Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical School
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|Motto||Sub Umbra Alarum Tuarum
("Under the shadow of thy wings")
|Type||Voluntary Controlled Grammar School; Academy|
|Headteacher||Mr E Hodges|
|Founder||Sir Joseph Williamson|
|Houses||Bridge, Castle, Gordon, Pitt, River, Thetford|
|Colours||Yellow, Blue, Navy and Black|
Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical School (SJWMS) is a boys' grammar school with academy status in Rochester, Kent, often known as Rochester Math or The Math. It was founded by the 17th-century politician Sir Joseph Williamson, who left £5,000 to set up the school and another in Thetford in Norfolk. The school was called a mathematical school because it specialised in teaching navigation and mathematics to the sons of freemen of the city of Rochester, the Chatham Naval Dockyard being nearby.
The school was originally in Rochester High Street, spanning the city wall. The building was demolished in the late 1960s and the site is now a car park next to a nightclub. It is said that the local authority did not know part of the old city wall with a small tower ran through the school buildings, and as a result no further development of the site was allowed. The school's playing fields and swimming pool were originally by the River Medway off Rochester Esplanade; they are now off Maidstone Road, Rochester, next to the area known as Priestfields (not to be confused with Gillingham FC's ground, Priestfield). An annexe (now known as P block) was built at the Maidstone Road site in the 1950s, housing all the first forms, and two classes each from the second and third years. In autumn 1968, the whole school moved to a new building the site. Initially this featured a main block, hall, sports hall, gymnasium, 25-metre indoor swimming pool and science block. The school's music block was expanded in 2005 to include a new teaching room and several new practice rooms.
In the 1990s a sixth-form centre was constructed and at the turn of the century a maths block was created upon the old staff car park. The sixth form centre houses a series of classrooms for the use of pupils throughout the school. There are still two sets of temporary classrooms. The school also has extensive sports facilities, including an artificial turf pitch for hockey, two cricket pitches, tennis courts, football and rugby pitches as well as the swimming pool, gym, and sports hall.
A mathematics centre opened in 2002, in line with the Math's new status as a specialist school in maths and computing. The incorporation of a computing discipline contrasted markedly with the school's attitude towards computing as an educational discipline in the late 1980s, where it was stated that "there's no future in software". In 2005 the school controversially scrapped its A-level computing course, this despite having received specialist funding to teach the subject. After a 6-year gap A-level computing was reinstated as an 11 pupil pilot subject in 2011, due to the positive results of the pilot group the option to take computing at A-level and GCSE was reintroduced for 2013.
In the 1990s, girls were admitted to the school for the first time, but only to pursue sixth-form education. The school was granted an "outstanding" status in its Ofsted report in 2006 and then again in 2008, and was given specialist status for Humanities, focused on History and Geography.
The school is a National Support School and Dr Holden, the Executive Principal, a National Leader of Education. The school was also one of the first 100 schools in the country to have been designated a National Teaching School. The school became an Academy in April 2011.
Former pupils are known as Old Williamsonians and there is a thriving 'Old Williamsonian' Club.
Founder's Day is held on the first Saturday of July: pupils attend Rochester Cathedral for a morning service and in the afternoon return to the school for sports and other activities. The next Monday is a school holiday.
In 2012 a new Art and Design Technology block was opened. Following a competition at the school, it was named the 'Da Vinci Block' and includes up to date facilities for the delivery of this part of the curriculum. For the first time, Food Technology is now part of the technology curriculum. The English department has since been rehoused in the old Art & Technology classrooms opposite the hall.
'All hail to the colours of dark and light blue,
Which float in the flag of the School,
Where we, one and all, have a life-work to do,
Beneath its beneficent rule.
Long, long may it flourish and always appear,
The cradle of honour and truth;
So we through a life-time shall ever revere,
The shrine of our studies in youth.
All hail to the lad who in learning advances,
Yet heartily joins in our games,
In cricket or football our kudos enhances,
And ever at excellence aims.
May he and his fellows be long spared to see us,
Still marching triumphantly on;
With each Williamsonian youth as he leaves us,
"Hall-marked" as Britannia's son.
Then here's to the School, to our sports, to our work,
Success be with pen, bat, and ball!
May cowardice ne'er in our corridors lurk,
But kindliness reign over all.
May Providence e'er, as our efforts He blesses,
Preserve us from evil's decoys,
Let Rochester joy in the School she possesses,
And England be proud of our boys.
The school has seven academic years, from ages 11 to 18, and each year group contains six houses: Bridge (green), Castle (red), Gordon (blue), Pitt (yellow), River (purple) and Thetford (light blue). River and Thetford were formed in the late 20th century as the school expanded: River house in 1993 and Thetford in 1996. Another house, Tower — named after Jezreel's tower in Gillingham and intended for boys from that borough — was disbanded between the wars.
Cock House Cup
All houses compete for the Cock House competition, a scholastic and athletic annual contest.
Events in the Cock house cup include, but are not limited to:
- Table Tennis
- Creative Writing
- Merits (for academic success)
Bridge – named after Rochester's Medway crossing – won the Cock House cup from 1999 to 2006. Castle, named after the city's medieval fortification, tied first place for the Cock House in 1999. Gordon, named in honour of General Charles Gordon has won more times than any other house. Pitt house, named after William Pitt, the 1st Earl of Chatham, was founded in 1916. River, named after the Medway that runs nearby, was founded in 1993. Thetford, named after the Math's sister school in Norfolk, won Cock House in 2007.
Founder's Day takes place on the Saturday closest to 7 July, to honour the founder and other school benefactors. Attendance is compulsory and the next Monday is taken as a lieu day. The day begins with a service in Rochester Cathedral, followed by inter-house sports in the afternoon.
The Rochester Math School Association (RMSA) puts on a variety of stalls at the school and a cricket game is played between the schools first XI, and Old Williamsonians' first XI.
Prefects are elected from Year 12 and hold office until the December of Year 13, when new prefects are elected by staff and Year 12 pupils. All prefects wear a plain navy blue tie with the school's crest below the knot. The prefect hierarchy has four main levels:
- The Top Three: the school captain and the two deputy school captains; these pupils have overall control of the prefect system and act as liaison between the prefects and staff.
- Senior prefects: seven prefects are elected to ensure that junior prefects are doing the correct thing at the correct time.
- Prefects: these junior prefects are accountable to their relevant senior.
- Specialist prefects: a small number of pupils have been appointed subject prefects, so far, in drama, mathematics, ICT, geography, history, music, languages and technology. There are also library prefects.
Notable former pupils
- Harry Arnold, war correspondent and royal reporter on a number of national newspapers, including the Daily Mirror and The Sun
- Bob Bean (1935–87), Labour MP for Rochester and Chatham from 1974-9
- Bill Esterson, Labour MP for Sefton Central
- David Garrick (1717–79), actor, playwright and theatre manager. Briefly a pupil, apparently under the headmaster's private tutelage
- Pip Carter, actor, trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, appeared in Robin Hood
- Brian Vale OBE, CBE, cultural diplomat and naval historian. Assistant-director-general of the British Council 1987-90, cultural attache Egypt and Spain 1983-1995 
- Tommy Knight, actor, Luke Smith in The Sarah Jane Adventures, Waterloo Road (TV series)
- Matt Letley drummer for Status Quo
- Nitin Sawhney, musician, composer and disc jockey
- Frank Smitherman, MBE, ambassador to Togo and Dahomey from 1970-73
- William Przystupa, rugby union player, London Wasps England Rugby Academy and England national under-20 rugby union team
- Chris Solly, footballer, Charlton Athletic F.C. Reserves and England national under-17 football team
- James Taylor, musician, founder of the James Taylor Quartet
- James H. Wilkinson, professor of computer science at the University of Stanford from 1977-86. The J. H. Wilkinson Prize for Numerical Software is named in his honour
- Matthew Rampley Professor of History of art University of Birmingham and head of school of languages, cultures, art history and music
- Guy Fletcher (songwriter) English songwriter who, in partnership with Doug Flett, wrote several hits for other artists, including Elvis. Fletcher is also the father of Justin Fletcher the English children's TV personality in the United Kingdom