Work in Progress - A Merger is Announced

A new home for the Senior Boys - St David’s School, Ashford

St James Senior Boys School in London is bursting at the seams. Housed in the glorious Thames-side setting of Pope’s Villa, the school nevertheless lacks classroom space, and above all, outside space. This will change in September 2010, when the Senior Boys School moves into a new home.

St James’s new home will be the former St David’s School for Girls, in Ashford, in the green belt some 15 miles west of central London. It is a fine Victorian Gothic school building, standing in 30 acres of grounds (and a lake!). It even has its own railway station – built, it’s said, for the convenience of the Prince Regent who came to open the building in 1857. Previously known as ‘the Welsh School’, it had been founded in 1716, in Clerkenwell in London, by the Honourable and Loyal Society of Ancient Britons, no less.

In the modern era St David’s was a respected independent school. But pupil numbers had been falling, and the credit crunch was the last straw. The school was in debt to its bank. Parents were told in April that the school would close at the end of the summer term. A few of the girls may come to St James Senior Girls School – which has undertaken to honour existing bursaries.

Amazingly, the St David’s governors were tipped off by one of the St David’s parents that St James was looking for a building. Meetings with the three St James Head Teachers and representatives of the St James Governors followed. St James agreed to take on St David’s debt, and the two schools were effectively merged.

The building will need a bit of a makeover to be ready for its next influx of pupils. And behind the serene frontage lies a shanty town of sheds and portacabins (in which your editor’s sister once taught, before becoming Head of English at St James Senior Boys!). But the facilities are magnificent, and the acquisition surely marks a major step forward in the development of the London schools.