FEATURE: St James Middle School has hit the high notes of success
As the only Church of England voluntarily aided middle school in Suffolk, St James has long enjoyed a close relationship with St Edmundsbury Cathedral and local parishes.
Over the years, many pupils have become choristers at the cathedral and nearby St Mary’s Church.
It is fitting then that the school’s final day on Thursday, July 21 will begin with a Eucharist Service in the cathedral with readings from Mavis Holmes (Hawkins), who taught at St James in its opening year and Mark Passey, who was in her first class.
The service will feature a new composition by James Thomas, director of music at the cathedral, performed by the school’s nationally acclaimed chamber choir.
Since it opened in 1972, the school has always strived to hit the high notes of success and is rated as ‘good’ by education watchdog Ofsted.
As Lesley Glasswell, governor and parent of a former pupil, says St James stands for ‘Supportive, Traditional, Just, And Most Extraordinarily Special!’.
Under its first headteacher, Reverend Robert Webb the school established its unique ethos and traditions on the site which had been occupied by King Edward VI Grammar School since 1883.
Bob Thackeray, then deputy headteacher at the school, took the helm in 1987 until he moved to become headteacher at Salisbury Cathedral School in 1998. He was succeeded by the current headteacher Paul Elstone.
Mr Elstone said: “I have been privileged to lead a school of dedicated governors, staff and pupils since last century. During this time we have seen many government initiatives: the literacy strategy, numeracy strategy, KS3 strategy, academisation programme to name just a few.
“We have always offered a broad, balanced curriculum which offers challenge to pupils, supported by a huge range of extra-curricular activities involving sport, music, science, engineering and many more. It has been rewarding to have been renowned as a Good school, not just by OFSTED, but more importantly our parental community.
“It is hugely pleasing to meet ex-pupils who have completed their education and moved into successful careers and know that we at St James have played a key part in that individual’s life.
“Since the county council decision in 2007 to move to two-tier, change was inevitable. The governors, staff and I have been determined to keep business as usual right until the final bell on the final day.”
Praise for the school from pupils and parents
“I am grateful to St James for moulding me into the person that I am; the four-year journey has been full of happiness and joy. Thank you to everyone who has inspired me or taught me in any way.” Arundhati Sinha
“I have really enjoyed my time at St James. It has been an incredible four years, full of opportunities. It is a shame that such an amazing school has to come to an end. Good luck to all the staff and pupils.” Catherine Whelehan
“I have had a wonderful time at St James. I have been taught by brilliant teachers, have had opportunities to visit amazing places, and have made lifelong friends. I am very sad that St James is closing – it was a brilliant school.” Tim Daniels
“I have had a good time here with lots of great memories. I really enjoyed my experience at St James.” Daniel Gilbert
“So many opportunities have been opened up to us all by this school: intriguing new lessons, great teachers, fantastic resources and amazing trips. I will never forget my experiences.” Oscar Wood
“St James has been great. Enjoyable lessons, fun school trips, great clubs and opportunities.” Tom Henson
“St James and it’s fantastic, dedicated staff have provided my daughters with a wonderful, caring environment in which they have flourished both academically and socially. We will be very sad and sorry to see it close.
“It will be missed.” Claire Housley, parent
“I feel very fortunate that my three children have had the opportunity to go to St James over the past six years. This is a fantastic school where they’ve had the chance to excel not only academically, but also to enjoy a real breadth in their education and development.
“I’m very sad to see the school close, but would like to say a special thank you to everyone at St James for their commitment to make this last year for the children, their best year ever!” Julie Pryke, parent
Comments from governors
‘I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of my time teaching at St James. The children have been a delight. It will be hard to find a school where children are as good natured and highly motivated to learn. I will miss St James CEVA Middle School.’ Katie Cobb, Teacher Governor
‘I am grateful to St James for giving all three of our children a great education.’ Rev Malcolm Rogers, Governor
‘St James was an excellent foundation for both my sons as they matured from childhood to their formative years. The ethos of the school taught them respect, a sense of place, and self-confidence, as well as giving them a fantastic formal education. My boys both loved their time at the school and I have been fortunate to have been able to support the school as a governor for many years.’ Jon Swift, Governor
‘A unique special school which combines nurturing pupils with academic excellence; it will be impossible to recreate this exceptional place,” Dr Linda Lowden, Parent Governor
Longest serving staff members at St James Middle
Catherine Waters – 33 years
David Marriott – 23 years
Jane Hart – 19 years
Judy Prosser – 19 years
Paul Elstone – 18 years
Terry Welsh – 18 years
Mary Cornish has been serving dinners at the school since 1989