The need for a secondary school:
In 1944 it was at long last recognised by the government that separate provision for secondary education was necessary. Butler's Education Act of 1944 called these schools "Secondary Modern Schools". Despite numbers growing in Hungerford's All Age Council School, it was not for a further 19 years before Lambourn and Hungerford, the last in Berkshire, received their new Secondary Modern School. After the 2nd World War, priority for building the secondary modern schools was given to the large towns first.
The new John O'Gaunt School opened, Jan 1963:
Hungerford's council school must have bulged at the seams when it peaked at 626 on its roll in the late 1950s. So it must have been with great relief that the then headmaster of the council school, Mr. John Davies, transferred 290 senior children to the new secondary school, the John O'Gaunt School in Priory Road when it opened in January 1963.
The NWN of 3 Jan 1963 reported "Hungerford's new secondary school opens on Thursday about three months ahead of schedule. Headmaster is mr Rex Chesney with Mr N E Fox as deputy head."
The opening days were not without incident! In January 1963 there was deep snow for two weeks, and as a result only 120 of the expected 430 pupils made it into school - none from Lambourn. On the second day the boiler broke down, and the school had to be closed for two weeks!
The NWN reported 13 Feb 1964 "Anyone wishing to see the latest - if not the ultimate - in secondary school building should visit the John o'Gaunt School in Hungerford, Built at a cost of £214,760, it was opened only last June by Berkshire's Lord Lieutenant, the Hon David Smith. Taking children from Hungeford and Lambourn areas, as well as part of Wiltshire, the scjhool opened with 430 pupils on roll. Now there are 550, and the number is expected to increase to 600 by next September."
Mr Rex Chesney, a Cambridge graduate, was the first headmaster. He remained in post until December 1974.
The following term was an inter-regnum with Mr Norman Fox, the current deputy head being acting head.
Mr David Lee was Headmaster between Easter 1975 and December 1989 (apart from a four term secondment from Easter 1985 to September 1986, when Keith McClellan was acting head). The school became a Comprehensive School in September 1975 with the first intake of the whole ability range.
Mrs Monica Darroch was acting head for a term from January 1990 to Easter 1990.
After this came Jeff Dawkins (1990-1993), and then Marcia Twelftree (now Dame Marcia for services to education including her Government advisory work whilst Head of Charters School) between 1993 and July 1997.
In Feb 1995 it was agreed to build a 25-metre swimming pool at the John O'Gaunt School. See "Contracts agreed for 25-metre pool", NWN 16 Feb 1995.
Another inter regnum at this time was Tim Royle who is now (2010) head at Highdown School, Reading.
The next head was Mrs Lin Bartlett, who was head between January 1998 and July 2008.
The John O'Gaunt became a Community Technical College in 2003. See
- "School's future is assured by new technology status", NWN 12 Jun 2003.
- "Head's pride at school's improvement", NWN 19 Jun 2003.
Mr Neil Spurdell was appointed Headmaster in April 2009.
The College had 633 pupils on the roll in 2009.
- John O'Gaunt School c1964
- John O'Gaunt School c1964
- John O'Gaunt School, May 1981
- John O'Gaunt School, May 1981
- Head teachers past and present at the 50th Anniversary Celebrations, Jul 2013. Neil Spurdell, David Lee, Sarah Brinkley, Marcia Twelftree and Geoff Dawkins.
1963-74 Mr Rex Chesney
1975 Mr Norman Fox
1975-89 Mr David Lee
1985-86 Mr Keith McClellan
1990 Mrs Monica Darroch
1990-93 Mr Jeff Dawkins
1993-97 Mrs Marcia Twelftree
1998-2008 Mrs Lin Bartlett
2009-2012 Mr Neil Spurdell
2012-2015 Mrs Sarah Brinkley
2015-now Mr Alan Henderson
The 21st century:
The excellent exam results summer 2010 gave rise to the following press statement:
Record GCSE results at John O'Gaunt:Students and staff at John O'Gaunt Community Technology School have been celebrating fantastic results in this summer's GCSE examinations. 76% of the students achieved 5 A*-C or equivalent with 59% of them achieving the 5 A*-C figure including English and maths.
This represents a phenomenal improvement and confirms Headteacher, Neil Spurdell's, predictions that these would be the best results ever. He was absolutely delighted and commented, "These are even better than I had expected and they are just reward for all the hard work that has gone in this year by the students and their teachers. There are so many wonderful aspects from the results that I couldn't single out any one department and I am delighted for all of the students who have reached, or in a great many cases, exceeded their potential."
As well as improving massively on the headline figures, there has been a big improvement in the numbers of A and A* grades. "What has been particularly pleasing this year has been that 36% of the students have achieved at least one A grade in their GCSEs", said Neil Spurdell.
2012: NEW HEADTEACHER APPOINTMENT FOR SEPTEMBER 2012: The governing body has unanimously approved the appointment of Mrs Sarah Brinkley to the Headship of John O'Gaunt School from September 2012. Mrs Brinkley is currently the Deputy Headteacher at John Mason School in Abingdon. Ofsted has described her teaching as outstanding and she has led teams of teachers at her school which has significantly raised the quality of teaching and learning for the students. The governors are confident that Mrs Brinkley will do an outstanding job in building on the excellent work of Neil Spurdell and his colleagues, in ensuring that the John O'Gaunt School community provides a most positive and rewarding education experience for all the students at the school.
Outgoing Headteacher, Neil Spurdell, commented that whilst he was very sad to be leaving John O'Gaunt, he was thrilled that such an outstanding candidate had been appointed as his replacement. He commented, "Sarah was the first prospective candidate who visited the school when the job was advertised and I told staff who asked about her that if she was the only one who ultimately applied, she would do a great job. In the end, we had 29 applications for the position, and the final field was incredibly strong. I feel extremely relaxed now, knowing that Sarah will be at John O'Gaunt with my colleagues continuing to take the school further forward and I hope she will be as happy here as I have been."
Newly appointed Headteacher, Sarah Brinkley, commented "I am delighted to be joining John O'Gaunt and the Hungerford community in September as Headteacher - it is an inspiring place to be. Students, staff and parents have worked so hard together to achieve the excellent improvement in results over the past three years and I look forward to leading the school on the next stage of its journey." [From JoG Weekly update, May 2012]
The school celebrated its 50th Anniversary on 12 Jul 2013 - a splendid open day including past and present teachers and pupils.
In October 2013 West Berkshire Council produced surprise plans to expand John O'Gaunt School to an "all through school", with an age range of 4-18 years. See the report. This met with considerable objection, and this idea was dropped.
In Feb 2015 it became clear that the best way forward for the school was to drop its 6th form, which is likely to happen at the end of the current academic year.
Alan Henderson, previously deputy headteacher at St Edmund’s School, Salisbury, was headmaster from September 2015. See "Let me introduce myself", CHAIN 1 Jun 2015
The new library opened in Sep 2015.
Alan Henderson took over a school with poor GCSE results, falling student numbers, loss of a sixth form, disastrous finances, poor staff recruitment and retention, disappointing student behaviour and aspirations, and a historic poor perception locally Hungerford. His aim was turn around the school into one with a bright future. The school now has a new library, good sports facilities, new science labs, a great bunch of students and dedicated staff with a desire to succeed. The students have just achieved the best exams results ever at JoG with a 79% pass rate in English, 74% in Maths, and 66% grades A* to C in English and Maths. Whilst one year's greatly improved results may not necessarily be repeated next year, and realising that "the hardest thing about winning is to win again”, the school is in a better place than it was 12 months ago. Students numbers are currently about 340, but the aim is to steadily increase this (up to a curent maximum of about 600) with everyone working together to improve standards.
On 1 Oct 2016 the school converted to Academy Status, joining the Escalibur Academies Trust, which already includes St John's School, Marlborough. See "Big day for John O'Gaunt". NWN 29 Sep 2016.