Special Church Service To Mark End Of An Era At School Sites

Margaret Thatcher visiting the school

Headteacher of the Five Islands School, Bryce Wilby, believes today is the end of an era in  education on Saint Mary’s as pupils prepare to break up for the summer holidays and leave the primary and secondary bases for the final time.

When school recommences in September all students will be based on the one site at the new school at Carn Gwaval.

A special church service, longer than the usual one at the end of term, is being held at 11am today.

Headteacher, Bryce Wilby says that, to mark the special occasion, some former staff have been contacted and asked whether they wish to attend.

He’s also asked all current pupils to bring a pebble with their name written on it. They’ll collect the pebbles together and turn them into a cairn in the corner of the new school garden.

Marlene Perry was in year one when the new School building at Carn Thomas opened in 1966 and recalled some of the teachers who taught classes in the early days, including being taught English verse at Peninnis, which she described as ‘idyllic’.

Marlene’s group was the first to go right through the school, year by year and the year 1 intake of pupils was only slightly larger than an entire off island school today.

She says the new building seemed huge compared to the original Carn Thomas School, now the Lifelong Learning site, and new lessons like German and French seemed daunting.

Marlene thinks the closure of the old school will be a sad occasion because there are so many fond memories associated with the site.

Smudge Smith Worked at Carn Thomas for 35 years as caretaker and started before the school was opened, with the headmaster, Mr Osborne, in an office in the Town Hall.

He says education issues have often raised emotions in Scilly and the Carn Thomas project was no exception with islanders expressing their opinions on the controversial plans.

He also remembers famous visits by Harold Wilson, Margaret Thatcher and Jimmy Saville.

Smudge says only two of the original teachers are still living on the islands; maths teacher Don Williams and history and geography teacher, Steve Ottery.

The school hall was originally designed for dining, but it had multiple uses that today’s health and safety regulations may not have allowed. Smudge says there was lots of shared usage of space and some ideas didn’t work. The school wired up sockets for sewing machines in the hall until he warned of the dangers of holding needlework classes and PE sessions in the same space.

Mike Rigby is the longest serving current member of staff. Bryce told us that Mike and all of the teachers will have to get used to the new technology and facilities and in particular, he thinks Mike is going to miss his blackboard and chalk, which is being replaced by a new electronic whiteboard.


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