
| Mr. W. W. SEMMONS
Headmaster, Byng Road School, Barnet.
| Mr. W. M. OLDLAND
| Miss M. BRANDER
Girls' High School, Dorking.
| Miss F. A. S. WARD
| Mr. H. S. BOURNE
Died in 1930.
| Mr. D. G. M.ROBSON
Headmaster, Risley Avenue Junior School, Tottenham.
| Miss O. E. BEAUCHAMP
Down Lane Central School.
| Miss F. A. GRIGO
| Miss E. L. WRAITH
Left on marriage.
| Mr. G. H. POLLEY
Headmaster, Down Lane Central School.
| Mr. H. HABER
Headmaster, Crowland Secondary School.
| Mr. G. A. BULLEN, B.Sc.
Chief Assistant, Minchenden Grammar School,
| Miss M. L. McCONACHIE
Left on marriage.
| Mr. E. C. SAWYER
| Miss I. CLEGG
Girls' Secondary School, Grantham.
| Mr. W. J. LARCOMBE
Headmaster, Belmont Secondary School.
| Miss R. SAXE
Left on marriage.
| Miss E. M. HAAS
| Miss J. ROBERTS
| Miss H. BROWN, B.A.
Headmistress, Parkhurst Secondary School.
| Mr. P. M. GIBBONS, M.Sc.
Lecturer, Northern Polytechnic.
| Miss A. M. ANDERSON
Central Foundation School for Girls.
| Mr. G. B. BARRATT, B.A.
Headmaster, Page Green School.
| Miss D. M. OSBORNE
Headship in Dorset.
| Miss H. V. McDONALD
| Mr. W. W. ASHTON, B.Sc.
Headmaster, Seven Sisters Junior School.
| Mr. C. A. WIGGINS
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.
| Miss M. A. L. SCULTHORPE, B.A.
Hendon Technical College.
| Mr. E. H. EAMES
Rowland Hill Secondary School.
| Mrs. BERESFORD-COOKE
| Mr. G. STANLEY
Forest Training College.
| Mrs. J. E. MURFITT, B.Sc. (Econ.)
| Mr. L. T. DOGGETT, B.Sc.
Headmaster, Croyland School, Edmonton.
| Mr. H. H. TREGENZA
Down Lane Central School.
| Mr. E. W. MARTIN, B.Sc. (Econ.)
| Miss C. D. OAKLEY, B.A.
South Grove School.
| Miss C. F. FRANKLIN
Left on marriage.
| Miss P. HANLON, B.A.
| Mr. W. S. YATES
| Mr. A. G. OAK
| Mr. M. A. LANGDELL, B.Sc.
Headmaster, Crowland Secondary School.
| Mrs. D. V. COMET
Down Lane Central School.
| Mr. B. BROOKE
Chief Assistant, Bruce Grove Primary School.
| Miss S. L. CODA
Chief Assistant in Staffordshire Junior School.
| Miss A. E. DAWSON
Whitelands Grammar School, Manchester.
| Mr. A. M. McINTYRE
| Mrs. D. E. MEADOWS
Emigrated to Australia.