St Joan of Arc Catholic School, Rickmansworth

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St. Joan of Arc Catholic School
High Street

, ,

MottoFollow Jesus on the road of human life / Fidelis ad mortem
Religious affiliation(s)Roman Catholic
Department for Education URN137914 Tables
HeadmasterMr Peter Sweeney MA
Years offered7-13
Enrollment1228 (2018)[1]
HousesAlban, Bede, Campion, Clare, Frances, More, Teresa, Ward
Colour(s)Maroon, Rifle Green, McDuff Tartan

Saint Joan of Arc Roman Catholic School is a Roman Catholic secondary school and sixth form with academy status, located in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, England. The catchment area for the school spreads over South West Hertfordshire, parts of Buckinghamshire and parts of North West London.


St Joan of Arc School (The Elms), Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire

20th Century[edit]

St Joan of Arc School for Girls was instigated by an order of French nuns, the Filles de Jesus, in 1904 with just five pupils.

The school continued to grow in size and reputation through the early years of the 20th Century until 1951 when it was granted grammar school status. The school enjoyed academic success and ensured that the Catholic Girls in and around Rickmansworth continued to received the best of education. In 1978, as with the majority of grammar schools across the country, St Joan of Arc moved to become a comprehensive school and switched to a co-educational facility. During 1978, the school also set the Guinness World Record for balloon bursting; the school managed to burst 2,000 balloons in 14 minutes 14.5 seconds.[2]

21st Century[edit]

In 2002, pupils at the school worked together to relaunch the school website, becoming the first pupil-run website in the area and having been considered for the 2002 BECTA (British Educational Community and Technology Agency) awards.[3] The school was awarded Specialist Status for Mathematics & Computing in 2003 and in 2012, St Joan of Arc converted to become an academy as the founding school of the 'All Saints Catholic Academy Trust' (ASCAT). Since changing to Academy status, the schools OFSTED rating was lowered from 'Outstanding' to 'Good'; headteacher Mr Sweeney cited changes in the methods used by OFSTED as one of the reasons for the difference.[4]

During the 2019 Coronavirus outbreak, as per national guidelines,[5] St Joan of Arc closed completely and with other schools in the district donated vital protective equipment to local hospitals to help the fight against the virus.[6]

School site[edit]

The school is located about 0.6 kilometres (0.4 mi) from Rickmansworth station in Rickmansworth Town Centre.

The Parish priest at St Mary's in Rickmansworth, Fr Julien, bought the initial property, 11 High Street, known as ‘Englefield’ and this was to become the original site for St Joan of Arc School. Englefield was the large Edwardian house that currently houses the St Joan of Arc Sixth Form. This was to be the site for St Joan of Arc School until 1922. As the school went from strength to strength so the need for a larger premises became apparent. This need for greater space lead to the Mother Superior (Mother Septima) and Fr Julien acquiring ‘The Elms’.

The Elms was a grand Georgian estate built in 1728 consisting of the house and eleven and a half acres with a stream running through the grounds. This created an ideal learning environment for the Catholic girls of Rickmansworth and its surrounding area. The house was famous for being the residence of George Eliot at the time that she was writing Daniel Deronda.[7]

The school grounds back on to the River Chess and Chess Valley and a 17th-century barn that once belonged to the Abbot of St Albans Cathedral is located at the boundary of the grounds.[8]


In total there are eight forms in each year, with about 30 pupils in each. The forms are named after Catholic saints, four male and four female:

House Image Significance
Saint Alban, window
After St. Alban, the first recorded British Christian Martyr.
The Venerable Bede translates John 1902
After St. Bede The Venerable, an English Benedictine Monk.
Edmund Campion
After St. Edmund Campion, an English Priest & Martyr.
Simone Martini 049
After St. Clare of Assisi, author of the first set of monastic guidelines known to have been written by a woman.
Baciccio-Saint Francesca Romana Giving Alms
After St. Frances of Rome, founder of the Olivetan Oblates of Mary
Hans Holbein, the Younger - Sir Thomas More - Google Art Project
After Sir Thomas More, English Lawyer, Philopsopher and Author of Utopia
Peter Paul Rubens 138
After St. Teresa of Ávila, a Spanish Nun, Author and Reformer.
Mary Ward
After Mary Ward the Venerable, an English Catholic Nun.


In 2014 the Head of Music, Derek Berditch, was arrested for the possession of 58,000 images of child pornography and bestiality having taught at the school since 1987. Berditch had previously taught singer Kate Nash who in one interview praised his teaching and stated that she "was lucky to have someone that really encouraged me" to be creative.[9][10] Following a trial at Southwark Crown Court, Berditch was sentenced to 18 months in prison as well as registering as a sex offender for ten years.[11]

In 2019, the school decided to ban pupils from carrying scissors after a number of students were found to be carrying improvised weapons on school grounds. Headmaster Sweeney stated that he wanted to ensure that the school was kept a "safe environment" for its pupils.[12]

Notable former pupils[edit]


  1. ^ "Saint Joan of Arc Catholic School". OFSTED. Retrieved October 24, 2018.
  2. ^ Pells, Kelly. "Nostalgia: School sets new world record in March 1978". Watford Observer. Retrieved 13 April 2020.
  3. ^ "St Joan of Arc: Watch out Bill Gates". Newshopper. Retrieved 13 April 2020.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Weale, Sally. "Coronavirus: why are UK schools closing and what does it mean for parents?". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 April 2020.
  6. ^ "Further actions Schools donate vital protective equipment to local hospitals to help fight coronavirus". Retrieved 13 April 2020.
  7. ^ Historic England. "St Joan of Arc's Convent High School (1100848)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 17 May 2020.
  8. ^
  9. ^ Enfield, Laura. "Kate uses music as therapy". Watford Observer. Retrieved 13 April 2020.
  10. ^ Prynne, Miranda (5 August 2014). "Kate Nash's former music teacher jailed for child abuse". The Telegraph. Retrieved 13 April 2020.
  11. ^ Court Reporter. "Derek Berditch, former head of music at St Joan of Arc School, jailed for possessing child pornography". Watford Observer. Retrieved 13 April 2020.
  12. ^ Louis, Nathan. "School bans scissors after 'pupils adapt stationery to create weapons'". Watford Observer. Retrieved 13 April 2020.