William Stanley’s School

Eloise Akpan. The Croydon Society. £5

Croydon grammar school pupils in the 50’s rather looked down on Stanley Tech. In the snobbery of the time the very idea of a technical rather than an academic education was considered to be beyond the pale. This reflected England’s attitude to engineering. Scotland and Wales held far more sensible views. The need was there, indeed it was a desperate need, but other pursuits were considered to be far more worthwhile. Something we have all lived to regret.

William Stanley founded his school in January 1907 with places for 51 boys. In March the same year a further 51 - including “sons of workmen in the technical trades” - were added. Thus began the life of one of Croydon’s most important schools. Ms Akpan’s excellent book claims, in her words, “not to be a history, it is mainly composed of reminiscences of staff and students”. In fact it is a very fine history, drawing on the experiences and remembrances of those who were there and who knew what happened.

Throughout its history William Stanley’s school seems to have been close to, or sailing through, disaster. The £25,000 with which it was endowed at the beginning was never enough and lack of funds was thereafter always a problem. Close to disaster Mr Stanley’s establishment may have been from time to time, but it never weakened. From an adverse report by the Board of Education in 1913 to a “clobbering” by OFSTED in 2000 the school soldiered on, producing, en route, two Life Peers - Lords Alli and Heyhoe (formerly Conservative Minister Barney Heyhoe); a Military Medal Winner at the Battle of Ypres; many old boys who gave their lives in the Second World War; numerous Chief Engineers and Chief Executives - and a Pop Star, Captain Sensible (Ray Burns)!

Stanley’s School has now begun a new chapter in its life, now as an Academy. It is hoped that those “in charge” will realise just how important a technical education continues to be and ensure that the future of the school is as firmly based in the technological needs of the 21st Century as its founder intended it to be in the needs of the 20th. Eloise Akpan’s book is of significant importance to the history of Croydon and more especially to the history of Norwood.

© The Norwood Society, Registered Charity 285547

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