Sir John Lawes School

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Sir John Lawes School
Motto "Trust and Fear Not"
Established 1850- Establishment of school at Park Hall
1897- Moved to site on Victoria road
1939- Moved to present site of Manland Way
Type Academy
Headteacher Ms Claire Robins
Founder Sir John Bennett Lawes
Location Manland Way
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DfE URN 117511 Tables
Ofsted Reports
Students 1195
Gender Coeducational
Ages 11–18
Houses Austen     


Colours Navy, Light Blue, Gold

Sir John Lawes School (also known as SJL) is a secondary school with academy status located in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom (UK). It is a state-run school for both males and females between the ages of 11 and 18. The school has close links to two other local secondary schools—Roundwood Park School and St George's School—as well as the neighbouring Manland Primary School and is active in the community and abroad.


Thanks to the effort of, and largely at the expense of, John Bennett Lawes, founder of Rothamsted Research, work was begun to start educating Harpenden's youth in 1847. The "British School" was founded on Leyton road (now park hall) in 1850; however, the school soon began to outgrow this site. In 1894 the people of Harpenden elected a school board to manage the British School, now overcrowded and run-down. A site for a new school was procured at the cost of £725 on the corner of the newly built Victoria and Vaughan Roads. The building was completed in 1896 and opened on 12 January 1897 with room for 140 boys at the northern end, 120 girls at the southern end and 140 infants in the centre.

In 1919 the Boys', Girls' and Infants' departments at Victoria Road School were reorganised into Senior Mixed School and Junior Mixed School. A campaign began for a new school and Hertfordshire County Council purchased land on Manland Common. Several new designs were considered for providing new senior and junior schools on the Manland sites.

In 1938, the building of the new schools began. Building was completed in the summer of 1939 but by September when the schools were to open, the Second World War had been declared (the buildings' design, with reinforced basements and thick solid brick walls, reflects the public's wariness of the looming conflict). Arthur Watts took up duties as Headmaster of Manland Common Senior Elementary School but the opening had to be delayed for a week until 21 September 1939 to arrange for accommodation of evacuees. When the new term began without ceremony, the Manland School senior pupils had to share the buildings with evacuees from the Hugh Myddleton School, London.

In 1982, the name of the school was changed from "Manland Secondary School" to "Sir John Lawes School" in honour of its founder.

House system

The school is split into seven houses, Austen (Red), Britten (Yellow), Hepworth, (Green), King (Silver), Lawes (Orange), Newton (Blue) and Ryder (Purple), named for Jane Austen, Benjamin Britten, Barbara Hepworth, Martin Luther King, John Bennet Lawes, Isaac Newton and Sue Ryder respectively.

Each academic year the house cup is contested between the houses, in a variety of events, each house having one signature event amongst others. This culminates in the school wide sports day, where all results are fed into the house point system, and the overall winner is announced.

Grounds and Facilities

The school has a reasonable sized field, large enough for two football pitches and a cricket pitch, and extensive sports facilities, including a large gymnasium, 6 all weather tennis courts, an all weather hockey pitch and outdoor gym equipment. By virtue of its Media and Arts speciality the school has Media and Creative Facilities comprising television and media studios, including virtual studios and location filming and recording equipment. The school also houses a well equipped dance studio and theatre/cinema facilities as well as numerous computing suites.


The Sir John Lawes ACE identifies the target values of the school;

  • Achievement in academic, artistic, sporting, cultural and other forms with a focus on teaching and learning.
  • Care for students, staff and others beyond the school community.
  • Excellent standards, manners, honesty, personal integrity and uniform

The school encourages international relations through links with partner schools in Zambia, America, France and Germany.

The school has an Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and Global Dimension Action Plan in which there are clearly defined actions and responsibilities and a section of the School Development Plan is also dedicated to sustainability. Ofsted has rated their ESD work as ‘Outstanding’.[citation needed]



Sir John Lawes School is classed as ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted and holds 3 specialisms; Media & Arts,[1] Science[citation needed] and Training school status[citation needed]. Over 90% of students make the expected national curriculum level or higher in English, maths and science by the end of Key Stage 3, with all students achieving 5 or more GCSE passes or equivalent and over 80% of students achieve 5 or more GCSE passes at grades A*-C.[citation needed]


The senior football team won the St Albans District Cup in 2007, 2010 and 2011, and the County Cup in 2008.

The Science Organic Vegetable Garden has won Second Prize in Harpenden in Bloom.[2]

In 2008, a team of students participating in the Engineering Education Scheme were selected by a panel of judges to represent The Eastern Region in the February 2009 National level of the BA CREST Awards, with their work on the Eurofighter Typhoon in partnership with SELEX Galileo.[2] On 6 March 2009, the team was presented with an award for being Highly Commended at the Big Bang 2009.[3]


Past students of the school include:

International Relations

The school is internationally recognised and holds many links with foreign schools and institutions. Most notable of these are the annual exchange programmes with the Upper Dublin High School in Pennsylvania, and the exchange trips with the Elizabeth Langasser Schule, Germany, and the Jules Ferry School, France, due to Harpendens own connections with the relative towns. The school also has close ties with the Ndeke High School of Zambia, regularly sending students to experience how education in Africa differs to education in Britain.

External links