School's out forever

This summer, a batch of Leeds schools will either close, merge or move into new buildings purpose-built for the 21st century. Education reporter Ian Rosser reports on the end of an era.

IN 1973, pupils at Carr Manor High thrilled their audience of family and friends with a polished production of the musical tale Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.

Thirty three years on, a new generation of students will once again take to the stage at the Moortown school to perform the Andrew Lloyd Webber classic.

But this time, the school production will be more poignant: it will mark the last time pupils tread these particular boards before moving into a new 20m building in September.

"The old school buildings have served the community well over the years – it's important to remember that," said Carr Manor head teacher Simon Flowers. "But the school was built decades ago and isn't fit for purpose any more.

"We are having what is called a "smart" school building which will be flexible and allow us to develop the curriculum for years to come, particularly with ICT."

The new school will be the latest in Leeds to be rebuilt as part of a 200m Education Leeds undertaking to reshape education across the city, to offer smart, modern classrooms with the sort of facilities previous generations could only dream of.

Vocational

Apart from the wireless laptop computers that will become commonplace at Carr Manor, there will be dedicated teaching spaces for vocational subjects, a theatre hall, a sports hall and a large courtyard that opens out into a dining area. Instead of using cash, pupils will use swipe cards in the canteen.

Having all classrooms under just one roof has also been welcomed. Since Carr Manor was formed during a reorganisation of Leeds's education system in the early 90s, it has been housed in two buildings that were previously Stainbeck High and Laurence Oates Middle School.

Ever since, pupils and staff have had to walk between the two buildings.

"It will make an enormous difference for everyone to be in the same building," said Mr Flowers. "We will also be able to cater for all pupils during the lunch break, so no-one will be allowed off site during the school day anymore. These may seem like small details, but these things are important."

When the curtain call finally comes for the school's Joseph musical, it will be particularly memorable for assistant head teacher Chris Tolley.

It was Mr Tolley – known locally as Mr Carr Manor – who helped oversee production of the show during his first year at the school back in 1973.

Finale

After seeing several generations of the same families pass through his classroom, he has decided to retire as the school prepares for the next step in its history. The musical will be his, and the current school's finale.

"Usually, when we are putting up the sets, we have to be careful not to scratch the woodwork or damage anything," said Mr Tolley.

"This time, the bulldozers are going to knock down the entire building, including the stage. We won't even have to take the set down. I suppose you could say that we are literally going to bring the house down.

"I think it will be a night of mixed emotions. It will be sad to see the old school go, but the new one looks fantastic and should serve people in this community for many years to come."

Carr Manor's marketing administrator Darran Gray has been researching the history of Carr Manor High in its many forms.

"The building which is now the lower school building of Carr Manor High was used during the war for storage," he said. "In 1948 the building was adapted to become a school but it was a number of years before it was completed properly.

"The school was Stainbeck secondary modern school for girls and the first head teacher was Miss Hettie Lonsdale, who retired in 1964.

"Mrs Busfield was then appointed head, and she died just before the planned amalgamation of the boys school which had been built about 1963 .

"The 'Stainbecks' amalgamated earlier than other schools in Leeds and the head of the Stainbeck Boys became head of both schools – Alan Cameron. "

Ex-staff and pupils invited to special closure party

Beckett Park Primary School in Headingley will also close this summer .

The school opened in 1953 and housed 500 pupils in 14 classrooms, two assembly halls, two dining rooms and a kitchen. It is set on a site with five acres of playing fields.

Before it closes, the school is searching for former staff and pupils to give it a special send off, with an "Open Day Party" taking place on Thursday, July 13.

Former staff and pupils – who include former Leeds United striker Noel Whelan – will be invited from 3pm to find their face in old school photos, while children will be able to play on a bouncy castle and enjoy an array of games.

Beckett Park is closing as part of a city-wide reorganisation of schools caused by falling birth rates.

Connection

Head teacher Mo Duffy said: "A school is a special place to those who have learned or worked there. We want to give anyone with a special connection to Beckett Park a last chance to take a look around the building, to relive – and share – their memories of the school.

"We want to celebrate Beckett Park's 53 years, and give everyone a lasting, happy memory before they move on to different schools next year."

Any former pupils or staff who wish to attend should call the school on 2144563 or email headteacher@beckettpark.leeds.sch.uk.

l This summer, Aireview Primary School and Rodley Village Primary will close and be replaced by Valley View Primary School on the Aireview site.

New schools will open in September for South Leeds High – formed two years ago by the merger of Matthew Murray in Holbeck and Merlyn Rees in Belle Isle.

Primrose High and Shakespeare Primary in Burmantofts will also move into new buildings, on land previously occupied by Shakespeare.

120-year history marked with special celebration day

Historic Headingley Primary School will close its doors for the final time this summer after 120 years of serving the city.

But rather than a time of sorrow, the school intends to celebrate its many achievements during a special open day taking place this Saturday between 10am-2pm.

"We see this as a time of celebration," said parent governor Janie Percy-Smith. "This school has a long history and we felt it was important to recognise that, but do so in a positive way.

"Of course it's sad when a school closes, but by merging with St Michael's we are making sure that there is a secure, vibrant school for Headingley for years to come."

As part of a review of the Headingley area by Education Leeds, it was decided to merge the school with nearby St Michael's CoE Primary on Wood Lane.

At Headingley, there are about 150 children, with room for 180. Apart from a falling birth rate that has affected most schools across the city, Headingley Primary has had to contend with student housing replacing many traditional family homes.

Once set apart, the two-storey building has become hedged in by flats, business and housing built just yards from the school's grounds.

This summer, both Headingley and St Michael's will close, and a new school, called Shire Oaks CoE Primary School will open this September in the existing St Michael's buildings.

"We have only ever been a small school with a small number of children," said Mrs Percy-Smith. "We have a real family feel to the school, and often many generations of the same family have been here."

"We also have children from lots of different ethnic backgrounds, reflecting the changing nature of the area. One of our many strengths is that we are a very welcoming school, and that is another strong feature of the school that we will be celebrating."

Unusually, the closure of both schools and merger into a new school provoked almost no protest, and was actually welcomed by many, including the two head teachers.

"The whole process has been very smooth," said Mrs Percy-Smith. "This is not a case of our school being absorbed by St Michael's. We have put a lot of effort into making sure it celebrates and incorporates the best of both the schools."

This Saturday's event is open to anyone who went to the school, parents, pupils, teachers or others associated with it over the years.

Afterwards, a booklet and DVD looking back on Headingley Primary's history will be made as a permanent reminder of the school's days.

The open day will include a Making History stall where people will be able to bring old photographs and have them copied for possible inclusion in the book .

If you have memories of the school you would like to share, contact Mike Sells on 226 0089 or email mikesells@ntlworld.com.

l St Michael's CoE Primary was opened in 1973 in controversial circumstances when a certain Margaret Thatcher was due to open the new school.

More than 1,000 university student campaigners marched to the Wood Lane site to protest to education minister Mrs Thatcher over changes to the grants system. The future PM failed to turn up but the school was opened anyway.

The end of an era ...other schools closing this summer

Other Leeds schools closing this summer include Agnes Stewart CoE High School in Burmantofts.

Along with Braim Wood Boys High School in Oakwood, most pupils will be transferring to the David Young Community Academy, which is opening in Seacroft.

Agnes Stewart High was named after a philanthropist known as Mother Agnes who died in 1886.

She wore a nun's habit, but was not in fact a nun, but rather a wealthy southerner who settled in the Bank and East Street areas of Leeds

She founded founded St Saviour's Orphanage and another at Knostrop, plus a school for girls, and another for boys. Money from Agnes's estate also helped rebuild a number of church schools in east Leeds.

Braim Wood itself opened in 1960 and was called Braim Wood County Secondary School For Girls.

It housed 600 girls and the school badge, set above the main entrance, was carved in Bramley Fall stone by Leeds sculptor David Hardy.