From the Papers ...

The school celebrated its centenary with a series of events throughout 2010.  The main event was a centenary open day on Saturday 27th March 2010.

Report from The Royston Crow, 25th March 2010

A school which is celebrating its centenary has received greetings from the Queen.  Pupils at Meldreth Primary School have been busy preparing for an open day this Saturday, where a banner they made for the occasion will go on display.  The event has been given the royal seal of approval after Year 1 students wrote to Buckingham Palace asking why schools aren’t sent cards to mark their 100th birthday.  They were delighted to receive a reply including pictures of royal milestones that have occurred since the school opened on April 4, 1910.

As part of the centenary each class has focused on a different decade of the school’s past.  Older children looked at the school’s early days and examined original records including log books, a census and admission lists.  They discovered that a pupil called Harold Croxall had died on the railway line in 1913 and used this as a basis for role plays and writing, while ex pupils, some of them into their 90s, were interviewed on camera by children for posterity.  Children in Year 3 have explored Meldreth during the Second World War, making their own gas masks, spending a day as “evacuees”, and learning to jive.

Looking forward to the next 100 years, plans for a commemorative stained glass window have been drawn up, to be made by artist Phyllis Dunseth using children’s ideas and funded by TTP.

Headteacher Judith Dickson has invited all the community to come along this weekend.  She said: “Our centenary has been a wonderful reason not only to celebrate the school’s past and achievements but also to teach our pupils about local history and to look to the future.  We are delighted to open our doors to past pupils and the local community this Saturday, to showcase the children’s work and to share our plans for a beautiful centenary window for all to see.”

Events at the school between noon and 4.00pm include traditional maypole dancing, choir performances, a demonstration of an old-fashioned exercise drill and displays by the village’s History Group.

Each pupil will be presented with a special commemorative badge.

Report from the Royston Weekly News, 1st April 2010

A school has celebrated its centenary with a day of festivities topped off with a letter from the Queen.  The ceremony at Meldreth Primary School started at lunchtime on Saturday as headteacher Judith Dickson welcomed the school’s oldest living alumni – 94 year old Sylvia Gipson and 92 year old Keith Jacklin.

An exhibition of maypole dancing followed, along with a drill session and a presentation of the centenary cake, made by the school’s office administrator, Chris Robinson.  Deputy headteacher Andrew Jones said: “The cake was cut by Mrs Melody, our oldest surviving teacher, who taught at the school from 1935 to 1938.  Earlier in the year, children from Year 1 wrote to the Queen telling her the school was 100, and they got back a lovely letter from Buckingham Palace wishing the school a happy 100th.”

The school opened on April 4, 1910 but held their centenary open day a week earlier to avoid the Easter break.  Headteacher Judith Dickson was pleased with the turnout for the celebration, despite the threat of some bad weather.  She said: “Just as we opened the door the heavens opened, but being the Brits we are we just carried on regardless.  I’m delighted because everybody played their part and there was a wonderful effort from everybody.  We’ve had so much going on, it’s been really great for the whole community.  Melbourn-based glass artist Phyllis Dunseth is busy working with us on a centenary stained glass window project which will grace our school hall for hopefully the next 100 years.  I’d like to say a special thank you to our centenary committee team, which has been working for this since last year, in particular headteacher Andrew Jones.”

In preparation for the 100th birthday, each class focused on a different decade, exploring Meldreth from the Edwardian era to the Second World War and beyond.

Other events have included drill sessions led by PE teacher Sue Evans, and a commemorative badge handed out to each of the 156 pupils and 25 staff.

The school also benefited from a generous donation of £1000 from Melbourn-based technology firm TTP.

Report from Meldreth Matters, the village magazine, May 2010

Frederick Aldridge probably had more pressing concerns than fretting about the weather before opening the doors of the village school for the first time in 1910. One hundred years on, however, hourly online weather updates were de rigeur as we hoped and prayed for a few hours of respite from the seasonal low which had taken up residence over South Cambs.  And indeed our prayers were answered, as the final sharp shower evaporated just minutes before throngs of villagers, well wishers and staff, governors and pupils past and present shuffled beneath the flags and bunting into the playground for Mrs Dickson’s official welcome to Meldreth Primary School’s  hundredth birthday celebrations.

An air of festivity had suffused school life for the whole of the spring term as preparations for our centenary gathered steam. Every class selected a different period in the school’s history to focus study on and displays around the school reflected this chronology.  Five year olds in Emerald class wrote a letter to the Queen to point out that an important birthday was looming and much to everyone’s surprise and delight an official hundredth birthday greeting arrived from Buckingham Palace in recognition of the old girl’s centenary!  Children in several classes interviewed past pupils – including John Gipson and Keith Saunders whose interviews were filmed by Aidan Wain in Year 6 for posterity!

Children in Sapphire Class explored the early days of the school, poring over copies of the first log book, punishment book and admissions register alongside the 1901 census, to try and build a picture of life in Edwardian Meldreth.  A focus on the tragic death of Harold Croxall on the railway track in Chiswick End stirred young hearts considerably and led to some exciting drama and story writing. The class was set up as a museum of Edwardian life, including life sized effigies of Charles and Emily Plumb who were among the first intake in 1910.  Charles very much appealed to the children as he was clearly the naughtiest boy in the school in its first years, collecting many a whack on the hand for his manifold misdemeanours. 

The fruits of our labours through the decades were displayed for all to see in a special Centenary Assembly on Friday 26th March, when one of the largest crowds in anyone’s memory squeezed into the school hall.  Every child in school took part in the assembly which included a recreation of the school’s first day – Jake Hardingham playing the doughty Mr Aldridge, with Dani Friel and Jessica Maskell as his assistants.  Other classes performed dances from the forties, fifties and sixties, while Year 4 children in Diamond Class showed off some striking ‘Clarice Cliff’ plates they had made in art lessons.  Mrs Barlow led the choir with songs through the decades, parents joining in for a stirring full rendition of the national anthem.  Tyler Wood started us off with a rousing  ‘Happy Birthday’ to the school and Sebastian Bishop led Three Cheers.  After John Lee and Grace Brignell had led prayers, Mrs Dickson presided over a moment of high suspense as the long awaited  winner of the commemorative badge design competition was announced – Georgia Henry!

The Centenary Open Day on the following afternoon surpassed our expectations and was conducted in a glorious spirit of community co-operation.  More than five hundred people attended the celebrations, including two past headteachers; Mrs Brown and  Mrs Rayment, and deputy heads Mr John Oates and Mr Rob Neale.  Many, many teachers of years gone by attended, and the radiating warmth of reunion among these and the dozens of past pupils who had returned to their old primary school, was palpable. After our most senior pupils, Sylvia Gipson, 94 and Keith Jacklin, 92 had ‘cut the ribbon’ in time honoured fashion, and a hundred helium balloons had been dispatched into the turbulent March air, the doors of the school were opened, and the pageant began.  A major draw was the History Group’s displays of the school’s history where all of the important ephemera associated with the school’s first hundred years was exquisitely displayed under Kathryn Betts’ clear sighted direction.  Phyllis Dunseth, who is designing our centenary window for the hall had a display of her preliminary ideas, and Mr Jones’ mother’s  centenary plaques were also displayed alongside Chris Robinson’s fabulous centenary cake.  This was later ceremoniously cut by our oldest and youngest pupils, Amelia Jones and George Patten, with the help of John Gipson (and not Mrs Melody as was erroneously reported in the Cambridge News).  While a small army of children played games on the school field, the local authority’s Arts Bus was in residence with Ricky Outis on board leading a screen printing workshop for visitors who carried off a souvenir centenary bag, which will doubtless become collectors’ items in years to come.  Ricky also worked with children in school early in March to produce a huge screenprinted banner (above) to mark the event.

Outside in the playground, Joan Gane and Lesley Pemberton revealed the fruits of their labours with the maypole dancing group who delighted all with their dances to the accompaniment of Tim Gane on the accordion.  Prior to this we were surprised and delighted as Mrs Prime, an erstwhile member of the fabled ‘Rhythm Rascals’ accordion group had press-ganged her eleven year old son, Charlie to treat us to a solo rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ on his mother’s accordion.  A triumph!  Clare Thompson showed off the talents of her dance group with their dances through the decades and Mrs Barlow led the choir with an emotional rendition of ‘Child of Tomorrow’ in the hall; husband Trevor in accompaniment on piano and a tear jerking solo from Saffron Henry to round it off.  Towards the end of the afternoon I donned my jacket and gown to perform something of a send up of an Edwardian drill session on the school ‘quad’ (below).  Mrs Evans provided the ‘moves’ while Mrs Dickson thumped out the refrains on the piano which we’d wheeled outdoors specially for the event.  Hopefully this was a fitting final nod to our hundred year old roots – and the fact that by this time the sun had started to glow on our parade made it all feel thoroughly worthwhile.

Impossible to do justice to in a report such as this is the tremendous feeling of goodwill towards the school and of fellowship among all who have any association with it, that was so much in evidence on the day.  An enormous amount of hard work went into the event and I personally felt tremendously supported by everyone on the Centenary Committee who toiled tirelessly to make a most memorable day in Meldreth’s history. 

In the meantime, I  am already thoroughly looking forward to the bicentenary in 2110 and hope to see everyone there!

Andrew Jones, Deputy Headteacher

From Meldreth Matters, May 2010

by Jan Butchers

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the Meldreth school centenary event on Saturday 27th March.  However, on Wednesday lunchtime I walked over to the school with a view to reading the information that Meldreth Local History Group had put together on the school’s history.

On arrival, I explained why I was there, imagining I would be taken to the classroom with the display boards in and left there … but oh no …

After several minutes, a lady appeared with two children dressed in period costumes who told me they would give me a guided tour!  And so it was that I spent a very interesting hour being shown around the school …. quite an experience!

Saffron and Thomas told me about the various displays, the house point system, the anti-bullying and buddy system and much more!  I liked the display of the showman’s site; I drive past the site often but it was nice to see more information about it.  I was very impressed with Saffron and Thomas’s enthusiasm and how proud they were of their school. There is certainly a lot going on and everyone seemed very relaxed and happy.

We looked in on the different classrooms, where some of the children and teachers were dressed up to reflect the different decades.  I can’t imagine the teachers in my primary school (late 50’s/early 60’s) doing anything as daring!  Suits and twin sets were the order of the day then!

We went outside briefly (it was very cold!) and saw the play areas and the birch trees planted in memory of Mrs Birch.  Finally we looked at the window which is to be designed by a local artist to reflect the various aspects of the school and its history.

Very, very interesting, and thanks to Saffron and Thomas for the tour.

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