Historic school to lose Hackney from name in bid to change reputation

Hackney Free and Parochial Secondary School in Paragon Road will be known as The Urswick School from September

One of the country’s oldest secondary schools is to drop ‘Hackney’ from its name in a bid to transform its reputation.

Hackney Free and Parochial Secondary School in Paragon Road will be known as The Urswick School from September in honour of Christopher Urswick, Rector of Hackney, who founded free education in borough in 1520.

The change follows the completion of a �17million rebuild project as part of the government’s Building Schools for the Future programme, and pupils will move in come the new school year.

Headteacher Richard Brown told the Gazette the decision to change the name had been difficult but hoped it would improve perceptions of the school, which was dubbed Britain’s worst more than 15 years ago.


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GCSE results had doubled since 2008 but Mr Brown said the name - often shortened to ‘Hackney Free’ - still caused ‘unfair’ bias.

“There is great affection for the name ‘Hackney Free’ but some former students will say in the past sometimes that the name has held them back,” he said.

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He said there were ‘outstanding’ prejudices about Hackney schools, but they were ‘outdated’.

“Secondary education across the borough has massively improved but people have long memories and sometimes the last thing to change about a school is its reputation.

“One of the ways of showing how different a school is is by changing its name.”

Hackney was the most-improved education authority in England between 2005 and 2010.

A council spokeswoman said parents had seen a dramatic improvement in performance.

“Schools in Hackney are now extremely popular,” she said.

“We look forward to Hackney Free moving from success to success.”

As a voluntary-aided Church of England school, governors at Hackney Free had to get consent from the Bishop of London before changing its name.

Inigo Woolf, of the Diocesan Board for Schools, said: “Hackney Free and Parochial School will be starting a new chapter in its life in September and we thought the name of Urswick was good as it captured its sense of history.”

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