THREE-HUNDRED years ago the Archbishop of Canterbury founded a school in Croydon, to teach "ten poor boys and ten poor girls".
Archbishop Tenison hoped his charity school, part of the Charity School Movement, would help some pupils reach Oxford and Cambridge.
Bible and prayer books were the only ones available to children until 1758, when spelling books were introduced.
Boys were taught to read, write and "cast account." Girls were taught all of that as well as to "spin, knit, sew and mark".
Today Archbishop Tenison school, now in Selborne Road, has survived two world wars (as well as a student's gunpowder plot and a diptheria outbreak) and has nearly 800 students.
It is thought to be the longest-running school in the world that has always been mixed gender, opening in a converted stable in what is now North End.
Much of its intriguing history – reflecting huge social and political change – has been documented in a new history of the school by David W. Smith, the father of a former pupil, as the school celebrates its tricentenary.
Its head teacher Richard Parrish is leading the institution into its next 100 years, and said his biggest challenge now is to "keep focused on what's really important. "
He added: "Not to get distracted by all the dross that comes my way, and also to protect other people from that.
"There is too much bureaucracy in our society, there is too much anxiety
"There is too much change of a superficial nature which is rushed through by politicians who are in a hurry.
"A real confidence comes when as you know what is important and it is worth taking time to get there.
"I am not saying you should not make changes because of course you should.
"This is a school that has learned to change and move with the times but we have done so by holding to the things that we know to be the most valuable."
Fifty per cent of places are for Anglican churches and 40 per cent for certain other churches, including those which are full members of Churches Together in England or the Evangelical Alliance.
Mr Parrish said many of his students have a "very living, personal faith," adding: "Young people are no different, they look for things that are real, they do search for a meaning and a purpose for their lives."
The school has resisted the latest educational trend, the sweeping academy movement, with Mr Parrish adding: "We belong to the borough, we belong to the diocese."
He added: "I think it is wonderful that the Archbishop of Canterbury chose in 1714 to found a school in Croydon.
"It all helps to put Croydon on the map."
David W Smith's book, Archbishop Tenison's School, Croydon: A History, is available for £15 from the school. All proceeds in support of the Arhbishop Tenison's School Development Trust Tercentenary Appeal.