Dr South’s was established in 1710 by Dr Robert South, Rector of Islip in 1678, who provided funds for the original school to be built.
Robert South was born in Hackney, near London, in 1634. He attended Westminster School and Christ Church College, Oxford where he took his MA in 1657. He was appointed Public Orator at the University and was installed as a Canon of Christ Church Cathedral in 1670. He was a school boy during the Civil War and supported the King and whilst at Oxford he secretly became a priest. After the restoration of the monarchy he became a Doctor of Divinity and was made a Canon of Westminster Abbey in 1663. Robert South was chaplain to James, Duke of York, who became King James II.
Dr South gained a reputation as a fine orator and preacher but despite his reputation and influential connections he never gained high office. He was offered a cathedral on more than one occasion, but evidently not the one he wanted. On his death in 1716 he was buried in Westminster Abbey where an impressive monument to him may be seen.
In 1678 Dr Robert South was appointed Rector of Islip by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, a post he held until his death. For this he received an income of £200 a year but resolved “never to pocket a Farthing”. It seems he never lived, at least on a regular basis, in the village but paid £100 a year to a curate and allocated the remainder to a series of charitable projects designed to improve the life of the church and the community. Dr. South first turned his attention to repairing the Parish Church which had been badly damaged during the Civil War. He then set about replacing the existing parsonage by building a large rectory on a new site in the centre of the village. However, it is Dr South’s contribution to education, and the founding of the school which bears his name, for which he is best remembered in the village of Islip.
By 1704 he had already set up a trust to enable two poor children of Islip to be apprenticed to traders each year. The trust was later enlarged to include a school for twenty-one poor children of Islip which was built in 1710 and known as Dr South’s Charity School. His purpose in founding the school was to prepare the poor man’s child to earn his living by being “fit for an ordinary trade”. Pupils were to be taught reading, writing and accounts but certainly not French, Latin, Greek or Hebrew! This was the first elementary school to be established in Otmoor and the surrounding area. Each boy, who was admitted at some time between the ages of eight and twelve, was provided with a blue coat and cap.
Statutes and orders specified that the scholars were to be taught the catechism and taken to church every holiday, (“holy day”), and twice on Sundays, by the school master who was to see that “they bring with them their bibles and prayer-books,” and supervise their manners and behaviour. The parish clerk was to ring a bell daily to summon the boys to school, at six o’clock in summer and seven-thirty in winter.
Any surplus money in the school funds was distributed annually to the poor widows of the parish and a charity bearing Dr South’s name still exists in the village today. The money Dr South set aside still provides significant support to the school through the Dr South’s Educational Foundation.
Dr South’s has maintained the values and traditions of the school and the local community. The heritage of the school is deeply attached to that of the village, and both school and community work hard to maintain and develop the relationship.
Dr South’s Primary School coat-of-arms, worn by pupils as part of the uniform, is taken from that attributed to King Edward the Confessor who was born in Islip and reflects the modern values of the school beautifully. It is described in heraldic language as “azure, a cross patonce between five martlets”. The inability of the martlet (the former name for the swift) to land is often seen to symbolize the constant quest for knowledge and learning. The azure (blue) colour signifies loyalty and truthfulness, and or (gold) symbolizes generosity.
A May Queen has been chosen to represent the school virtually every year since the 1920s (with a short break during World War II), and our May Day celebrations bring the school and community together by enjoying a special day of fun, dancing round the maypole, singing and parading through the village.
Pupils from Dr South’s participate in the Act of Remembrance at Islip War Memorial on Remembrance Sunday alongside other members of the local community by reading the names of the fallen, laying of wreaths and taking part in the Church service which follows. In 2005, one thousand years of history was celebrated at the Millennium of the Birth of Edward the Confessor. Local dignitaries, church leaders, villagers and the whole school joined in events to mark the occasion. Children dressed as Saxons, re-enacted village life and painted shields which were burnt on the sides of a Viking longship in a weekend of celebrations enjoyed by the whole community.
In 2010 school and village celebrated the tercentenary of the founding of the school with a Church service attended by a Canon of Westminster Abbey and a day of celebration in Eighteenth Century costume.
Our close links with St Nicholas’ Church in Islip are apparent through the programme of regular church assemblies celebrating the Christian calendar to which parents and parishioners are warmly invited. These include an annual Harvest Festival held in the Church for the school attended by pupils, staff, parents and members of the local community, a service of lessons and carols at Christmas, an Ash Wednesday service and celebrations at Easter and Whitsun. An annual Leavers’ Service is also held in Church at the end of each academic year. Pupils contribute regularly during these services, for example, by reading aloud prayers written in school. The school provides a daily act of collective worship, which reflects Christian values, for all pupils. Parents have the right to withdraw their children from worship but are invited to discuss their decision to do so with the headteacher.