Woolwich Polytechnic School
|Headteacher||Mr Byron Packer|
|DfE URN||100187 Tables|
The founding of Woolwich Polytechnic
Woolwich Polytechnic School for Boys has its roots in the Polytechnic movement of the late 19th century. These polytechnics, of which Woolwich was the second, were set up with the aim of educating and 'improving' adult members of the working classes.
Quintin Hogg, a successful London sugar merchant and philanthropist, had been involved in the ragged school movement for many years, but in 1871 focused his efforts on forming an Evening Institute for those at work in the day. This was to approach the whole person, both by education, but also by moral example, giving access to alcohol induced meetings, opportunities for physical activities and enriching debates. There was a strong evangelical Christian input in these aims. Hogg’s early aims were realised by the establishment of the Regent Street Polytechnic, which was set out to improve the whole person.
An early student at the Royal Polytechnic Institution at Regent Street was Francis (Frank) Didden. In 1884 Didden moved to Woolwich to take up a job as a fitter at the Royal Arsenal. He also had a burning ambition to set up a Polytechnic in the Woolwich.
In 1884 Woolwich had a population of about 34,000 people, many of whom were employed as engineers at the Royal Arsenal, or the other large factories in the area. Despite its industries Woolwich had many slums, drunkenness was widespread, and many jobs offered little or no real security. For many people a lack of education and dissolute habits prevented them from “getting on”. Didden saw a polytechnic as a way forward, and in 1886 he asked Hogg for support. Hogg’s reply is illuminating.
“You certainly require, as a minimum, a gymnasium, a few class rooms, a reading room and a coffee bar, besides some small hall where meetings can be held.”
Didden campaigned passionately, and in 1890 T.A. Denny, a Woolwich bacon merchant, provided most of the £1,000 needed to buy a house in William Street, (now Calderwood Street). Woolwich Polytechnic had its foundation. It grew rapidly. In 1891 it offered 38 courses to 504 students. In 1892 there were 80 courses offered to nearly 800 students. True to Hogg’s model, Didden ensured that there was a very strong sporting and social side to attract and reform the habits of members.
The founding of the school
Woolwich Polytechnic founded a number of day schools and junior technical schools, partly in response to the fact that much of its premises was left empty during the day as much of the teaching and activities took place in the evenings. Woolwich Polytechnic Junior Technical School for Boys, was established in 1912 to train boys for jobs at engineering works. Accordingly, the school is now a specialist in technology. The School became the responsibility of London County Council in 1956, as Woolwich Polytechnic Boys School.
In 1974 the Poly was reorganised as a six-form entry comprehensive school spread over two sites. Years 1 and 2 (now 7 and 8) remained in MacBean Street, while the Upper School occupied the premises of the old Woolwich Central School in Sandy Hill Road.
In 1997 the school was designated a Technology College. The school maintained a presence in Woolwich up to 1999 when the Upper and Lower Schools were combined on the premises at Thamesmead, previously home to Waterfield school. The Upper school site was turned into a modern apartment complex, the Lower school site currently stands empty, the buildings having been demolished.
Over a number of years the school has gained a good reputation for the quality of its pastoral care. Until the re-formation of its sixth form in 2011, it was (at 8 forms of entry) the largest all-boys 11-16 comprehensive in England. Exam results have improved dramatically in recent years and the Poly was the most improved Boy's school in England in 2010.
Each year, the school elects a Head Boy, a Deputy Head Boy, a Head Girl and a Deputy Head Girl. They are the representatives of the student body and are handed out responsibilities throughout the academic year. An interview is usually held by the head of the sixth form and at a latter stage, the whole school will vote after each candidate has given their respective speeches. As of the 2012/13 academic year the school decided to elect a Head Boy, two Deputy Head Boys & a Head Girl. Appointed to assist them are sixth form prefects. Although the ultimate authority rests on the shoulders of the Head Boy, the deputies and the Head Girl, a Senior Prefect is appointed to head the group of sixth form prefects.
Woolwich Polytechnic was inspected by OFSTED in October 2011 and was judged as OUTSTANDING. The school got top marks in 21 out of 24 indicators on the report. Poly's Got Talent was performed by many talented boys, recently on Friday 3, February, 2012.
Notable former pupils
- David Bolarinwa, sprinter
- Terence Boston, Labour Party politician
- Lee Murray, convicted bank robber; professional Mixed Martial Artist
- Micky Finn, Drum & Bass/Jungle DJ