Something Old, Something New for @QKynaston

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(c) University of Westminster; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation Quintin Hogg


Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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A school building isn’t just a collection of bricks and mortar, but the values and the culture that exist within it.

In this blog you will read about our plans to decamp our existing school building and the logistical programme for moving 1300 students to another site. You will also be able to read a brief overview of the school’s 150 year history and a snapshot into the future of Quintin Kynaston School.


Over the past term, we have worked to re-establish a set of core values that embody what we want all our students to possess during their time at Quintin Kynaston. By the time students reach their 7th year in education with us, we hope that students will be resilient, aspirational and from part of the wider community. We want all our students to become independent learners and confident individuals, who become responsible adults to society as a whole.

They say a building doesn’t make a school, but the teachers and students within it. In fact, it’s the ethos and values of the community. And the proof will be in the pudding when we relocate on the 5th January 2015 and our students return on the 12th.

Something Old:

Yesterday, we said goodbye to all our student population. There were a few tears from staff who have worked in the current building for 10+ years; and as I walked across the site last night, ensuring the building was safe and secure, I came across various groups of students – mainly 6th formers – huddled together in pockets, reminiscing about various memories they had gathered over the past 6 years in the existing building.

This week, I also supported the Arts in our school by watching the last ever school performance. The show was Little Shop of Horrors. I particularly liked this part of the show which reminded me of my own (tv) childhood. It was magnificently performed by a wonderful range of students and the Performing Arts department. It was so good, I watched the second night too!

Little Shop of Horrors Quintin Kynaston

For many of our students, they may not yet be ready to make the mental adjustment to a new school building. For many of them, it may feel like working in an entirely new school, and this may or may not affect their studies and ability to learn over the coming months. After all, not all of us can adjust quickly to new surroundings, systems and structures. We have had to consider our vulnerable students too; those that may find it even harder than most to adjust with the move between the old and new buildings; the packing, moving rooms and the memories that come with them …

For others, a mixture of anxiety will be replaced with excitement as new routines are established. Shiny walls, windows and floors will be the new norm for teachers, students and eventually parents. In the coming week, we will finally say goodbye to Something Old, and hello to Something New. Teaching and support staff will be on hand, kitted-out in overalls, gloves and boots, packing up every classroom, store-cupboard and classroom corridor throughout the entire site. It will prove to be an interesting week walking the school, pondering over the memories as they are removed from walls and classroom spaces. This week, I snapped this photograph in one of our science classrooms. You can see the benches have started to be dismantled and the remnants of chewing gum, possibly spanning a couple of decades! Thousands of students and thousands of teaching hours must have passed through this single classroom …

Science Classroom Quintin Kynaston


During the past term, I have opened cupboards and files, discovering hidden gems and browsing the 150-year archives of Quintin Kynaston School’s history. There are some fascinating photos and items. I came across the following information about Mr. Quintin Hogg.

(c) University of Westminster; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation Quintin Hogg

Image: BBC / University of Westminster

Quintin Hogg (14 February 1845 – 17 January 1903) was an English philanthropist. Having made his fortune, he became concerned with Christian-motivated philanthropy. London at the time suffered from social conditions, so Hogg turned his energy to educational reform. In 1864, Quintin Hogg set up a Ragged School in rooms he acquired in York Place, near Charing Cross. The boys arrived in a dreadful state of poverty. Many had to be washed, scrubbed and de-loused before they were fit to be taught to read. Some had no clothes and came with only their mothers’ shawls pinned round them. Many belonged to gangs of thieves. If he was able to set them up as shoe blacks at least, Hogg felt that he had done a great deal for them. There were no state schools until Forster’s 1870 Education Act which provided elementary schooling for poor children up to the age of 12 funded from taxes. Ragged schools would no longer be needed but Quintin Hogg had other plans…

Between 1870-1885, Quintin Hogg continued his educational activities in larger premises. Within 12 months of its opening on 25th September 1882, The Polytechnic Young Men’s Christian Institute had 5000 students. The Institute continued to run classes in the early mornings and evenings until Quintin Hogg decided he could provide education for younger boys (and gain more income) by using the building during the working day. The Polytechnic Day School opened for business on 1st January 1886. In the late 19th century, it would probably have been impossible to provide what the Polytechnic Day School for Boys offered anywhere else in England. The first Prospectus, published in November 1885, described the approach;

The school “will prepare boys for matriculation [for university entrance], preliminary medical, legal, Cambridge local and similar exams. It will include a course of instruction in Greek, Latin, Arithmetic, Algebra, Euclid [geometry], [English] Grammar, Literature and Composition, History, Geography (political and physical), German, French, Chemistry (theoretical and practical) and Natural Philosophy [biology].”

Quintin Hogg was sixty years ahead of his time. Butler’s 1944 Education Act set up Grammar, Secondary Modern and Technical Schools on the pattern of his three divisions, offering remarkably similar subjects. This model continued until the 1970s when Comprehensive Schools were established. By then Drama, Information Technology and Music had replaced Shorthand, Latin and Greek.

Quintin Kynaston School today, is the direct descendant of the Polytechnic Day Boys’ School founded in 1886 by Quintin Hogg at London’s Regent Street. Six years later it was split into separate Polytechnic Commercial Day School and Polytechnic Technical Day School but re-united in 1919 when Percy Abbott became Headmaster of Polytechnic Secondary School. His successor, Bernard Worsnop, oversaw wartime evacuation, the return to London in 1944, gaining grammar status four years later as The Quintin School and the building of a new school in St John’s Wood to end a dozen years of ‘temporary’ accommodation. Paddington Secondary Technical School, which dates back to the 1920s, moved into new buildings next door to become Kynaston Technical School. In 1969 the two schools merged to form a boys’ comprehensive Quintin Kynaston School and in 1976 Peter Mitchell admitted girls for the first time. You can read the full school history here.

There is a statue dedicated to Hogg in Portland Place, London.

Something New:

At the start of October 2014 half-term, I blogged Looking Back and Looking Forward, a retrospective look at my first term as deputy headteacher. I provided this aerial shot for the reader to gather a perspective of the school site, located in North London. Over the past half-term, I have continued to glance out of the windows on each floor of the current building, watching the new building reach its conclusion. The image below is deceptive; although the site appears to be very narrow, the actual square-footage is incredibly generous in all classroom and general spaces. For example, the Finchley Road (white) five-floor building is just short of 100m from North to South, and standing at one end of the corridor, it will take the hardiest of students to reach the other end without pausing to look at the wonderful display (void) spaces on offer. There is a fantastic video here which shows the building work in fast-play over a period of 6 months. From January, the old building will gradually be demolished and redesigned to provide a sixth form centre and outdoor space for students.

Quntin Kynaston School

Regarding new systems and structures, we have been working very hard, studying building plans and visiting the new school site, detailing discussions on furniture, layout, routes and all the ins and outs that ensure school life can continue as normal. For example, who will have access to this toilet? Which way will the lunch queue form a line? What staircase leads where? Who will have access to the lifts? What will the door/classroom be labelled as? and so forth …

Here is a small snapshot of the canteen space on the ground floor. With 3 double doors, which door would you make as an entrance and exit route?

Quintin Kynaston floor plan

This will be my 3rd new build school I have worked in. As a designer, I have found the process incredibly exciting, but have unfortunately not had much say in the actual start-to-finish architectural plans. I have tried to avoid pointing out areas of the new build where decisions have been made, that clearly been made from an architectural point of view – perhaps financial too – rather than from a practical teacher’s standpoint. Of course, there will be a large snagging list and as a school, we will have to adapt to the new environment and work out what is working and what is not. As I have already said, four walls do not make a school, but the values and the culture that exists within it. I am soon to find out how true (or not) this sentiment is, when 100% of our school population moves into a brand new school building on 12th January 2015.

Next Term:

Over the coming term, we will be looking at how our new school will help deliver our educational objectives. To view how we can use existing space creatively and what small tweaks need to be made. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has called on the Government to ensure that future investment in schools results in better buildings that are cost-effective, fit for purpose and fully meet the needs of teachers and students. (Source)

I am already considering how the school building itself can be used as a learning space. As lead for whole-school display and the strategy behind it, there are ample opportunities for us to display our school values on a grand scale. We have already had to think about how our school’s environment and its environmental impact will make on teaching and learning. I am a fan of curved structures and glass walls, but sadly there are none in our new building. Writing this blog, I discovered that the government had banned curved school buildings in 2012!

In this article, it says; “these projects have been criticised for being too costly by education secretary Michael Gove, who in a conference last year said: “We won’t be getting Richard Rogers to design your school, we won’t be getting any award-winning architects to design it, because no one in this room is here to make architects richer.” The key reasons I can decipher from this article, is that costs are the overriding factor. In response, RIBA state 5 good reasons why this decision must be overturned for school of the future.

  1. A failure to create functional spaces for excellent teaching
  2. Not ensuring discipline and student wellbeing
  3. Ignoring the safeguarding of environmental comfort
  4. Disregarding statutory requirements for accessibility and inclusion
  5. Not delivering long-term sustainability and value

RIBA have written this excellent article on Time to Build Excellent Schools and End a Decade of Waste. Some questions that I will consider once we move, and some I may be unable to answer;

  1. What effect will this school building have on the environment?
  2. Does the school building give more than was asked?
  3. Does the school building meet the test of time?
  4. Does the school building delight and engage passers-by as well as users?
  5. Does the school building represent value for money? (Source)

The Future:

“Quintin School may therefore justly take pride in the memory of Quintin Hogg. We can look on him as the person, among the many great people from a great century, who worked most particularly for others. Hogg matched deep sentiments with profound common sense, and harnessed his idealism to the most down-to-earth problems of everyday life. To a great social and educational need which others were neglecting, he found an answer; and found it by the exercise of an abidingly affectionate concern for the well-being of others, and by a life of voluntary effort in which no time was spared for a selfish counting of the cost.” (Source)

I am confident this new building will support a generation of students, teachers and the wider community for decades to come … and in the memory of Hogg, we may be able to achieve our school core values for every student; resilience, aspiration and community.

Sunset Quintin Kynaston building

Sunset over (old) Quintin Kynaston school (November 2014)

Did you know, that Quintin Kynaston is the very last BSF (Building Schools of the Future) build before the existing coalition government pulled the plug on funding?

12 thoughts on “Something Old, Something New for @QKynaston

  1. I found this interesting, Ross!

    The school where I was head merged with its sister school just after I left, and we were planning for this in my final year. It was an emotional time for everyone (it’s actually particularly tough for former students, who feel their history/traditions/memories are being sidelined) but in many respects it was the right thing to do. Both schools had been founded in 1882, originally on the same site, by the same overarching Trust. Bringing them together in 2012 made educational and fiscal sense, and the new, merged school is already proving to be strong and successful. There has been a lot of development of the site, and revisiting of the ethos and core values.

    It did make me think about what a school IS. The school where I was the head had had three changes of location and three changes of name across the 130 year period, but, to me, is was the same school, and merging with our sister school was just the next stage in its evolution. I appreciate it’s still difficult for many people, but a school isn’t a name or a building. It’s a community – past, present and future.

    Thanks for making me think about this again.

    Very best wishes with the move.

    1. Hi Jill. Thanks for your comment. Yes, a school is a community – past, present and future – and it’s important that senior leaders keep this in mind when supporting students, teachers and parents with a managed site-move. We have an incredibly exciting period ahead of us. I can’t wait to show it off with our first public TeachMeet!

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