Whitefield School have a long and proud history of outstanding SEND provision. The schools have continually adapted to meet the ever-changing SEND environment whilst never losing sight of the importance of providing a high-quality school experience to every pupil whatever their needs.
Founded in 1903, Whitefield School grew from two very small single-sex schools before becoming a single school in 1933 in Shernhall Street, very near to the present school.
At the end of the Second World War, the school was designated as a school for “Educationally Subnormal Children”, catering for children with moderate learning difficulties. During the 1960s and 70s, which saw a significant shift in the way children and young people with SEND were treated, the school led the way in integrating children previously deemed ‘unsuitable’ for school into the education system. As part of this, we opened a Nursery Observation Centre to identify developmental difficulties as early as possible enabling us to plan appropriate education from the beginning. We also opened a class for children with autism, quickly growing to a department for children and young people from 5 to 18, and a specialist centre for deafblind pupils. Throughout this period, the school acquired an international reputation attracting visitors from as far away as Canada and Australia who were keen to see first-hand how the school operated.
In 1982 the school moved to the present site on Macdonald Road. The 1980s saw greater integration of children with moderate learning difficulties into mainstream schools which led Whitefield School to further develop its expertise in educating children with severe learning difficulties. It was at this time, that we set up an advisory service to support children with more moderate learning difficulties who were based in mainstream schools.
The school’s intake increased and we began welcoming children from beyond Waltham Forest. We opened residential provision for deafblind children attending the specialist unit who lived too far away from Waltham Forest to travel daily.
Following in the footsteps of our founder, Margaret Brearley, who was a pioneer of her time, Head Teachers Peter Turner and then Niels Chapman drove the schools forward and oversaw a number of important developments such as the creation of the Professional Development Centre and the ongoing improvement of the site with buildings adapted for the needs of the changing population. Many of the buildings were funded by the Whitefield Development Trust and we welcomed Princess Diana and Tony Blair to open the Rebecca Goodman Centre and the Margaret Brearley building respectively. The school’s place at the forefront of SEND provision was also recognised by visits from Princess Royal in her role as patron of SENSE and, in 1993, by a visit from HM The Queen.
In 2014, we joined forces with Joseph Clarke School – a centre of excellence for pupils with vision impairment and complex needs – to create Whitefield Academy Trust (now called Flourish Learning Trust). Whilst we operate as separate schools, we have a similar ethos and set of values and we work together to share expertise and experience. We look forward to an exciting future together.