Following the recent news that St Martin-in-the-Fields High School for Girls will be closing to all students in August 2024, the Foundation Trust that governs the school has been holding exploratory discussions with a number of organisations regarding the site’s future. The site, situated on Tulse Hill, has housed the school since 1928.
These discussions have concluded with the Foundation Trust’s decision to partner with Oasis – a neighbouring and national Christian charity with a history of innovation within state education – on designing a future for the institution and the site. The site will no longer operate as a conventional secondary school due to the shortfall of school-age children in Lambeth; nor will it be sold on for commercial use.
Oasis, in collaboration with the St Martin’s Foundation Trust and local organisations such as Palace for Life Foundation, the official community development charity of Crystal Palace Football Club, has begun to develop plans including a therapeutic centre that will serve local girls from Lambeth and neighbouring boroughs, offering respite care, mental health and disability support, as well as educational opportunities.
Central to these plans for collaboration are the Trust’s five guiding principles, which, several centuries on, reflect Thomas Tenison’s original vision for the school. Archbishop Tenison founded St Martin-in-the-Fields High School for Girls as one of the UK’s first girls’ schools. He was considered radical for advocating for girls’ education at a time when few shared such a vision. This extraordinary beginning of the school underpins the guiding principles that will inform the future. The Foundation Trust is committed to ensuring that the site’s future use will carry forward the St Martin’s name, be Christian in its identity, benefit under-served girls, and thus keep its impressive legacy alive.
Revd Dr Samuel Wells, Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields Church and Vice-Chair of Governors of the High School for Girls said: “Though we accept the existence of the school in its current form is coming to an end, we want its legacy to continue for many generations to come. In forming a partnership with Oasis, we are seeking to build for St Martin’s a future worthy of its past – an institution that will continue to serve girls who need and deserve high-quality pastoral and educational support. Just as Thomas Tenison did a remarkable thing in 1699 by investing in girls, who at the time were regarded as of no account, so today we are seeking to do a remarkable thing by investing in all young people who have not been able fully to benefit from mainstream education. My fellow governors and I have every confidence that the future of St Martin’s, led by Oasis, will thus honour its extraordinary legacy.”
Revd Steve Chalke, Founder of Oasis Charitable Trust, which runs youth and children’s work, schools, healthcare and community projects around the UK and beyond, said: “We are privileged to have the opportunity to partner with St. Martin’s for this new and exciting chapter in its rich history, working together to carry Thomas Tenison’s original vision forward in a way which continues to meet the pressing needs of young people in the twenty-first century who might otherwise find themselves excluded from opportunity. To that end we are also very pleased to be able to bring with us a range of other local organisations, including Palace for Life, with whom we already partner, to achieve this goal.”