Ottershaw School was founded in 1948 as an English school for boys in Ottershaw Park, Ottershaw, approximately 30 miles (48 km) southwest of London between Chertsey and Woking, an estate that dates back to 1761, when the first house was constructed.
It was the first Local Authority Boarding School to be set up following the recommendations of the 1943 Fleming Report which were implemented in the Butler Education Act of the following year. The Fleming Committee's aim was to explore ways in which the benefits of a Public School education could be made more widely available to those whose means and backgrounds made it difficult to enter what was an exclusive and expensive system. There was no entry examination, and no financial barrier. Boarding charges were means-tested.
The criterion for entry was "Boarding School Need". Thus many pupils came from families broken by the war or other circumstances, or from environments that were not conducive to academic or personal development. There was, too, a proportion of entrants who wished to attend a boarding school but whose parents could not afford the fees at the traditional public school. Entry was not totally restricted to children of Surrey residents.
The school was established in 1948 by Surrey County Council (SCC) as a boarding school for boys of 12 to 18 years of age. It was the first of its kind in the country to be entirely in the hands of a Local Education Authority.
SCC had purchased the estate in 1945 after the war, during which time much of it had been used by the Ministry of Defence as a vehicle park and Mobil had used the mansion as their headquarters. Prior to the war it had also been a boarding school for boys when it was known as Ottershaw College.
The first boys and masters arrived in 1948 and were led by headmaster Arthur Foot. He had taught at The Doon School in India, where he had made an outstanding contribution for which he was appointed a CBE.
The school grounds occupied 148 acres (0.60 km2) – containing classrooms, labs, workshops, playing fields and the mansion itself.
Arthur Foot based some of the school on Winchester College and introduced small desks called Toyes, with a backboard and cupboard which each boy had for their own each term. Every evening boys would sit at these Toyes in a large room presided over by a prefect, in order to study.
Ottershaw was a very unusual school on account of the principles underlying its foundation, but its curriculum, teaching methods, and school routine were by and large conventional. It had two streams; one with an academic, the other with a technical bias. There was an organised games programme, a wide choice of clubs and societies, an Air Training Corps, later the Combined Cadet Corps. In addition it offered all similar activities available in public and grammar schools.
The growing number of boarders at Ottershaw School meant the Mansion could not cope and in the 1950s this led to the building of what is now Tulk House. This was built in two stages, the first block, West House, being completed in 1952 to accommodate about 60 boys, followed in 1961 by a connecting block, Tulk House (named after the first Chairman of the Governors, Mr J A Tulk).
The school was divided into four Houses (North, East, West & Tulk) of approximately 60 boys each. The four Housemasters looked after the boys' welfare and in addition each boy was also allotted a Tutor whose duty it was to look after the boys' academic work.
Mostly, the school was only open to boys resident in Surrey. But boys who were a sons of a member of H.M. Forces or one whose parents were normally resident abroad could also attend.
In addition to normal academic work and sport, boys also had to perform daily duties around the school via Duty Squads. These included Servers (who laid tables and brought in food at meals), Clearers (who cleared tables after meals) and Sweepers (who swept floors, changing areas and stairs). Outdoor squads took care of pitches and playing fields, gardening and paths. Others took care of workshops and other school buildings or collected laundry, rang school bells, delivered post or took care of sports equipment.
Community responsibility was taken much further than duties within the school. Pupils undertook an extensive range of projects within the local community and further afield. They renovated classrooms for local Primary Schools, erected bus shelters, built accommodation for the Cheshire Foundation, helped on the newly formed Ockenden Venture and constructed a Youth Club building in Camberwell. Within the school itself, pupils built the cricket pavilion, the Staff Room and the Sixth Form Centre all under the supervision of the school's technical staff.
In 1964, Arthur Foot retired and Alan Dodds was appointed as the new headmaster. Dodds was a Cambridge graduate, previously a Housemaster at St Peter's York. a JP and was founder of the Boarding Schools Association. He successfully saw the school through a rapidly changing educational climate.
Cost was always a concern for the Local Authority despite the economies inherent in the school's organisation. A substantial increase in numbers might have made Ottershaw more cost effective, and various measures were suggested to achieve this end. However, despite a vigorous campaign, taken to the House of Commons by pupils, staff, parents and friends of the school the decision was taken to close the school in 1980.
Since 1981 the site has been a residential estate. There is an active Old Boys Society.
- "NLA Australian Newspapers – article display". newspapers.nla.gov.au. Retrieved 27 August 2010.
- "Education: School Without Ties – TIME". time.com. 13 February 1950. Retrieved 27 August 2010.
|chapter-url=missing title (help). Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. 15 November 1978. col. 567–576.
- Williams, Dennis, ed. (November 2008). Run like a Stag:The Story of Ottershaw School 1948 – 1980. Peacock Press. ISBN 978-1-904846-31-4.