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History lesson

Job-No.-0000-c.1965-St-Barnabas-Boys-School-1-e1512410186902St Barnabas School for Boys, circa 1965

In the second of a series of articles marking Woodbridge High School’s 85th anniversary year, headteacher Steven Hogan reflects on the school’s history and former headteachers

Woodbridge High School first opened its doors as two separate schools: St Barnabas School for Boys and St Barnabas School for Girls in 1937. The two schools then merged to become the co-educational Woodbridge High School in September 1972, making  this academic year the 85th anniversary of schools on the site, and the 50th anniversary of Woodbridge.

The first headmaster of the boys’ school (first called South Woodford Senior Boys’ School, then renamed St Barnabas) was Colonel Branston. All the evidence points to Colonel Branston being a man of strict discipline, who ran the place with military precision. The punishment book tells us the kind of punishment those who crossed him endured: smoking, stealing apples and even a lewd comment on the telephone earned strikes on the hand and the seat from his cane. The first head of the girls’ school was Mrs Rutherford, and we can see far fewer punishments in her book.

The 1944 Butler Education Act had seen the introduction of compulsory secondary education to the age of 15. It also established the tripartite system of education, which for the St Barnabas Schools confirmed their function as secondary moderns. In the school log we can see records of pupils who the school felt could achieve O levels being put forward for 14-plus entry to local grammar schools, such as Wanstead County High.

In 1965, the new boys’ school opened on what had been the school field, and responsibility for the schools passed from Essex to the newly formed London Borough of Redbridge when the Greater London Council was formed. The girls’ school remained in the original building, which had been split into two across the middle, sharing the halls (which are now all carved up) between the two of them.

The 1970s, 1980s and 1990s saw the school work hard to provide the best possible education for young people from the area, despite the reputation gained from being a former secondary modern and having a grammar school in the catchment area. Mr Duke, the famous headteacher from the 1970s and 1980s, who by all accounts was a scary person to meet in a dark alley, was succeeded by Barbara Haigh in the early 1990s. Mrs Haigh began the long journey to improve standards of education and behaviour.

After Mrs Haigh’s retirement in 2002, Andrew Beaumont took over and oversaw a massive expansion of the school from eight-form entry to 10-form, including a new building. I pay tribute to my predecessors for laying the superb groundwork for all that we have been able to achieve since I took over as headteacher in 2018.


Woodbridge High School is located on St Barnabas Road in Woodford Green. For more information, call 020 8504 9618 or visit woodbridgehigh.co.uk

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