The first centenary: 100 years of Bournemouth School

The following extract is taken from today’s Bournemouth Daily Echo:

AS BOURNEMOUTH School celebrates its 100th birthday today, teachers and their 1,000 pupils have begun experimenting with state-of-the-art computer facilities and an Internet video-link with schools here and abroad. It’s a stark contrast to the school’s opening day on January 22, 1901, when 54 boys started at their brand new school with its austere classrooms fitted with only blackboards and functional decorations such as maps and charts. The school had just opened in Portchester Road, having been founded by Dr John Roberts Thomson a freeman of the borough who first raised the idea of the school in 1893. Bournemouth School’s first head, Dr Edward Fenwick, took up his post on a salary of £100 per year and remained there until his retirement in 1932. The 1906 prospectus of study, which included natural science, drawing, vocal music, drill and gymnastics alongside history, geography, shorthand and book keeping, is still the foundation of what pupils study today.

A grant of £30,000 from the Wolfson Foundation has enabled the school to buy £50,000 worth of new computers, allowing science pupils to collaborate with professionals around the world on major research projects. Currently French, German and Spanish are the three languages on offer, along with after-school lessons in Italian, Japanese and Mandarin, with Arabic and Portuguese soon to be added. Former pupils of the school, known as Old Bournemouthians recalled a ‘family’ feel to the establishment in the early days.

Among happy recollections is the request to the boys from Captain Scott for a subscription towards the expenses of his South Pole expedition and the subsequent fund-raising which allowed a sleigh dog to be purchased. The ravages of the First World War followed and for the next four years the pages of school newsletter The Bournemouthian were filled with reports of former pupils and staff killed in action. In all, at least 651 young men who had been or were attached to the school served, and 98 of those died, while 95 were wounded. The school’s second headmaster Mr JE Parry took up the reins in 1932. With his daunting educational background he is said in the school’s own centenary publication to have “walked about his school with the charisma of Jove himself”

As war broke out in 1939 the new Bournemouth School site in East Way had been built and through the war years the school became home to evacuated children and rescued soldiers as well as to pupils. It was the 1960s before changes began in earnest. A new dining hall was added, a new physics laboratory, two new classrooms and then in 1960 Bournemouth School for Girls’ opened its new buildings at the bottom of East Way, although boys and girls were discouraged from meeting. Not until the I980s could boys and girls meet each other for 10 minutes each day during the lunch hour without inciting official disapproval.

In 1966 the biggest transformation took place with the building of the sixth form block including a lecture theatre and a library. But disaster struck in May 1973 when the old school hall built in 1939 was destroyed by fire and it was 1975 before a new hall had been built in its place. The school’s status has changed a number of times over the years. Up to 1973 it was ruled by Bournemouth Education Committee, by Dorset County Council from 1974 to 1990 and it had its independence as a grant-maintained school from 1990 to 1999. Bournemouth Borough Council once again had its own education committee in September 1999 and the school became a foundation school with a reconstituted and larger than ever board of governors.

Pupils will be taking a day’s holiday on the school’s birthday as a staff training day has been called. Current head John Grainger who took up his post in 1996 said: “We carry the name of Bournemouth School with a lot of pride we are the school of Bournemouth. “Our new sports hall opened last year and this year our big news is that we have been designated a specialist language college.” Chair of the Old Bournemouthians Jim Green commented: “Bournemouth can be very proud of Bournemouth School. Pupils’ examination results are always high in the national averages and the staff are very approachable and progressive.”

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