William Ellis was a public-spirited businessman who, in the mid-nineteenth century, founded a number of schools and inspired many teachers with his ideas on education. He wanted children to be taught 'useful' subjects such as science (including 'Social Science') and to develop the faculty of reason; his approach differed from many other schools of the time that focused on religious tracts, ancient languages and history. William Ellis School, the only one of his schools that still exists, was established at Gospel Oak in 1862 and reorganized in 1889 as a boys' secondary school.
In 1937, the School moved to its present site, backing on to Parliament Hill Fields. Much ingenuity has gone into extending and converting the building to provide the additional classrooms and specialist accommodation required: first by the post-World War II grammar school's large Sixth Form, and again in more recent years to provide better facilities for the National Curriculum and for Information Technology. The School became fully comprehensive in the years after 1978.
In 1997, the School gained Language College status under the Specialist School Scheme. Languages are skills for life, promoting understanding, trade and employment. Languages help us be better world citizens. William Ellis School seeks excellence in languages for all.
Courses and methods have constantly been adapted to the changing needs of the times, while retaining the best of traditional values. Public examination results and staying-on rates have remained consistently high. Sophisticated 'value added' measures are now used to monitor the School's success, earning the School the coveted A* rating by OFSTED (March 1999) for pupil progress,
William Ellis School has a joint Sixth Form with the adjacent Parliament Hill Girls' School, and all classes are co-educational.
Together with La Sainte Union Convent School and Acland Burghley School, they make up the popular and highly regarded La SWAP consortium for 16 - 19 education. For nearly twenty years, co-operative planning has ensured a wide curriculum with excellent examination results at all levels for over 1,000 students. A separate La SWAP prospectus and course booklet is available.
William Ellis is unusual in being an 'Aided' school. There are not many of these, and they are mostly attached to the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches, a Jewish community or a Livery Company. We stand on our own, supported by the William Ellis and Birkbeck Schools Trust, a registered charity whose funds are solely for the purpose of assisting the School. Not a wealthy body, the Trust relies on the support of parents, past and present.
The Trustees work closely with the Governors and appoint the Foundation Governors. Most of our Governors are parents of current or former pupils of the School, and a few are former pupils (Old Elysians).
Being an Aided school brings a measure of independence from the local authority, but in return we must raise part of our costs. We value our independence, perhaps best exemplified by the quality and character of the staff appointed by the Governors over the years.
You can hear more about the History of the school by clicking on the link below which is a recording of Mr Altmann's interview by BBC Radio London's (and WES Parent) Robert Elms.