Foster’s – The Story Of A Dorset School

Here is the full text as a pdf download, transcribed by Simon Newell, who also did some research to bring it up to date as at 2013.  It is a fascinating history of the school and worth a read.

Foster’s – The Story of a Dorset School v1.1

Reproduced with kind permission from Mac’s wife, his history of the school from 1975.

So what happened to Foster’s?  This is an addendum to the book written in about 1997 and updated in 2013.

Mr. Francis retired in July 1976 and was succeeded by Mr. C. J. Lea, under whom co-operation with Lord Digby’s School became even closer; another feature of Mr Lea’s headmastership was the introduction of Business Studies into the curriculum. It was during this time that the future of the school became uncertain, with the setting up in 1983 of a working party to consider the future of secondary education in Sherborne. By the time this reported Mr. Lea had left (and moved to Birmingham) and Mr. K. H. House, an Old Boy, who had been on the staff since 1960 and was currently Deputy Head, was appointed acting Headmaster. He retired in December 1990 and was succeeded by Mr. D. R. Blake who became the last Headmaster of Foster’s.

The report of the working party, in the spring of 1984, recommended one fixed comprehensive school for the district and ushered in eight years of uncertainty and controversy. A scheme for such a school was submitted by Dorset Education Committee to the Secretary of State for Education but, after a long delay, was turned down in March 1986 by Sir Keith Joseph on the grounds that he was “not satisfied that given the quality of the existing schools their closure would be in the best interests of pupils of higher as well as lower ability”. A second scheme was also rejected on the grounds of lack of consultation. At about the same time, the autumn of 1989, an application was made by the Governors of the School for it, together with Lord Digby’s School if possible, to be given the comparatively new status of ‘Grant Maintained’, thus freeing it from the control of the Local Education Authority but this too was rejected. Yet another scheme was proposed by the County Education Committee at the end of 1990 and, in January 1991, as a result of the Government’s declared support of Grammar Schools, a second application for Grant Maintained Status was submitted. The latter was, to the surprise of many, rejected in June 1991 as not being viable and the decision was made that the three existing schools should be closed at the end of August 1992 and be replaced by one mixed comprehensive school. Even this was not quite the end of the saga as an attempt was made in the courts to overturn the decision on technical grounds. This failed and, in September, the Gryphon School came into existence. For two years the buildings of the old Foster’s and Lord Digby’s Schools continued to be used, while new premises were built on the St. Aldhelm’s site, but in 1994 they were vacated and in the autumn the Tinneys Lane buildings were demolished: at about the same time the Hound Street buildings were converted to residential accommodation and a number of additional houses built on the site. The Foundation Stone from the Tinneys Lane school building was preserved and is now incorporated in the boundary wall of the housing estate which currently stands on the site.

During all these years of frustration exacerbated by national disputes and many changes in education, the examination results of Foster’s remained of a remarkably high standard and in the first “league table”, published in 1992, the school came second in the whole country. Ironically, by this time, there was no Foster’s School as a separate entity.

Thus Foster’s School ceased to exist – or did it? Just as in 1872 ten charities were amalgamated to form the new Foster’s, so Foster’s became part of the Gryphon School and lives on as such. Some tangible links remain too: the boards from Foster’s commemorating its Old Boys who died in the two World Wars are permanently attached to the wall of the foyer leading to the main hall of the new school and a number of awards previously made to pupils of Foster’s, including the Sir George Pragnell prize, are now made to the students of the Gryphon School.

5 thoughts on “Foster’s – The Story Of A Dorset School

  1. Simon Newell January 17, 2014 / 4:44 pm

    Hi, if anybody is interested I have a complete copy of this book in digital form and an update researched by me in 2013.

    • Linda July 14, 2016 / 7:00 am

      Hello,
      I visited Oborne Church on Tuesday and saw the name of Francis Reginald Palmer on one of the East windows. I have just researched the name and discovered that on the 1911 census he was listed as a student teacher at Foster’s School. I thought you may be interested. Sadly he was killed at Arras on April 23rd, 1917, aged just 23. He was the only son of the caretaker of a ‘Ladies College’. I have a screen shot of the census return.

    • Tony Curran October 14, 2018 / 3:11 pm

      I was a pupil at Foster’s School from 1956 to 1964 and would be interested in a digital copy of the book if that is possible.

      Many thanks,

      Tony Curran

  2. Simon Newell June 12, 2017 / 2:04 pm

    Hi Linda, thanks for that. I’m sure our archivist, Barbara Elsmore at Sherborne Museum would be interested in the screen shot.

  3. Jonathan Owen December 2, 2017 / 11:54 pm

    A scheme for such a school was submitted by Dorset Education Committee to the Secretary of State for Education but, after a long delay, was turned down in March 1986 by Sir Keith Joseph on the grounds that he was “not satisfied that given the quality of the existing schools their closure would be in the best interests of pupils of higher as well as lower ability”

    The qualification results at St. Aldhelms in 1989: for a cohort over 100 students, the outcome was below 7% 5 A-C GCSE – in current national data, this would be in the worst 10 performing schools in the whole of the UK. Something like 60% is viewed as requiring intervention.

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