St Paul’s can trace its history back over 200 years to the original village schoolroom of the late 18th century, which is still standing on Church Hill. This was an example of a ‘dame school’ which had evolved in Tudor times. It was a single-storey, one-roomed building able to hold perhaps 20 children.
The written records of the school go back to the foundation of the Winchmore Hill National School, adjacent to St Paul’s Church, which opened in 1862. The money for the new school was raised by the people of the village helped by the National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church, a Church of England organisation which had been formed in 1811. The building was described as ‘a narrow room, sixty feet long, with a high timbered roof and warmed by two fireplaces, a long infant school with galleries, spacious classrooms and large playgrounds’ and was undoubtedly an enormous advance on the one-roomed cottage nearby.
Through the various education acts between 1870 and 1944 the school retained its ‘voluntary’ status, as it still does today, providing a denominational education in accordance with the teaching, traditions and principles of the Church of England. During this period education was largely free, but the managers were heavily dependent on government grants, charitable contributions and the generosity of local residents, and they were often in difficulty in meeting the cost of repairs, let alone improvements.
The 20th century saw the gradual transition of the old village of Winchmore Hill into a London suburb. The village school became known as St Paul’s Church of England Primary School and there was an ever-increasing demand for additional accommodation.
Eventually the old building of 1862 became inadequate and unsafe and in 1958 the children and teachers moved temporarily into the St Paul’s Institute in Station Road. The foundation stone of the new church school in Ringwood Way was laid by the Bishop of London on 28 May 1960 and on 7 March 1961 the buildings were officially opened by HRH the Princess Alexandra.
Designed and built as a one form entry school St Paul’s continued to experience pressure on places and over the past 40 years it has gradually expanded with a variety of largely self-funded building projects until, from 2002, it was able to provide a full two forms of entry and education for 420 children in permanent accommodation.
Through this period the work and support of the Friends of St Paul’s School association has been of vital importance, not only in raising funds for successive building projects but also in supplementing the school’s basic allowance in the provision of additional educational resources and equipment.
Another major influence on the development of the school in recent years was the work and leadership of Mr Leslie Smith OBE who was Chairman of the school’s governing body from 1981 to 2002. His interest, enthusiasm, understanding, realism and vision were vital forces in shaping the school into its present form.
The recent Chair, Mr Barry McNee, in office from 2002 until 2013, and the current Chair, Mrs Sarah Lawrence, continue to develop the school with the same driving force for the benefit of all who are associated with St Paul’s.
Between 2000 and 2003, through the Millennium Building Appeal, more than £650,000 was spent on providing four new classrooms, a computer suite, a music/drama studio and a Reception learning and play area. These magnificent new extensions to the school were officially opened by HRH the Princess Alexandra on 20 June 2003.
The next development to the school, under the leadership of the current chair of governors and head teacher, was the installation of a superb play area which is used by the children in Years 1 to 6 on a rotational basis. The funds for this were raised by the pupils undertaking a sponsored walk and by generous donations from the Friends of St Paul’s School and various local businesses.
After this came the complete refurbishment of the school kitchen which was completed during the summer of 2008. The project for the summer of 2009 was the installation of a covered walkway which enables children to move from the junior block to the main school building without getting wet.
At the same time an environmental area was being developed which has evolved over a number of years. This has further enhanced the school grounds as well as adding another dimension to children’s learning experiences. A pond has been built together with a raised flower bed and an outdoor learning area constructed.
A recent project has been the building of a new classroom which freed up an older part of the premises to be converted into accommodation suitable for housing St Paul’s Extra Club, which provides breakfast and after-school childcare. The latest project was the development the front entrance to the school and the office and administration areas. This was completed during the summer of 2016.
Between 2016 and 2020 we installed a new playground and bike shed at the front of the school. We also installed a running track to enable students to complete their daily mile exercises and have re-marked the playground area with activities for use by the children whilst at play. Finally, we renovated an area known as “Vinnie’s Garden” so that it now provides a covered, quiet area for children to play in.
St Paul’s School is continually moving forwards and there will always be new projects being considered in order to improve the facilities for the children and staff.