The Opening of Churchill School

At 2:30 p.m. on Friday, 20th September, 1957, Churchill Secondary Modern School was officially opened by the Rt. Hon. J. Chuter Ede, C.H., D.L., M.P., President of the County Councils Association. We still have the programme from that event  in our archive, which you can view below:

The first Headmaster, Mr R. J. Dennis, recorded the occasion in the School Log Book:

Log Book Opening September 1957

At that time, Churchill County Secondary School had 402 students on roll, distributed as follows:

  • V – 24
  • IVa – 28
  • Upper IVb – 25
  • Lower IVb – 24
  • Lower Remove – 14
  • IIIa – 30
  • Upper IIIb – 26
  • Lower IIIb – 19
  • IIa – 35
  • Upper IIb – 32
  • Lower IIb – 26
  • Lower Remove – 20
  • I S – 30
  • I L – 32
  • I K – 37

The school has gone through many changes since then, firstly becoming a comprehensive in 1969. It then became Churchill Community School in 1996, before becoming a foundation school in 2007 (when it became known as Churchill Community Foundation School and Sixth Form Centre). Finally, on 1st August 2011, the school became Churchill Academy & Sixth Form.

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The original school logo, as awarded to the school’s first Head Boy in 1957.

As of September 2017, 1,481 students attend Churchill Academy & Sixth Form: 733 boys, 748 girls, 264 sixth formers and 1,217 in the main school. Even as we work towards the decommissioning and eventual demolition of the original 1957 building, the school which was opened sixty years ago in Churchill is going strong.

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Looking forward, looking back

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Janus: the Roman god of transitions, beginnings and endings

This week, at the end of the academic year, I have been conducting my assemblies with students and talking about the Roman god Janus. Janus was always depicted with two faces: one, looking forward into the future; the other, looking back into the past. I have been doing some Janus-like reflection as we reach the end of this year and look forward to the next.

Olympic lessons

I started this year on the Headteacher’s blog with Lessons from the Olympics. Inspired by Rio 2016, I looked back on the inspiration of Ruby Harrold, a Churchill alumnus who represented Team GB in gymnastics. This week it was my pleasure to meet Ruby, who passed on her inspiration to some stars of the future.

Churchill at 60

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We have all been looking back this year on the history of Churchill Academy & Sixth Form, both on this blog and on the dedicated page on our website. This week, I had the great privilege of meeting Ivan Devereux, our first ever Head Boy, who joined the brand new secondary school in 1957 from the old V.C. Church of England school which used to stand by the crossroads. He remembered starting in the very first classes, including the names of the teachers listed in the School Log Book! He was given a tour of the Academy by our new Tudor House Captains, and showed us the dictionary he was given as Head Boy with a signed bookplate from the first Headmaster, Reginald Dennis. I was fascinated by the old school badge: like our current one, it reflects the four houses of Windsor, Stuart, Hanover and Tudor, but using symbols instead of colours. House pride has been part of the school for as long as there has been a school here! It was fitting, therefore that this week I have officially welcomed our new House Captains with their embroidered polo shirts at our Celebration of Success events.

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Looking ahead, we have our 60th Anniversary Gala Evening to mark 60 years since the official opening of the school taking place on 23rd September. You can buy your tickets here for what promises to be an incredible night to celebrate the history and the future of Churchill.

The Academy Site

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Looking back over the course of this year it’s hard to believe that the Alan Turing Building was an empty patch of earth in September, and is now a fully operational facility for our students with brand-new computer rooms and classrooms. Looking ahead, work is due to start in August on our fourteen-classroom Science and Technology building, which will transform the opportunities for students in those subjects and lead to the decommissioning of the original 1956 Tudor building.

Over the summer there are lots of other works going on across the Academy to redevelop our learning environment, including the new Student Services facility above the Library and brand new study facilities for our Sixth Formers.

Rest, relax, recharge

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The students and the staff have worked really hard this year, pushing themselves to go that extra mile every single day. At this week’s Celebration of Success events, it has been a privilege to recognise some of those hardworking, dedicated students and present them with their certificates. I wish everyone in the Churchill Academy & Sixth Form community a restful and relaxing summer break, and look forward to seeing you in September refreshed, recharged and ready for the next challenge!

Churchill at 60: February 1957

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As you will know, Churchill is celebrating its Diamond Jubilee this year. The school first opened its doors to teachers and pupils sixty years ago, and I shared with you earlier this term the first entry from the school log book when the very first children and staff arrived.

February 1957 was an even more momentous month, as the existing secondary school in Churchill – Churchill Church of England Voluntary Controlled Secondary School – transferred all its resources and students over to the new Churchill School on our current site. The event is recorded in the school’s log book by the Headmaster, Mr Dennis, as follows:

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Following the decision of the Governors and with the help of Mr Haydon, Headmaster of the Churchill V.C. Secondary School, all the books, equipment and furniture of that school were moved into this school. During the afternoon, the children of the V.C. school came down with their teachers, bringing their books and personal belongings. An assembly was held, and the Headmaster welcomed staff and pupils to the new school.

The school closed at 4 o’clock for the four-day grant of holiday occasioned by the Somerset Teachers Course and half-term.

After half term, the school was fully open – although not without its difficulties:

Wednesday, February 20th

The school re-opened this morning with its full complement of children and staff. Children were dispersed as follows:

  • 1c – Mrs Cornish
  • 1b – Miss Young
  • 1a – Miss Ford
  • IIc – Mr Lloyd
  • IIb – Mrs Miell
  • IIa – Mr Harris
  • IIIc – Mr Griffiths
  • IIIb – Mr Hector
  • IIIa – Mr Livingstone
  • IVb – Miss Owen
  • IVa – Mr Simmons

Twelve children from the Holmfield Close area of Winscombe were absent to-day. This was due to their being detained at home by their parents as a protest against there being no school bus provided from that area.

It sounds like there were a few teething troubles for the Head to cope with!

I will continue to update this blog with extracts from the school Log Book throughout this Diamond Jubilee year – they will be collected in the Churchill at 60 category. In the meantime please be sure to have a look at our Churchill at 60 webpage and, if you have memories to share or want to reminisce, join our Churchill at 60 Facebook group.

 

Churchill at 60: the first day of school

Sixty years ago this week, on 14th January 1957, the first students and members of staff started in the brand new Churchill Secondary Modern School. The school later became Churchill Community School and, more recently, Churchill Academy & Sixth Form. The 14th January 1957 is recorded by hand as the first entry in the School Log Book, which was passed to me as I took up post at Headteacher a year ago.  Click on the pictures below to read the log book – the “Administrative Memorandum” is especially interesting! – and see below for a transcript of the first entry.

 

January 14th, 1957

The first Headmaster, Reginald J. Dennis B.Sc., took up duty to-day, together with the following members of staff.

  1. Mr J. Simmonds – Deputy Headmaster
  2. Miss G.A. Ford B.Sc.
  3. Mrs Young
  4. Mrs King – a supply teacher, filling a vacant post.

First year secondary school children, together with a few second year children, were absorbed from the following primary schools: Banwell, Winscombe, Wrington and Blagdon. They were disposed in the following classes:

  • IF – 32
  • IK – 33
  • IY – 32
  • II – 27
  • Total – 124

As the building was unfinished, it was only possible to make use of four rooms on the second floor. The back door of the building had to be used as work was still in progress at the front entrance.

The kitchens were not ready for occupation and hence school dinner was brought to the school in containers from the central kitchen at Yatton.

The Chairman of the Governors, Lt. Colonel Lee, D.S.O., visited the school this morning. He said that he had come to wish the staff and school a happy and successful life in this new building.

It sounds like an exciting time, bringing together children from the local community into a brand new secondary school in a brand new building. It’s fantastic to think that, although the world is very different now, we are continuing the work that they started sixty years ago.

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To mark our Diamond Jubilee, we have created a special “Churchill at 60” page on our website. We will be updating the page with photographs from the school’s history, information about events, and memories from the sixty years that there has been a school on this site.

If you have, or if you know anybody that has, any photographs or memories from the early days of the school, we’d love to hear from you! Please contact the school on churchill@churchill-academy.org with the subject line “Churchill at 60“.

I will be including guest posts from the Log Book over the coming months as we prepare for the 60th Anniversary of the school’s official opening in September. Watch this space!

Assembly: The 1960s

This year marks the Diamond Jubilee of Churchill Academy, which opened its doors as Churchill Community School in January 1957. To mark this anniversary, we are having an assembly in each term looking back on the decades that the school has existed. This term, it’s been my job to look back on the 1960s.

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The Sixties: what a decade

When looking at this amazing decade, I could have chosen from such a wide range of events, movements, and people – I was spoilt for choice! But for me, the iconic image of the 1960s comes from the end of the decade.

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Buzz Aldrin walking on the surface of the moon in 1969 (Source: NASA)

The moon landings still represent the zenith of human scientific achievement. I have written before about the so-called “moonshot thinking” of President Kennedy who, in September 1962, gave a speech at Rice Stadium where he said that America would put a man on the moon before the end of the decade. He said:

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”

We have a lot to learn from Kennedy’s ambition, from his choice to take on the difficult task because it is worth it, and because trying to achieve it will make us better.

However, my assembly does not  focus on John F. Kennedy, Neil Armstrong, or Buzz Aldrin, but another hero of the space programme – and one you may not have heard as much about. That hero is Katherine Johnson.

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Katherine G. Johnson at NASA in 1966 (source)

Johnson was born in 1918, in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. She showed an early interest in mathematics:

“I counted everything. I counted the steps to the road, the steps up to church, the number of dishes and silverware I washed … anything that could be counted, I did.”

However, Greenbrier County did not offer schooling for black students past the eighth grade, the equivalent of our Year 9. Johnson, however, knew that she was going to be a mathematician, so her family split their time between Greenbrier County and Kanawha County, where Katherine could attend High School. In 1938, Johnson became the first African American woman to attend the graduate school at West Virginia University, following the United States Supreme Court ruling which  allowed for the integration of different races in American education.

Joined NASA in 1953 when it was still called NACA, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. At first she worked in a pool of technical women performing math calculations, known as “computors”. Katherine has referred to the women in the pool as virtual “computers who wore skirts.” But her skill with analytic geometry meant that she was soon working  on the all-male flight team. While the racial and gender barriers were always there, Katherine says she ignored them.

What was it that made her so successful? She remembers quite clearly her experience at the time. “The women did what they were told to do,” she explained. “They didn’t ask questions or take the task any further. I asked questions; I wanted to know why. They got used to me asking questions and being the only woman there.”

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Original profile of the 1959 Mercury Mission to put the first American in space (source)

She calculated the trajectory for the space flight of Alan Shepard, the first American in space, in 1959. She also calculated the launch window for his 1961 Mercury mission. In 1962, when NASA used electronic computers for the first time to calculate John Glenn’s orbit around Earth, officials called on her to verify the computer’s numbers because Glenn asked for her personally and refused to fly unless Katherine verified the calculations. She calculated the trajectory for the 1969 Apollo 11 flight to the Moon, and worked out how to get the astronauts on Apollo 13 safely back to Earth when they called back to say “Houston, we have a problem.” She went on to work on the space shuttle programme, and she did preliminary work on the trajectory for a manned mission to Mars before her retirement in 1986. Last November, at the age of 98, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama for her contribution to space flight, civil rights and gender equality.

Katherine Johnson is a truly inspirational figure, undaunted by the fact that she was born into a world which was prejudiced against both her gender and her skin colour. She new that she had something to offer, and she was assertive enough to make sure she was heard. We can all benefit from her advice: “I was always around people who were learning something. I liked to learn. You learn if you want to. So you’ve got to want to learn.”

Finally, now, they’re making a film about her: