Oak Lodge School
|Established||28 August 1905|
|Type||Community special school|
|Location||101 Nightingale Lane
|DfE URN||101094 Tables|
|Houses||Forest, Sky and Sun|
Oak Lodge School also hosts other services, such as Deaf First (for education of deaf adults), a Hearing Impaired Service and a 6th Form (providing support to deaf students who are educated at nearby colleges and on-site).
The school currently has 77 pupils from 25 different boroughs. A small number of children stay in the school's residential hostel during the week. There are 28 teachers, of whom 12 are deaf, along with 15 teaching assistants.
Ofsted, the UK Government's Office for Standards in Education, inspected the school and rated it as an "exceptional school." In its report, it stated that teaching and care of pupils is outstanding, but noted that the school's premises are outstanding.
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Oak Lodge was established by the London County Council and opened on August 28, 1905 as a school for deaf girls aged 11–16. Many of the girls were boarders. It was sited in a beautiful old house on Nightingale Lane which used to belong to the curator of Kew Gardens. There were lots of old oak trees in the garden, so the school was called Oak Lodge. There was another school for Jewish deaf children next door, actually on the site where the school is now, which had started in 1899. There was no contact between the two schools for the first 50 years - there was a high wall separating them. All the staff at that first Oak Lodge were women and they were all hearing. They never used Sign Language. It is interesting to look at the old records and see what the girls were taught - they learned English, Art, some P.E., a little Maths, but lots of cookery, needlework and laundry - they were really being prepared to become servants and domestic workers. Many came from poor homes where they had not been well fed and illness was common. The school thought that an important part of its job was to give the girls plenty of fresh air and better food to help them become stronger. There were about 50 girls in the school.
At the start of the Second World War in 1939 it was decided that the school must be evacuated. All the pupils and staff moved to a camp near Bognor. In 1940 there were bombs near the camp so they decided they would have to move again, this time to Northampton. It must have been a very difficult time - looking at the old school records for one month in 1940, there were over 100 alarms because of bombs. At the end of the war, in 1945, everyone returned to London, but first they had to repair the Oak Lodge building because 2 bombs had hit the school during the war.
In 1955 Oak Lodge became a day school. There was another school for deaf boys in Anerley, near Crystal Palace. This closed in 1957 and the boys transferred to Oak Lodge, so from that time it was a day school for about 60 boys and girls. There was still no Sign Language used by the staff. If anyone was naughty they were hit with the cane. The punishment book from those days makes for interesting reading. One entry from 1948 says: "rudeness and impudence - 2 strokes ".
In 1965 the Jewish school closed and then in 1968 both schools were demolished and the present building - the new Oak Lodge - was built. There were 40 pupils, boys and girls, and the hostel started for children to sleep there Monday to Friday each week. There were just 6 full-time teachers with 3 part-time teachers of art, mime and music. It is interesting to read that the whole school cost just £241,000 to build, and all the furniture and equipment cost only £23,000. There was still very little signing in the school though the children signed amongst themselves. There were no deaf teachers. In the new Oak Lodge, for the first time, deaf children started to take and pass real exams - that had not happened before. The school became very successful. 1977 was the Queen's Silver Jubilee Year. Two schools in all of London were chosen for her to visit as part of the celebration, one of which was Oak Lodge. Preparations went on for months - rooms and corridors were painted, new tarmac in the playground, and they even built a new toilet in case the Queen wanted to use it during her visit! However, she retained her queenly waters and only stayed in the school for 40 minutes, meeting children and staff and signing the visitors' book. The Head Boy had just finished work experience at the factory where the Queen's handbags are made and he talked to her about that.
The Headteacher from 1986 to 2009 was Peter Merrifield.
In 1991 Wandsworth's Hearing-Impaired Service was established; In 1992 - the first 16 Plus students started at the school; in 1995 - the 16 Plus Centre opened; in 1996 the charity "Aim HI" was established.