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History of Redby

Queen Victoria was on the throne, Mafeking was under siege, the nineteenth century was coming to a close and it was a cold, windy Friday. Such was the day, 1st December 1899, when Redby opened its doors for the very first time. Famous dignitaries turned up that day. In attendance were members of the local School Board including Messrs. Abbs, Backhouse, Davison, Bartram and Blumer as well as the Headmistress. Miss Iley had previously been the Head at James William Street School in the east end of Sunderland. Sixty three children attended on that first day and numbers quickly increased during the following months.


The first unscheduled holiday occurred on 21st May 1900 when, after assembling, the school was dismissed for the day to celebrate the relief of Mafeking.


A prophetic paragraph was entered by Miss Iley in the school log in September 1900 at the commencement of the school year: “In spite of difficulties, everything points to a highly successful future. The school is already a centre of refining influence.”


The school continued to prosper throughout the early years of the twentieth century. Holidays were supplemented with special days off to celebrate the end of the Boer War as well as the Coronation of King Edward Vll and Queen Alexandra. A visit to Newcastle by the new King and Queen provided more holiday joy for pupils. Race Wednesday (Derby Day) was also a holiday and continued to be so until the early 1950s.


The log during the Edwardian period shows a number of illnesses affecting teachers that today would perhaps raise a few eyebrows. Miss Iley suffered with a chill on the liver caused ‘by damp floors after washing out.’ This dangerous practice was also blamed for giving ‘gathered throats’ to staff.


During the initial decade regular prize-giving ceremonies were held. These were usually preceded by entertainment which included bar-bell drill. The 1907 event had the pupils giving renditions of such well-known songs as ‘Here’s Health to His   Majesty’ and ‘Cherry Ripe’.


1910 began with over 500 pupils at the school being taught by 12 staff. In-service training included a teacher coming from London for two weeks to give staff lessons in Morris Dancing – at their own expense.


Thursday, 22nd June 1911 was Coronation Day for King George V and Queen Mary and the Mayor of the town, Cllr Young, visited the school for the celebration. A Union Jack was erected in the school yard and each boy saluted as he walked past. A tea followed.


In 1914 the school hit by contagious diseases with measles, scarlet fever and diphtheria accounting for the large number of absentees. A number of deaths followed from the diphtheria outbreak. By June 1914 diphtheria had reached epidemic proportions in the school. Classrooms and cloakrooms were sprayed by the local Health Officer. With the number of deaths increasing, classrooms were closed down and children were sent home. Parents were in a panic and agitated to have the school closed and only 55% of the pupils were attending. Many children were removed by their parents to other schools. Eventually the origin of the disease was found to be a badly-smelling drain. The end of the Summer Term of 1914 must have proved to be a blessing for pupils, parents and staff. However, diphtheria was to haunt the pupils of the school over the following twelve months with many deaths occurring.


1914 saw the commencement of World War 1 and soldiers were billeted in the building for a short period. Whilst this was going on Redby pupils had to attend the nearby Thomas Street School. Redby did not open again for pupils until May 1916. At this time practically all the classes in the school had over 50 pupils and there was one class with 60 pupils. The move back from Thomas Street proved to be a wise one for during the night of 1st April 1916 two incendiary bombs hit Thomas Street School. During this time the Redby pupils attended only on mornings with Stansfield Street pupils attending on afternoons. The staff kept up the war effort by doing munition work on Saturdays – the Headteacher worked on the land.


In 1918 another epidemic hit the school – influenza. The school had to be closed from 8th November until 6th January and six pupils died from the disease. At this time the pupils, on reaching the age of 11, transferred either to the Girls or Boys departments of Redby Seniors.


On 30th September 1919 Miss Iley retired from teaching having served at the school as Head for almost twenty years. A new Head Miss L.R. Robson, took over the reins on 2nd February 1920. She was to hold this position until July 1932.


By 1922 the staff all had classes of 60 pupils except two, who (fortunately??) had only 52 and 56 respectively.


The 1920s saw the use of slates as well as pen and ink. Monitors would mix the ink from powder every morning and fill up the inkwells. Nature Study lessons were often supported with a visit to Fulwell Dene to study the flora and fauna. Sports Days, initially held at Sparks’ Farm field, were transferred to Seaburn Camp. On 19th August 1924 the central heating system in the school was installed.


Following the retirement of Miss Robson, Mr. T. Prince took over as Headteacher on 1st November 1932, arriving from Thomas Street Boys School. The classrooms during this period were painted sandstone with green glazed bricks covering the first four feet from the floor.


The year 1933 brought an unusual holiday for the pupils. Two days were granted to celebrate Sunderland Boys’ Under 15s soccer team winning the English Schools Soccer Shield. It is interesting to note that the team were partly coached by Mr. J. Rendall, a teacher who was later to join the staff of Redby Junior School in 1947.


Diphtheria, the disease which featured so prominently throughout the early years of the school, struck again in March 1935. Once again the school had to be closed and 80 cases were reported.


By 1935 pupils leaving the school usually went on to either Bede, Monkwearmouth Central, Redby Senior Boys or Fulwell Girls School.


Redby had their first success on the cricket field in 1936 when they won the Town Championship Shield for the very first time under the guidance of Mr. A.W. Mountford. Local professional sport also had its effect upon the school. Sunderland AFC was attracting huge crowds at this time as they were having a good deal of success in the League and Cup. With no floodlights at that time at Roker Park, midweek games kicked off at 2.15pm. Whenever this occurred the school had to alter the times of their afternoon session to ensure that the pupils avoided the crowds returning home from the match.


Even though World War 2 did not begin until September 1939, the Government issued gas masks to all Redby pupils a year earlier. The war did eventually cast its shadow over the school, however, and on 11th September 1939, 175 boys and girls were evacuated to Driffield under the guidance of Mr. Prince and five other teachers. It was at Driffield in the March of the following year that Mr. Prince died. He had been Headteacher at the school for eight years. Meanwhile, back at the school, air raid shelters had been built within the school grounds and many pupils returned to the town by April 1940 when he school re-opened. On 1st May 1940 a new Headteacher, Mr. C. Benson took charge.


The first air-raid warning came on 3rd July 1940 at 1.57pm and it is recorded that all the children were in the shelters within two minutes. With the bombing came more evacuation and many children were the sent to the Bedale area accompanied by Mr. Mountford and Miss Carr. Still the school continued and, during 1941, the air raid siren was to be heard many times but always the pupils quickly retired to the school shelters.  With fewer pupils, some of the staff were moved temporarily to other schools.


On the evening of 17th March 1941 the school was damaged by enemy bombs and it was hit again in May of the same year. On 5th and 6th May 1941 the school had to be closed whilst repairs took place. Nearby a number of properties in Duke Street and Francis Street were badly hit. The caretaker’s house, which stood in the school grounds, was badly damaged and had to be demolished. During the early years of the war the school was also used as an ambulance depot. A stone wall was erected in front of the Secretary’s room to prevent bomb damage. During this period the ambulances were stationed in the front yard whilst some of the classrooms were used for stores.


In April 1943, the Mayor of Sunderland, Mr. Myers Wayman, visited the school to encourage the pupils to subscribe to the ‘Wings For Victory’ campaign. By May the school had subscribed £1355 through its National Savings scheme.


The 1940s also saw the retirement of the school’s two longest-serving teachers. On 31st January 1944 Miss E.J. Smith retired. She had joined the school on 8th January 1900 as a first year pupil-teacher and had taught at the school for 44 years. The same number of years had also been served by Miss Laura Scott who had joined the staff on 1st January 1903 and retired on 30th April 1947. Between them they had served Redby pupils for 88 years, seen the effect of contagious disease on the school, worked with three different Headteachers and experienced two World Wars. Miss Smith had also taught during the Boer War.


The war years had seen the death of a Headteacher and the retirement of a number of the staff. However, a number of teachers returned to the school including Mr. R. Etherington after five years’ war service. Among the new staff arriving at the school was Mr. J. Rendall, who commenced on 3rd April 1946. He was well-known in schoolboy football circles with his links with the 1933 Town team that had been national champions. On 3rd September 1946 Mr. Harry Milne arrived on a fortnight’s teaching practice. This was to be the start of a career as a teacher at Redby as well as Headteacher at Fulwell.


By the early 1950s the school had a regular pupil roll of approximately 480. In 1951 the staff, under Mr. Benson comprised of Miss J. Thompson, Mrs. A. McGovern, Mr. J. Turnbull, Mr. R. Coombs, Mr. B. Juler, Miss E. White, Miss M. Pearson, Mr. J. Rendall, Miss P. Gills, Mr. R. Etherington, Miss E. Kidd and Mrs R. Wilkins, In 1953 the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth was celebrated with a ‘treat.’ All 484 pupils and their teachers attended the Ritz cinema to see the film, ‘A Queen is Crowned.’ In April 1955 Mr. Benson retired and Mr. Arthur Common became the new Headteacher. The school became the Town cricket champions in 1957 emulating their predecessors of 1936. It continued to have success in the 11+ examinations with many pupils going on to Bede Grammar School, Monkwearmouth Grammar and Southmoor School as well as West Park. A number of girls passed into secondary education by attending Stansfield Street Senior Girls or Fulwell Girls’ School.


The sporting tradition of the school was kept up with the winning of the Sunderland Schools Swimming Gala in the mid-1970s and the Schools Football ‘City’ Division in 1978 and the playing fields of Seaburn camp continued to be used with pupils braving the incessant wind that always seemed to pervade the pitches. Middleton Camp in Weardale continued to be used to further outdoor education with Redby pupils frequently sharing the facilities for a week with other schools.


In 1977 a new Headteacher, Mr. L.S. Slawther was in charge. He led a staff that included Mrs. J. Scott, Mrs. M. Carter, Mrs. Hurst, Mr. B. Lane, Mrs. L. Knight, Miss E. Smith, Mr. G. Matthews, Mrs. J. Birlison, Mrs. M. Rowell, Mrs G. McCletchie, Mrs. V. Jobling, Mrs C. Gatiss and Mrs M. Borland. The school secretary was Mrs Rita Robson.


In the 1980s a significant change took place on the campus with the closing down of the secondary boys' department with the introduction of the Comprehensive system of education and the site was then occupied solely by the infant and junior schools only. In 1981 Mr. J. Rankin became Headteacher of the Junior School, the Infant School being led by Mrs. Wardropper and later by Mrs. Hogg.


In 1994 both schools were closed, the buildings demolished and Redby Primary School opened on a new campus in Fulwell Road with Mrs. B. Ainslie, the new Headteacher. On her retirement in 2008, Mrs. V. Shield became Headteacher and served until 2014. Miss M.A.Wight was appointed Headteacher and the Academy became part of Wearmouth Learning Trust in November 2014. On 1st September 2019, Redby Academy became part of Tyne Coast Academy Trust (TCAT) a successful Multi Academy Trust. TCAT incorporates two Primary Academies, two Secondary Academies and a Technical College. 


Philip Curtis