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Our History


United Learning began in 1883 as the ‘Church Schools Company’ in response to the absence of high-quality education for girls. The committee included the Archbishop of Canterbury.  

Our first school, Surbiton High School, was founded in 1884 under the leadership of our first Headmistress, Miss Mary Amelia Bennett. 

By 1885, the Company had 10 schools with 653 pupils between them. In 1887, the first-ever Headmistresses’ Conference was held at Surbiton. 

In 1888, the Company acquired Guildford High School, and in 1890 opened Hull High School - a predecessor to Hull Collegiate School. 


A joint school prize-giving was held in Newcastle for the first time in 1900 - in many ways a precursor to our annual Best in Everyone Awards. 

By 1918, the Group was educating 1,253 pupils at its schools. In 1926, Atherley School opened, a predecessor to Hampshire Collegiate School. 

Guildford High School's library opened in 1927. Head Girl Thalassa Cruso commented that "soon a generation will grow up that takes a silent workroom for granted, but... [we] regard the library as the greatest boon the school has ever had". 

During the Second World War, Atherley School was evacuated to Winchester, and Hull High School to Scarborough. The London office was bombed, and so work was temporarily moved to Surbiton. 

In 1944 Tranby Croft, a Victorian country house, was purchased for Hull High School for £13,250. Tranby students still use this building today. 

Between 1958 and 1985 a lot of building development took place, including science laboratories being fitted and computer facilities created to keep up with the ever-changing technological landscape. 

In 1983, the Church Schools Company celebrated its centenary at York Minster and Winchester Cathedral. A centenary mug was given to every pupil. 


As the Millennium approached, our Trustees reflected on the future and asked themselves: ‘What would our founders have done had they been alive today?’ The answer was to respond to the key education issue of the day by raising the aspirations and life chances of young people living in some of the most deprived parts of the country. In 2003, Manchester Academy opened after trustees accepted the government's invitation to develop new academies. They established a new, linked charity to do so. 

Between 2003 and 2012, 20 academies were opened or joined the Group, along with six independent schools. In 2012, it was agreed that the two linked charities should come together as a Group to form 'United Learning'. It was seen as a fresh opportunity to establish ourselves as a single, nationally-recognised force in the education sector. 

In 2012, ‘United Learning’ was formed. Today we educate over 65,000 pupils at around a hundred schools across the country, supported by around 10,000 staff of whom 5,000 are teachers. Uniquely, we unite schools from both independent and state sectors, as we aim to bring out ‘the best in everyone’. 

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United Learning comprises: United Learning Ltd (Registered in England No: 00018582. Charity No. 313999) UCST (Registered in England No: 2780748. Charity No. 1016538) and ULT (Registered in England No. 4439859. An Exempt Charity). Companies limited by guarantee.
Registered address: United Learning, Worldwide House, Thorpe Wood, Peterborough, PE3 6SB.

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