Latymer was established in 1624 on Church Street, Edmonton by bequest of Edward Latymer, a London City merchant in Hammersmith. Although most of his wealth passed to the people of Hammersmith and the Parish of St Dunstan's (now Latymer Upper School), he named certain properties and estates to fund the education and livelihoods of "eight poore boies of Edmonton" with a doublet, a pair of breeches, a shirt, a pair of woolen stockings and shoes distributed biannually on Ascension Day and All Saints' Day. Pupils were educated in "God's true religion" and reading English to the age of thirteen at existing petty schools. The boys had to wear the red Latymer cross on their sleeves and were under a duty to carry out the provisions of his will "unto the end of the world".
The school has formal links with St John's College, Cambridge (Edward Latymer's College) and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (the College of Edward Latymer's father, William Latymer) which have endowments which may be used for the furtherance of the studies of former Latymer pupils at those colleges.
In 1662, John Wild of Edmonton made a bequest, including £4 per annum for the maintenance of a schoolmaster and a similar sum to maintain a poor scholar at Cambridge. This was followed in 1679 with Thomas Style's request of Edmonton of £20 per annum for teaching "twenty poor boys ... Grammar and Latin tongue." Several similar benefactions produced about £550 per annum, which funded the instruction of more than one hundred boys, of which sixty were clothed. For more than a century, no further significant bequests were made until in 1811, Ann Wyatt, an eccentric widow from Hackney, left £500 5% Navy Annuities to build a new school, and £100 in the same securities for its maintenance. The school-room was built in 1811 in accordance to her will.
The school did not take on Latymer's name for some centuries, when it finally did, it was known as Latymer's School. At some point, the apostrophe was dropped and the name modified to the Latymer School. It has been situated on its present site since 1910, when it also became coeducational. The school motto, Qui Patitur Vincit ('Who endures wins'), was also adopted in 1910 by Richard Ashworth, then headmaster. Prior to this, the motto was Palmam Qui Meruit Ferat ('Let he who bears the palm (of honour) deserve it').
Internally, Latymer history is propagated by school assemblies. It is traditional for headmasters to lecture pupils on the school's origins, and their personal interpretation of the school's motto during the first assembly of the academic year, as well as the school's Foundation Day.
While the Latymer school song was said to have been written in the 1950s by Alice W. Linford, with music by Ronald Cunliffe on the school site and was quoted here, the school song was definitely written before 1935 as pupils in that year learned it and Ronald Cunliffe wrote it within an autograph album in 1935 for a 12-year-old pupil. Ronald Cunliffe died in August 1944.
It is sung on Foundation Day and at the annual awards ceremony. Guests at the awards ceremony have included Robert Winston, Boris Johnson, Michael Portillo and Margaret Thatcher.
In 1724 Thomas Hare, the parish clerk, was appointed Latymer schoolmaster by the vestry, while the Revd. John Button taught the boys funded by the donation of Thomas Style. In 1737 Zachariah Hare succeeded his father; two years later the various charities were amalgamated and land and a school-house were purchased, Zachariah becoming the first headmaster under the new scheme.
In 1781 John Adams was appointed headmaster. His friend, J. T. Smith, related that plates of Hogarth's Industry and Idleness hung in the schoolroom; once a month Adams read a lecture on these examples and then rewarded the industrious boys and caned the idle. He was succeeded in 1802 by his son, John Adams junior, clerk to the vestry and an able and efficient teacher. Adams numbered the 106 boys in the school according to their seniority. Each number was on a leather medal which, together with eight other medals recording school position in particular subjects including Latin, mathematics and behaviour, was strung on a cord worn by the pupil. The numbers were registered from time to time and prizes were presented by the trustees to boys who had excelled.
Charles Henry Adams succeeded his father in 1821 but failed to maintain the standards of the school. A vestry inquiry in 1848 found that the system of education was unsatisfactory; Latin was no longer being taught and many of the pupils were not receiving clothing. Nevertheless, he was still in charge of the school with his son, as usher, a member of the fourth generation of the family to teach in the school, when it was inspected in 1865. There were 89 boys on the books, of whom 65 were present in the morning but only 29 returned after lunch. Latin teaching was confined to reading aloud from a grammar and the standards in elementary subjects were very low; the income of the Cambridge scholarship was used for church repairs. In 1868 Adams agreed to retire on a pension.
The Revd. Dr. Charles. V. Dolbé was appointed headmaster, and under a new scheme £210 of foundation income was diverted to elementary schools attached to St. Paul's, Winchmore Hill, Christ Church, Southgate, and St. James, Upper Edmonton. The residue was to provide two Latymer schools: an upper for foundationers and fee-payers in the existing buildings, and a lower or elementary school.
In 1897 W. A. Shearer, the new headmaster of the upper school, found not only that the buildings were inadequate and defective, but also that R. S. Gregory, Vicar of Edmonton, wanted to close the school and use the funds for the Church of England elementary school, a proposal which aroused much opposition, especially from the Edmonton Urban District Council. In 1901 the lower school was accommodated in new buildings in Maldon Road, and a site in Haselbury Road was acquired for a new upper school, but in 1908, before building began, Shearer was killed in an accident. The upper school was temporarily closed, but in 1910 it reopened as a co-educational grammar school with 25 pupils and R. Ashworth as headmaster. Numbers increased rapidly and the school was enlarged in 1924 and 1928. Soon after this Ashworth died while still in office, leaving a flourishing school of over 700 pupils. V. S. E. Davis, who became the next headmaster, was a young man and guided the school with great skill through one of its most difficult periods through the Second World War. The school was granted voluntary aided status in 1951. Davis retired in 1957 and was succeeded by Dr. Trefor Jones. In 1964 there were nearly 1,100 pupils.
Bold names have Houses in their honour.
Much of the north end of the school (principally the Small Hall and surrounding rooms) was built in 1910 after the Old Latymer Schoolhouse (Built mainly by Anne Wyatt and extended in the time of Charles Dolbé) in Church Street was abandoned. The buildings on the present site were provided by Middlesex County Council at a cost of £6,782, and accommodated 150 pupils. Twelve classrooms built in 1924 in the North Block allowed pupil capacity to triple.
The Great Hall, science laboratories and South Block were opened in a ceremony in 1928 by the Duke and Duchess of York (later to become King George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother). Fully equipped with stage and seating for over 1,000 people, the hall is used for school assemblies, concerts, drama productions and other major events. The hall has been refurbished twice since it was built, most recently in 1999. It is home to the Davis organ, which was recently repaired and upgraded.
The gymnasia, art studios and technology block were opened in 1966 by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. The 12 science laboratories and 6 technology rooms (including facilities for graphic design, product design, textiles and cookery) were re-equipped and modernised in the late 1990s.
Much of the school was modernised in the time of Dr. Trefor Jones. The balconies were altered in the Great Hall so that the pillars would not be so obstructive to the view of the stage and the balustrade removed and replaced with panels of fluted light oak. Dark green tiles adorned the walls below the dado rail in much of the older parts of the school which were removed and the walls refinished. There has been a recent programme of modernisation and refurbishment of the classrooms, including the integration of ICT into each room.
There is a suite of three ICT rooms containing in total approximately 100 computers (networked and accessible to pupils and teaching staff) and another 100 or so in every classroom, music rooms, media department and the technology department, which are used extensively in the teaching of a large number of curriculum subjects. The school network is accessible to pupils from the internet via the Latymer Integrated Learning Environment (LILE). Most classrooms have interactive white-boards. There are also 3 laptop trolleys, 2 of which contain 30 laptops, which teachers can book for lessons. Another laptop trolley containing 30 laptops is located at the library for use. All staff are issued with their own laptop computer. The sixth form study area, careers library, learning resources centre and technology block also have computer workstations.
The Ashworth library holds approximately 20,000 volumes and is run by a chartered librarian. A separate Learning Resources Centre (LRC) contains a further 2,000 reference volumes, a vast selection of periodicals, and computing facilities. There is a Connexions Careers Library with facilities for accessing the latest information on university courses and future career directions.
The sixth form common room was converted in 2000 from the Jones Lecture Theatre, which had itself been converted from a gymnasium to mark the retirement of Dr. Jones as Headmaster in 1970. The sixth form study area was built as the common room in 1984 to mark the retirement of Edward Kelly. Upon the conversion of the Jones Lecture Theatre to the common room, the 1984 building was made into a space for the sixth form to study in their free periods and a connecting building was built between the two, housing offices for the Head of the Sixth Form.
The 'Mills Building' (after the vision of Geoffrey Mills), a performing arts complex, was opened in the spring of 2000 to service the Music, Drama and Media Studies departments. It was funded by donations from former pupils, parents and friends of the school. The complex offers a range of studio-space, larger rooms for music and drama, and air-conditioned individual music practice rooms. This facility and the new Sports and Dining Complex, were envisaged by the then Headteacher Geoffrey Mills and the Governors in 1995.
The school owns a residential outdoor pursuits centre in Snowdonia National Park, Wales. The centre, Ysgol Latymer, was established on the site of an old primary school situated in the small village of Cwm Penmachno (5 miles from Betws-y-Coed) in 1966, as a 'school away from school'. Since, the school has developed it into a well-equipped residential centre, accommodating up to forty staff and pupils. It acts as a base of operations for week-long trips in the first and third years. Activities include hill walking, orienteering, mountain biking, rock climbing, abseiling, canoeing, swimming, rafting and skiing. Pupils participating in the Duke of Edinburgh Award, GCSE AS and A-level PE also visit the centre. It is the heart of the annual "Fourteen Peaks" challenge when staff and senior pupils may undertake an extensive programme of hill walks.
The school owns 12 acres (49,000 m2) of playing fields laid out for football, hockey, rugby union, cricket, rounders and athletics according to season.
A new Sports and Dining Complex was opened in a ceremony by Princess Anne on 18 May 2006. It includes a fitness suite (complete with aerobic and fixed weight equipment), specialist sports science classroom, a social studies room, a new computer suite, changing rooms with showers, and a multi-purpose gymnasium, which allowed the broadening of the sports curriculum to badminton, volleyball, table tennis and health and fitness. The facility is a brownfield development, occupying only slightly more area than the previous catering facility from the 1940s. Various environmentally friendly measures are incorporated into its design, including solar panels providing hot water, sun pipes reducing the need for artificial lighting and wind catchers to provide ventilation. Fresh, hot meals are cooked every weekday in the catering facility which seats 280, and sandwiches are prepared in site. A coffee shop service is provided for staff and sixth-formers.
In February 2010, a new multi-purpose suite entitled the "Seward Studio" replaced the old boys' gym, boasting a full HD Surround Sound cinema, 180 ranked seats and the capability of being a space for Music, Media, Drama and Art performances and exhibitions. The studio was officially opened on Tuesday 23 February 2010 by Dame Margaret Seward.
According to official canon, the school aims: "To provide a first class, liberal education where pupils achieve their full potential and show consideration for others."
The school underwent its most recent OFSTED inspection on 14 September 2012, receiving inspection grades of 'Outstanding' for both school and sixth form. Inspectors praised the maintenance of "top class academic standards while continually seeking to widen and enrich the curriculum." The Good Schools Guide called the school "A top-notch academic grammar school which produces mature, confident pupils." The school is also a Specialist Arts College in the UK government's Specialist Schools Programme for art, media and drama.
The school received the accolade of 'State Secondary School of the Year' in 'Parent Power', published by The Sunday Times newspaper in 2009. In that same year, 91.9% of GCSE examinations achieved grades A and A*, and 76.4% of entries gained A-grades at A-level (more than any other state school), while 93% obtained A or B grades. Approximately thirty to forty pupils gain places at Oxbridge each year.
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