Forest Hill School

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Title grade.png
Established 1956
Type Secondary Comprehensive
Headteacher sullivan K
Location Forest Hill
London Borough of Lewisham
51°25′54″N 0°02′52″W / 51.4318°N 0.0477°W / 51.4318; -0.0477Coordinates: 51°25′54″N 0°02′52″W / 51.4318°N 0.0477°W / 51.4318; -0.0477
Local authority Lewisham
DfE URN 100745 Tables
Ofsted Reports
Students 1360
Gender Boys (Girls in Sixth Form)
Ages 11–18
Houses Drake (Red)
Harvey (Yellow)
Reynolds (Light Blue)
Shackleton (Green)
Publication Our Voice
Website Forest Hill School Website


Forest Hill Comprehensive School opened in September 1956. It was a flagship school for the London County Council’s new policy of building comprehensive schools that aimed to breakdown the previous national policy of selecting children, largely on 11-plus results, to attend grammar, technical or secondary modern schools. It eventually grew to a role of around 1,400 boys. Pastoral care was organised through six houses, each with seven mixed-year tutor groups. For academic subjects, boys were divided into nine forms by general ability, with sets for Maths and English.

The first head teacher was Alexander E. Howard, who was a leading national figure in technical education.[1] In its early years the school attracted considerable interest from educationalists. The following is a report of a visit to the school in July 1957 by the American educationalist Flaud C. Wooton.

I spent June 4, 1957, with William H. Perkins (Educational Director, Imperial Chemicals, Ltd., London) and John Aseltine (San Diego educator) at the London County Council comprehensive school at Forest Hill. That school was opened in September, 1956, and currently enrolls 900 to 1000 boys. Its buildings are new and among the best I saw last spring in eight countries of Europe. The teaching staff is relatively young, well trained, vigorous, and enthusiastic. Above all, the headmaster, Mr. A. E. Howard, in frank discussion, revealed educational ideas and described the school's purposes and practices with combined competence and optimism. As the English comprehensive school spreads, it will, if it lives up to ForestHill, brighten the future of secondary education in Great Britain.[2]

The academic quality of the early cadre of teachers is indicated by the careers that some went on to. Paul Ashbee became Professor of Archaeology at the University of Anglia. Laurie Taylor (sociologist) taught English and Drama and went on to a distinguished career in Sociology and is now best known for his broadcasting, especially the Radio 4 series ‘Thinking Allowed’. Brian Brookes, who taught Botany, went on to become a leading naturalist, with expertise in the plants of the Scottish Highlands, and environmental consultant, being awarded the MBE in 1983 for his services to education.[3] David Stanbury, who taught Biology and became the School’s third Headmaster, researched and wrote on Robert Fitzroy, the Captain of the HMS Beagle, on which Charles Darwin was naturalist.[4] Christ’s College Cambridge holds a collection of Stanbury’s papers.[5]

The School attracted press attention with many of its activities in the 1960s.[6] In 1962, the School organised a trip to the United States, which the Daily Mirror headlined: ‘An Exceptional School … With Exceptional Boys: 76 Ambassadors from London SE23’.[7] It was described as ‘a grammar, technical, commercial, central and modern school – all in one’, with one boy quoted as saying ‘None of the boys would change Forest Hill School for Eton’


In 2005 the school was given Performing Arts status for its Drama, Dance, Music and Art courses and currently has a silver artsmark from the English Arts Council.[8][9] The school is now often oversubscribed and the catchment area has recently been reduced by around 200 yards. The school also has a prestigious Investor in People award.[10]

Form system[edit]

Each year group at the school is divided into forms. There are usually eight forms per year, organised by house. In years 7 through to 11 the forms are sorted into houses which the students keep from year 7, the house colours are Blue, Green, Red and Yellow. In years 10 and 11 there are separate teaching groups from the forms in all subjects. The sixth form at the school does not use the house system.


The four houses of Forest Hill are named after famous people of the 16th, 17th, 18th and early 20th centuries, each designated a colour which determines the colour of the trim on the school blazers worn by the pupils. While the house only initially determines which form the student is in, it forms the basis of sport teams throughout each pupil's career at the school. As such, friendly rivalries exist between each house especially at the end of every school year when students from year seven, eight, nine and ten take part in a sports day at the National Athletics Stadium at the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre. The houses compete to win the most points to win the best sporting house award, and another award is given to the house who was the most supportive (noise, banners, house colours for shirts) that day.

Originally there were six houses, but two were later dropped: Browning and Newton. When there were six houses Browning's house colour was red, Drake's dark blue, Reynold's light blue and Newton's maroon.

Pupils are recognised by the house they are in and by the code such as R9F (Reynolds, year 9, French or S11G (Shackleton, Year 11, German).

The letters stand for:

  • F – these groups study French only, as their modern foreign language.
  • G – these groups study German only, as their modern foreign language.
  • Spanish is also a language taught at Forest Hill School but the tutor groups stay with the letters F or G in their tutor group name.
The new main building of Forest Hill School seen during redevelopment in September 2007

Student leadership[edit]

At the end of the Spring term, new Year 11 prefects are chosen, two from every form group. Leadership roles amongst the prefects include the Head, Deputy Heads and four House Captains for the student council. Other school prefects are divided between the roles of Duty Prefect and Form Prefect. The school also includes a school council which takes care of student issues and passes them on to the senior management and the headteacher. The school council works similar to the way that the form groups work, as two school councilors are chosen from each tutor group and in Year 9 a selected amount of them may become trainee prefects throughout year 10, this gives them a better chance to become prefects and house captains in Year 11.


Sports Hall[edit]

In 2006 the school's new £4.5M state-of-the-art sports facility was opened with lottery funding and help with Sport England and The FA Charter Standard Schools Program.[11] The facility features a large air conditioned sports hall with basketball nets, indoor cricket, indoor football markings and goals and a scoreboard. The other part of the gym includes a fitness suite, cafè, space for trampolining and table tennis, new changing room facilities with showers and also two of the old three gyms. The sports centre opened on top of Gym 3, but was also expanded towards Bampton Road on the other side of the school.

Main building[edit]

The new school during redevelopment

The school began a major redevelopment project in July 2006 which completed in January 2008.[12] The only part of the school which remains unchanged is the current art block, which was built recently. The rest of the school was entirely demolished and rebuilt from the ground up with the three floor plan changed to a higher four story building. The new school building now features a huge atrium which doubles up into a fully functioning theatre, two fully equipped drama rooms, a separate theatre, a fully equipped music department with a Recording studio and a Mac computer room. There is also a fully functional dance studio complete with sprung floors, mirrors, and a 600 watt speaker system, all of which enable the school to carry out its performing arts specialism.

Ofsted report[edit]

The school has received some very encouraging reviews from the school regulator Ofsted according to the 2004/05 prospectus.[13] The regulator commented on the school in general and also on the pupil/staff relationship saying that it was "very close". They also said "Pupils are known, valued, cared for and supported very efficiently in order that they can achieve well."

Notable people educated at Forest Hill School[edit]


  1. ^ A.E. Howard, ‘Technical Subjects in Secondary Schools’, Education + Training, 1 (1959), 7–9, doi: 10.1108/eb001539
  2. ^ Flaud C. Wooton in History of Education Journal, Vol. 8, No. 1 (Autumn, 1956), pp. 28–30.
  3. ^ A. Burns, ‘Obituary: Brian Brookes’, Watsonia, 24 (2001), 125–6; M Lawley, ‘Brian Sydney Brookes’, Journal of Bryology, 23 (2001) 345-345, DOI: 10.1179/jbr.2001.23.4.345
  4. ^ D. Stanbury, A Narrative of the Voyage of H.M.S.Beagle, London: Folio Society, 1977.
  5. ^ College Archives, Christ’s College Cambridge,
  6. ^ ‘Full Marks … for “all-in” schools’, Daily Mirror, 24 October 1961; ‘Royal Cruise for 5 Boys and a Girl’, Daily Mirror, 17 April 1965, 3.
  7. ^ Daily Mirror, 17 August 1962.
  8. ^ Specialist Schools and Academies Trust Archived April 9, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ Artsmark
  10. ^ Welcome to Investors in People
  11. ^ – Charter Standard Schools
  12. ^
  13. ^

External links[edit]