Dame Alice Owen's School

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"Dame Alice Owen's" redirects here. For the person, see Alice Owen.
Dame Alice Owen's secondary school
The school's logo.
Motto In God is all our trust.
Established 1613 (1613)
Type Partially selective academy
Religion None[1]
Headteacher Mrs Hannah Nemko
Deputy Head Currently vacant (as of October 2016)[citation needed]
Chair of Trustees Peter Martin[1]
Founder Dame Alice Owen
Location Dugdale Hill Lane
Potters Bar
Coordinates: 51°41′27″N 0°12′26″W / 51.69076°N 0.20719°W / 51.69076; -0.20719
DfE number 919/5407
DfE URN 136554 Tables
Ofsted Reports
Staff 190 (as of November 2015)[2][better source needed]
Capacity 1416[1]
Students 1472[1]
Gender Mixed
Ages 11–18
Colours          Red and black
Publication The Arrow
Website Dame Alice Owen's

Dame Alice Owen's School is a mixed secondary school and sixth form with academy status located in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, England. It was founded in what is now the London Borough of Islington.



Lady Owen's School, Islington. Wood engraving, 1840.

The school was founded in 1613 by Dame Alice Owen and has maintained many unique traditions from that time, such as the giving of a small amount of "beer money" to every pupil. The gift is now a limited edition five pound coin in mint condition, having previously been beer,[3] a reminder of the school's long-standing close association with the brewing industry and the Worshipful Company of Brewers.[4][5]

Having narrowly missed being struck by a wayward arrow in Islington, earlier in her life, while milking a cow, Dame Alice Owen founded a school – originally for 30 boys – to thank God for saving her.[6][better source needed] Arrows feature prominently on the school's crest, which is in itself largely identical to the crest of the Worshipful Company of Brewers; other motifs include barrels and hops.

By the death of her third husband in 1598, Mistress Owen was left free to carry out her long-cherished plans. On 6 June 1608, she obtained a licence to purchase at Islington and Clerkenwell eleven acres of ground, whereon to erect a hospital for ten poor widows, and to vest the same and other lands, to the value of £40 a year, in the Brewers' Company. The site had previously been known as the 'Ermytage' field.[citation needed] There she erected a school, a free chapel, and almshouses, on the east side of St. John Street, which stood till 1841. Three iron arrows were fixed in to one of the building's gables, as a memorial of the childhood event previously described. By indentures dated in 1609, she gave to the Brewers' Company a yearly rent-charge of £25, in support of her almshouses. On 20 September 1613, she made rules and orders for her new school. She had, by her will dated 10 June 1613, directed the purchase of land to the amount of £20 a year for the maintenance of its master.[7]

19th century[edit]

By 1830, the value of the trust estates in Islington and Clerkenwell had grown to £900 a year. In 1841, the school and almshouses were rebuilt, at a cost of about £6,000, on a new site in Owen Street, Islington, a little distance from the old.

On 14 August 1878, a new scheme obtained the royal assent, by which the school of Alice Owen was expanded into two — one for about three hundred boys, and the other for the like number of girls.[7] The latter school was built in 1886.[8]

Grammar school[edit]

The schools were evacuated to Bedford during World War II, during which the buildings were badly damaged. On 15 October 1940, around 150 people were sheltering in the basement of the girls' school when a parachute mine hit the building, causing a pipe to flood the basement and killing most of the occupants. A new building was erected in the early 1960s, replacing temporary buildings. The main buildings of the boys' and girls' schools facing each other across the boys' school playground, were located in Goswell Road, Islington, and eventually merged as a single school.

Comprehensive school at Potters Bar[edit]

In 1973 the school relocated to its current location in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire. The former boys' school building has now been demolished, but the girls' school building is now part of the City and Islington College. On 2 November 1990, the Duke of Edinburgh visited the school. On 25 November 1997, the Princess Royal opened a new languages centre. Earlier the same year, Arsenal Football Club tried to place a group of its talented youngsters at the school, with a £250,000 'gift', but the school refused saying it would not drop its academic standards, even though George Graham's children went to the school. The Arsenal youth team eventually went to Highams Park School.

400th Anniversary (1613–2013)[edit]

The school's quatercentenary was celebrated in 2013.


To commemorate the occasion, their 400th Anniversary Committee, headed by Old Owenian Gary Kemp (Spandau Ballet performed their first gig in the dining room in Potters Bar), have already set up significant events for the whole school community to take part. Sir Alan Parker, film director, producer, writer and actor (also an Old Owenian) will be directing a Celebration Concert at the Royal Albert Hall, on Tuesday 23 April 2013, with the school's own Concert Band, Symphony and Chamber Orchestras, Junior and Senior Soul Bands, Junior and Senior Choirs (as well as including possible performances by members of Spandau Ballet) and a Thanksgiving Service will be held at St Paul’s Cathedral on Tuesday 30 April 2013. A 1-by-2 metre cake was made at the school for all the staff, students and parents, to kick off the year's celebrations.

A programme of various sporting occasions, a specially written drama production and a 400th Summer Ball on Saturday 13 July 2013 were to take place during the year, ending with a Carol Service at St Albans Cathedral on Monday 16 December 2013. Old Owenians could keep in touch with what was happening by joining the school’s 400th Anniversary emailing list, which now has over 2,000 past students, staff and governors signed up for alerts to their 400th quarterly newsletter.

400th Anniversary Appeal[edit]

In conjunction with the celebrations, a 400th Anniversary Appeal was also set up, to raise £1 million towards a new science building on the school’s 1970s site. It was launched in February 2011 at Portcullis House, Westminster, with Lord Robert Winston as the keynote speaker, Dr Alan Davison (the then headteacher), joined Edward Guinness CVO, James Clappison MP and Emily Thornberry MP in outlining the ambitions of the school’s new project. Patrons included Lord Lingfield, Sir Alan Parker and Sir Terry Leahy, as well as David J. C. MacKay, Chief Scientific Advisor to the Department of Energy, also supported the project and endorsed the school’s commitment to providing outstanding facilities for students studying science. The appeal's chairman was Gary Kemp, who said that the school needed "our help to continue to support those talented students who will be the scientists of tomorrow".[9]

List of headteachers[edit]

This is a partial list of the headteachers of the modern and former schools.

Headteachers of the Partially-selective Mixed School[edit]

Headmasters of the Boys' School[edit]

  • G.F. Jones 1963– (he later became the headteacher of the modern, mixed school; see above)
  • E.H. Burrough 1955–62
  • Walter Garstang 1948–1954
  • Oliver Mitchell 1939–48 (also an Old Owenian, then head of Royal Grammar School, Newcastle from 1948–60)
  • Rev Harry Asman 1929–39
  • Edwin England 1927–29
  • Robert Cholmeley CBE 1909–27
  • James Easterbrook 1881–1909
  • William Smith 1666–1678 (dismissed due to alleged involvement in the Popish Plot[citation needed])
  • William Leske 1613–1614


The trustees of the Dame Alice Owen Foundation are the Worshipful Company of Brewers. It is more commonly known as Owen's, and is also abbreviated as DAOS. In terms of exam results, the school has been one of the best state-school schools in the country for some time now, with over 95% of students receiving 10 A*–C grades. The school has appeared in Tatler's good school guide.

The school is also partially selective by means of an entrance examination. 32.5% of places are offered based on academic ability and 5% for musical ability, with a further 10% of places reserved for children living in Islington. Students are drawn from a wide area and the school is heavily over-subscribed.[10]

It is situated in the south of Potters Bar, just north of the M25, and within earshot of the South Mimms services, near to the west and near to Bridgefoot Lane. It inhabits a number of undeveloped fields, playing grounds and forests. It also has a lake that contains fish. Although this lake is officially out of bounds most the time, students are rarely punished for visiting it. However, during winter when the lake freezes over there may be serious consequences for students found ice skating on it.[citation needed]

Dame Alice Owen’s has been a Science Specialist School since 2007 and 43% of students go on to study Science at world class universities.[citation needed] The school holds regular lectures for the school community organised by its Science Society, worked with Cancer Research last year on a skin cancer project[vague] and is building relationships with Imperial College London.[citation needed] The school aims to attract additional government funding, with over £250,000 already raised (as of October 2011), to support the construction, which was to start in 2014.

Academic activity[edit]

Highlights from GCSE results in 2011[edit]

93% of all Year 11 students secured 5 A*–C grades including English and Maths. 96% of all Year 11 students secured 5 A*–C grades without English and Maths. 68.1% of all entries were graded A or A* and 32% were graded A*.

Highlights from A and AS Level results in 2011[edit]

82.1% of all grades awarded were A*–B. Upward trend with the new A* grade, with 21.3% of all entries being awarded an A*, 32% were awarded an A, making the A* and A total 52.3%. 64 of all students secured straight A*s and As. 99.4% of all entries secured a pass grade. 20 students with offers confirmed their Oxbridge places and the majority of students secured places at their first choice of university. AS results showed a new school record with 54.1% being graded A (44.1% in 2010) and 78% A & B grades (68.9% in 2010). In 2008 a record number 27 of the A-Level students were asked to join Oxford or Cambridge.[11]

The Prime Minister's Global Fellowship[edit]

The school had its first two students attain places on the prestigious Prime Minister's Global Fellowship programme in 2009.[12]

Notable former teachers[edit]

Notable former pupils[edit]

Grammar school in Islington[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Dame Alice Owen's School". Edubase. Department for Education. Retrieved 6 March 2017. 
  2. ^ "Dame Alice Owen's School". gov.uk. Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 7 March 2017. 
  3. ^ Some random memories of wartime Bedford – Part One – The Owen's School boys settle into Bedford, BBC – WW2 People's War.
  4. ^ The Brewers' Company: A brief history.
  5. ^ School History Archived 17 November 2009 at the Wayback Machine., Dame Alice Owen's School.
  6. ^ "Eggheads". Series 16. 7 July 2014. BBC2. 
  7. ^ a b Lee, Sidney (editor) (1895). Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 42. Smith, Elder & Co. Article on Alice Owen by Joseph Hirst Lupton.
  8. ^ J.S. Cockburn (1969). "Schools: Owen's School". In H.P.F. King; K.G.T. McDonnell. A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 1: Physique, Archaeology, Domesday, Ecclesiastical Organization, The Jews, Religious Houses, Education of Working Classes to 1870, Private Education from Sixteenth Century. Victoria County History. pp. 310–311. Retrieved 13 February 2008. 
  9. ^ Gruner, Peter (10 June 2017). "Spandau Ballet star Gary Kemp: Why I'm proud of my old school". Camden New Journal. Retrieved 4 March 2017. 
  10. ^ Henry, Julie (4 November 2007). "Top secondary schools facing 'pupil crunch'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 18 July 2009. 
  11. ^ Ofsted Inspection Report 2009
  12. ^ British Council website "Fellows" Archived 12 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine. accessed 10 November 2009.
  13. ^ Savage, Wendy (30 October 2000). "Peter Huntingford". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 March 2017. Secondary school at Dame Alice Owen's, Islington 
  14. ^ "Jessica Tandy"Paid subscription required. The Times. 11 September 1994. Retrieved 20 September 2009. 

External links[edit]