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Dame Alice Owen's School

Dame Alice Owen's secondary school
Motto In God is all our trust.
Established 1613
Type Partially selective academy
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Doctor A J Davison
Founder Dame Alice Owen

Dugdale Hill Lane
Potters Bar
England Coordinates: 51°41′27″N 0°12′26″W / 51.69076°N 0.20719°W / 51.69076; -0.20719{{#coordinates:51.69076|-0.20719|region:GB_type:edu_dim:100|||||| |primary |name=

DfE number 919/5407
DfE URN 136554 Tables
Ofsted Reports
Staff many
Students 1443
Gender Mixed
Ages 11–18
Houses Historically green, blue, yellow and red
Colours Red and black
Website Dame Alice Owen's

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 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. The gift is now a limited edition five pound coin in mint condition, having previously been beer,[1] a reminder of the school's long standing close association with the brewing industry and the Worshipful Company of Brewers.[2][3]

Having narrowly missed being struck by a wayward arrow earlier in her life whilst milking a cow, Dame Alice Owen founded a school - originally for 30 boys to thank God for saving her - in Islington, London.[4] 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.

By the death of her third husband in 1598, Mistress Owen was left free to carry out her long-cherished plans. On 6 June 1608, she obtained license to purchase at Islington and Clerkenwell eleven acres of ground, whereon to erect a hospital for ten poor widows, and to vest the same and other lands, to the value of £40 a year, in the Brewers' Company. The site had previously been known as the 'Ermytage' field. Here she erected a school, free chapel, and almshouses, on the east side of St. John Street Road, which stood till 1841. In one of the gables three iron arrows were fixed, as a memorial of the childhood event previously described. By indentures dated in 1609, she gave to the Brewers' Company a yearly rent-charge of £25, in support of her almshouses. On 20 September 1613, she made rules and orders for her new school. She had previously, by her will, dated 10 June 1613, directed the purchase of land to the amount of £20 a year for the maintenance of its master.[5]

Nineteenth Century

By 1830, the value of the trust estates in Islington and Clerkenwell had grown to £900 a year. In 1841, the school and almshouses were rebuilt, at a cost of about £6,000, on a new site in Owen Street, Islington, a little distance from the old. On 14 August 1878, a new scheme obtained the royal assent, by which the school of Alice Owen was expanded into two — one for about three hundred boys, and the other for the like number of girls.[5] The latter school was built in 1886.[6]

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.

400th Anniversary 1613-2013

The quatercentenary of the school, which started in Islington in 1613 (see History above) was celebrated in Potters Bar in 2013.

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.


Headteachers of Boys' School

(This list is incomplete)

  • 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 Old Owenian, 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)


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 frequents in Tatlers good school guide.

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.[7]

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.It inhabits a number of undeveloped fields, playing grounds and forests. It also has a lake accommodating many fish. Although this lake is officially out of bounds most the time, students are rarely punished for visiting it. However during winter when the lake freezes over there may be serious consequences for students found ice skating on it.

Dame Alice Owen’s has 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.

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.[8])

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.[9]

Former teachers

Notable former pupils

Grammar school in Islington



  1. ^ Some random memories of wartime Bedford – Part One – The Owen's School boys settle into Bedford, BBC – WW2 People's War.
  2. ^ The Brewers' Company: A brief history.
  3. ^ School History, Dame Alice Owen's School.
  4. ^ "Eggheads". 7 July 2014. BBC2.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ a b Lee, Sidney (editor) (1895). Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 42. Smith, Elder & Co. Article on Alice Owen by Joseph Hirst Lupton.
  6. ^ J.S. Cockburn (1969). "Schools: Owen's School". In H.P.F. King; K.G.T. McDonnell. A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 1: Physique, Archaeology, Domesday, Ecclesiastical Organization, The Jews, Religious Houses, Education of Working Classes to 1870, Private Education from Sixteenth Century. Victoria County History. pp. 310–311. Retrieved 2008-02-13. 
  7. ^ Henry, Julie (2007-11-04). "Top secondary schools facing 'pupil crunch'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2009-07-18. 
  8. ^ Ofsted Inspection Report 2009
  9. ^ British Council website "Fellows" accessed 10 November 2009.
  10. ^ "Jessica Tandy". The Times. 11 September 1994. Retrieved 20 September 2009. 

External links