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Celebrating 30 Years of Harris City Academy Crystal Palace

There have been celebrations at Harris City Academy Crystal Palace this week as the school marked its 30th birthday.

The school opened in 1990 as one of the first independent state schools in England. It was sponsored by the philanthropist Lord Harris of Peckham and his family and called Harris City Technology College (Harris CTC). It replaced Sylvan High School which had a reputation for poor standards with only 10% of pupils ending up with the GCSEs they needed.

Within just a year of opening, the school had transformed so much that over 2,000 families came to its very first open day - the number of cars caused gridlock on local streets which had to be closed by the police. Since then, it has consistently achieved the top ‘Outstanding’ rating from Ofsted and has been vastly oversubscribed by local families.

The advent of the academies programme meant that in 2007 Harris CTC became known as Harris City Academy Crystal Palace. It was the original school in the Harris Federation, which now runs 51 successful academies in and around London.

A small group of special guests attended an anniversary event on Thursday where Lord Harris of Peckham unveiled a commemoration plaque. Students performed musical recitals, poetry and gave speeches about the school. Items such as a book of photographs were added to the academy’s time capsule, which was first created in 1990.

Wonderfully, there are a number of staff within the academy and the wider Federation who were amongst the first to arrive at Harris CTC when it first opened in 1990. These include Earl Rose and Richard Scott, both of whom are still teachers at Harris Crystal Palace, as well the Harris Federation’s Sixth Form director Sandra Miles who began her career with Harris at the CTC.

A number of others joined slightly after the CTC opened and have remained at the school since then. These are food technology teacher Barbara Sales, art teacher Simon Edwards and medical needs officer Teresa Day. Andrew Barr, now Principal of Harris Aspire, first arrived at the CTC over 25 years ago. These staff members were all recognised at the celebration and thanked for their long and incredible service. 

Katherine Cumberbatch, Principal of Harris City Academy Crystal Palace, said:

“We had to postpone our 30th birthday celebrations by a year because of the pandemic, but the slight delay made the day all the more poignant. Students have enjoyed hearing about the history of the school and about the difference it has made to the lives of generations of local children.


"Today was also a chance to say thank you to the hard-working, long-serving staff members who have been with us since the very beginning and have helped us become the happy and successful school we are today.”

Sir Dan Moynihan, Chief Executive of the Harris Federation, and a former Principal of Harris City Academy Crystal Palace, said:

“I began my career with Harris at this school and it is always extra-special to go back there. As the first Harris school, it paved the way, showed what could be done and set an excellent standard for our other academies. Over the past three decades, it has educated thousands of students and has transformed countless lives.”

Lord Harris of Peckham, Founder and Chairman of the Harris Federation, said:

“It is hard to believe that when we first opened the CTC, there were many who thought Sylvan could never be changed. We have been fortunate to have a series of absolutely inspiring teachers and leaders at the school, who have proved wrong everyone who said it could never be done. 


“The school has changed the lives of many, many children. It has also changed my life in the process and getting involved at the request of the Prime Minister at the time, Mrs Thatcher, was one of the best and most gratifying decisions I have ever made.”

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