History of St Paul's

Celebrating more than 60 years of educating young learners.


The Diocese purchase land in Haywards Heath

On 22 December 1959, a letter from the Chief Education Officer (East Sussex County Council) to the Diocese of Southwark is sent, valuing the former Brunswick Preparatory School site at £27,500 and urging the Diocese to move quickly if they want to buy it. Seven days later, a letter confirms that the Bishop agrees to the purchase.


The school is built costing £154,000

The school, designed for two form entry totalling 300 children, is built between 1962/63 at a cost of £154,000.

On 10 May 1963, a meeting of the governors of St Paul’s Secondary School was held at the Convent of Mercy; Fr Maurice Byrne in the Chair. It is reported that seven candidates had been interviewed and Mr R D Grindley had been appointed as the first head teacher.


St Paul's Secondary School opens with 132 students and 8 teachers

On 10 September 1963, the school opens with 132 pupils spread across four year groups. Eight teachers are on the staff. All pupils take a NFER Standardised Test. The school houses are named Corinth, Damascus, Lystra and Valletta. Out of school activities included drama, amateur radio, ballroom dancing, and a variety of sports.


The official opening

On 20 February 1964, a religious inspection of the school is carried out.

On 7 May 1964, the official opening of the school by Lady Mary Fitzalan-Howard on behalf of the Duke of Norfolk who is indisposed. The Chairman for the occasion is Canon J.J. Crowley (Chairman of Southwark Diocese Schools Commission) and the Chief Education Officer, Mr Braithwaite attends.

On 18 July 1964, the first school fete was held raising £359.


Expansion required to meet growing numbers

On 27 September 1965, the governors acknowledged that in 1966, pupil numbers would exceed places available and agree to apply to the Diocese for St Paul’s to have three forms of entry and to investigate the purchase of a Norwegian prefabricated double classroom. They were duly purchased and officially opened on 20 July 1966, by a representative of the Royal Norwegian Embassy.


A growing community

In September 1967, the school roll is now 419 including 41 in the fifth form (Year 11) and 17 in the sixth form. The school leaving age was 15 at this time so you can see the students were keen to learn!


The governors purchase Canberra House

On 10 June 1968, the governors noted that an adjoining property in Oathall Road was on the market. The asking price for the house named Canberra, with nearly 2 acres of ground is £16,500. Funding was also being made available for a new building to accommodate the raising of the school leaving age to 16 (ROSLA Building).

In September 1968, the first 'A' Level results are obtained by 2 students.


Students on roll exceed 500

In September 1969, the number on roll is now 517, including 44 in the sixth form.


St Paul's Secondary School becomes St Paul's R C School

On 24 January 1972, the governors recommend that the school becomes fully comprehensive from September 1973. They also note that the school will transfer to West Sussex, following boundary changes, a year later. Approval was given by the Department of Education and Science for the school to be reorganised as a comprehensive school on 6 April 1973. The school’s new title is to be St Paul’s R.C. School.

During the academic year 1972/73, all pupils continue into the 5th year following the decision by the government to raise the school leaving age to 16.


The East/West Sussex boundary is moved

On 1 April 1974, the school, along with others in the area, transfer to the West Sussex Authority.

On 3 July 1974, the governors agree to inform West Sussex that they 'favour a Comprehensive 11-18 school being continued on condition that it can be financed'. This was reaffirmed in January 1976.


A shortage of playing fields

On 27 January 1975, the governors refer to the shortage of playing fields.

In September 1977, the Local Authority reported that there were 4 possible sites for additional playing fields. None were ever taken up.

1975 School Photograph
Whole school photograph taken in 1975.

A shortage of heating oil closes the school

In January 1979, the school was closed for 10 days due to a shortage of heating oil, except for the staff and exam students who had to attend.


The school are presented with a minibus

On 21 October 1980, Bishop Cormac Murphy O’Connor visits the school, celebrating Mass. The school is presented with a 14 seat minibus by the PTA.

1980 School Photograph
Whole school photograph taken in 1980.

School roll reaches 691

In September 1981, school roll is now 691 including 97 in the Sixth Form. Tim Renton, MP for Mid Sussex, visits the school. Bishop Cormac is chief guest at the annual prize giving.

1983 School Photograph
Whole school photograph taken in 1983.

Celebrations to mark the 21st anniversary

The 21st anniversary of the school; a number of events were organised by the PTA including a Victorian evening in April. Parents and staff dressed in Victorian costumes, enjoyed a 4 course dinner and enjoyed Victorian entertainment and dancing. ‘Oklahoma’ was the major musical this year.


Mr Grindley announces his intention to retire

In the summer of 1985, Canon Maurice Byrne steps down from the governors after 22 years. Fr Louis Keating also steps down from his role as Correspondent (Clerk) to the Governors after serving a similar period.

In September 1985, the first election of teacher and parent governors takes place. Derek Grindley, Headmaster, announces his intention to retire in August 1986. Governors committees are established for the first time. West Sussex announces a review of 16-19 education in the county. The Sixth Form at St Paul’s has never been formally recognised, and with numbers currently totalling 76 pupils in the Sixth Form, there is understandable concern.


Mr John Flower commences as head teacher

On 1 September 1986, John Flower commences as the school’s second head teacher. There are 548 pupils on roll.

A public meeting is held in the school hall to address the proposal by West Sussex to close the school's Sixth Form. Approximately 450 people attend the meeting; a very clear message is sent to West Sussex that the Sixth Form should be retained. In November, the WSCC School's Sub Committee decide that recognition of the Sixth Form should be sought by March 1989 (which it duly was).

1986 School Photograph
Whole school photograph taken in 1986.

The great storm

March 1987 saw the drama production of 'Salad Days'.

In September 1987, the number on roll has risen to 603 and includes a record 101 in the Sixth Form.

In October 1987, the successful Open Evening is held on Thursday 15 October; the night of the great storm. Fortunately the school suffered little damage and is open again on Monday 19th.


Lady Mary Mumford presents awards

Lady Mary Mumford, who opened the school on behalf of her late father, the Duke of Norfolk, in 1964, presents prizes and certificates at the Awards Evening.

1988 School Photograph
Whole school photograph taken in 1988.

St Paul's Sixth Form is finally recognised

On 10 January 1989, the governors meet with representatives from the LEA, at which they formally request that the LEA continues to maintain 'St Paul’s Sixth Form on a permanent basis'. The report to the LEA's School's sub-committee on 7 February recommends that the Sixth Form is maintained and that agreement should be reached with the DES to officially recognise the Sixth Form. The DES subsequently agrees to amend their records to record the school as being an 11-18 school for the first time.

On 29 June 1989, St Paul's celebrates its 25th anniversary with an Open Day. Bishop Cormac concelebrates Mass with priests from the Deanery for the whole school in the hall. Later he formally opens the lecture theatre, Room 7, switching on the new satellite television. This event is covered by Sky Television and TV South. BBC Sussex recorded interviews with staff and students which were broadcast the next day. Guests included Lady Mary Mumford who opened the school in 1964 and Howard Bottomley (Deputy Director of Education WSCC). Tours of the school are organised for parents and visitors. It was one of the few days in the summer when it rained!

On 17 November 1989, Tim Renton, MP for Mid Sussex and Government Chief Whip is Chief Guest at the Awards Evening.

On 29 November 1989, the production of 'Shining Wonder' takes place.


Head teacher's budget of £1 million

On 25 January 1990, severe gale force winds during the day cause part of the school to be evacuated due to a dangerous tree. Train services are suspended and pupils are kept in the gym after school until they are collected by parents. Two minibuses took the Seaford children home at 5pm.

In April 1990, Local Management of Schools is introduced by the Government; the governors with the head teacher are now responsible for a budget of approximately £1 million. An Administrative Officer is appointed for the first time.

In November 1990, Mr Richard Bunker, Director of Education (WSCC) presents awards and certificates at the Awards Evening.


A re-organisation of classrooms

The two science laboratories (Rooms 10 and 11) are converted into classrooms for the mathematics department, while the first floor classrooms in the newer block are converted in to laboratories, so that science has five laboratories in one building, with one preparation room.

In July 1991, a production of Pride and Prejudice is performed and a small choir of 20 girls are runners up in the TVS Area Choir Competition.

In September 1991, the first two classroom assistants begin working in the school.


England Captain opens the all-weather

In March 1992, the choir is highly commended; following their performance in the Sainsbury’s Choir of the Year competition, in London.

In June 1992, the production of 'Dazzle' is performed over 3 nights in the hall.

On 19 November 1992, a new all-weather playing area is officially opened by Will Carling, Captain of the England Rugby Union team. This new floodlit facility comprised 3 netball and tennis courts.


St Paul's first Ofsted inspection

15 students embark on an exchange with students from the Schiller Gymnasium, Weimar, Germany. The school sends 200 education packs to Albania. An artificial cricket wicket is installed on the field.

Year 11 students are allowed to choose a different coloured jumper to give them greater status; they choose black.

On 15-19 November 1993, St Paul’s is inspected by Ofsted for the first time. A Section 13 Inspection of RE and the school as a Catholic community was carried out by the Diocese. Overall the school is seen to have good teaching and learning, good discipline, high values – spiritual and moral, and happy contented students.


Highest results in Sussex comprehensive history

In the summer of 1994 the Tour de France comes through Sussex on 6 July, so the school is closed as school buses are cancelled. Stella Greenhalgh’s final production before retirement is 'The Pirates of Penzance' performed over 4 nights.

In the exam results of 1994, 75% of Year 11 achieve 5+ A*-C grades, the highest figure achieved up to that time by a comprehensive school in either East or West Sussex. St Paul’s was later listed as the 22nd best comprehensive school in the country by one national newspaper.


First inspection of Religious Education

In March 1995, 'Ocean World' is performed by the students. The Under 15 Girls basketball team win the area tournament in Horsham for the first time.

In June 1995, Fr Geoff Burke, who carried out the first inspection of Religious Education at St Paul’s in 1964, is now training some Sixth Form students to be special ministers 31 years later.

In June 1995, the first activities/work experience week takes place. The first Arts Evening takes place with Art displays and Music and Dance.

On 23 October 1995, the school choir sing at the Royal Albert Hall accompanied by the Russian Army Band and the United States Air Force Band.

In December 1995, an 'end of term' staff show for the students is revived and is very well received. It is a version of the 'Generation Game'.


Sporting success

Year 11 Girls were County Netball Champions and Year 8 Boys were District Football Champions. The boys go on to be Champions again the following year as well.

1996 School Photograph
Whole school photograph taken in 1996.

St Paul's second Ofsted inspection

Funds are found to provide the necessary equipment for the hall so that it can be used as a teaching area for drama for the first time.

In September 1997, there are 698 pupils in the school, including 139 in Year 7 (a record) and 120 in the Sixth Form. A 5th house (Rome) is created for the extra form group in Year 7.

On 10-14 November 1997, St Paul’s has its second Ofsted Inspection, again carried out by LEA advisers.


Rumplestiltskin takes to the stage

In February 1998, 'Rumplestiltskin' is performed over three nights.

On 18 May 1998, Major General Sir Philip Ward, Lord Lieutenant of Sussex, visits the school.

In December 1998, students perform ‘Holy Boy’.


The school is renamed to St Paul's Catholic College

In February 1999, the school production is 'Oliver'.

In March 1999, drama students go to Weimar to visit and perform. The girls Under 14 Basketball team are County Runners Up, having won the District Tournament.

In April 1999, our staff 'boy band', 'Five Past Three' win the talented teacher competition on BBC 1’s 'Live and Kicking' programme. Three of these later go on to be head teachers! Their first performance was in the Christmas Staff Show.

In May 1999, with a new Instrument of Government, a decision is taken to rename the school as 'St Paul’s Catholic College' from 1 September 1999 with a new logo designed.

In October 1999, a School Mission takes place over the course of a week, led by three Redemptorist Priests, assisted by Sisters Clare and Miriam from St George’s Retreat.


The internet is accessible to students

In the spring of 2000, the internet is available for the first time for students to use, with their own password.

In March, the drama production is ‘A Mid Summer Night’s Dream’.

2000 School Photograph
Whole school photograph taken in 2000.

Students on roll reaches 747

In February 2001, the drama production is 'The Odyssey'.

September 2001 is another full intake into Year 7; there are now 747 students in the College, including a record 140 in the Sixth Form.


St Paul's gets broadband

In the spring of 2002, a broadband connection for the College is installed. The history department plan to set up an e-classroom, with an electronic whiteboard. The same department are putting together a curricular website within an updated College website. The government have announced that they will provide funding so that 1 teacher in 4 can have a laptop. The College also decides to investigate installing a wireless network across the College.


School Achievement Award for the 2nd year

In the spring of 2003, the College received the Government 'School Achievement Award', for the second consecutive year, in recognition of the previous year’s examination results. The College budget now exceeds £2 million.

In July 2003, the first St Paul’s Charity day was held and £1500 was raised for CAFOD.

In September 2003, the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme is launched with Year 10 for the first time.


Moving to the new site in Burgess Hill

In January 2004, a letter is received from David Miliband, Minister of State for School Standards, to congratulate the College on their Key stage 3 and 4 results which placed the College in the top 25% of schools nationally.

In February 2004, 162 applications received for Admission to Year 7 in September 2004; the usual 124 places are available.

March 2004 saw our third Ofsted Inspection. The headline is 'St Paul’s is a good school with many very good and some outstanding features'. The final major College production in Haywards Heath is 'Jesus Christ Superstar'.

In May 2004, Bishop Kieran visits the College. He says a scheduled Mass for a Year 7 class, observes a Year 10 RE lesson and has a conducted tour of the Burgess Hill site.

In June 2004, a reunion weekend to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the school takes place. The event was organised by a former pupil and current parent, and the committee; it was a great success. Many hundreds of former students return to the school for the last time. Derek Grindley, the first head teacher, sends a recorded message to everyone.

On 15 July 2004, a final Liturgy for parents is held in the hall.

On 16 July 2004, final assemblies take place in the hall and St Paul’s Haywards Heath closes. The staff enjoy their traditional barbecue in the garden of Canberra. A few days later, John Flower shows Derek Grindley around the school that he built. Although sad to see the end of an era, Derek wishes everyone well as they move to Burgess Hill.

In September 2004, the new school opened. The number on roll increased to 761; all year groups in the main school are full. The Lower 6th has 94 students, including 25 who joined St Paul’s from other schools. Over 300 families attend the Open Evening.

St Paul's College Chapel at the new site
St Paul's College Chapel at the new site in Burgess Hill.

Record breaking results

In January 2005, the College is awarded Sports College status with effect from 1 September 2005. Over 200 applications are received for admission to Year 7 in September for 124 places.

In March 2005, the buildings on the Haywards Heath site are demolished. The first cohort of 'Duke of Edinburgh' students receive their Bronze Awards.

On 12 July 2005, Bishop Kieran officially opens the new school site. A liturgy for students, staff and guests is held in the Sports Hall, followed by the unveiling of the Foundation Stone. Guests are taken on a guided tour of the College; this is followed by a buffet lunch for everyone, students included. The students are presented with a bookmark and the staff with a coffee mug to mark the occasion.

In September 2005, 833 students are on roll; a new record. There are 150 in Year 7 after 26 parents won an appeal, and 117 in Year 12, making a total of 184 in the Sixth Form. The exam results were outstanding; 85% achieved 5+ A*-C grades at GCSE, which is the highest ever achieved at St Paul’s and is the highest of any state school in Sussex. Nearly two thirds of the students now have a laptop.

In October 2005, the Haywards Heath site is finally sold, with planning permission for 80 housing units. It will, in due course, be named 'St Paul's on the Green, thus retaining a link with the past. Canberra will be renamed 'Flower Lodge'. Planning permission is granted to build a floodlit astroturf area at the new school.


More record breaking results

In June 2006, more than £3000 is raised on St Paul’s Day; the proceeds go to two charities.

In September 2006, a record 870 students are on roll, including 232 students in the Sixth Form. At GCSE, another record is broken with 89% achieving 5+ A*-C grades, and 88% achieving 5+ A*-C grades including English and Mathematics (which is a new Government measure). This latter figure is 39% above the West Sussex average. St Paul’s is later listed in The Times and Daily Telegraph in the top 20 Comprehensive schools in the country.

The agreed final cost of the new school is £16.8 million, more than 100 times the cost of the original St Paul’s!


St Paul's outstanding in Ofsted

In January 2007, the astroturf pitches are completed and come into use straight away.

In September 2007, there are 883 students on roll; another record. The GCSE results the value added figure was very strong and is the 3rd highest in West Sussex. 100% pass rate at A Level including 54% A/B grades; a new record.

In November 2007, St Paul's is inspected for a fourth time; it is found to be 'Outstanding' in almost every respect.


St Paul's in the top 5% of schools nationally

GCSE results reach 90% for the first time for 5*A-C (79% including English and Maths). Value added (CVA) is 1031.9 placing St Paul's in the top 5% of schools nationally. Only 11 schools nationally have both a higher CVA and 5+A*-C than St Paul's.


Mr John Flower retires

The College production in February 2009 is 'Return to the Forbidden Planet'.

John Flower retires as head teacher in April 2009 following nearly 23 years of service leading the school including having the vision to move to the new school site in Burgess Hill. He also saw all four of his children successfully flourish in the school.

Rob Carter was invited to lead the school for a year prior to being appointed substantively as Headteacher in April 2010.


Mr Rob Carter is appointed as head teacher

Mr Rob Carter is appointed as the school's third head teacher.

Two of key foundation Governors retired from their roles after serving nearly half a century between them. We were all very grateful for the service of Pat Bailey as Chair ably supported by Gavina Guest as Vice Chair and all they gave to St Paul’s as a community.


Rome established as a permanent House

It was decided that due to continued demand and a high number of appeals we should move to 5 forms of entry with 150 in each year group.

This established Rome as a permanent House in the school and they grew in number as the 5 forms progressed through the school.

The first Head of House was Mr Fell, our RE teacher, and one student came in to school dressed as a Roman Centurion to celebrate his pride in his being part of 7 Rome.


Extension to the Science block

Plans were developed to bid for DfE funding to create additional space for an extension to the Science block to include 2 new classrooms and a Science laboratory. This was funded by the DfE to support schools with ‘outstanding’ sixth form provision.

The sixth form continued to grow in numbers with over 300 students. It has continued to flourish with up to 375 students today and up to half of all the students in each year group coming from schools and private education.


National Teaching School

Designated as a National Teaching School to lead the Inspire Teaching School Alliance.

This was established with a clear commitment to developing high quality teacher training, professional development and school improvement.

The National College encouraged the Alliance to have a distinctive focus on supporting and developing faith schools.


St Paul’s successfully bid to lead one of 32 Maths Hubs nationally

This is a responsibility to work with the DfE and National Centre for Excellence in Teaching Maths (NCETM). The focus of this work is to encourage a love of Maths, excellent teaching and a focus on best practice internationally including work with schools in Shanghai and Singapore introducing Mastery. The Sussex Maths Hub supports all primary and secondary schools in East Sussex, West Sussex and Brighton and Hove. It has included staff visiting Chinese schools and us hosting teachers in UK schools to work collaboratively.


The diocesan model

In response to the diocesan model St Paul’s worked with and facilitated discussions with thirteen primary and secondary schools exploring forming a Catholic Education Trust (CET). Work was done with Headteachers, governors, parents and pupils to explore how we would collaboratively together.

It was decided within the diocese that the model for Multi-Academy trusts should evolve to have one trust for Sussex, The Bosco CET, and one for Surrey, Xavier CET. The initial work undertaken in this area has supported schools to join Bosco CET and work collaboratively for the benefit of Catholic education.

St Paul’s worked closely with Ormiston Six Villages Academy in Chichester to support its development and progress. This included Mr Carter taking on the role of Executive Headteacher and spending time each week in the school.


Students shone at GCSE gaining 77% A*-C grades including English and Maths

Over one third of results were A* an A grades and 15 students achieved ten or more A and A* grades in their exams, definitely a testament to their hard work and dedication.

At A level 62% of students gained A*-B grades A stand-out performance came from Ron Dou (Natural Sciences, Cambridge) with four A* grades. Other exceptional results included Siobhan Connellan (Music, Cambridge), Eleanor Crabtree (Chemistry, Durham), Lucy Hagger (Physiotherapy, Brighton), Kimberly Hallam (Chemistry, Sussex), Laurence Jones, Connor Main (Spanish and Politics, Bath) and Ellen Martin who achieved 3 or more A*and A grades.


Working within the Catholic Family

St Paul’s was asked to work with Annecy Catholic Primary School in Seaford to work with the diocese and governors. Mr Carter took on the role of Executive Headteacher at the school during this year. Annecy has gone on to flourish and develop and in 2019 joined the Bosco Catholic Education Trust. It continues to be a key part of the St Paul’s family as one of our main feeder schools.

Year 13 students in 2017
Year 13 waving in 2017.

Supporting charities in Uganda

The first trip taking students to volunteer in Uganda took place supporting two charities, Uganda Hands for Hope and Cricket Without Boundaries.

This had a focus on education, sport and health awareness.

September saw the introduction of a new form and house in the school, Athens. This means that St Paul’s could now offer 180 places in each year group.


August saw another successful year at GCSE and A level

The GCSE Progress 8 score was 0.69 which was the highest school in West Sussex and in the top 6% nationally. The school was also first in the list of 55 similar schools identified by the DfE nationally.

75% of students were offered their first-choice university and nearly one in four going to Russell group universities.

New classrooms were opened and the Modern Foreign Languages department quickly made themselves at home.


A year like no other

On 20th March it was announced that all schools would be closing, until further notice, at the start of a national lockdown due to Coronavirus (COVID-19). It was quickly announced that there would be no formal exam season at GCSE and A level but it remained unclear how the students would be assessed. This ended with Centre Assessed Grades being awarded at GCSE and A level after an intense and rigorous process. Each night families would watch Government briefings to update us on the number of infections and deaths and current policy.

At St Paul’s we immediately setup remote learning and live lessons for exam year groups, project work for other year groups and a full programme in school for children of key workers and students in care or with an EHCP. We were also in regular touch with families to support pastoral care and check on progress. In the second half of the summer term we welcomed the return of staff and intensive subject days for Year 10 and 12 and welfare walks for all other students to prepare for the return to school. We happily were reunited in September with small adjustments for Year group ‘bubbles’ and a one-way system following COVID / DfE guidance.


Adapting to the 'new world'

We had low numbers of infections within the school and were expected to ‘track and trace’ the close contacts. In returning in January schools were expected to setup a testing process for all students know as lateral flow tests. This was due to start at the beginning of term but the day prior to the return all schools were closed nationally once again and it was announced there would be a similar process to award GCSE and A level grades.

From the day that this was announced St Paul’s moved to online learning and lessons for all students who slotted into the normal routine with lessons online and students in school being supported in school. We were so proud of their hard work and engagement in learning online but missed the buzz of the classroom. We returned in March and cherished being back together in the Summer Term including celebrating a drive in Summer Music Concert, Sports Day and St Paul’s Day.


St Paul's joins Bosco Catholic Education Trust

On 1st January St Paul’s officially joined Bosco Catholic Education Trust. We had worked closely with schools in the trust through our leadership of Inspire Teaching School Alliance and the leadership of the Maths Hub. We also continued to develop the links with St Philip Howard Catholic School as the other secondary school in the trust. St Paul’s joining meant the trust is now five schools in total and over 3000 students.

We had a great year full of energy, enjoyment and achievement and celebrated the end of the school year with the school musical production Legally Blonde as a summer term production for the first time instead of the normal February production.

In August 2022 St Paul's celebrated the best ever results at GCSE and A level with 80% of students achieving A*-B at A level with 54% of all grades being A*/A. This led to 91% of students gaining their first-choice university and 9% being offered their reserve choice, 21% going to Russell group universities.

At GCSE 75% of all grades were Graded 9-5 and 86% 9-4. All staff, families and students were immensely proud of all that they achieved especially overcoming the challenges faced during the COVID pandemic.

2022 Sixth Form Students
Sixth Form students group photo taken in 2022.

Share your memories

If you have memories, photographs or other artefacts from your time at St Paul's that you'd like to share, we'd love you to hear from you.

Special thanks to John Flower for providing a comprehensive history of St Paul's from 1959 to 2009 based on the minutes from governors meetings.