St Peter’s C of E Primary: Students past and present reunite to mark Maida Vale school’s 150th birthday
PUBLISHED: 14:31 09 July 2019 | UPDATED: 14:31 09 July 2019
There was a time in the 1980s when St Peter’s C of E Primary School in Maida Vale looked set to close.
It had been named one of the worst ten schools in London by the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) and its governors wrote to parents about the possibility of its imminent closure.
This primary school, tucked away from the busy Harrow Road, has come a long way since then and celebrated its 150th anniversary on June 27.
Former governors, teachers and pupils, some still at secondary school, returned for the festivities. These included the unveiling of a commemorative mosaic made by current pupils and a speech given by special guest Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin, the Queen's Chaplain, who was appointed as the UK's first black female bishop the following day.
A history exhibition was also created for the occasion, so pupils past and present could learn more about their school.
Curated by Hattie Friedman, the Special Education Needs Coordinator at St Peter's, it contained the first headmaster's neatly-written log book from 1869 and photos displayed decade by decade - the first of which shows Chippenham Mews in the 1930s.
It took Ms Friedman three months to source and collate all the information from the school's records, Westminster Archives and a nearby church.
Ms Friedman said: "The children have been fascinated by the story.
"In fact, they had no idea about it - they couldn't believe that the school was once about to close down."
Within a few decades of becoming a primary school in the 1950s, it began to struggle.
By the late 1970s and early 1980s, the ILEA judged it to be failing and declared it at risk.
Closure looked increasingly likely and the battle to save the school lasted for 14 years.
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The appointment of Helen Ridding as head in 1990 was the turning point in the school's fortunes. At just 25, she was the catalyst for change at a time when she was the only permanent member of staff and just 40 out of the 67 students on the school's roll were turning up - the lowest number of children in its history, far below the 900 who attended lessons in 1888.
For her contributions to education, Ms Ridding was awarded the Daily Mirror's Pride of Britain Award in 1999. Both she and her successor Linda Butterworth attended the anniversary celebrations, ensuring that three generations of headteachers were there to mark the school's successes.
Sam Adcock, St Peter's current and longest-serving head teacher, said: "The school has just built on those [Ms Ridding's] foundations. It is now full to capacity and has a great reputation.
"It is a little oasis away from Harrow Road - the school is thriving and doing very well."
All the 210 pupils now studying at St Peter's contributed, with the help of artist Adam Stanley, to create the mosaic in the playground.
It shows the school's motto: "Invite, include, imagine, inspire."
They also created a time capsule to tell their own story of life at the school in 2019 to future generations of pupils.
Made from a piece of polished quartz donated by the local funeral parlour, E & A Langley, it was buried in the garden and contains, among other items, a school uniform, letter written by the students, and photos of the school.
Along with the unveiling of the mosaic and the burial of the time capsule, Rev Hudson-Wilkin's speech was a highlight.
It focused on the school's motto, her life growing up in Montego Bay, and her dinner and "sleepover" at Windsor Palace when she was asked to be Chaplain to the Queen.
Ms Adcock praised Rev Hudson-Wilkin's words, saying they were in keeping with the school's ethos: "We have [at least] 37 different nationalities at St Peter's. We want them to know that they are all special."
On the school's history and its part in the local community, she added: "There are students here whose parents went to St Peter's and their grandparents too.
"That is really special, actually."
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