The interesting story of your school in a nutshell
Do you know that our school is 64 years old?
The first bell rang on the 15th September 1950, in exactly the same main building where the school works up to the present day. The charity organisation THE ASSOCIATION OF THE FRIENDS OF POLISH CHILDREN established in 1946 in London decided to take care of the education of Polish children living in London. From the beginning, the school has been registered as Polish educational society. It aim was not only to teach Polish reading and writing but also to bring Polish history, geography ,religion and traditions closer. Keeping the relation with Poland and strengthening sense of national belonging was a paramount objective in order to make young people proud of being polish.
The Association Of The Friends Of Polish Children was created in 1946 on the initiative of Tomasz Arciszewski, who at that time was the minister of the government-in-exile. It rallied political and socio-educational activists such as General W. Anders, Father Rector W. Staniszewski, General S. Kopanski, Ambassador R. Raczynski and many others. The aim of the statute of the association was to provide medical, social and legal help for children orphaned during the World War II as well as to help children from poor families. The association’s activities focused mainly on raising and educating youngsters but also supporting them by giving packages and donations. The association rented the building without a charge to polish scouts, folk dancers and Polish football schools. It has played and still does a very important role in the life of polish society in London.
Thanks to the personal devotion of The Arciszewscy family, who were collecting donations from Poles living in the USA and Great Britain, the association was able to buy a property at 50 Nightingale Lane in 1948. Soon, a boarding-house for boys and a day-time nursery was opened. In 1948, Priest Stanislaw Cynar created a Polish parish in Clapham common (now Balham). A very good cooperation between the school and the parish of Christ The King exists till now. The priests and religion teachers teach religion in our school every Saturday. In class 3 children are prepared for the first communion.
Over the years the association has encountered many problems mainly with the maintenance of a very big property. The charity was able to survive thanks to donations but the cost of the maintenance works was very high. At some point the situation was so bad that the members of the association with their own hands had to save the building against growing damage. Teachers and parents helped too by organising Christmas fairs; the money they raised was given to the school.
In 1980 Z. Fuglewicz became the Chairman of the school. From that time a nursery and school opened. Later, groups of trips from Poland stayed in the building too. Unfortunately, the money the school was making was not enough to cover the cost of fixing the property, which really needed to be refurbished. In 2001 the day-time nursery was closed.
Financial difficulties appeared until one day an English school Broomwood Hall showed an interest in renting the property from Monday to Friday. It solved the financial problems of the Association and helped to carry out necessary building works. The same English school has been renting our building since 2002.
The school in Balham has taught several generations of wonderful pupils. It would not have been possible if it were not for our excellent teachers.
From the very beginning, the association had been making sure it employs the best and most talented head-masters of the school. The first head-master was Melania Arciszewska, a teacher, co-founder and leader of the association, the wife of Tomasz Arciszewski the minister of the government-in-exile and our patron. Her passion was strengthening the sense of national belonging, for her political and social merits she received the Order of the Polish Revival.
Another head master was Boleslaw Klepacki- minister of the faculty abroad, member of the Scouting association, honoured with the Cross of Valour. For his achievements and devotion in education he was awarded Polonia Restituta, Cross of independence and Cross of merit.
In 1981 and for another 30 years Ludwik Maik, vice-chairman of the association , became the head master of the polish school. Loved by kids and teachers ,Ludwik Maik was honoured with Polonia Resituta in 2013. Although he is retired, he still comes and visits our school and participates in the important events of the school.
Along with the new emigration wave, thePpolish population in London is still growing. 66 percent of our pupils were born in Great Britain. The teachers have to deal with students who have never attended schools in Poland. It requires them to adjust the curriculum for bilingual pupils, who have difficulties with using their mother tongue. From September 2011 Ewa Fuglewicz took over the duties and became the headmistress. She understands very well the difficulties our pupils go through, as she has lived here since birth. From the very beginning she has been trying to link the curriculum with Polish traditions.
Not many people know who Tomasz Arciszewski, the patron of our school,was. For this reason one of our pupils Julia Ochab decided to give an overview of his life so everyone in the school got to know their patron. Her work was in an art contest called ”Odkryj bohatera- Poszukiwanie legend przeszlosci”.
Tomasz Arciszewski (4 November 1877 – 20 November 1955) was a Polish socialist politician, a member of the Polish socialist party and the Prime Minister of the Polish government-in-exile in London from 1944 to 1947, presiding over the period when the government lost the recognition of the Western powers.
He was a fine patriot, fighting for the independence of his country.In 1904 he joined the Combat organization of the Polish socialist party, a revolutionary group fighting for the liberation of Poland.
He was also the founder of the Workers’ Society of Friends of Children .The organization operated within the Kingdom of Poland and took care of orphans, half-orphans, poor or homeless children. Its primary mission was to create unions, care education institutes, out-patients clinics and schools. In 1948 the Workers’ Association of the Friends of Children united with the Peasants’ Association of the Friends of Children and then they merged into one organization: the Association of the Friends of Children.
Together with his wife Melania Arciszewska they took care of children and teenagers. Thanks to his generosity our school owns the building which was visted by Tomasz Arciszewski personally.