St Dunstan's College

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St Dunstan's College
The arms of St Dunstan's College.png
Stanstead Road, Catford


Coordinates51°26′38″N 0°01′46″W / 51.44386°N 0.02937°W / 51.44386; -0.02937Coordinates: 51°26′38″N 0°01′46″W / 51.44386°N 0.02937°W / 51.44386; -0.02937
TypePublic School
Independent day school
MottoAlbam Exorna
(English: Adorn the white)
Religious affiliation(s)Church of England[2]
Established1446; 575 years ago (1446)
Refounded in 1888
FounderKing Henry VI
Local authorityLewisham (209)
Department for Education URN100754 Tables
Chairman of GovernorsPaul Durgan [1]
HeadmasterNicholas Hewlett
Age3 to 18
Enrolment938 (2019)[2]
Colour(s)Maroon & Royal Blue   
Former pupilsOld Dunstonians

St Dunstan's College is a co-educational independent school in Catford, south-east London, England. It is a registered charity, and a member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference and the Independent Association of Prep School Heads. The college is made up of a junior school for 3-10 year olds, a senior school for 11-16 year olds and a sixth form for 16-18 year olds.

Since 1888, the school has been located in Catford, with many additions being made to the original Victorian building.


St Dunstan's (2016) by D. Long. This is the front entrance to the College.

A school has been associated with the parish of St Dunstan-in-the-East as far back as 1446. St Dunstan's ran, intermittently, until the early 16th century, and provided an education for girls and boys aged 7–11, in the heart of the City of London. In the Victorian period, and amidst the opportunities of the Industrial Revolution, the church parishioners of St Dunstan-in-the-East were confident that they could re-establish a school that would meet the highest educational standards of the day. It would be both a boarding and day school and would be located outside the City, whilst still accessible by the new and growing railway network. By 1854, the current Catford site was decided upon as the ideal location, and the school was officially opened in 1888.

At the end of the 19th Century there was an increasing emphasis on the importance of science and technology. As such, the first Governing Body of St Dunstan's made the progressive decision that their new school should emphasise this. They chose as their first headmaster, a chemist named Charles Maddock Stuart. Mr Stuart was a proponent of heuristic education. St Dunstan's College was the first school in the country to be designed with laboratories in it and the curriculum featured more than three times than normally allocated to the sciences and experimentation in order that pupils could 'find out' and 'do'. Mr Stuart once said 'it is not so much what a boy learns that is important, but how he learns it.'

Following on from Stuart, Reverend Frank G. Forder was appointed headmaster. Forder was a visionary polymath who believed in the importance of co-curricular activities, and the college's co-curricular programme, the Forder Programme, is named in his honour.

From its opening in 1888, St Dunstan's set itself apart from other independent schools, both by its innovative technical curriculum and by the determination to be an accessible school, supporting families from a range of different backgrounds and incomes.

During the First World War, 977 former and current St Dunstan's pupils and staff signed up. By the end of the war, 237 had died, which is among the highest percentage of casualties of any independent school in the United Kingdom. Following this great loss, war memorials were established at St George's Church in Ypres, the battlefield at Loos, and in the Great Hall at St Dunstan's. The college's memorial reads 'Albam Exornarunt', a modification of the slogan 'Albam Exorna', reminding others that 'They Adorned the White' through their extraordinary service and commitment to school and country.

Growth and Change[edit]

Following the war years, the school ushered in a new time of prosperity and momentum. The headmaster at the time, William Hecker, wanted to ensure the college and pupils had a better future following the traumatic years of the war. From the late 1950's, development at the Catford site accelerated. A new swimming pool, constructed in 1955, gave pupils access to the new sport, swimming. The Pavilion followed in 1958, following demand for more physical education and sport in the national curriculum. The college's famous glass-walled dining hall was built in 1961. The hyperbolic paraboloid roof requires no internal supports, and at the time was one of only four hyperbolic paraboloid structures in the world.

In 1994, the college expanded the include a pre-prep school for ages four and above. In an even bolder leap forward, that same year, St Dunstan's became a co-educational school,[3] with the gradual integration of girls at all ages.

In 2018, the college opened its pupil wellness centre,[4] which is a dedicated hub for pupil wellbeing. The centre houses the school nurse, chaplain and counselling services. In the same year, the college developed two new multi-use games areas (MUGAs)[5] for its sports department, and the wider community, located at the college's Jubilee Grounds.

In February 2019, BBC's political show, Question Time, was filmed in the college's great hall, featuring panellists Barry Gardiner and Layla Moran.

House System[edit]

The first house system was introduced in 1914 to help improve the school's morale and organise sport teams. The houses were named after places near to the school (e.g. Catford, Forest Hill, Hither Green) and pupils were allocated to them based on where they lived.[6] However, after the first World War, where hundreds of boys from the school had lost their lives, the houses were renamed after some of the most decorated pupils that served in the war. The new house names were as follows: Bennett (pink), Goosey (dark blue), Griffiths (green), Johnson (purple), Lane (black), Ross (yellow), Thomas (red) and Wilson (light blue).

Currently, the houses are named after the first four headmasters of the college. They are called Usherwood (Yellow), Forder (Red), Stuart (Blue) and Hecker (Green).[7]

The annual house competitions kick off with the new year seven students, as they compete in a 'silly sports day' as part of their induction just before the new term begins. From drama and music to maths, debating and University Challenge style quizzes, each term brings a number of opportunities for students to represent their house in fun and friendly competition. All pupils get involved over the course of a year, and bonus points are gained for participation and support as well as winning. The house leaderboard is updated regularly on the college's video wall, and termly cups and colour assemblies provide a lively forum for recognising and celebrating individual and house achievements.

The Forder Programme[edit]

The Forder Programme[8] is the name given to St Dunstan's co-curriculum. The programme is named after the second headmaster of the college, the Revd Forder, who believed passionately that schools should offer more to the education of young people than classroom learning. Revd Forder's education philosophy was to put the health and character of a pupil above the acquisition of knowledge, which led to the introduction of a pioneering programme of 'outside activities'. The first programme which ran at the end of the school day on three afternoons each week included 'wireless telegraphy, dramatic works, French reading, the production of an honest newspaper, map modelling or lecturettes on industries or photography'.

Today, the college describes the Forder Programme as an 'ambitious, forward-thinking programme that gives each individual the freedom to create their own journey'. The programme is categorised into five areas, which are based on the college values: curiosity, compassion, courage, creativity, and confidence.[9]

The Forder Programme now has more than 90 activities for pupils to choose from, including the college's Combined Cadet Force[10] and the Duke of Edinburgh Award.

St Dunstan's Festival[edit]

The St Dunstan's Festival[11] originated in the 1990s under the stewardship of Dr Anthony Seldon, who was deputy head of the college at that time. It was originally named 'The Catford Arts Festival' and ran over two and a half days at the very start of July.

The festival was quickly dubbed 'The Edinburgh Festival of South London' and comprised over twenty main events and 'a rich and enterprising fringe'. The 1994 college Chronicle describes the festival as 'catering for the souls' and it contained an array of eclectic events including the St Dunstan's jazz group, lectures given by writers Brian Masters and Gwendoline Butler, and a Shakespeare play with a twist, entitled 'A Pocket of Midsummer Night's Dream'.

The festival was short-lived, only lasting a few years. The current headmaster, Nicholas Hewlett, reignited the festival on his arrival at the college, with its relaunch occurring in the summer of 2015. The now two-week event is a firmly established highlight at the end of the academic year, enabling pupils to engage with a huge variety of activities and performances, involving not only the college, but also the broader Lewisham community. In 2019 Baroness Doreen Lawrence and LGBT author Shaun Dellenty[12] were special guests at the festival's evening on diversity and inclusion.

Archives at St Dunstan's[edit]

The college's archives contain a rich collection of artefacts relating to the history of the school as well as of the local area. The college works closely with Lewisham Historical Society[13] and in 2018 the college's timeline corridor was opened showcasing original items dating back to 1888. To name but a few rare items, the school has an original lacrosse stick which dates back to the 1930's (the school was the first in the country to promote the game to boys[14]), and the Victoria Cross belonging to Frederick Henry Johnson. The college also operates a dedicated site with digitalised archives[15] which have been of fascinating interest for pupils, alumni and members of the local community.

School publications[edit]

The college publishes a termly magazine, The Shield,[16] formerly known as Moment by Moment. The magazine features the latest school news and events from each term, with input from staff and pupils. At the end of each academic year, The Chronicle[17] is also published which highlights the year's achievements.


  • Mr Charles M. Stuart, 1888-1922
  • Rev Frank G. Forder, 1922-1930
  • Mr John F. Usherwood, 1930-1938
  • Mr William R. Hecker CBE, 1938-1967
  • Mr Richard R. Pedley, 1967-1973
  • Mr Brian D. Dance, 1973-1994
  • Mr David Moore, 1994-1998
  • Mr Ian Davies, 1998-2004
  • Mrs Jane Davies, 2005-2014
  • Mr Nicholas Hewlett, 2014–present

The Dunstonian Association[edit]

The Dunstonian Association, formerly known as the Old Dunstonian Association, is the alumni organisation for former pupils and staff at the college. Each year, the association sponsors a number of events for its members and sports clubs which members can join. The association also supports senior pupils with career advice and work experience placements.

Notable Dunstonians[edit]


  1. ^ Our Governing Body
  2. ^ a b "St Dunstan's College - GOV.UK". 12 June 2019. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  3. ^ "Our History - St Dunstan's College". Retrieved 16 November 2020.
  4. ^ "Pastoral Care - St Dunstan's College". Retrieved 16 November 2020.
  5. ^ "Moment by Moment Michaelmas Term 2018". Issuu. Retrieved 16 November 2020.
  6. ^ Watson, Nigel. St. Dunstan's College A Centenary History 1888-1988. London: St. Dunstan's Education Fund. p. 67. ISBN 0951409506.
  7. ^ "St. Dunstan's College House System". St. Dunstan's College. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  8. ^ "Forder Programme - St Dunstan's College". Retrieved 16 November 2020.
  9. ^ "Our Ethos, Vision, Values and Aims - St Dunstan's College". Retrieved 16 November 2020.
  10. ^ Putty, Electric (15 November 2020). "St Dunstan's College". Combined Cadet Force. Retrieved 16 November 2020.
  11. ^ "St Dunstan's Festival Programme 2019". Issuu. Retrieved 16 November 2020.
  12. ^ "Shaun Dellenty – Award winning #LGBT inclusion teacher/trainer/author". Retrieved 16 November 2020.
  13. ^ "Lewisham Local History Society". Retrieved 16 November 2020.
  14. ^ "Hidden Treasures at St Dunstan's College - Lacrosse - YouTube". Retrieved 16 November 2020.
  15. ^ "St Dunstan's College | Digital Archives". Retrieved 16 November 2020.
  16. ^ "St Dunstan's College - The Shield Lent Term 2020". Issuu. Retrieved 16 November 2020.
  17. ^ "St Dunstan's College Chronicle 2019". Issuu. Retrieved 16 November 2020.
  18. ^ ‘JUDGE, Sir Paul (Rupert)’, in Who's Who 2012 (London: A. & C. Black, 2012), online page (subscription required), accessed 5 June 2012

External links[edit]