Rushmoor moved from London to Bedford as a direct result of The Great War. At that time the school was privately owned by Mr P L Sydney. The school was a small preparatory school affiliated to the Independent Association of Preparatory Schools. Rushmoor had 40 boarders and 60 day boys aged between 8 and 13 years. The Great War was the first military event on a worldwide scale. It caused a great deal of change in the way people lived. The impact of the Great War extended to education too. So, just as Rushmoor School was moving from London to Bedford at the end of the war in 1918, there were a lot of changes happening in the way children were educated. Many of the first pupils to attend Rushmoor were the sons of military men who had seen the horrors of the war.
Shortly after the move to Bedford, the owner, Mr Sydney, sold Rushmoor to Major Richardson and his wife. Mrs Richardson was by all accounts a formidable lady. Her role was to oversee the general running of the school and Major Richardson was in charge of the academic side as Headmaster. When the Major left Rushmoor, Mrs Sydney appointed Mr Appleton, who was the French teacher, as Headmaster.
After many years running the school, in 1965 Mrs Richardson decided to retire and announced the imminent closure of the school to parents. This caused shock and anger. Reverend Victor Chailen from St Martin’s Church (who taught religious studies at Rushmoor and whose sons had attended the school) together with Mr Seamark decided to act to keep Rushmoor open. They sent a letter to all the parents inviting them to a meeting with Mrs Richardson and every parent attended. One of the parents, Colonel Hunt, suggested that the school should be run as a charity with a Board of Governors. At this point Rushmoor became an independent school and the premises were purchased from Mrs Richardson over a period of time.
In 1969 Mr Brian Able was appointed as Headmaster. He was an exceptional man, having attended Oxford and received a First Class degree in science. He was respected and liked by the pupils, even though he was a strict disciplinarian. During his headship the Board of Governors extended the leaving age at Rushmoor to 16. The number of pupils on roll began to increase and the school started to achieve excellent academic results at GCE ‘O’ level. Mr Able also led the way for Rushmoor’s lasting reputation in providing great sports opportunities for all.
Mr Able passed away in 1984 and Mr Peter Owen took over as Headmaster, bringing his wife Claudé with him as a French teacher. During Mr Owen’s 21 years at Rushmoor, the school changed immensely. Building work started with a new gymnasium, then came the junior school building, followed by the new science block and finally Owen House (opened after his departure and named after him). Mr Owen also purchased the house across the road (now a nursing home) and converted it into a boarding house. This meant that the first floor of the main building could be used as classrooms in order to accommodate the growing pupil numbers. However, eventually with the decline in boys wishing to board, the decision was made to sell the building off and concentrate on being a day-school. Mr Owen believes that every child has ability and he was particularly instrumental in achieving Rushmoor’s successful reputation of excellent pastoral care and support.
Mr Owen retired in 2005 and Mr Keith Knight was appointed as Head. A mathematician and ICT teacher, Mr Knight helped to ensure that the school was ready for inspections. He was instrumental in bringing administration, computing, data and reporting systems into the 21st Century. Mr Knight also moved to increase the academic reputation of the school and build on the gifted and talented support provided.
There is a lot of continuity at Rushmoor, which is a really good thing. It can be seen by the fact that our Chair of Governors, Mr Bates, was a pupil here and still maintains a really close relationship with the school. The same can be said of Mr Daniel, our current Principal, who first arrived as a newly qualified teacher in September 1988, and is truly dedicated to the school and all its pupils.
Since Mr Daniel’s appointment as Principal in 2009 the school has grown, we have received glowing inspection reports from the Independent Schools Inspectorate. We have won two National Awards and been runner-up in the Independent Schools Award for Excellence. We have now extended the leaving age to 18 and purchased Fenwick House to accommodate our sixth formers and, of course, we have formed an alliance with St Andrew’s School.
The past 100 years have built a successful school and a great many pupils surely look back at their school years at Rushmoor with fondness and happy memories; may our present and future pupils do the same. Let us hope that the strong reputation Rushmoor has for providing excellent education and pastoral support for all our pupils continues for the next 100 years.