In July 1907 Englands first “Open air school of Recovery” opened in Shooters Hill in a clearing in the woods. There were 108 children on roll with a Headteacher, four teaching assistants, a nurse, an attendant and a caretaker. Whilst other schools had 60 pupils to a class this school had a mere 30.The school day started at 9am and finished at 6pm (1pm on a Saturday). There was a great emphasis on learning from nature and 4 wooden huts were only used in extreme weather conditions.


The school moved to Charlton Park in 1929 to “a building of comparative luxury”. By 1932 it cost £32 to keep a child in Charlton school, double the cost of an elementary school. This was mainly due to the substantial 3 meals per day given to the under-nourished children.

In 1939, the school was evacuated to Kent but re-opened with 19 children in 1942, rising to 80 the following year.

After the demolition of the 1929 buildings a new school was opened in September 1967. The school was purpose built for children with physical disabilities.

In September 2001 Charlton Park School became Charlton School for students (age 11-19) with low incidence special educational needs. This was part of a borough wide re-organisation of special school provision. The school was set over 2 sites the main still in Charlton park with an annex all the way over in Greenwich on Royal Hill.

In 2006 building works started at Charlton park and in July 2008 the Royal Hill site closed and all moved over to the new building at Charlton.

Charlton Park Academy has a long history, from being an open air school in the 1920s to gaining academy status in 2012.

The history of the open air school was documented in a book by E.F.E Jefferson. The foreword and a brief history of the school can be read here.

‘I would like to say how much I enjoyed every minute there while I was still at school. People very often do not appreciate it until after they have left but I for one was very sorry to leave.’
– Edith Granville, student from 1922-1927. (page 9)

‘It all came to an end too quickly and I for one cried when I knew that next year I would have to leave; my mother telling me that I could not play at school forever.’
– Margaret Dawson, student from 1909-1911. (page 6)

‘I spent the best days of my life at the school. I got on very well and recieved every attention they could give me, with the help of my dear teachers.’
– Mrs P M Anderson, student from 1933-1938. (page 12)

Photographs of the open air school

Newsletter and newspaper articles from recent years