School History

Burnt Mill celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2011/12. The pioneers of secondary education in Harlow new town were celebrated in the Academy's major summer production at the Harlow Playhouse: 'An adventure in faith'.....


by W.R.Stirling (first Headteacher 1962)

It was a drizzly October day in 1961 when I first pulled on a pair of gum boots and followed the Clerk of Works through a sea of mud, up a thread of a ladder and found myself on the top of the steel skeletal structure which was Burnt Mill School. It seems much longer ago than 18 months, and just as now it is hard to visualise our school without its attendant weeds and rubble piles, so then it was difficult to imagine it would ever be a school at all.

Six months later I met the real Burnt Mill, 170 children of all sizes and shapes, conspicuous by their motley dress and looking very much like orphans of the storm in the kindly hospice of Passmores School. We did our best to become a school in that first term, but it was not until September, when concrete and glass were infused with flesh and blood, that I really felt Burnt Mill existed.

The staff converged from the four corners of the country and strange dialects stirred the empty classrooms. In the sweat of their brow, as they moved furniture and humped books,they christened the place.

Wednesday, September 12th 1962 - building (or part of them), children and staff came together and Burnt Mill Comprehensive was born.

Birth presumes conception and the story of the school goes back long before the foundations were dug. It began with a cold statistic on a piece of paper, for with the cussedness of children there were too many of them to be absorbed by existing schools and an additional one was necessary. Unlike other Harlow schools it could not be 'paired', and so sheer necessity made us 'Comprehensive'. We did not believe that children could be selected and segregated at 11; we were to meet the needs of their abilities and aptitudes as they developed. This was the principle of our being.

Embodied in Burnt Mill was another great ideal - that individual children matter; for however large the school might grow it would be just as strong or just as weak as the least of its members. We were ordained to have a caring regard for each and every child and given a house system to effect it.

From statistic to committee, from drawing board to concrete, from 1958 to 1962 Burnt Mill was nurtured : the quality of its life is left to us, for as we move towards maturity it is the standards we create in classroom and workshop, laboratory and studio, games field and theatre that will help us to realise ourselves, to respect one another and to forge a unity of purpose. We shall need to "Adventure in Faith"
W R Stirling

 Original Staff 1962

Original Burnt Mill Staff 1962

Back Row L to R ~ Dave Norfolk, Dan Rees, Bill Bloomfield, Mike Ratty, Gordon Godsman,Dave Sutherland

Middle Row L to R ~ Joan Williams, Alan Shine, Brian Barnes, Paul Sellars, Bob Smith, Finlay (Jock) Fraser, Philip Payne,
Derek Peasey, Anne Readman.

Front Row L to R ~ Anita Evans, John Derbyshire, George Halliwell, Ray Stirling (Head), Frank Auld, Anita Flateau (Secretary)