Must listen on R4: The Secret History of a School, St Michael and All Angels, Camberwell

Janet Downs's picture

Starting on Monday, 25 February at 13.45 on Radio 4, The Secret History of a School follows the history of one school, St Michael and All Angels in Camberwell, from the day it opened in 1884.

Alan Johnson, education secretary in the last year of the Labour government ending in 2010, will tell the story of English education over the last 140 years through the prism of this one school using archive documents and testimony from former pupils and teachers. 

St Michael and All Angels achieved national publicity in 2010 when its deputy headteacher of just five weeks, Katherine Birbalsingh, wowed the Tory Conference with her speech about education in England being ‘broken’.  As part of her presentation she showed pictures of her pupils and publicly mocked one of them.  This was greeted with whoops and cheers from the audience.

Birbalsingh left her deputy headship shortly afterwards.  The school’s national reputation caused a slump in applications for Year 7and the school eventually closed.   The Department for Education said the school didn’t close but was transferred to Ark with no rebrokerage fees*.   But Ark told me** it was awarded a total of £2,240,621 to set up Ark All Saints Academy on the site of the closed school.

It will be particularly interesting to hear the episode of The Secret History relating to the closure of St Michael and All Saints, the circumstances leading up to the closure and its eventual transfer to Ark.


*Academy transfers downloadable here.

**20 May 2016, email to author from ARK in response to a Freedom of Information request.  The breakdown of costs was as follows:

£263,755 in project management grant.

£184,866 in costs incurred by Ark Schools, recharged to the DfE

£1,350,000 in start-up funding

£442k in costs related to staff transfer

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