Saturday, 28 November 2015

In the summer of 1970 with Chorlton High School

Now there will be many who will have an instant rapport with these images from Chorlton High School.

Cover of Unity
They date from the late 1960s and are part of a wonderful collection released by Tony Petrie and include photographs of the staff, students and buildings as well as pages from Unity which was the school magazine.

Schools like churches are embedded in our communities and are one of those seamless links from one decade to another.

In many cases they will have seen two perhaps even three generations of a family pass through the doors offering up a succession of stories along the way.

On a very personal level although I never went to Chorlton High school I did leave my own secondary school in the summer of 1969 and started at the old College of Commerce on Aytoun Street in the year covered by the Unity.

And just twenty-six years later the first of our lads walked through the gates at Darley Avenue, followed in the fullness of time by three more.

One of the buildings, 1972
So the pictures and the magazine resonate with me because while the uniforms may have changed and the buildings have been  replaced there is much that most of us can recognise.

It starts with the standard class photograph and goes on to the school magazine which will pretty much always be a mix of reports, records of achievement and contributions from staff and students.

Of course as a historian what draws me are the adverts and I will not be alone in playing that game of spotting the shops which are still around a full forty-six years later, working out what has replaced some of them and trying to remember which ones I used.

But what also makes this 1970 edition of Unity significant is that it was the first.

Toys and uniforms,, Chorlton, 1970
As the introduction explained, "Unity is the joining together of two separate ideas, or minds, or, in the case of Chorlton Grammar School and Barlow Hall School, the joining of two schools.  

Phyisically, the buildings are separate but in the minds of the pupils and staff they are one - Chorlton High School.  

Unity also describes the relations which exist between the pupils and staff on the academic side of the school.  

We have chosen the title of "Unity" for a magazine not only as an outward symbol but as an indication of a common determination."

The decision to merge the City's grammar and secondary modern schools had been taken after much debate and in  many cases  meant retaining the exciting buildings and converting them into a Lower and Upper school with students spending the first two or three years in one building and then transferring across.

All you could want to know, Chorlton 1970
The transition was not always smooth and when I began teaching in one of the new high schools just four years later there were still a few problems.

Of these the most tiresome was that of commuting between the buildings to teach different age groups.

And Chorlton High School achieved a first for while staff using their cars were paid an allowance those using their bikes were not leading Mr Lloyd to challenge the arrangement.

Now John Lloyd will be fondly remembered not only as one of Chorlton's historians but as a craft teacher at the school but few know that his stand won the right of staff using their bikes to claim a commuting allowance.

I suspect as I dig deeper with Tony's help more will be revealed of the history of the school and so I want to spend some time with that magazine for 1969-70 exploring just what went on in Chorlton High School and featuring a few class photographs and a selection of the now lost buildings.

Pictures; from the collection of A Petrie

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