Our school's history
This history of the school was written by Richard Robertson, a history teacher at Knights Templar from 1979 until 2013. He details the history of the school under the leadership of its eight headteachers, four of whom, Mr Crellin, Mr Chapman, Mr Pickering and Mr Litchfield, are shown in the picture.
1939-51 Frank Hancock MBE
In 1937 The Urban District Council proposed that a new senior school be built in Baldock and in 1938 provisional plans were drawn up for the new school; Baldock Secondary (Elementary) School. In 1939 applications for the headship were advertised and the managers recommended that Mr Frank Hancock be appointed. He had been the Headmaster of Pond Lane School, succeeding Mr Bennett in 1922 and was the only Headteacher in the town to have experience of teaching both boys and girls.
Before the senior school could open, six London teachers arrived, evacuated along with pupils from two Tottenham schools who had been sent, with their gas masks to the ‘safe’ countryside, before 1st September 1939. War was declared on September 3rd and a war timetable was drawn up by Mr Hancock on the 6th, by which the school was to operate in three shifts. The school opened for business on September 18th 1939. Local children had classes on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and they did sporting and practical activities on the other two days. The evacuees had classes on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The school roll was 182. In the next few months children from other London Boroughs also joined along with some from Eastbourne. At the start, the school had no phone and no electric lighting! During the war years the school ran remarkably smoothly, although hundreds more children were relocated to the area, until there were 444 children at the school, using numerous other buildings in the town.
In accordance with the Education Act of 1944 the school became designated a secondary school and on 1st April 1945, it became known as Baldock Secondary Modern School. Children of high ability attended the local Grammar Schools in Hitchin, Stevenage and Letchworth. Between 1945 and 1960, under Mr Hancock, the school gained its motto and badge and some of the present day houses were established, all with local connotations: Templar, Pembroke, Hine and Bennett. By 1951 the school roll was around 350. The school was a typical post war Secondary Modern School, catering for the less able children in a small market town. Mr Hancock laid the foundations for what was to become one of the most successful schools in the area. Mr Hancock retired in September 1951.
1952–59 John Tyler and Mr Lennox
Mr Tyler became Headmaster in January 1952. He arranged for the school to have a uniform for the first time, although for the most part very few children wore it. He also introduced examinations for the first time. He left in 1955 and Walter Miller, the Senior Master was caretaker headmaster of the school until Mr Lennox took over in September 1956. In 1956 eleven pupils took 5 or 6 examination papers each, but there were only ten passes out of 56. Examinations had to be taken at the local Grammar School. By 1958, the school had 403 on roll, but there were only four pupils, (all boys) in the fifth form by Christmas 1959 when Mr Lennox ended his headship.
1960–84 Vivian Crellin
Mr Crellin became Headmaster in January 1960 and Barbara Hancock, Frank’s daughter, became his Deputy, as County Hall decreed that one of his deputies had to be female. Mr Crellin approached his task with messianic fervour. He was horrified to find that nobody seemed to care about the education of the so called un-academic children who attended the secondary school in Baldock. “They were the intellectually abandoned children who knew they had been judged.” Mr Crellin decided to act. He intended to produce a school where the talents of all pupils were valued and where all could aspire to great heights. Mr Crellin was going to revolutionise the school and was not going to let anyone stand in his way. He got rid of those that he considered to be poor teachers and encouraged those whom he admired.
In 1960, many pupils left at the end of the Third Year (Year 9) and most of the rest left after their birthday in the Fourth Year. Four boys stayed to take ‘O’ levels at the Grammar School. By 1961 there were 15 pupils in the Fifth Year and in 1962 the school became a centre for sitting national examinations. Prior to 1960 the school consisted of the ‘Old Block’ (K Block) but over the next decade the premises were transformed. In 1961 two science rooms, (now History rooms) woodwork and metalwork rooms and gym (now the Drama Studio) were built. By the end of the 1960s the new science block had been built along with the new hall, dining hall, kitchen, staff room, Head’s office, upstairs offices and sports hall with climbing wall. Aby Cottage (the Caretaker’s house) had also been purchased. The school field, on the other side of Weston Way, was purchased in 1961. By 1962 Mr Crellin was referring to the school simply as Baldock County Secondary School.
The changes made to the school by Mr Crellin laid the very foundations of the present school. He established compulsory school uniforms, issued regular reports, gave the children exercise books and textbooks to look after and take home. He demanded that pupils brought their own pens, pencils and rulers to school and insisted that homework was set. He even stopped teachers sending pupils into town to buy cigarettes for them! He began the Parents Association, bought a school van for outdoor activities and trips in out of school hours. He introduced adventure trips - a predecessor to the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. He started the Carol Service in St Mary’s Church and instituted Commemoration Evening. He created the Upper and Lower schools and oversaw a doubling of pupil numbers on roll. He started the Sixth Form and guided the first pupils to gain admission to Oxford and Cambridge. When the School became a comprehensive in the late 1960s he gave it the present name; The Knights Templar School.
Mr Crellin developed a very special ethos in the School, which to a large extent remains to this day. He insisted on high standards of discipline and expected all pupils to abide by the rules of the School. He expected pupils to be polite and courteous at all times and expected them to show respect to the staff. He expected his staff to set high standards for all pupils and expected them to demonstrate high standards of professionalism. In his early years he did not expect any teacher to do things he would not do himself. He taught all manner of subjects and even introduced the teaching of shorthand and typing, which he taught himself. Meanwhile he got rid of subjects that he did not approve of such as gardening, rural science and needlework. He also insisted that pupils were taught mathematics rather than simply arithmetic.
He made the pupils and staff feel special and encouraged them to take pride in the school that they attended or in which they worked. He did not suffer fools gladly, and as a consequence many who did not agree with his vision tended to look for jobs elsewhere. Mr Crellin was not unhappy with this as he wanted teachers who he believed would help raise the school to the levels he envisaged. He was not afraid to take teachers or parents to task if he felt that a situation warranted it. As he once said; “I made enemies, Peter Chapman made friends”. By the time Mr Crellin retired in 1984 the school was in a position to flourish under new leadership. However, the legacy of Vivian Crellin lives on in the Knights Templar School to this day, in its ethos and its commitment to high standards for all and the value it places on the pupils it educates.
1984–2006 Peter Chapman
Peter Chapman joined the Knights Templar School in September 1982 as Deputy Head, succeeding Ken Fisher who was already a deputy when Mr Crellin joined and had been a pilot in World War 2. Mr Crellin was very keen for him to succeed him as Headmaster two years later in September 1984. Mr Crellin was not an easy act to follow, and in those days there was no training for prospective headteachers. One was simply expected to get on with the job. However, Mr Chapman stamped his own mark on the School very quickly. He had a tremendously engaging personality and was able to relate to all pupils and staff alike. He had a great sense of humour and liked to enjoy life to the full. He engendered a huge sense of loyalty from his staff and most pupils not only respected him but felt genuine affection towards him, as demonstrated by the turnout of ex-pupils during the celebrations at the time of his retirement.
Mr Chapman was very aware of the traditions and ethos of the School and did not try to change the basic tenets of them. He built on and developed them with his own very special style. Mr Chapman took over during the time of teachers’ industrial action and the withdrawal of good will. This should have been a very difficult time for a new Headteacher, but he seemed to take it all in his stride with the attitude of ‘we are all in this together.’ In many ways the School became a more relaxed place in which to work and attend, but without losing its rigour. Mr Chapman had no airs and graces and was always very approachable and very understanding of other people’s strengths and weaknesses. He listened to people and tried to see their point of view. He became a kind of father figure to whom both staff and pupils felt they could share their problems. When in distress, Mr Chapman was always there to put an arm around the shoulder and empathise with a problem. He was not a manager in the modern sense; he was a leader, who people felt they could trust to take the School in the right direction.
Mr Chapman’s tenure as Headmaster saw the School double in size to over 1200 pupils with a commensurate growth in the number of staff and administrators. This required massive management yet he seemed unfazed by it all and simply got on with the job. New government initiatives flooded into schools as never before, often totally contradicting one another, as education became a political football with each political party trying to outdo each other in the ‘game’. The period witnessed no consensus over what education was or what it was supposed to achieve, yet Mr Chapman managed to keep The Knights Templar School moving forward and upward, maintaining those features which make the School what it is, while other local schools often floundered. The success of any school is not assured. Towards the end of his tenure, the School took over Norton School in Letchworth, which was one of the most successful schools in North Hertfordshire in 1960. Another local school closed because too few parents chose to send their children there. Others with once proud reputations have sunk into mediocrity.
Mr Chapman presided over enormous growth in the Sixth Form and increased immigration from other schools in a way that noticeably enhanced the social confidence of the whole school. He was a Choral Scholar at Cambridge and under his guidance, music in the school flourished. The reputation of the School’s orchestras, jazz bands and choirs spread far and wide. Hundreds of pupils learnt instruments every week and Drama in the school flourished. The School became more and more popular during his 20 years in charge with the number of parents naming The Knight Templar School as their first choice school, far outnumbering the number of places available.
During Mr Chapman’s years the school buildings changed dramatically. Such was the growth in the number of pupils, that for many years mobile classrooms were dotted around the premises. Eventually, a new sports hall was built on the school playing field and a new block of 20 classrooms was constructed to accommodate the growing numbers. Improvements were made throughout the school especially with regards to IT provision, which was non-existent in 1984.
As the reputation of the school rose, Mr Chapman was able to employ more highly skilled and highly qualified teachers. Results improved year on year throughout all age groups with more and more pupils gaining places at top universities. The school performance compared favourably with any of the schools in North Hertfordshire and beyond.
Peter, like Vivian, left a lasting legacy to the Knights Templar School, which, if treated with the respect it deserves, will last for many years to come.
2006–14 Andrew Pickering
Like Peter Chapman, twenty years before, Andrew Pickering had a hard act to follow, but he managed it admirably, in his own way. At the time of Mr Pickering’s appointment the education system was tending to produce trained would-be headteachers who fitted a particular mould and who believed that they knew everything and could do anything. Most were trained to believe that rapid change was the only way to drive up standards and prepare pupils for the modern world. The Knights Templar School was lucky that Mr Pickering did not fit into this mould and did not believe that he knew everything. When interviewed it was greatly in his favour that said he would first find out what made The Knights Templar School the good school that it was, before trying to change anything radically.
In the tradition of the previous 30 years, Mr Pickering believed in organic rather than revolutionary change. He respected the traditions of the Knight Templar School and the nature of the way in which the School had developed and made real steps forward with regard to insisting on smartness and adherence to the school uniform. His tenure witnessed further developments in all areas of the School including music, sport and academic results. He continued the work of his predecessors in trying to ensure that the School educated the whole person rather than concentrating solely on academic performance. Mr Pickering’s success in gaining independence from the local council for the school and the building of the new reception area, offices and Sixth Form Block resulted from a talent for diplomacy and will be seen as his lasting legacy.
2014-21 Tim Litchfield
2021-present Edward Hutchings