The History of Oliver Goldsmith Primary School, Camberwell
There is a stone sign on each of our main buildings where the initials LSB can be seen. This stands for the School Board for London which was also known as the London School Board, which was the first directly elected body covering the whole of London as it was at that time; now known as Inner London. The LSB built our school and over four hundred other schools, many of a similar design, across Inner London. The sign to the left of the school entrance on Peckham Road shows that our school was originally in Lambeth East and the one on the south end of the main building says that it was intended to call the school Peckham Road School.
However, the school opened as ‘The Oliver Goldsmith Primary School’. The building work was completed in 1899 and the school actually opened on 1st February 1900 and at that time, as the stone sign on the side of the building facing Peckham Road states, the building with the clock tower housed the East Lambeth Divisional Office. This building was finally was handed over to the school on the amalgamation of the separate Infant and Junior Schools in April 1994. Just before that time it was being used by the Southwark Educational Psychology Service and Southwark Youth Service.
Our school buildings were originally much more ornate but suffered damage in WW2. Architects drawings of the original building can be found framed in the Top Hall. The clock tower was particularly ornate and also housed the large school bell which is now on display in the Link Building.
Our school was named after the poet, playwright and novelist Oliver Goldsmith. Oliver Goldsmith lived in the area in 1757-58 and also taught in the area for a short time but really disliked teaching. At the time he taught in Dr. Milner’s Boys’ Academy (now demolished) and may have even lived there. He was an Usher. Schools were usually run by two men; the Master and the Usher (apprentice schoolmaster). The Usher would work with half the boys in rote learning on one side of the classroom while the Master taught and tested the other side.
Records at the London Metropolitan Archive show that on 1st February 1900, three Oliver Goldsmith Schools opened in the building facing Southampton Way (known at the time as Southampton Street). Miss Annie Trounson was the Infant Headmistress, Miss Julia Beverton the Junior Girls Headmistress and Mr. Francis Brooks the Junior Boys Headmaster.
The Girls, Boys and Infants schools were segregated, each having their own entrances shown in stone signs above the doorways to the Main Building. Boys were on the Top Floor, Girls in the Middle and Infants on the Ground Floor. The single-story building across the playground consisted of an Engineering Shed where the Reception Classes are now housed and two open playground shelters, both of which have been converted to form auxiliary rooms. These faced opposite ways and there was a gate between the shelters and the Main Building.
The school was designed to take 1,300 pupils. The classrooms in the block at the North end of the building (which was added later) still show evidence in the tiling of the way the desks were in three tiers in order to accommodate as many as pupils possible. A similar extension on the South end was proposed but never built.
As mentioned above there was considerable superficial damage to the both Main School building and the Number 83 building (Division 8 divisional offices) during WW2 and at this time an entrance was created on the South end of the building with offices, toilets and a small kitchen. These were later demolished to make way for the Link Building which was completed in 2009.
We have copies of Inspectors’ Reports from 1948, 1964 and 1972 which show that the Junior Mixed School was a good school, serving its community well. It is unclear when the Junior Boys and Junior Girls schools merged.
In April 1994 the Junior Mixed and Infant Schools were amalgamated to form Oliver Goldsmith Primary School under the leadership of the former Junior Mixed School Headteacher, Miss Hilary Southern.
Miss Southern left the school in July 1996 and a new Headteacher, Mark Parsons, was appointed from January 1998.
The latest Ofsted Inspection in March 2012 found the school to be ‘Good’ in all areas with the potential to become outstanding at the next inspection.
To help raise standards and to enable a more appropriate match between pupil numbers and internal and external space available, the Governors’ request for the standard number of the school to be reduced from 90 (three-form entry) to 60 (two-form entry) was granted by the Southwark Council and in September 2010 there were two Reception Classes instead of three. The school will have two classes only in every year group from September 2016.
Mark Parsons retired in December 2012 and was succeeded by Mrs Anita Asumdu in January 2013.
There is a memorial plaque on the school for the Playwright ‘Oliver Goldsmith’. To find out about him, please click this link:
The BFI have released an excellent short film about the History of Camberwell. It was filmed about 60-70 years ago. In the film, you can see an extract of our school, Oliver Goldsmith Primary School, with children playing in the playground. You can also see how the housing in the local area has changed over the years. It is very interesting indeed. Please click here to see the film called, ‘The Changing Face of Camberwell”.
John Boyega is an English actor who recently starred in the latest films of the Star Wars franchise, ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ and ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’. Boyega was a pupil at Oliver Goldsmith Primary School. While acting in a play here at the age of nine, he was noticed by Teresa Early, the artistic director of Theatre Peckham, a learning theatre for young people who live in south London. After obtaining financial assistance from a hardship fund, he joined the theatre, spending his time there outside school hours between the ages of nine and 14.
He has since carved himself an incredibly successful carer in the film and television industry being nominated for the British Independent Film Award for Most Promising Newcomer award in 2011, then winning both the Empire Award for Best Male Newcomer and BAFTA Rising Star Award in 2015.
Israel Sotonwa, Ade and Dami
Israel Sotonwa (one of our School Governors), Ade and Dami all grew up in Camberwell and Peckham and are now in their 20’s. They went to Gloucester Primary School, Brunswick Primary School and St. Francis Cabrini Primary Schools. One is now working in banking, the other marketing and one is a data analysist. In June 2018 they visited our KS2 children to ‘tell their stories’ – how they managed to become some successful. Children found their messages inspirational and asked some challenging questions. Some of their key messages were:
- ‘Follow your dreams and goals, you can be whatever you would like to be.’
- ‘Work hard now, as it will help you get to where you need to go in life.’
- ‘Find something you are passionate about and don’t be afraid to go for it – even if others don’t believe in you.’
- ‘You will always be faced with choices. Consider the right choices for you and don’t just follow the crowd.’
We look forward to continued aspirational work with Israel, Ade and Dami in the future.
Stephen Bourne is an author who recently visited the school. He says,
“Last week I was invited back to my former primary school: Oliver Goldsmith on Peckham Road. It was my first visit since I left there in 1969! I was invited to give the assembly to over 150 children. I talked about my book ‘Black Poppies’. I received a warm and enthusiastic welcome from the children and staff and the children were thrilled to discover that I had been at the school in the 1960s. After the talk I was photographed in the playground in the same spot where I was photographed in my sailor suit in 1963.”