To read about the development of education in the local area pre-1940 please go to the page called Education in the Local Area.  

The birth of Highams Park School


Sidney Burnell School (the original name of Highams Park school) was opened on the 20th May 1940 for infants through to senior children of 14; there had been a great number of houses built during the 1930s and new school places were needed in Highams Park. According to the headteacher's handwritten log the opening entry says it was known as school number 26, and is referred to as Handsworth Avenue school. Click here to see this log entry and other documents. When it was officially called Sidney Burnell is not clear although it was named after Sidney Burnell, the Chief Education Officer for the Borough of Walthamstow during the 1920s. In the late 1940s, after the passing of the 1944 Education Act,  Sidney Burnell became a secondary modern senior school and served the majority of children in the locality.

The 1944 Education Act meant that all secondary education became free to children in England. The act was introduced by the Conservative politician Rab Butler and established the tripartite system of secondary education. In Highams Park this meant that at aged 11, schoolchildren either went to one of the two grammar schools: Woodford County High or Sir George Monoux; a technical school such as McEntee or secondary modern such as Sidney Burnell or Chapel End.


Highams Park district

HighamsHouseThe district takes it name from the parkland that belonged to the Highams Manor House that now is home to the London Borough of Redbridge girls school, Woodford County High School for Girls.The parkland that belonged to the house was landscaped by the renowned 18th century landscape designer Humphry Repton.

Highams House was originally an elegant Georgian manor house containing kitchens connected to the room above by a dumb-waiter.  Food was taken to the dining-room through an adjoining door.  There was a ballroom, library, chapel, living rooms, bedrooms on the first floor and at the top of the house were the servants’ quarters. There was a stable-block and yard, vegetable garden, orchard, rose garden, tennis court and a park sloping down towards the lake. The house was used as a military hospital during the First World War and the original manor of Highams can trace its roots back to 1066.

The lake was formed by the landscape gardener Humphry Repton who created it by damming the River Ching and was eventually sold to the Corporation of London in 1891. The grounds covered 16 acres, and included the roads between Highams Park Lake and Chingford Lane that are now: Charter Avenue, Henry’s Avenue, Crealock Road and & Nesta Road (built in the early 1930s).

Education from the 1960s to the 1980s

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In 1965 the London Borough of Waltham Forest was created from the Essex county boroughs of Chingford, Walthamstow and Leyton. As part of the new educational mood of the time, the education committee decided to implement a comprehensive system in the borough in 1968. This meant that Sidney Burnell School became a "senior high" comprehensive school and we think it was renamed Burnell School, although it may simply have been known as Burnell High but was still officially named as Sidney Burnell High School. As a senior high school it took pupils from the ages of 14 through to 18. Heathcote, Chapel End and later Rushcroft acted as feeder "junior high" schools for the children of Highams Park. In or around 1974 the name changed again to the now familiar Highams Park School.

From the 1980s to the present day 

Waltham Forest was one of the few local authorities in the country to adopt the 11-14 and 14-18 system of organising comprehensive education. This model of secondary schooling was not a success and by the mid 1980s there were moves to change the local system again. Highams Park School was reorganised yet again and became an 11-16 comprehensive school opening in September 1986.


Grant Maintained status

On 1st September 1991 (see school's grant manitained charter shown right with a larger version shown on the school photos page) the school became a Grant Maintained school with more freedom from the Local Education Authority and as part of this new found freedom it reinstated a 6th form and so educated local children from the ages of 11-18 again. Highams Park remained a grant maintained school until government changes to schools' legal status ended grant maintained status in 1999.

Specialist school status

tech_sports_edited-1In 1997 Highams Park School became the first school in Waltham Forest to be granted specialist school status as a Technology College under the government initiative known as specialist schools. Subsequently its success has gone from strength to strength and in 2007 the government designated the school as a High Performing Specialist School. As an HPSS, Physical Education was added to the schools specialisms, making it a combined specialist Technology and Sports College.

Voluntary Aided status

On 1st September 1999, in response to a government reorganisation of school governance categories that included the abolition of grant maintained status, Highams Park became a Voluntary-Aided school. Being a Voluntary-Aided school meant that the governors could continue to run the school as autonomously as possible supported by a private charitable foundation.

Academy Status

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On the 1st October 2011 the school's status changed again and the school became an Academy, the first secondary school in Waltham Forest to do so. This allowed the school to re-gain many of the freedoms it used to have as a grant maintained school. As an Academy the school was no longer maintained by the local authority, Waltham Forest, or subject to its control, but instead entered into a funding agreement directly with the government's Department of Education. The school is run and governed by a charitable trust, the Highams Park Academy Trust, set up specifically for the benefit of the school.


Headmasters / Headteachers / Principals

mortarboardWe believe there have been nine Headmasters / Headteachers / Principals since the school opened in 1940. What is not clear is the dates for each headship. Below is what we know / think the dates are. More definite, preferably documentary evidence would be much appreciated for some of the entries. Please click on this link, Answers please if you can shed any light on these matters.

You can view more information about the Headmasters / Headteachers / Principals on this separate webpage.

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Key Dates in History

Copyright 2019  Highams Park School.
Highams Park Academy Trust is a charitable company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales with registered number 07738801
[and VAT registered number 119-0793-09] and whose registered office is at Highams Park School Handsworth Avenue, Highams Park, London, E4 9PJ.
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