A Golden anniversary is a special event. We make it to the magic 50, and just for a moment, we can pause to reflect on where we have come from and what we have achieved. Newent Community School is fifty years old this year. In celebration, students and teacher from the past fifty years gathered in the School on Saturday, April 18th to enjoy the sense of a fine history made of the stories of thousands of individuals, all with their unique experiences, and of the dedication, determination and community spirit which nourish the invisible energy of our School.
Brindley Davis and Alan Wood – from Collingwood House, 5c, 1965, were early arrivals and recalled the day when students literally carried the furniture from the old School building, to the new site and into the freshly painted classrooms for the fresh start. The new School stood in its expanse of sports fields as it does today, and what a difference that made, as students no longer had to trek up to Three Ashes for games lessons as they had done from the old site by the railway station. And the swimming pool! Students today may be used to vast leisure centres and water-parks, but in 1965, Brindley and Alan remembered that very few students could swim and were taught from scratch by the Newent PE staff.
The idea for a Reunion came from Pippa Palmer, and her single-minded determination made the project fly. She has for months been contacting key people from the School’s history to invite them in. Jack Miller was the Head in 1965 until 1977. From then, there have been four permanent Heads and we were delighted to see Peter Landau and Delia Paveling alongside current Principal, Kirsten Harrison. Several long-serving members of staff were sought out by former students: Graham Giles, Mike Gray and Dave Dalley were in particular demand, swept along by the spirit of the day. Jane Nichols - our longest serving current member of staff – and Teresa Williams, Head of Collingwood spoke of being overwhelmed by the honest kindness which telescoped the years into a few powerful hours of sunshine on an emotional spring day.
Immaculately turned-out Year 7 guides provided tours of the building which was crammed with several thousand images brought out of careful department conservation for the occasion. But the favourite images were, of course, those glorious panoramic photographs by which all schools – if they understand what ‘membership’ means - record their generations, year by year. Clustered in appreciative groups, mothers pointed at ‘grandpa’ on black and white formal shots, and friends pointed eagerly at the ghosts of those they once knew, sometimes to be tapped on the shoulder by the very person, in the flesh – to everybody’s delight.
It was a day of different perspectives, joined by a common sense of ownership: Newent School belongs to the community, and the community came to celebrate – between 800 and 1000 people passed through the doors that afternoon, and they came not as mere visitors, but as members; members of a robust community that endures, and faces the next fifty years with confidence. Built on such foundations, not of concrete but of the ‘Newent Spirit’, a new generation is being supported, not just by the curriculum and the staff, but by the community and all who wish the School well. In their turn, the Year 7 guides who assisted this year, will return for the centenary, no doubt, in 2065, and renew their life-long membership of a fine institution.
Further photographs are available within The Gallery.