History of Colfe’s School and its relationship with The Leathersellers’ Company
Colfe’s is one of London’s oldest schools and has been closely linked with The Leathersellers’ Company since the 17th century when the Founder of the school, Abraham Colfe, entrusted the school to the Company when he died. A copy of his Will – which runs to three large volumes – is retained in the Company archives, most of the text concerns the school and the way in which Colfe wanted it to be managed in perpetuity.
The future of the school was guaranteed by an Act of Parliament in 1664, the original text of which was rediscovered in the Leathersellers’ archives in 2014.
Abraham Colfe himself had an advanced sense of social purpose. This was reflected, inter alia, in his opposition to the “enclosures” in Sydenham which would have restricted common grazing rights for local residents. After a turbulent youth, which included a brief spell in Newgate Gaol, he devoted most of his adult life – which encompassed the English Civil War – to his vocation as Vicar of the Church of St Mary the Virgin in Lewisham.
The link with St Mary’s remains strong today, with the current Vicar serving as the Colfe’s School Chaplain. The church also hosts key events in the school year, including the Christmas Carol Service and the Colfe’s School Founder’s Day Sermon in June.
A timeline of key events in the school’s history can be viewed on the Colfe’s website.
Colfe’s School today
Over three and a half centuries later, the relationship between Colfe’s School and The Leathersellers’ is still going strong. The school was incorporated in 2004 and the Articles of Association provide for a Governing Board of 15, eight of whom are nominated by the Leathersellers’ Company. The Master serves as an additional ex officio Governor. By virtue of The Leathersellers’ Scholarship Programme 12 pupils from non-privileged backgrounds join Colfe’s Sixth Form each year on fully funded places. It is expected that such pupils will subsequently gain places at top universities. In this way the school and the Company make a significant contribution to social mobility.
Colfe’s is currently in the vanguard of co-educational independent day schools, with a growing reputation for strategic innovation and forging strong productive links with local state schools.
Academic standards are high, with more than 80% of A levels graded A*-B in the last three years. Over 60% of GCSE grades are awarded A* or A. Pupils regularly gain places on the most competitive universities. In the last five years the school has been awarded two TES Awards for Education Initiative of the Year – 2014 and 2016 – for its ground-breaking pastoral programmes.
External validation of the success of the school can be found in the outstanding inspection report dated December 2016. The Leathersellers’ Scholarship Programme has also been described as “life-changing” and “ground-breaking” by a recent independent report.
Upwards of £10 million has been spent on the school site in the last five years and further investment is ongoing.
Opportunities to visit the school
The Headmaster is happy to welcome Leathersellers’ to visit the school at any time during term by prior arrangement.
More formal occasions include the June Visitation, attended by members of the Court and the Colfe’s School Founder’s Day Sermon at St Mary’s in June which is followed, after lunch, by the annual cricket match between the Company and the School.