During their final week at Blackbourne Middle, in Stanton, pupils recorded a song with a team of professional musicians titled ‘Learn, Believe, Aspire Together’ based on the school motto.
It was a fitting tribute to a school which for nearly 40 years has inspired pupils to strive for academic excellence and been a lynchpin of the local community.
Its impact could be best felt at a celebration of its achievements over the weekend which attracted hundreds of well-wishers including 50 former pupils who were part of the school’s first intake when it opened in 1975.
As we said last week with the closure of Ixworth Middle, the political arguments for and against the closure of these schools will no doubt continue but for staff and pupils this is an opportunity to reflect and honour their accomplishments.
Headteacher Phil Vigrass, who was appointed three years ago to lead the school through its final years, said: “I think it is a really sad time for the village to be losing its middle school. This final year has been a difficult and testing time for all of us but our success is thanks to the commitment and incredibly positive attitude displayed by everyone here. We have finished on a high with fantastic academic results and we are all incredibly proud of the children and staff who have always made this place feel so special.”
Within the Thurston cluster of middle schools, Blackbourne – named after the local river – is unique in being a voluntary controlled church school.
Five headteachers have steered the school, starting with Rosemary Sawyer who was ably assisted by Rob Wood and John Goldsmith. She still retains a link with the school, providing the annual crib scene that has been on display in the school foyer every Christmas.
Subsequent heads were Ken Smith, Sue Nicholls, Hilary Hall and current head Mr Vigrass.
The school closes with 227 children and 38 members of staff including 15 teachers. A small number of staff have secured jobs at schools locally but the majority will be taking a break in their careers.
In a ‘full and varied final year’ there has been a range of visits with Blackbourne welcoming theatre groups and performers, scientists, authors and gymnasts.
The achievements continued at the celebration day when pupils raised £1,700 to support children in the SOS villages in Africa.
But for many, its greatest triumph will be its legacy on the generations who have walked through its doors.
Teacher Dave Foster, who is the longest-serving member of staff after staying for 28 years, said: “When I arrived at Blackbourne, the plan was to stay for three years. Married with two young children, the village and the school were perfect. The children at the school were so enthusiastic and the staff so friendly. The school was like one big family.”
The Rev David Messer, rector for the area, said: “The school, has over the years, developed and maintained an excellent relationship with church and community. Recently we have seen the school attending services in church and participating in such events as the Christmas tree festival and other events.
“They, with Stanton Primary and Thurston, were involved in the mural in the bus shelter.
“Everyone involved in the school has always maintained high standards of welcome, hospitality and more importantly a focus on providing a place of safety for learning and play for our young people who are some of the kindest, happy bunch of youngsters I have had the privilege of working with.
“It is with great sadness that I see such a wonderful place of learning closing and the loss of excellent teachers and support staff to other schools. And to see a governing body that has worked so hard for the school having to come to the end of their term of office as the school closes.”
Sandra Shaw, chairman of governors, said: “The staff are 100 per cent committed to the pupils and school and have been successful in creating an environment which has produced well behaved children who are keen to learn – as the recent SATS results show.”
Deputy head Debbi Barber added: ““I will take away such happy memories of my 25 years at Blackbourne. The children, the staff, the governors and the parents have all been part of the family of Blackbourne into which my own family have been embraced.
“I know the school will always have a special place in the hearts of anyone who has been involved with Blackbourne. It will be greatly missed.”