Minchenden Grammar School was a selective, mixed secondary school set in a prosperous suburb of North London. Before the Great War, there was a severe shortage of schools in the borough as a consequence to the rapid population growth following on the extension of the railway around the turn of the century. In 1919, Tottenhall Road School, Edmonton, was established as a mixed grammar school, moving to Southgate House in 1927 when it was renamed Minchenden Grammar School.

After the 1944 Act, all the secondary schools in Southgate except two became secondary moderns. Minchenden, which remained a grammar school, was extended substantially in 1930 and 1947.  In 1965, when London County Council was replaced by the Greater London Council, Southgate and Edmonton both became part of the London Borough of Enfield. In 1967, Enfield Local Education Authority produced a scheme for comprehensive education and within the new scheme Minchenden became a non-selective comprehensive school.

From the early 1940s until the late 1950s, the English department at Minchenden offered a staid experience of English, with a focus typical of many grammar schools on the teaching of grammar, literature and composition.  The head of department remained the same from 1941 to 1959. Subsequently, under a new head of department, Douglas Barnes, the ideas and practices that had been developing within the London Association of Teacher of English (LATE) received a grammar school interpretation releasing the creative talents of a generation of English teachers.

Barnes grasped the opportunity to appoint young teachers who had trained at the Institute of Education. Many of them had studied under a previous head of English at Walworth, Harold Rosen, as well as James Britton and Nancy Martin who were heavily involved in establishing LATE. Barnes built a vibrant culture of discussion, ambitious reading and experimentation.  Academic standards were high. With largely middle‑class pupils who were articulate, literate and with high career expectations, the focus of the ‘new’ English on personal experience was chiefly about the pleasures and liberations of personal expression.

More information

A website about Minchenden School, created by the class of 1953-1960, contains more information and photographs.

Douglas Barnes, Becoming an English Teacher (London: NATE, 2000) gives an account of his time teaching English at Minchenden.