Below is a brief history of the development of schooling in the local area. You can find out more about education in Walthamstow by clicking here.

The Earliest Schools 

woodford_green_board_school_1891_smallBefore the coming of the railway, the main area of settlement in the area that we now call ‘Highams Park’ was at Hale End around the triangular junction of Hale End Road and Oak Hill. In the mid 19th century, there was only one school of any size locally; this was Hale End National Infants’ School. The school existed as far back as 1840 and had 44 pupils at one stage.  It was situated in a cottage near the Royal Oak public house but had closed by 1867. In the mid 19th century, Hale End was a rather isolated corner of the parish of Walthamstow.  Any children who continued their schooling after infant school in this period would have gone to either the Woodford Green National School in Sunset Avenue (opened 1903, closed 1946, demolished 1958) or St. Mary’s National School in Church End (opened 1819, now a spiritualist church).  

Education after the 1870 Education Act 

The great changes that occurred to education in England during the late 1800s were due to the passing of a number of key education acts.  The first of these was the Elementary Education Act of 1870.  This act required partly state-funded board schools to provide elementary (primary) education when other provision was inadequate.  These ‘board’ schools however, were fee paying. 


The Elementary Education Act of 1880 made education compulsory from the ages of 5 to 10 the Free Education Act of 1891 made the state responsible for the paying of fees and the act of 1893 raised the school leaving age to 11 then later to 13.  Acts in the 1890s made school boards responsible for the provision of schools for blind and deaf children.  In 1900, higher elementary schools were established and under the Balfour Education Act of 1902, local education authorities took over from school boards. 

The Walthamstow School board was formed as a result of the 1880 act.  It was a far-sighted organisation and by 1902, it provided places for 16,150 children in: 13 permanent schools, 2 temporary schools and 2 special schools.  The Walthamstow board also established a pupil-teacher centre and 6 evening education centres; George Monoux Grammar School was reorganised and there was an art school, technical school and a girls’ high school. 

As part of the 1902 Balfour reforms, Essex County Council was responsible for secondary education and Walthamstow Urban District Council became responsible for all elementary education. It was during this period of change and reform that the Selwyn Schools were built.

Selwyn Schools


The Great Eastern Railway had come to Hale End in 1873 and house building followed. By the turn of the century, the fields once owned by Wadham College, Oxford had been built over as the Wadham Farm Estate. There was now on the west side of the railway line, and urban development of terraced houses and a need for new school places. The development of the Beech Hall Estate just after the turn of the century also meant that the building of the Selwyn schools was vital for the new inhabitants of Highams Park and Hale End.


Selwyn Avenue Senior Mixed School opened on the 11th of April 1904. The boys’ school was at the far end of Selwyn Avenue, the girls’ school was nearer to the junction with Haldan Road and the mixed infants’ school was on Cavendish Road. It was enlarged in 1912 and a girls department added.  In 1946 it was reorganized for juniors and infants.

Mr H.J.Ryder, Headmaster of Selwyn in 1937 shown in the photo holding the dog, went on to become the first Headmaster of Sidney Burnell in 1940.

Private Education


Although the history of the schools in Highams Park and Hale End was affected by the legislation passed in the 1800s and the urban development at the turn of the century, there were also a number of small private schools and ‘dame’ schools. Miss Fanny Hickman ran one of the better-known dame schools at the turn of the century. She rented All Saints’ church hall for younger children and older children were educated at her house at 31, Handsworth Avenue. There was also a school called Warner College; this was situated at number 9, The Avenue, but it closed in 1939. Eureka School was at 41, Falmouth Avenue behind a 1920s bungalow. The children were taught in a large outbuilding in the back garden; this school existed until after the war. Miss Muddiman’s school at 121 The Avenue was known as The Highams Park Private School and educated a number of local children until as recently as the 1970s.

The First Special Schools

josephclarkeWalthamstow School Board was quick to respond to the legislation requiring the provision of special education. Joseph Clarke School was originally opened in 1918 in Walthamstow but moved to its present site in Vincent Road in 1972. Brookfield House School for physically disabled children had its origins in the school for children at Brookfield Orthopaedic Hospital, Oak Hill. The present school was opened in 1964 in a new building in the former hospital grounds.

Read more by clicking on History of Highams Park school.

With thanks to the Highams Park society where most of this information originated.

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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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