Jean Fletcher and Jessie Johnston, two remarkable women of Scottish descent, opened the original St Andrew’s High School and Kindergarten in two semi-detached buildings in Esselen Street, Hospital Hill, Johannesburg almost 120 years ago on 22 January 1902.

Miss Jean Fletcher

Miss Jessie Johnston

Nineteen pupils were enrolled, including one matriculation student – today there are over 1000 students from Preschool to Matric! Then as now boys were admitted to the youngest age group classes. It is thought the school was named for St Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland. He was a disciple of Jesus and chose to be crucified on a diagonal cross, hence the diagonal cross used in the school badge.

The school moved to purpose-built premises on Girton Road in Parktown in 1904. By 1920 the founders’ partnership had fractured and the much-enlarged school was facing closure as the leases for additional rented buildings and sports fields could not be renewed. However, Miss Jean Fletcher, in her own capacity and unusually for a woman at the time, raised funds to buy a portion of Bedford Farm which was offered for sale in lots by Lady Ella Farrar, the widow of Sir George Farrar.

This included the large homestead which had been designed by Sir Herbert Baker, a prominent architect in early Johannesburg.

This building remains the centre piece of our school property today. 

In 2007 the school was awarded Heritage Status by the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation and registered with the South African Heritage Board thus we have a responsibility to preserve our historical buildings and structures

Bedford Court c 1907

Bedford Court c 1907

When the school reopened at Bedford Farm a hundred years ago, in March 1921, the house provided accommodation for staff and students, teaching rooms, office, dining and recreation rooms. Thatched outdoor shelters provided further classrooms. St Andrew’s became almost entirely a boarding school due to its distance from the city centre. 

Whilst on a trip to Europe and England in 1922 Miss Fletcher became seriously ill, necessitating surgery, shortly after which she died. Miss Caroline Cheetham had been left in charge of the school but not in an official capacity. In addition, the school then ‘belonged’ to Miss Fletcher’s heirs.  A group of parents formed a company called St Andrew’s School Limited which took over management of the school and appointed Miss Cheetham as Headmistress. At first the company leased but eventually bought most of the property from the Fletcher Trust. The school became a Section 21, not-for-profit, company in 2007.

Bedford Court c 1907

Sculpture of St Andrew
2020 photograph by Caterina Cannone

Miss Cheetham was Headmistress until the end of World War 2 in 1945. In 1936 the first purpose-designed school building, still known as ‘New Wing’, was completed. 

There have been other long-serving Heads including Miss Minnie Neave (1949-1970) and Mr Frank Simmonds (1973–1994), each trailblazers in their time. In 1952 major new buildings included a biology laboratory, the School Hall, a Chapel and the Junior School.  A sculpture of St Andrew is at the entrance to the chapel, created by Professor Robert Bain and donated by the architects, Corrigal and Crickmay. 

 Mrs Pauline Jackson (2003-2013) was another notable Executive Head: during her tenure many of the fine facilities of the school, including the Astroturf and Sports Pavilion, the Preschool, the Aquatic Centre, additions to the Junior School and the Music Centre were completed. St Andrew’s reputation for success in academics, cultural activities and sports grew. 

From 2017 the management structure of the school changed with the appointment of an Executive Head, Mrs Ivanka Acquisto, in addition to operational Heads of the four schools: Preschool, Junior School, Senior School and uBambiswano (the community engagement programme begun in 1990)

A state-of-the-art Science block was completed in 2020. This will continue facilitating the education of junior and senior girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, subject areas where women have previously been under-represented.

STEAM Centre September 2020

The school’s Latin motto, Per angusta ad augusta, was chosen by the founders and means ‘From tribulation to triumph’. Over the years it has been particularly apt, but the St Andrew’s community has emerged stronger and more successful than either of the founders could have imagined. Generations of girls have been truly ‘Skilled for Life’.

View our history timeline »

A self-guided Heritage Tour booklet, focussing on the notable historical features of the property from 1904 to 2019, is available on request at the school’s Foundation Centre, as well as online below:
View Heritage Tour Booklet