Dame Alice Owen's School

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Template:Use dmy dates Template:Use British English Template:Infobox UK school

Dame Alice Owen's School is a mixed secondary school and sixth form with academy status located in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, England. It was originally founded in what is now the London Borough of Islington.


The trustees of the Dame Alice Owen Foundation are the Worshipful Company of Brewers. It is more commonly known as Owen's. In terms of exam results, the school has been one of the best state-school schools in the country for some time now, with over 95% of students receiving 10 A*-C grades.

The school is also partially selective by means of an entrance examination. 32.5% of places are offered for academic ability and 5% for musical ability, with a further 10% of places reserved for children living in Islington. Students are drawn from a wide area and the school is heavily over-subscribed.

It is situated in the south of Potters Bar, just north of the M25, and within earshot of the South Mimms services, near to the west and near to Bridgefoot Lane.

400th Anniversary 1613-2013

2013 heralds the 400th Anniversary of the school, which started in Islington in 1613 (see history below) and they will soon be celebrating their quatercentenary in Potters Bar.

400th Celebrations

To commemorate the occasion, their 400th Anniversary Committee, headed by Old Owenian Gary Kemp (Spandau Ballet performed their first gig in the dining room in Potters Bar), have already set up significant events for the whole school community to take part. Sir Alan Parker, film director, producer, writer and actor (also an Old Owenian) will be directing a Celebration Concert at the Royal Albert Hall, on Tuesday 23 April 2013, with the schools’ own Concert Band, Symphony and Chamber Orchestras, Junior and Senior Soul Bands, Junior and Senior Choirs, including possible performances by members of Spandau Ballet and a Thanksgiving Service will be held at St Paul’s Cathedral on Tuesday 30 April 2013. A 1-by-2 metre giant cake was made by the school for all the staff, students and parents, to kick off the year's celebrations.

A programme of various sporting occasions, a specially written drama production and a 400th Summer Ball on Saturday 13 July 2013 will take place during the year, ending with a Carol Service at St Albans Cathedral on Monday 16 December 2013. Old Owenians can keep in touch with what’s going on by joining the school’s 400th Anniversary emailing list, which now has over 2,000 past students, staff and governors signed up for alerts to their 400th quarterly newsletter.

400th Appeal

In conjunction with the celebrations, a 400th Anniversary Appeal has also been set up, to raise £1m towards a new Science Building on the school’s 1970’s site. Launched in February 2011 at Portcullis House, Westminster, with Lord Robert Winston as keynote speaker, Dr Alan Davison, Head, joined Patrons Edward Guinness CVO, James Clappison MP and Emily Thornberry MP, in outlining the ambitions of the school’s new project. Patrons, Gary Kemp, Lord Lingfield, Sir Alan Parker and Sir Terry Leahy, as well as David MacKay, Chief Scientific Advisor to the Department of Energy, also endorse the school’s commitment to providing outstanding facilities for our scientists of the future.

Dame Alice Owen’s have been a Science Specialist School since 2007 and 43% of students go on to study Science at world class universities. The school holds regular lectures for the school community organised by its Science Society, worked with Cancer Research last year on a skin cancer project and are building relationships with Imperial College London. The school aims to attract additional government funding, with over £250,000 already raised (October 2011), to support the build, which would start in 2014.


The school was founded in 1613 by Dame Alice Owen and has maintained many unique traditions from that time, such as the giving of a small amount of "beer money" to every pupil and the school's long standing close association with the brewing industry and the Worshipful Company of Brewers.

Having narrowly missed being struck by a wayward arrow earlier in her life, Dame Alice Owen founded a school - originally for 30 boys - in Islington, London as thanks. Arrows feature prominently on the school's crest, which is in itself largely identical to the crest of the Worshipful Company of Brewers; other motifs include barrels and hops.

A girls' school was built in 1886.

Grammar school

The schools were evacuated to Bedford during World War II, during which the buildings were badly damaged. On 15 October 1940, around 150 people were sheltering in the basement of the girls' school when a parachute mine hit the building, causing a pipe to flood the basement and killing most of the occupants. A new building was erected in the early 1960s, replacing temporary buildings. The main buildings of the boys' and girls' schools facing each other across the boys' school playground, were located in Goswell Road, Islington, and eventually merged as a single school.

Comprehensive school at Potters Bar

In 1973 the school relocated to its current location in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire. The former boys' school building has now been demolished, but the girls' school building is now part of the City and Islington College. On 2 November 1990, the Duke of Edinburgh visited the school. On 25 November 1997, the Princess Royal opened a new languages centre. Earlier the same year, Arsenal football club tried to place a group of its talented youngsters at the school, with a £250,000 'gift', but the school refused saying it would not drop its academic standards, even though George Graham's children went to the school. The Arsenal youth team eventually went to Highams Park School.


  • Alan Davison 2005– (head of Mill Hill County High School from 1997–2003 and of Notley High School from 1992–7)
  • Aldon Williamson 1994–2005 (head of The Leventhorpe School from 1989–94, and Head of Maths from 1969–71 at South Hampstead High School)
  • David Bolton 1982–94 (Head of Davenant Foundation School from 1974–82)
  • Gerald F Jones 1963-1982 (initially of Boys' Grammar School in Islington, and in 1971 as first head of coed/comprehensive school in Potters Bar)

Headteachers of Boys' School

  • William Leske 1613-1614
  • William Smith 1666-1678 dismissed due to alleged involvement in Popish plot
  • James Easterbrook 1881–1909
  • Robert Cholmeley CBE 1909–27
  • Edwin England 1927–29
  • Rev Harry Asman 1929–39
  • Oliver Mitchell 1939–48 (also attended the school, then head of Royal Grammar School, Newcastle from 1948–60)
  • Walter Garstang 1948-1954
  • E.H. Burrough 1955-62
  • G.F. Jones 1963- to head of new school - see above

(others need to be added, e.g. from R.A. Dare's History of the Owen's School)

Academic activity

Highlights from GCSE results in 2011

93% of all Year 11 students secured 5 A*-C grades including English and Maths

96% of all Year 11 students secured 5 A*-C grades without English and Maths

The performance at A* was amazing at 35.2% and a record performance at A* and A - 68.1% of all entries were graded A or A*

Highlights from A and AS Level results in 2011

82.1% of all grades were awarded A* - B

Upward trend with the new A* grade, with 21.3% of all entries being awarded an A*, 32% were awarded an A, making the A* and A total 52.3%

64 of all students secured straight A*s and As

99.4% of all entries secured a pass grade

20 students with offers confirmed their Oxbridge places and the majority of students secured places at their first choice of university

AS results showed a new school record with 54.1% being graded A (44.1% in 2010) and 78% A & B grades (68.9% in 2010)

(In 2008 a record number 27 of the A-Level students were asked to join Oxford or Cambridge.<ref name="ofsted2009">Ofsted Inspection Report 2009</ref>)

The Prime Minister's Global Fellowship

The school had its first two students attain places on the prestigious Prime Minister's Global Fellowship programme in 2009.

Former teachers

  • Alan Amos, Conservative MP from 1987-92 for Hexham (Director of Studies, head of economics and government & politics, from 1976–84)
  • Helen Cleland, Head of the Woodford County High School since 1991 (taught English from 1972-6)
  • Michael Duane
  • Dame Helen Metcalf, Head of Chiswick Community School from 1998-2001 (taught history from 1971-5 and died in 2003)
  • Reg Tricker, footballer

Notable former pupils

  • Suzanne Cox, TV presenter
  • Andrew Porter, Political Editor since 2007 of the Daily Telegraph (1984–91)
  • Spandau Ballet, band (most of them)
  • Paul Robinson, currently playing for Millwall FC
  • Jodie Williams, Sprinter for Great Britain
  • Gabrielle Jupp, Senior British Gymnastics Champion (2013)

Grammar school in Islington

  • Owen Aaronovitch, TV actor and brother of David Aaronovitch
  • Joss Ackland, film actor, and provides the voice-over for Mr Kipling TV adverts
  • Tony Ball, Chairman of Kabel Deutschland and Chief Executive from 1999-2003 of BSkyB
  • Sir Leonard Barford, Chief Inspector of Taxes from 1964–73
  • Frederick Cleary CBE, founder of the City & Metropolitan Building Society in 1948 (merged with the Stroud & Swindon Building Society in 1996)
  • Leslie Reginald Cox, palaeontologist, President from 1964-5 of the Palaeontological Association
  • Edmund Dell, politician and businessman
  • Florence Desmond, actress
  • Mark Dickinson, Editor from 1996-200 of The Journal (Newcastle) and from 2000-5 of the Liverpool Echo
  • Max A. Eckstein, Prof.Emeritus, City U. of New York[
  • Chris Foreman, guitarist of the ska band Madness
  • William Foyle, founder of Foyles bookshop
  • Dame Mary Glen-Haig CBE, Commonwealth games gold-winning fencer in 1950 and 1954, and President from 1974-86 of the British Fencing Association
  • Prof Frederick Gugenheim Gregory, plant physiologist, Professor of Plant Physiology from 1937-58 at Imperial College London
  • Dame Beryl Grey CBE, Prima Ballerina from 1941-57 with the Sadler's Wells Ballet (became The Royal Ballet in 1956), and Artistic Director from 1968-79 of the London Festival Ballet (known since 1989 as the English National Ballet)
  • Prof Thomas Hilditch CBE, Campbell Brown Professor of Industrial Chemistry from 1926-51 at the University of Liverpool
  • Prof Peter Huntingford, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology from 1974-81 at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry
  • Prof Peter Jupp, former Professor of History at Queen's University Belfast
  • Alan Keith, broadcaster who presented Your Hundred Best Tunes for 44 years
  • Most Rev Alan John Knight, Archbishop of the West Indies from 1950–79
  • Muriel Elsie Landau, one of the first female surgeons in the UK, and mother of neurologist Oliver Sacks (who wrote Awakenings)
  • Arnold Lynch, notable 20th century engineer; designed Colossus (the first computer) during World War II
  • Millie Miller, Labour MP from 1974-77 for Ilford North, and Leader of Camden Council from 1971-3
  • David Nabarro, discoverer of the causes of sleeping sickness (with Sir David Bruce and Prof Aldo Castellani), former President of the Association of Clinical Pathologists and grandfather of his namesake Dr David Nabarro
  • Prof David Newman OBE, Professor of Political Geography and Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Ben-Gurion University in Israel, and editor of the International Journal of Geopolitics. A noted peace activist in Israel and international expert on borders.
  • Prof Leslie Orgel, Professor of Chemistry from 1964-2007 at the University of California, San Diego and Salk Institute for Biological Studies, became an evolutionary biologist and known for Orgel's rule
  • Sir Alan Parker, film director
  • Denis Richards, historian
  • Rev Prof Ernest Gordon Rupp, Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History from 1968-77 at the University of Cambridge
  • Prof Eric Spaul, Professor of Zoology from 1933-60 at the University of Leeds
  • Jessica Tandy, Oscar-winning actress
  • Louis van Praag, fashion designer
  • Ronnie Waldman, television executive
  • Tom Watt (actor)
  • Geoff Travis, founder Rough Trade Records
  • Alan Travis, Home Affairs Editor The Guardian



External links

Template:Schools in Hertfordshire