FEATURE: Saying goodbye to a school which ‘always offered a helping hand’
On St Louis Catholic Middle School’s final afternoon, pupils and staff released hundreds of balloons into the sky.
It was a fitting last act for the ‘outstanding’ Ofsted-rated school which has always soared in delivering a high flying education for legions of children.
As one pupil says: “No matter what there was always a helping hand to guide me along my journey.”
To mark the school’s closure as the majority of the town moves to two tier education, pupils and staff have enjoyed a flurry of activities.
The children were treated to a science lecture on ‘explosive food’ from the Royal Institution, a visit from M&M Theatre Productions performing The Railway Children and a school trip to Pleasurewood Hills.
St Edmundsbury Cathedral was the venue for a special Mass of Thanksgiving to celebrate the school’s 45-year history.
Amongst the guests were members of the Order of St Louis, former headteachers and members of staff as well as friends of the school who joined together to celebrate what the school has achieved.
Pupils also unearthed a time capsule which was buried in July 1997. It included curios such as a homework diary belonging to then pupil Laura Dubery, a cassette tape of pupils singing in assembly, a floppy disc of pictures and even a copy of the Bury Free Press.
Steering the school through its final chapter has been headteacher Rose Heap. She is one of five heads to lead St Louis since it opened as a middle school in September 1971.
This started with Sister Una McGuiness and Sister Madeleine O’Callaghan of the St Louis Order of Sisters, until Michael Cassidy assumed the headship in the spring term of 1987.
He was followed by Anne Mansfield who retired from the role in August 2011.
Mrs Heap said: “We have been overwhelmed by messages of support and gratitude from many members of the community in Bury St Edmunds and beyond.
“It is clear that our school’s contribution to so many children’s lives has been warmly recognised.
“Placing our children at the forefront of what we do has always been the main priority for all at St Louis and we are proud of the fact that despite the many challenges of SOR we have continued to maintain our outstanding status.
“The staff and pupils have worked incredibly hard to maintain high standards in teaching, learning and pastoral care.
“Our pupils can move on to their new schools confident in the knowledge that they have received excellent foundations on which to build for the future.”
Praise from pupils for St Louis
“St Louis has helped me to learn, create and discover new things as well as gain new life skills; and no matter what there was always a helping hand to guide me along my journey. I feel both honoured and proud to keep the St Louis legacy to have been part of the memories shared and created here.” Millie, Year 8
“I think the best way to describe St Louis is ‘family’. Wherever I have turned in my four year journey there’s been a friendly face or a supportive shoulder. I feel very proud to leave St Louis as part of the last Year 8 and will carry it with me throughout my career in education.” Harriet, Year 8
“St Louis has taught me a lot of qualities which I will use in life. Every day it makes me proud to wear this uniform. I have enjoyed every minute of St Louis. It is so sad that it is closing but it will always be a special place.” Hannah, Year 7
“Here at St Louis I feel I have been able to grow as a person. The teachers are so encouraging, showing us skills so that we can achieve in our later lives.” Freddie, Year 7
Comments from governors and staff
Siobahn Watson, chair of governors, said: “I wish to pay tribute to the staff of St Louis who have worked extremely hard to ensure that the school has continued to provide an outstanding education for all of its pupils. A huge range of extra-curricular activities have further enhanced the children’s experiences and I am sure that they will benefit immeasurably from their time spent at St Louis.”
Jenny Davies, KS2 Numeracy Leader, said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed my many years of teaching at St Louis and seen the school develop and flourish under the leadership of Sister Madeleine, Mike Cassidy, Anne Mansfield and Rose Heap. St Louis is a special place with a strong ethos of respect, care and support for students and staff alike. In addition, middle school aged students have a definite tendency towards enthusiasm for learning and a will to succeed which makes the job of teaching very enjoyable.”
Longest serving staff include:
Diane Kennedy, Head of Art - 31 years
Penny Mecham, Head’s PA - 27 years
Gil Turner, Head of Maths - 22 years
Noeleen Scanlan, Cover Supervisor/Finance Assistant - 21 years
Lynn Cassidy, SENCO - 20 years
Jenny Davies, KS2 Numeracy Leader - 20 years