Foundation of Ilford
The Ursuline Academy at Ilford grew from connections with SS Peter and Paul's church. In 1899 two Ursuline Sisters were teaching in the parish elementary school and the well known Father (later Canon) Palmer, very impressed by their efforts, asked the Community of Forest Gate from which they came, for help in establishing a secondary school in the parish.
In 1903 "Hainault", a three storey house in Cranbrook Road was rented and two Ursulines from Forest Gate opened a small school on May 4th. Each day the Sisters travelled by horse- drawn buses and trams from Forest Gate. The number of pupils quickly rose from seven to fifty nine and larger premises were needed. Fortunately in 1906 "Heathfield", the adjoining house, became available and was purchased. This had a far larger garden and provided room for expansion. In this year, pupils sat for their first Cambridge Examinations with pleasing results. Although the school was begun to provide education for the Catholics many non -catholic parents wanted their daughters educated by the nuns.
Gradually the expansion of the premises became an absolute necessity and a further house in Cranbrook Road was rented while at the same time plans were drawn up for a new school building at the end of the garden facing Morland Road; the beginning of the present school. By now, another Ursuline had joined the staff.
Despite certain battles with local residents, the children now numbering about two hundred, moved into a their shining new premises on 30th December 1908. The Assembly Hall enabled a far greater variety of school functions to be enjoyed. Over the years, more buildings were added and immediately put to good use and no material damage was suffeed during World War 1. A tennis court and an ashphalted playground were added to the games facilities at the expense of the garden.
Recognition by the Board of Education was obtained in 1920 and numbers continued to increase.
The Forest Gate community joined The Roman Union in 1926 thus linking Ilford to a large international family which was to enrich the pupils education.
1936 saw the purchase of No.2 Coventry Road which was and still is for the primary aged children.
During World War 11 The school was evacuated twice, first to Ipswich and later to Devizes. At home considerable bomb damage was sustained but fortunately no one was injured. It was thought that the Sisters who were still travelling backwards and forwards to Forest Gate were running unnecessary risks in the air raids.
As a result, No. 6 Coventry Road was purchased and became the Ursuline Convent in Ilford. Twelve Sisters came to live in the new house. Some wartime damage to the school caused by a "Molotov Cocktails" (incendiary bombs) and a land mine was speedily repaired and numbers increased.Gradually, over the years Nos 8, 4 & 10 were acquired for either school or convent combining to form the present day Ursuline "campus."
The 1944 Education Act enabled additional small pieces of land to be acquired and the Direct Grant status of the school enabled it to flourish and become one of the highly sought after schools in the borough of Redbridge. It enabled the school to administer its finances and the appointment of staff ; any young person who had the ability to profit from the education provided could apply without financial barriers.
With government policy removing Direct Grant Status in 1979, the school governors and parents determined to continue by adopting Independent Status which necessitated the introduction of fees; with other non fee-paying Catholic schools in the area many sacrifices were made by families to keep their children at the school.
Over the years, former pupils have made considerable contributions to education in the Diocese, in medicine and in the arts as well as to life of the family and parish.
Having passed through many changes as the result of government policy, the school is now a thriving four stream comprehensive Science College with excellent new buildings which border the Cranbrook Road from which it began its existence.
The younger children now enjoy a fine Independent Preparatory Department which has recently expanded to occupy the former convent at Nos, 6 & 8 Coventry Road, the sisters having moved to other communities. A small community remains at No. 10.
The school community has been enriched in recent years by pupils from other cultures and full advantage has been taken in using the opportunities for exchange between other Ursuline schools and colleges, thus enlarging the global view and a really Catholic outlook.
Ursuline Academy Ilford: www.ilfordursuline-high.org.uk