St Olave's Grammar School

Coordinates: 51°22′03″N 0°06′14″E / 51.3675°N 0.104°E / 51.3675; 0.104
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St Olave's and St Saviour's Grammar School
Clock tower of the former school building on Queen Elizabeth Street
Goddington Lane

, ,

Coordinates51°22′03″N 0°06′14″E / 51.3675°N 0.104°E / 51.3675; 0.104
Other names
  • St Olave's Grammar School
  • St Olave's
TypeVoluntary aided grammar school
MottoOlaf to Right the Wrong
Religious affiliation(s)Church of England
Established1571; 452 years ago (1571)
Local authorityBromley
Department for Education URN101676 Tables
Chair of governorsAdrian Boyd
HeadmasterAndrew Rees
ChaplainJulie Bowen[1]
GenderMale (co-educational sixth form)
Age11 to 18
Enrolment1081 (2020)
Capacity838 [2]
  • Bingham  
  • Cure  
  • Harvard  
  • Leeke  
Colour(s)Purple, black and white
PublicationThe Olavian Magazine
AffiliationWoodard Foundation
AlumniOld Olavians
Beneficiary ofSt Olave's and St Saviour's Schools Foundation and Dulwich Estate

St. Olave's Grammar School (formally St. Olave's and St. Saviour's Church of England Grammar School) (/ˈlævz/ or /ˈɒlɪvz/) is a selective secondary school for boys in Orpington, Greater London, England. Founded by royal charter in 1571, the school occupied several sites in Southwark, before establishing a location on Tooley Street in 1893. It moved to the suburb of Orpington in 1968, and has admitted girls to its sixth form since 1998.

A former Sunday Times State School of the Year (2008), the school is selective at both initial entry and for entry to the sixth form, but it has been criticised for policies that led to students being excluded from the sixth form for not achieving high grades. In 2017, parents threatened legal action against the policies applied by headteacher Aydin Önaç (who subsequently resigned), and the London Borough of Bromley instituted an inquiry whose critical report was published in July 2018.

General information[edit]

The school is a beneficiary of the St Olave's and St Saviour's Schools Foundation.[3] Its historic sister school is St Saviour's and St Olave's Church of England School in New Kent Road. Established in 1903, as a girls grammar school, this is now a non-selective girls' school.

Until the scheme was discontinued in 2010, St Olave's was designated as a science, mathematics and computing specialist school. The school later applied for academy status; in 2015 this was reported to be 'on hold' pending resolution of governance issues between the Diocese of Rochester, the school and the Department for Education.[4]

Members of the school are known as Olavians, and alumni as Old Olavians. There are four houses: Bingham, Cure, Harvard and Leeke. These exist for the purposes of the classes and house competitions in the Lower School (Year 7 to 9) and for games competition in Year 10.

It was the Sunday Times State School of the Year in 2008[5][6] and in 2011 was ranked as the fourth best performing state school in the country at A-level by the Financial Times.[7]


Year 7 entry[edit]

The school has been heavily oversubscribed in the past (more than 10 applicants per place in 2008). Entry had for some years solely been determined by a pair of competitive papers in English and Mathematics; however, due to the demand for entry to the school, a two-stage entrance process existed. Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning (which had formed the 3rd entrance paper until the Autumn 2007 exams, for entry September 2008) formed part of Stage 1, a single multiple-choice paper which also included English and Maths. Those who passed this first paper then took Stage 2, the traditional pair of English and Maths papers. Marks for the two stages were then standardised and aggregated; the candidates with the top 124 aggregate marks were offered places in Year 7.[8]

Sixth form[edit]

Competition for sixth form places is also high. Pupils are selected for the sixth form on the basis of their GCSE results, and pupils have been subsequently expelled for under-achieving. In 2017 parents claimed this practice was illegal, and petitioned for judicial review.[9]


St Olave's exclusively provides Choristers for the Choir of the King's Chapel of the Savoy, London, which is a Chapel Royal, the Chapel of the Royal Victorian Order and of the Duchy of Lancaster.[citation needed] Until the school relocated to Orpington, it used to provide the choir for Southwark Cathedral through its connection to the St Saviour's foundation. However, the Charity Commissioners required that activities and intended beneficiaries related to Southwark had to be continued to be provided for by[clarification needed] the Foundation, which supports the Cathedral choir today.[citation needed]


St Saviour's Grammar School[edit]

A new lease for the parish church of St Saviour’s dated 16 June 1559 included a pledge to start a school within two years. Within a few weeks a school for boys was functioning in temporary accommodation. On 24 November 1560 the four first wardens of the school were elected, and on 4 March 1561 a lease was handed over to the wardens for a new schoolhouse: a building in the Green Dragon, formerly Cobham’s Inn. A licence/charter for St Saviour’s Grammar School was obtained in 1562.

In 1676 the building in the Green Dragon was destroyed in the Great Fire of Southwark—the City of London fire was in 1666—and a new building was built on the same site.

In 1839 the school site was required for the enlargement of the Borough Market and a third building was built in Sumner Street in 1839. It was smaller than the previous one due to a decline in numbers.

St Saviour’s Grammar School agreed to amalgamation with St Olave’s in 1896. At the same time the creation of a new school for girls was envisaged, and this came into being in 1903 and was named St Saviour’s and St Olave’s Grammar School for Girls.[10]

St Olave’s Grammar School[edit]

Henry Leeke, a Southwark brewer, left a will (13 April 1560) which gave £8 a year towards the founding and maintenance of a new free school. If the parish of St Olave’s failed to create such a school within two years, St Saviour’s parish was to have the money.

In November 1560, notice to quit was given to tenants of the rooms which were to be used for the school, and in July 1561 the church wardens of St Olave’s were ordered to receive Leeke’s legacy, and "prepare" a schoolmaster by Michaelmas Day. Assuming that everything went to schedule, the school began teaching on Michaelmas Day 1561.

On 25 July 1571 letters patent were obtained which established the school as a grammar school. The charter stipulated that the school be called: The Free Grammar School of Queen Elizabeth of the Parishioners of the Parish of Saint Olave in the County of Surrey.

Initially the school was housed in the old Vestry Hall of the church and its adjoining premises (on the west side of Churchyard Alley, a narrow lane off the south side of Tooley Street, running parallel with Borough High Street).

In the seventeenth century St Olave's Headmaster Robert Browne was imprisoned for non-conformism.

Although the school was untouched by the Great Fire of Southwark, major renovation and extension was undertaken in 1676 after the fire.

In 1829 the school had to move because its site was needed for the approach to the new London Bridge, which was built about 60 yd (55 m) west of the old bridge. A new building was built in Bermondsey Street, with the first stone being laid on 17 November 1834. However this building did not last long due to the rapid expansion of the railways, which wanted the land, and another building at Green Bank, in Back Street (later renamed Queen Elizabeth Street) was built in 1855.

This new building was soon deemed to be unsuitable due to the fact that it was designed for a system of teaching which fell out of favour, and had almost no provision for classrooms.

Another building was put up in stages on the same site, while the old building was dismantled. Work was begun in 1892 and completed in 1894. The new building was designed by Edward William Mountford, the architect of the Old Bailey, and it is this building which still stands in Queen Elizabeth Street near the approach to Tower Bridge (also completed in 1894).


The Queen Elizabeth Street building was abandoned by the school in 1968, when it moved to Orpington.

During World War II the former St Saviour's building in Sumner Street was damaged by bombing. Consequently, in 1952 the historic foundation stone was moved from Sumner Street to the Queen Elizabeth Street site. When the school was relocated to Orpington in 1968, the stone was taken to the new site.[11]

The school was at the centre of controversy in 1996 when Labour Party Shadow Cabinet minister Harriet Harman sent her son to the school, despite her party's opposition to grammar schools and the fact that the school was located at some considerable distance from where she lived.[6][12]

Admission procedure inquiry[edit]

On 11 May 2016 a petition was set up by students objecting to new, harder sixth form entry requirements; it gained over 1,000 signatures in two days.[13][14] Then in August 2017, parents were informed that sixteen children were no longer welcome to continue into year 13, as their year 12 results were too poor. This caused a group of parents to take the school to court for excluding the pupils unlawfully.[15][16] On 1 September, the school made a statement that the excluded pupils would be allowed to return to school for Year 13.[17] The chair of the governors resigned due to lack of time to carry out his role.[18]

It emerged that headteacher Aydin Önaç and bursar Alan Wooley had set up a business earlier in 2016, with the knowledge of the governors, where they were registered as the sole shareholders. The company filed three applications to hold trademarks related to St Olave’s school. The governors decided the format of the business did not follow good practice.[19]

On 19 October 2017 the new chair of governors, Paul Wright, announced that the headteacher had been suspended "without prejudice" while an inquiry ("in respect of concerns that have been raised over recent weeks") by the Bromley London Borough Council took place.[20][21] Some parents used the annual general meeting of the school's parents' association in early November to campaign for Önaç's reinstatement,[22] but the following week, on 17 November, the school announced Önaç would be leaving the school in December 2017, "for personal reasons".[23][24] Freedom of Information requests revealed that 72 students had been forced out of the school during their A-level studies since Önaç became head in the 2010-2011 academic year.[22]

The report of Bromley council's independent inquiry, led by educationalist Christine Whatford, was published in July 2018, and accused St Olave's of illegally treating its students as "collateral damage" in the pursuit of its own interests. It called for a root and branch makeover at the school after exposing multiple cases of maladministration, said Bromley council and the Diocese of Rochester should apologise to affected parents, and urged the school to scrap its policy of restricting access to the upper sixth form, it questioned Önaç’s claims that he did not know the exclusions were potentially illegal.[25]

The report criticised the school's financial management and the way in which five governors who disagreed with the head were removed, and found the head unconstitutionally interfered with the management of the PA (Parents Association).[26] It criticised the head and bursar's establishment of the companies to manage school trademarks.[26]

Old Olavians[edit]

This is a list of old students of St Olave's and St Saviour's, and the two schools prior to their merger. There is an Old Olavians masonic lodge, which welcomes former students and others associated with the school.[27]

This is a partial list. For a more comprehensive one see: List of Old Olavians

‡ Alumni of St Saviour's Grammar School prior to the merger


  1. ^ "St. Olave's Grammar School".
  2. ^ "St Olave's and St Saviour's Grammar School - GOV.UK". Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  3. ^ "St Olave's and St Saviour's Schools Foundation, registered charity no. 312987". Charity Commission for England and Wales.
  4. ^ "Briefing for Education Policy Development and Scrutiny Committee Tuesday 27th January 2015" (PDF). London Borough of Bromley. Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  5. ^ "The Times - UK News, World News and Opinion".[dead link]
  6. ^ a b "St Olave's Grammar School named State Secondary School of the Year in Sunday Times Parent Power". News Shopper. 19 November 2008. Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  7. ^ "School rankings - Secondary Schools 2011". The Financial Times Ltd. 2011. Archived from the original on 29 March 2014. Retrieved 18 January 2016.
  8. ^ "ST OLAVE'S ARRANGEMENTS FOR ADMISSION TO YEAR 7 IN SEPTEMBER 2016" (PDF). St Olave's Grammar School. Retrieved 18 January 2016.[dead link]
  9. ^ Weale, Sally; Fishwick, Carmen (30 August 2017). "Schools around England ejecting 'underperforming' sixth-formers". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 August 2017.
  10. ^ a b Carrington, R. C. Two Schools: A History of the St Olave's and St Saviour's Grammar School Foundation (London, 1971).
  11. ^ The history section draws its information mostly from Two Schools by Dr Roger Clifford Carrington, a former headmaster.
  12. ^ Rentoul, John (2001). Tony Blair: Prime Minister (2013 ed.). Faber & Faber. ISBN 9780571299874.
  13. ^ May, Luke (23 May 2016). "Petition against changes to St Olave's sixth form entry nears 1,500 signatures". Bromley Times. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  14. ^ Clark, Jess (16 May 2016). "'Already enough pressure on us': Students fight 'shocking' rise in St Olave's Grammar School, Orpington sixth form entry requirements". News Shopper. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  15. ^ Weale, Sally (29 August 2017). "Grammar school 'unlawfully threw out' students who failed to get top grades". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 August 2017.
  16. ^ Weale, Sally (29 August 2017). "St Olave's teacher: 'Weak students are treated as collateral damage'". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 August 2017.
  17. ^ Weale, Sally; et al. (1 September 2017). "St Olave's allows rejected sixth-formers to return to school". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 September 2017.
  18. ^ Weale, Sally (12 September 2017). "St Olave's chair of governors resigns after exclusion controversy". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 October 2017.
  19. ^ Pegg, David (5 September 2017). "St Olave's head caught up in school trademark ownership row". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 October 2017.
  20. ^ Weale, Sally (19 October 2017). "Head of grammar school that excluded 'underachieving' students suspended". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 October 2017.
  21. ^ Coughlan, Sean (19 October 2017). "Grammar school A-level row head suspended". BBC. Retrieved 30 October 2017.
  22. ^ a b Bennett, Rosemary (11 November 2017). "Parents at St Olave's fight to reinstate suspended head who expelled weak A-level pupils". Times. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
  23. ^ Adams, Richard (17 November 2017). "Head of grammar school that forced out A-level students resigns". Guardian. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
  24. ^ Burns, Judith (17 November 2017). "St Olave's Grammar School row head resigns". BBC News. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
  25. ^ Weale, Sally; Adams, Richard (10 July 2018). "Inquiry condemns school that barred A-level pupils". Guardian. Retrieved 11 July 2018.
  26. ^ a b Whatford, Christine. "Report of Investigation into St Olave's Grammar School (July 2018)" (PDF). St Olave's. London Borough of Bromley. Retrieved 16 July 2018.
  27. ^ According to the Lodge's web site, "Preference is given to those associated with St.Olave's Grammar School: old boys, staff, Governors, and their male relatives (including those of present/former students)." (See

Further reading[edit]

  • Carrington, R. C. Two Schools: A History of the St. Olave's and St. Saviour's Grammar School Foundation (London: The Governors of the St. Olave's and St. Saviour's Grammar School Foundation, 1971).

External links[edit]