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Headington history: Schools

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Cheney School


In 1934 John Henry Brookes, the Principal of the Oxford City Technical School which had been in St Ebbe’s since 1894, started a junior day department. By 1940 this had 200 pupils from all over Oxfordshire, and in 1944 it became a separate Secondary Technical School in its own right.

The St Ebbe’s premises were so cramped that the school operated from ten separate sites in the city; and the technical college was also short of space.

On 12 August 1952 planning permission was granted for “Secondary Technical School and layout of playing fields at corner of Gipsy Lane and Cheney Lane, Headington (52/02485/A_H). This land to the west of Gipsy Lane was formerly used by Mattock's Nursery. The aerial photograph below shows the foundation of the school in about 1953. On the right is Gipsy Lane, and the land to the north, where Oxford Brookes University is now, is still Mattock’s market garden.

Foundations of Cheney School

The technical school (which admitted both boys and girls) opened in 1954 and took the name “Cheney School”.   It was selective entry at the age of eleven, with two years of general studies before entering either the technology, art, or commerce streams for three years and then the opportunity to enter a single sixth form. 

The pupils who moved up from St St Ebbe’s were allowed to retain their previous school uniforms with the “old” badge (comprising the intertwined letters STAC in gold) on the blazer pocket. 

In 1959 Cheney Girls’ School moved to the south of the Gipsy Lane site, and shortly after it opened, the Oxford Education Committee decided that Cheney School should become a boys-only school so that there were separate boys and girls schools on the same site. This was unpopular, and so a few years later the school reverted to mixed entry, but the official names remained as Cheney School and Cheney Girls School.

The two schools were fully merged in 1972 when Oxford began the process of adopting a three-tier system of comprehensive education: they became Cheney Upper School, for boys and girls aged 13 to 18.

In 2003, when Oxford returned to a two-tier system of education, Cheney School became a secondary school taking children aged 11 to 18.

© Stephanie Jenkins

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