Banstead County Secondary School

Peter Denton in 1959 A brief history written by Peter Denton and based upon
The Picquets Way Schools 1936-1986 by Irene O'Shea.
[Peter Denton was a pupil at the school between 1955 and 1960 and is pictured here in 1959.]

Banstead County Secondary School - now The Beacon School - in Picquets Way was opened on 17 February 1936. The first school in the district for children between the ages of 11 and 14, it was built on land that was formerly part of the Nork Estate, founded by Sir Christopher Buckle in the 18th century.

The school's first headmaster was Edward Gale JP, chairman of Banstead Urban District Council, who had a staff of nine. Its catchment area covered Banstead, Burgh Heath, Kingswood, Tadworth and Walton on the Hill, and the school role numbered 322 pupils.

Edward Gale

The first entry in the school log is dated April 5 1937 and is by Edward Gale: "This new Boys School opened this morning in new building. The scholars (285) include besides Boys from Central Mixed School admissions from Banstead Residential School (LCC) and Walton CE School, and transfers from Banstead Junior Mxd, Tadworth, Kingswood, Burgh Heath CE and Burgh Heath Methodist. For the children unknown to us an intelligence test was applied and by 10.45 the school was organised into 8 forms. The tarpaving of the playground is not yet completed and workmen have still much to do. The furniture Contract is incomplete and improvisations have had to be made."

                Edward Gale

In November that year, Armistice Day was observed. The school log records that "a deputation of two girls and two boys took the School's wreath to the War Memorial in Banstead High Street. The School assembled in the Hall at 11.45 and the Message from the Prime Minister was read. After Prayer, the Two Minutes' Silence was observed. The hymn 'O God Our Help' was sung, and the National Anthem."

On 24 March 1937, the school became a single-sex establishment, catering separately for 285 boys and 284 girls. Edward Gale became headmaster of the boys' school and Miss Adams was the first headmistress of the girls' school. Among the subjects taught in both were English, maths, history, geography, scripture, French, science, handicraft and drawing. Gardening and swimming were also on the school agenda.

Edward Gale died in 1941 and was succeeded by William Spearing, who remained as headmaster until 1963. Miss Adams retired in 1951.

Banstead County Secondary Boys school

Banstead County Secondary Boys' School prefects with
the headmaster, WH Spearing, 1959.

Standing (l to r) Frazer Hinkley, Ken Chivers, David Hale, WH Spearing (headmaster),
Tony Whitehead, Peter Worsfold, Alan Gray, Roger Woolley, Ian Clubb.
Seated (l to r) Chris Knight, Robin Weaver, Tony Monk, Peter Stannard, Peter Denton,
Richard Boorman, Brian Stephens, Roger Tomlinson.
During the war, the schools were provided with trenches and air raid shelters, and the students practised evacuation procedures - on one occasion, the log records that the boys' school was emptied in two minutes flat. The roof of the girls' school was damaged in February 1944, and three months later, the boys' school suffered damage to 100 windows when a bomb fell in Tangier Way.

Following the Education Act of 1944, the two schools became "secondary modern" schools and took the title "Banstead County Secondary School". Miss Somerville became headmistress in 1951.

In 1953, to mark the new Queen's coronation, pupils were presented with mugs, and rose trees were planted. Fourteen children and a teacher from each school had places to watch the coronation procession.

A few years later, overseas travel became a possibility. The girls visited the Netherlands and Belgium in 1957 and Switzerland in 1960, and the boys also went to Belgium in 1957, then Germany in 1960. The local newspaper, the Banstead Herald, ran a prominent story about the German trip on its front page.

Ray Spencer In June 1957, the boys suffered a devastating loss when their well-loved PE teacher, Raymond John Spencer, died from injuries sustained in a motor cycle accident. Mr Spearing made a brief, sad announcement at morning assembly and adjourned the gathering. The boys returned to the playground, many in tears for the man they adored. And with every reason: Ray Spencer was a guiding light to many of them, and was quite simply irreplaceable.

The first RSA course was introduced in 1958. Following Mr Spearing's retirement in 1962, Mr RH Thorne was appointed headmaster. At about the same time, plans were under way to amalgamate the two schools. The separate schools formally closed on 26 July 1963, and Nork Park County Secondary School opened for business on 10 September, with 661 children on the roll. Gymnasiums, a kitchen, dining hall, administration block, library and art rooms had been built between the two old schools during the summer break, and Mr Thorne was the first head teacher. Three years later, A-levels were introduced.

Nork Park became a comprehensive school in the early 1970s. In 1972 Mr Thorne retired and Fred Norris succeeded him. During the 1970s, the curriculum was extended to give pupils of all abilities more choice. In 1986 John Darker became head teacher; then, two years later, the Beacon School was created from the reorganisation of Nork Park and De Burgh schools. Today, it's an 11-18 mixed comprehensive with more than 1,400 students on roll.