Birkenhead School

Birkenhead School is an independent, selective, co-educational school located in Oxton on the Wirral in the north west of England. It is a member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference.

Birkenhead School
58 Beresford Road

, ,
CH43 2JD

Coordinates53.3855°N 3.0551°W / 53.3855; -3.0551
TypeIndependent day school
MottoBeati Mundo Corde
(Blessed are the Pure in Heart)
Religious affiliation(s)Church of England
Department for Education URN105123 Tables
PresidentSir Andreas Whittam Smith CBE
Chair of GovernorsMr AJ Cross
HeadmasterPaul Vicars[1]
ChaplainFather Mark RJ Turner
Age3 months to 18
Houses     Beresford
Colour(s)Red, Black          
Former pupilsOld Birkonians
School VisitorRt Rev. Peter Robert Forster, Bishop of Chester


The school is subdivided into

  • Nursery Department (for children aged three months to three years),
  • Pre-Prep (for pupils aged three to five),
  • Preparatory (six years from ages five to eleven),
  • "Overdale" (two years from ages eleven to thirteen)
  • Senior School (five years from thirteen up to the sixth form at about eighteen).

Entrance is via the Preparatory School, by open competitive examination at 11, by Common Entrance at 13, or by interview at the sixth-form level. The school offers some assistance with fees to pupils who would not otherwise be able to take up a place at the school through a bursary scheme financed by the Birkenhead School Foundation Trust. This charity was established in 1998 and is currently supporting about sixty pupils in the school. A few scholarships are also awarded, based principally on academic ability, but occasionally as a result of exceptional sporting or musical potential. These give a fixed reduction in fee, independent of the parents’ financial circumstances. The school no longer has boarders.

The current headmaster is Paul Vicars who started in September 2016. Previous headmasters include David Edmunds (2015–16), Jerry Grundy (2014–15), John Clark (2003–2014), Stuart Haggett (1988–2003), John Gwilliam (1963–1988), Kenneth "KD" Robinson (1946–1963) and Warin Foster Bushell (1930–1946).

As well as a strong sporting tradition, the school had a Combined Cadet Force (CCF) contingent, which started in October 1914 just a few months after the start of the First World War with an Army section, although, the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy sections were not founded until a few years after the end of the Second World War in 1949 and 1950, respectively. Until 2006, the CCF had been incorporated as part of the normal school timetable, initially compulsory for pupils of the fourth form to the lower sixth (now Years 10-12) then voluntary, but it then became an entirely voluntary after-school activity, although it did allow pupils in the third form (now Year 9) to join the Corps for the first time. However, according to the Summer 2015 edition of In Focus magazine which contained a potted history of the CCF, declining numbers of cadets resulted in the disbandment of the CCF at the end of the summer term in 2015, ending 101 years of military-related tradition at the school. The CCF was then replaced by a variety of adventurous activities for the pupils. It also has a student council, created in 2003, which seeks to improve the lives of Birkenhead School pupils.

Quality of education

The last formal inspection of the school took place in February 2012 and focussed particularly on the Early Years Foundation Stage. The report by the Independent Schools Inspectorate concluded that the School was 'outstanding' in every category (Overall Effectiveness, Leadership and Management, Quality of Provision and Outcomes for Children). A previous inspection report for the whole School (in 2007) commented that pupils have "evident self-esteem and positive, secure moral values… excellent relationships with teachers and other pupils, [they] willingly take on responsibility and recognise the importance of contributing to the social good. They have a good understanding of their own culture and that of others. Pupils’ behaviour is exemplary, and they have an excellent attitude to their studies in lessons."[2]


Birkenhead School was opened in Park Road North, Birkenhead on 9 August 1860 at first called Birkenhead Proprietary School. It started with 18 pupils but had grown to 30 by the end of the first term. By 1870 there were 85 pupils and so a new building was required. The school moved to its present site in Oxton on 2 November 1871. The school's motto was taken from the gospel reading for that day. The Chapel was opened in 1883. The Preparatory Department was established in September 1889 and moved to Beresford Road in 1893. During 1899 the ground alongside Beresford Road was leveled to create the school’s playing field.[3][4]

In 1905 the Noctorum ground, approximately 2.3 hectares (5.5 acres), was rented and subsequently bought in 1910. Buildings on Bidston Road were acquired in 1920 for use as a science block and in 1921 the Lodge in Beresford Road was purchased for the use of the school. The Fender Ground, 9.3 hectares, was acquired in 1922 and part was used by the newly formed Old Birkonian Football Club, prior to moving to an adjacent ground in 1926. Matches were played here until 1976, when the club merged with Birkenhead Park Rugby Club. As playing fields nearer the school were developed, Fender Field was later sold.[3][4] In 1931, "Junior School" was started in Overdale at the top of Beresford Road.

In 1948 the L.C. McAllester Memorial Ground, 4.7 hectares, was presented to the school. It was officially opened in 1952. A purpose-built science block on Bidston Road was built in 1958, and has since been expanded. In 1982 the Bushell Hall was opened for use by the main school, and the Preparatory School moved into the vacated Shrewsbury Road buildings. These included the original "big school" dating back to 1871, and the recently closed boarding house which at its peak had catered for over forty boarders. The vacated Preparatory School building in Beresford Road was then adapted to provide an extensive Music School, although this has subsequently moved onto the main School campus and the Beresford Road property sold and redeveloped as apartments.[3]

What was the headmaster’s house on Shrewsbury Road was acquired in 1988 so that by then the school owned all the properties in the block apart from the Holy Name Church on Beresford Road. In 1992, the Sports Hall was completed. In conjunction with Oxton Sports Club, an all-weather pitch was completed on the McAllester Field site, and also in 1992 the Preparatory Department’s purpose built Little School was opened in Kingsmead Road South. In 2001 a climbing wall was added to the Sports Hall.[3] The school opened a Nursery in 2006, catering for children from 3 months upwards. Building work to support the co-educational future of the school, including additional classrooms on Shrewsbury Road and an extension to the Sports Pavilion at McAllester Field to provide female changing facilities, was completed in 2009. In 2011 the redeveloped Sixth Form Centre on Bidston Road opened.

In 2000 the sixth form became co-educational. This was followed by the Pre-Prep Department (kindergarten) in 2006. Partly in response to the decision of Birkenhead High School to become a non-selective city academy, Birkenhead School became wholly co-educational in 2008 and girls currently make up around 28% of the school (38% of Prep).[5] In 2010 the first female chaplain was appointed and in 2015 the first female Head of School, Eleanor Hilton, was appointed.[6]

In 1935 Birkenhead School became a Direct Grant school. Under this scheme it received a subsidy from the local education authority allowing fees to be based on the ability to pay, with some places being free. The Direct Grant scheme began to be phased out in 1976 and so the School became independent. An Assisted Places Scheme was introduced in 1980 but this was abolished in 1997. Bursaries and assisted places are now provided by the privately funded Birkenhead School Foundation Trust.[4]

Notable Old Birkonians

Notable masters

See also


  1. Birkenhead School: Headmaster's Welcome. Retrieved 13 October 2016
  3. School History Archived 15 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  4. Birkenhead School 150th Anniversary Brochure
  5. Co-educational School Archived 28 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  6. Birkenhead School Official Facebook page entry 11 June 2015
  7. English Historical Review
  8. "Christchurch Matters Trinity Term 2006 page 12" (PDF). Retrieved 17 March 2013.
  9. "Guinness Book of World Records". Retrieved 17 March 2013.
  10. Gresham’s announces new Headmaster dated March 2014 at, accessed 27 March 2019
  11. BUSHELL, Warin Foster, in Who Was Who 1897-2007 online, retrieved 24 May 2008 from BUSHELL, Warin Foster (2008)
  12. Chalk, Gary; Holley, Duncan; Bull, David (2013). All the Saints: A Complete Players' Who's Who of Southampton FC. Southampton: Hagiology Publishing. p. 177. ISBN 978-0-9926-8640-6.

School rating: * * * * *

This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.