Rochford Secondary Modern School opened in Rocheway in 1937. It provided local children with a basic education to prepare them for work, which was largely manual. In that same year, the school arranged its first educational visit which was a 14 days’ cruise to Norway for £5.15s.
The school closed in 1940 at the time of the Battle of Britain. Many students were evacuated to safety in the Midlands or elsewhere – though some older ones took the chance to leave education early.
When the school reopened towards the end of World War II, it had to re-establish an identity in the community. Under Mr Wallace Cox and Miss Burnham, and a number of ex-servicemen who had re-trained as teachers, the school established a reputation for sport and dramatic performances.
Rochford residents, who were students at the time, testify to a poor, but happy and fairly regimented school population. The students were mostly ill-clad, but were fit and did not expect great intellectual challenges before they left to find work at fifteen.
The local population expanded rapidly during the 1950s, as many large housing projects were developed. By the end of the decade there were serious overcrowding problems and overflow classes were put into almost any space available such as; The British Legion Hall, Congregational Church Hall, St Andrew’s Church Hall, The Oxford Club in Vaughan Close and classrooms at the newly built Holt Farm Primary School.
Under these circumstances, the curriculum had to be tailored to fit the conditions and the more academic students stayed in the main school, while the others received an extended primary type education in their removed classrooms - trekking back to Rocheway for sporting and dramatic activities which continued to go from strength to strength.
Wakering was also expanding and in need of new school facilities, and for a time, the two villages were competing with each other to get the local authority to build new schools. Parents in both villages wrote angry letters to MPs and Chief Education Officers trying to secure improved facilities in a much larger new school.
In 1959, the decision was made to build a new four-form entry school in Rochford – the proximity of Southend Airport making the Rocheway site undesirable.
Rochford Secondary School opened at Vaughan Close in September 1961 under the supervision of Head teacher, Mr Sam Pollard who had joined the school at the old site. For students who made the transfer, there was much excitement in having new buildings with specialised equipment. There were also new teachers and a much greater emphasis on academic achievement. Mr Pollard also set standards for uniform and created a sense of community pride in the new school.
As well as the new more formal academic standards, the tradition of practical work continued at Vaughan Close, with gardening and rural studies, the use of a cold greenhouse as well as the heated one, and even beekeeping under Mr Ken Ralph.
Although Wakering also had a new secondary school at about the same time, there was continuing pressure of numbers during the 1960s, and the new idea of comprehensive education was gathering momentum. Difficult political decisions were made to amalgamate the secondary populations of Rochford and Wakering by enlarging the Rochford school, and utilising the Wakering school for the primary age group, which led to The King Edmund School being born in 1961.
11 year olds of all abilities were now coming to KES from a wide area. With the change of name and character, came fresh challenges for the school. The most able students were now not going off to grammar schools but were remaining as part of the Rochford school. At the same time, all the unease and strangeness associated with the ‘bussing in’ of Wakering students, necessitated continuing efforts at consolidating the new community.
Sport, drama and extra-curricular activities, such as: The Duke of Edinburgh Award, Christian Union, Orchestra and Choir, flourished during the 1970s. Uniform was accepted as the norm – although it was often worn with the current fashions in mind!
The house system flourished and KES became known as ‘The Comprehensive’ where all students were cared for. Led by the Cotgrove family, the Parents’ Group undertook more and more functions and the Summer Fayre, for example, became an annual attraction.
After Mr Pollard’s retirement in 1979, Mr P Coldicott became Head teacher. Uniform Regulations were tightened up, and at the same time parents and visitors were invited in, to observe lessons. Parents and other visitors became frequent helpers in lessons and on outings. As the school’s numbers rose, the role of prefects developed and more formal photographs were taken as records.
Students took part in Trident work experience and were given increasing careers advice. As the 1980s progressed, links with local employers were fostered, as were connections with post-16 educational institutions. At the same time, joint activities were arranged with primary schools to familiarise young students with the school they would one day attend. By the end of the 1980s, the school had three Deputy Heads and was amongst the largest in Essex.
Disasters - such as the hurricane force wind, which blew away the roof of the newly refurbished swimming pool, and the snow which closed down activities for a week - were met and overcome. In similar fashion, the new GCSE exams and the requirements of the National Curriculum meant everyone needed to work together to a much greater degree. Administrative paperwork meant that the numbers of clerical staff rose dramatically and even before KES had achieved its grant maintained status it had become a considerable business and significant local employer.
A new Head teacher, Mr Graham Abel, led the school into independence from the local authority and into an era of expansion and development when he joined KES in 1993. During his time at the school, he was responsible for the refurbishment and restructure of a number of rooms, and the creation of various new buildings including a new science block, sports hall and Sixth Form block.
In 2002, the school was awarded Business & Enterprise Specialist School status which enabled further investment in the form of a specialist business and ICT block. KES also became the only school in the area to have extensive sports facilities, when it gained a full size all weather pitch in 2005.
After a successful and lengthy career at KES, Mr Graham Abel retired in 2010, paving the way for the school to be taken into the next generation by a new Head teacher, Mr Jonathan Osborn.
One of Mr Osborn’s first achievements was in converting the school to academy status in July 2011. Academy conversion has given the school the opportunity to innovate and improve by using the freedom that academies have to release additional resources.
KES became fifty years old in September 2011. To celebrate their Jubilee year, a free, fun day event was held in the summer of 2012 with staff, students, their families and the local community attending.