Paul's Whitechapel CE Primary
School 'for the children of seamen'
the 19th century, St George-in-the-East and its various mission
churches were active in building and running schools for the children
of the area. With the coming of the Board (county, now
'community') Schools, this involvement was gradually lost. But in 1971,
when the parish of St Paul Dock Street was joined to St
George-in-the-East, and we became the parish of 'St George-in-the-East
with St Paul', we were glad to acquire responsibility once again for
a voluntary aided (VA) church school, whose history is told here
in connection with its founder, Dan Greatorex - including his claim
that it was at this school that the first-ever free and healthy school dinners were
served. Left is the 'old' entrance; far right is the lower infants class in 1952, with Fr Joe Williamson in the background.
In a VA school,
church authorities are the trustees of the building. The trust deeds
and 'instrument of government' determine the church foundation, which
provides the majority of the governors - who are variously appointed by
the parish, deanery, diocese and the existing foundation governors. The
governors appoint and employ the staff; decide the admissions criteria
(in consultation with the local authority and the diocese) and offer
places; determine the policy for religious education and worship; and
have various other powers, such as to set school holidays (this is a
live issue in Tower Hamlets, where most schools close for the two Eid
holidays; after careful consideration, we do not, but encourage
children to celebrate the festivals in school as well as with their
We greatly value
our links with the school, and take seriously our involvement with its
governance. Alongside church members, Trowers and Hamlins
whose London office was until recently near the school, and other firms in the city,
provide governors who bring both expertise and real commitment to the
Rector leads weekly assemblies, and is constantly amazed by the
confidence and thoughtfulness of the children. At St George's-tide, he
sang 'When a knight won his spurs' and asked them what dragons we have
to fight today. A year 4 hand went up - 'racism', she said without
hesitation. And a year 2 pupil recently asked him 'what party will you
be voting for in the election?' The fact that over 85% of the pupils are
from Muslim families is not a problem - together, we take issues of
faith seriously, and their knowledge of the Christian faith, and
splendid Christmas and Easter presentations, would put many
'Christian-majority' schools to shame. They come to church twice a term
for special services, as well as for curriculum activities. The
school was judged 'outstanding' in all four areas of its most recent
denominational inspection [compare the episode of 'Rev' on this subject!], and Canterbury Christ Church University regularly
brings groups of aspiring heads to the school, which they
judge to be 'inspirational' because the staff team is very strong (and,
incidentally, has several male teachers and teaching assistants).
Major building work was completed in 2011 [the picture right predates the new early years unit and glazed entrance], and was re-dedicated
by the Bishop of Stepney in January 2012.
All in all, the future looks bright.
The main school buildings - built on the site of the demolished Danish Church - are Grade II listed: the details are as follows
|LBS Number: 206336 Date Listed: 27/09/1973 NGR: TQ3432080791
WELLCLOSE SQUARE E1 4431 (Central Area) St Paul's Church of England Primary School TQ 3480 22/800
1869. Brown brick with white stone dressings. Red arid black brick window dressings.
Tiled roof. Gothic style. Western facade has 4 gables, outer 2 above staff houses.
clock tower with spire above entrance which has 6 cloister
arches, centre 2 with stone string course gabled above, and with
trefoil finials and tablets marking "Boys" and "Girls" entrances. 2
storeys, 4 windows, Gothic glazing bars and stone tracery. The listed
buildings and the road surface of Wellclose Square form a group with
Wilton's Music Hall, Grace's Alley.
[The listing does not mention this group of carved figures [right], now painted
over, in the eaves of one of the classrooms, presumably from Cibber's Danish Church.]
The poet Isaac
was the son of Barnett and Anna, Lithuanian Jewish immigrants who had
settled in Bristol,
where he was born in 1890, before moving to the East End. From
1897-1900, when they were living at 47 Cable Street, he was a pupil at
St Paul's School: to their disappointment, there were no places at the
Jewish Free School when they arrived from Bristol, but Isaac appears to
have flourished here, and the school regime in those days was quite
enlightened, in respect to accommodating Jewish pupils and allowing
their absence for the high holy days (and also with regard to corporal
punishment). There is more detail of these years in Jean Moorcroft
Wilson Isaac Rosenberg - The Making of a Great War Poet: a New Life
(Weidenfeld & Nicholson 2007) from which this contemporary drawing
of the school is taken. A change in family fortunes forced a move to
Jubilee Street and he attended
Baker Street School, where Winifreda Seaton was an inspiring teacher.
He showed great talent for drawing and painting - the head Mr Usherwood
arranged art classes at Stepney Green Art School - and he began writing
poetry. Morley Dainow, the librarian at Whitechapel Library, encouraged
him and guided his choice of reading. But money was short, so he left
school at 14 and became an apprentice engraver at Carl Hentschel's firm
in Fleet Street. However, he managed to attend evening classes at
Birkbeck College, winning prizes for his nude studies in pencil and
then in oils. Aged 21, he won a scholarship at the Slade and was able
to study full-time. Ill health, exacerbated by London smog, forced a
rest cure, first in Bournemouth then with his sister Annie in Cape
Town, whence he returned when war was declared, earning the £15 fare
from a painting commissioned by Sir Herbert Stanley. Most of his
paintings were lost overboard in a storm in Cape Town harbour, and back
in London he struggled to make ends meet, despite finding increasing
fame as a poet. Just before he signed up in the army in 1915 he
published 'Youth', a small collection of poems. Having continued to
write poetry in the trenches, Private Rosenberg 22311, 1st King's Own
Royal Lancasters, was killed in action on a dawn patrol on 1 April
1918. He was the only one of the major war poets to come from a
background [see here for the connection of a curate of St Paul's with Wilfred Owen.] Here, here, and (from the War Poets Association) here are further accounts of his life and significance. The group of local
Jewish writers and artists, which included the painters Mark Gertler and David Bomberg, is now known as the 'Whitechapel Boys'.
are three self-portraits - the first from 1915 now in the National
Potrait Gallery, the third sketched in France - and three photographs
(one with his brother Elkon in 1917) from the Imperial War Museum.
Below are manuscripts of the poems Spring, and (written on Salvation Army notepaper) Daughters of War.
Rosenberg's poem The Jew describes
the racism he experienced, not at school, but in the trenches:
| Moses, from whose loins I sprung,
Lit by a lamp in his blood
Ten immutable rules, a moon
For mutable lampless men.
| The blonde, the bronze, the ruddy,
With the same heaving blood,
Keep tide to the moon of Moses.
Then why do they sneer at me?
The blue plaque is on the outside wall of the Whitechapel Gallery. In 1995, when
the British Library was relocating, a bundle of 34 letters and 18 draft
poems was discovered among the papers of former curator and fellow-poet
Laurence Binyon, who had been Rosenberg's mentor; they were published
as Poetry out of my Head and Heart. There are currently plans to erect a statue - possibly at Birkbeck College - and mark his forthcoming centenary in other ways.
I WAS A FIREMAN / FIRES WERE STARTED
When the Second
World War broke out, Docklands was a prime target and many children
were evacuated (though many of them later returned). The school was
used as a fire station. Right are images of firemen entering Wellclose Square from Ship Alley, and a '14Y Heavy Unit' driving into the playground.
Some scenes from I was a Fireman, also released as Fires Were Started, were
shot in 1942-43 around the school. It is the story of a day in the life
of an Auxiliary Fire Service unit (a volunteer service set up in 1938)
tackling a Docklands munitions factory at the height of the Blitz, and
was the work of the innovative director Humphrey Jennings
(1907-50) [right on location], who used AFS members (including Cyril Demarne) rather than
professional actors. Produced for the Ministry of Information by the Crown
Film Unit (until 1940 the GPO Film Unit), as propaganda, it has
acquired iconic status in the annals of social realism. Dilys Powell in the Sunday Times called it moving and terrifying. Lindsay Anderson wrote in 1954 that Jennings was the only true poet the British cinema has yet produced. After the Battle (no.161, August 2013) includes this more detailed article [far right] about the film and its background.
MOTHER GOOSE COMES TO CABLE STREET
1977 the Children's Rights Workshop - a London-based voluntary
group with aimed to extend the intellectual, emotional and material
choices available to children, including their literature, produced Mother Goose comes to Cable Street: Nursery Rhymes for today
(Kestrel 1977, and a Picture Puffin in 1980), selected by Rosemary
Stones and Andrew Mann, with illustrations by the well-known local
figure Dan Jones, who still lives on Cable Street. Here is the
endpaper, which is set in St Paul's playground.
The school's own
website is here. Here are a few
recent press and other stories from the school.
|from The Times, 5 December 2008
Pick and mix: Case study
quarters of the children at St Paul’s
Whitechapel Church of England
Primary School in East London are Muslim. They and the other
the 200-strong school learn about Islam and have a weekly assembly
taken by the local vicar [sic]. Darren Rubin, the deputy head, said the
children were all excited about Christmas and about the Muslim festival
of Eid ul-Fitr. “We work in a big Muslim community and what we look to
do is celebrate that,” he said. “Seventy-five per cent of children will
be off for Eid. They learn about all religions and their festivals. We
have lots of children from different backgrounds and they all learn
from each other.” Most parents at the school are of Bengali [or Somali]
the school runs English classes for those whose second language is
English. St Paul’s selects on the basis of faith and gives priority to
children whose parents attend the local church. It also gives
preference, however, to pupils whose parents are of another faith and
have chosen the school because of its religious tradition.
2008 - Let's Read Together
6 pupils made a DVD for parents with ideas and suggestions to help
parents get involved with the children's reading skills. It was
distributed throughout the borough, and to church schools around the
8 June 2009
'Sing Up' - children (in yellow) performing with other school and adult choirs at
20 May 2010
Olympic mascots Mandeville and Wenlock were unveiled at the school;
they have attracted some criticism, but the children managed to be
positive about them, and in the process have learned about Olympic
'famous atheist' Prof Richard Dawkins visited the school to film an
interview with the Revd Jan Ainsworth (chief education officer of the
Church of England) for a BBC programme shown that
autumn. He was shown round by some of the pupils, and was very
impressed by what he saw, and clearly surprised at the multi-faith
context of a church school, and the fact that, true to its founding
principles, it continues to serve all the children of its local, and
deprived, community. In the event, only a few seconds of the filming
was used, because it did not fit his hypothesis about Christioan
ghettos; instead, he turned to his local schools in Oxford.
10 November 2010
Once a week, for the past 10 years during term time, around 40 members
of staff from law firm Trowers & Hamlins have left their Tower
Hill offices for the short journey to St Paul's Whitechapel C of E
Primary School. Here, they have spent their lunch hour helping some of
the children to improve their reading, comprehension and fluency in
English. The firm has lent considerable support to St Paul's in other ways over
the past decade, including funding for school trips, building projects
and not least, the expertise of Partner, Ian Graham who has been chair
of the board of governors for the past five years. This lengthy relationship, described by Tower Hamlets Education Business Partnership Director Mike Tyler as 'a
model corporate partnership', was celebrated recently at a special
reception at the firm's offices. As well as its involvement with St Paul's, Trowers & Hamlin
volunteers have been regular supporters of the EBP's Getting Ahead
work-related learning programme. Trowers & Hamlin Partner, Ian Graham said We have an excellent
relationship with St Paul's. The children are fantastic, they really
enjoy the interaction with their Reading Partners. The Headteacher
Terry Bennett and all his staff make us feel very welcome when we are
at the school. The reading scheme is a great way for people from our
firm to get involved in supporting the local community.
Christmas 2010 & 2011
Each year Trowers and Hamlins sponsor a competition to design a
Christmas card, and give prizes for each year group, with an overall
winner whose design becomes their corporate card which they send out to
all their contacts. The winner in 2010 [left] was
Zarin Ahmed of year 6 (who
also played the central role of 'Innkeeper's Wife' in the school
Christmas production); the firm made donations to Macmillan Cancer
Support and Red Crescent. The 2011 winner was Fahmid Ahmed of year 4,
and donations were made to Macmillan Cancer Support and Médecins Sans
National Society's newsletter includes this picture from our school, as
part of an article about making banners for its bicentenary service in
Westminster Abbey on 14 October (though that is not actually what these girls are doing!)
Stills from the school feature in the video montage at the entrance to Church House Westminster.
10 January the Rt Revd Adrian Newman, Bishop of Stepney, rededicated
the school, marking the end of a long period of building work. Staff
and pupils coped magnificently with the disruption in its various
phases, and governors worked energetically with the diocese and the
contractors to ensure the best possible results. We now have
state-of-the art facilities for all children, from early years to year
6, in premises which have built imaginatively on the historic site and
provide an inspiring environment for teaching and learning. Here is the
Bishop's prayer of dedication, and photos (courtesy of East End Life).
|God of past, present & future|
In your presence in our world you offer us the wild hope, against all the odds, of human flourishing.
Thank you for this school, for its presence and engagement in its community, for its people & its purpose.
Thank you for all who have worked so hard to make the refurbishment of this school possible.
We give thanks for the community that has inspired it,
for the architect’s eye that conceived it,
the designer’s hand that developed it,
the craftsman’s skill that brought it to birth,
the manager’s experience that has overseen it
and for every gift, freely offered, that has given it life.
And now we ask you to bless this building as a place of
welcome & hospitality
education and development
creativity & imagination
meeting & encounter
justice & human dignity
fun & laughter.
In this place may individuals be cherished and communities renewed;
may young people be valued and foundations for living be laid carefully and well.
So may God bless, consecrate and make holy all that happens here
† In the name of the Creator, Redeemer & Sustainer of us all.
I now declare this building blessed, rededicated, and fully open for business!
The plaque in the entrance hall reads
new and refurbished school buildings
dedicated on 10 January 2012
the Rt Revd Adrian Newman, Bishop of Stepney
people helped to make this possible
be to God for the life of our school
of Governors Canon
also Edith Wyeth, governor and friend of the school for many years
On 9 February the Evening Standard included this report, by Mark Blunden:
Children create drama out of supersewer crisis
Pupils at St Paul's School in Whitechapel performed a drama for
Phil Stride, head of the Tideway Tunnel project, showing the
devastating effect that concreting over King Edward VII
Memorial Park would have on them.There are 220 pupils at the school, most of whom live in flats
with no outdoor space. St Paul's does not have playing fields so the
children walk for 10 minutes to the riverside park to take part in
sports and run around.
Thames Water plans
to construct the £4.1 billion, 20-mile
tunnel to collect sewage discharge triggered by rainfall. It says 39
million tonnes of untreated sewage overflow into the
river each year. But it means creating an access road at the park to
allow cranes and lorries to access a foreshore shaft.The SaveKEMP
campaign group want the works relocated to a nearby brownfield site.
The children, aged five to 11, wrote
the play with the help of headteacher Terry Bennett and his deputy
Darren Rubin. In the play, A Space for Me, the children enacted a scene from ordinary life in Tower Hamlets showing a family whose
only escape from a cramped flat is to a nearby park. But when the children get to the park they find a sign that tells
them it is closed due to the sewer works.
performance, the children stood around Mr Stride and
listed the reasons the park should be saved and handed over a
10,500-signature petition against the construction plan. Mr Bennett
said the children wanted the play to be their response
to the Thames Water consultation. He added: We rely on the park to take classes out to do
games and sports outside. We don't have grass area, just a tarmac
playing ground and ornamental garden. If the park closed, we'd have to go to Victoria Park or Mile
End, both of which are a bus or Tube ride away.
But Mr Stride was unmoved by the children's pleas. He said: The
children did an excellent job describing to me how important the park
is. I explained that although I did not want to stop them using
their park, we had to do something to tackle the storm relief sewer
overflow underneath the park that annually discharges 784,000 tonnes
a year of sewage into the Thames and added This is really important feedback that is very
valuable in helping us understand the community's strength of feeling
about our proposals.
See here for the school's participation in the educational website of The Sun 'Hold Ye Front Page'.
Deputy headteacher Sarah Meares writes:
Our school was offered the opportunity to work with a poet from the
Poetry Society a month or so ago. The poet, Coral Rumble, came into
school and worked with our year 5 children to write poems about
'Friendship Trees'. Different poets worked in several different schools
around the country on the same subject and their poems were given to
another poet who worked on them to produce a poem to go around the
bottom of the Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square. Following Coral's
visit, I had a call from the Poetry Society asking us if we'd like to
take 3 children to Norway to see the tree being felled in the forests
around Oslo. So, early on Thursday morning, I took Yassin, Faridah and
Aysha to Oslo for an overnight trip. We were very well looked after by
a lady from the Oslo Mayor's Office who showed us round. This included
a trip to the Edvard Munch museum to see 'The Scream', a night in a
hotel in Oslo and then on Friday we were taken to the forest to watch
the tree being felled. We met the Mayor of Oslo and the Mayor of
Westminster Council who had travelled to Norway to take part in the
ceremony. After the tree was felled we were taken to the British
Ambassador's residence for tea and then made our way home again. It was
such an exciting experience for our children and I was so proud of them
- they coped incredibly well in so many strange and exciting
'This is an outstanding school...'
judged 'oustanding' in the section 48 (denominational) inspection
earlier in the term, the OFSTED inspectors gave the same verdict in each
of the four categories - achievement of pupils, quality of learning,
behaviour and safety of pupils and leadership and management. The
pictures are from East End Life; the full report is here.
16 May 2014
Jamie Oliver launched 'Food Revolution Day' at the school - which is
one of three pilot schools he has chosen to work with on healthy
growing, cooking and eating: a large number of pictures here.
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