A One-of-a-Kind School

Originally conceived of by Shiloh and Belinda Swart, in 2009 a group of parents met to discuss the possibility of setting up an alternative school for their children. In addition to Shiloh and Belinda, these parents included: Rob and Marianne Wright, Mark and Jackie Lawrence and Aubrey Fleiner. The parents approached Corrado Trinci, then Head of Hellenic Academy, to assist them with their endeavours, since he had many years of experience in the educational sector, as well as a reputation for inspired teaching.

The pupils in question had all faced various challenges and obstacles to their learning, during their primary school years. The parents in question felt that their children would benefit from a smaller, more intimate and less pressurised learning environment. What was envisioned was a school where the children could grow and develop as individuals with varied needs and abilities, in an atmosphere that remained conducive to a sound education.

In the beginning St Christopher’s was located at a residential property owned by the late Rob Wright. The address was 23 Harry Pichanick, which was conveniently within walking distance of Hellenic Academy. Bedrooms and living rooms were transformed into classrooms, a staff room and an administration office.

When it came to the Form One entrance exams in 2010, the school was inundated with applicants. Due to overwhelming demand, in 2011 the class sizes had to be increased to accommodate twelve students, although it was then determined that the policy would be to maintain all classes at a maximum of twelve students.

In spite of the academic challenges faced by some of the St Christopher students, due to the ethos that the school instils – whereby pupils are always expected to do their personal best – in 2013 the first students went on to successfully complete their IGCSE’s. After this the 6th form was established and Shyann, Emma and Rory were among the original pupils who went on to do their AS levels, as well as completing other qualifications at the school – becoming the first school leavers at the end of 2015. They were joined by a number of other pupils in the 6th form. The school’s first head boy and head girl in 2015 were: James Pemberton and Shyann Swart, respectively.

With this in mind, St. Christopher’s was born, out of a vision to accommodate those children entering high school, who may have challenges such as ADD/ADHD or dyslexia and who required a more personalised approach to learning.

In 2010, St Christopher’s accepted its first class of eight students, comprising: Emma Steyn, Jessica Wright, Shyann Swart, Megan Wright, Kushal Vyas, Rory Lawrence, Nadia El-Bick and Kelsey Fleiner. It was believed that with more teacher attention and a greater emphasis on creative learning and cross-curricular teaching, these students would be more likely to achieve their full potential. The original teachers and staff included: Katherine Whitfield, Jackie Lawrence, Kim Stephens, Laurin Cawood and Thandie Basopo.

St Christopher’s continued to flourish and grow and, as a result, on June 24, 2012, the school moved to its new location at: 2 Tonbridge Way, New Alexandra Park. The new school is custom-built – complete with six classrooms, an administration block, a small hall and life skills’ room, an art room, changing rooms/ablution blocks, computer section, a laboratory/kitchen, staff quarters, 6th form study section/common rooms, together with various parking facilities.

With its clean and attractive environment, the school’s architecture and colour scheme is in line with Hellenic Academy, with which it has a working agreement and close association. Because St Christopher’s is now located directly behind Hellenic Academy, when they need to, pupils do not have to walk on public streets or come into contact with any traffic – since they simply walk across the fields when moving between the two schools. With effect from form 3 onwards, when they start their IGCSE’s, pupils will take a few lessons at the Academy, in the event of these lessons not being offered at St Christopher’s.

Henry and Office (the school cat) have both been at the school since it’s commencement at the original house at 23 Harry Pichanick.