During the 1960’s the idea of comprehensive education grew in popularity. Comprehensive Education involved abolishing the Eleven Plus selection exam, with every child being accepted into the same kind of secondary school.
In 1965 Harold Wilson’s labour government released Circular 10/65 which obliged Local Education Authorities to make proposals for ending the Eleven Plus.
Mr. Pike, the headteacher of the Grammar School, was strongly opposed to the Eleven Plus and it was he who first suggested the idea of introducing comprehensive education to East Grinstead, with the amalgamation of the East Grinstead County Grammar School and Imberhorne County Secondary School.
At the time he was the youngest headteacher in East Sussex (East Grinstead was in East Sussex until 1974, when the Local Government Act 1972 came into force, transferring it to West Sussex), so he had some difficulty in convincing the Local Education Authority of his plans. Eventually he succeeded and in 1967 his scheme was given the go-ahead.
A few years of joint projects, undertaken to introduce the pupils, parents, and staff of both schools to each other were followed by the last Eleven Plus in East Grinstead in 1969, and finally the opening of Imberhorne Comprehensive School in 1970.
Mr. Pike (aged 46) was headteacher of the 1,525 pupils and 83 teachers. Mr. Ken Scott (headteacher of the County Secondary School) moved to be the head of Lower School, with a Miss Brons as deputy. Mr. Malcolm Cole was head of Middle School, with Mr. Norman Humphries as deputy. Mrs. Cuthill was head of Upper School, with Mr. Allen as deputy.
The five hundred pupils of the first and second years (ages 11-12) were to be housed in the old Grammar School buildings in Windmill Lane, where no structural changes were made.
The old County Secondary School in Imberhorne Lane was to house eight hundred pupils of the third to fifth years (ages 13-16), with a new block being built to house the 225 students of the sixth and upper sixth years.
Teachers had to (and still do) travel the 1¾ mile journey between the two sites to teach their lessons.
The work involved in merging the two schools was immense and Mr. Pike was clearly dedicated to his work, working 80 hours a week. One of his memories of his time at Imberhorne was being questioned by the police after he was seen leaving the school building at midnight!
Mr. Pike continued as headmaster until 1974 when he left to become County Inspector in East Sussex, and later headmaster of the International School in Vienna.
Mr. Jack Mallinson took over as head in 1974, following a brief period of time under the leadership of Mr. Scott, acting head.
In 1975 the students of the first full comprehensive year obtained excellent results in their exams, Imberhorne has continued to thrive and innovate ever since.
Mr. Mallinson remained headteacher until 1992, when Mr. John Morrison took up the post.
Mr. Morrison remained headteacher until September 2003, when he left Imberhorne, initially on a short-term secondment, to new headship challenges at Bognor. During his secondment, Mr. Jon Ford, the deputy head, was acting head and after an exhaustive selection process during April 2004, the Governor’s gave Mr. Ford the position permanently.
Imberhorne continued to develop under the leadership of Mr Jon Ford. The 6th form grew considerably during this period, a reflection of the steady rise in attainment and progress that the students were making across the school. Jon Ford took the school through successive OFSTED inspections in 2007 and again in 2010 when the school was judged to be outstanding. In 2012 funding was secured to build a sports hall, changing rooms and performance studio. This addition to the Imberhorne Lane campus along with substantial updates to the school facilities and infrastructure became part of Mr Ford’s legacy. He departed in the summer of 2013 to take up the leadership of ‘The School of St Jude’ in Tanzania. He was succeeded by Martin Brown who was appointed as Headteacher from September 2013. Mr Brown had been Deputy Headteacher at Imberhorne since 2008.
Of course many events have occurred since 1975 which this article does not give justice to – new buildings, fire, changes of examinations, Specialist School status, international links – to name but a few...the list is endless.
A summary of this history can be found in the timeline, which, along with a number of school publications and links to other websites, can be found in the "Further Reading" box below.
A Note on Form Names
Page 7 of the "Imberhorne 1970-71: a celebration" document below refers to there being nine forms in the first year when the merged comprehensive opened, with each given a unique letter from the word "Imberhorne". It has been pointed out that there are only eight unique letters in Imberhorne!
According to a pre-merger organisational chart from October 1969, and the school prospectus from 1970, the proposed ten forms in year one were given the letters P, O, W, E, R, B, A, N, D, S and the nine forms in year two were given the letters I, M, B, E, R, H, O, N, S (the unique letters from Imberhorne plus an S - for school, one would assume). However the September 1971 Staff Handbook lists the nine year one and nine year two forms as being GR, GS, GT, GU, HV, HW, HX, HY, HZ. These letters will seem familiar to most Imberhorne students - our forms are currently Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z. The G and H Bands were phased out in the early '90s and replaced with three - J,K and L, giving JQ, JR, JS, JT, KU, KV, KW, LX, LY, LZ - with JQ and LZ making varying appearances depending on the size of the year group concerned. The band letters have been dropped relatively recently as a result of increased numbers and differing timetabling methods.