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How Great Yarmouth’s schools have changed over time

PUBLISHED: 08:12 24 June 2018

Howdy! US children arrive on the opening morning of the American School in Gorleston in 1968. Photo: Mercury Archive

Howdy! US children arrive on the opening morning of the American School in Gorleston in 1968. Photo: Mercury Archive

Mercury Archive

There was a time when the system was oh-so-simple.

A little bit of America in Gorleston - pupils raise the Stars and Stripes national flag on the first day, 1968. Photo: Mercury ArchiveA little bit of America in Gorleston - pupils raise the Stars and Stripes national flag on the first day, 1968. Photo: Mercury Archive

At the end of infant and junior years, pupils sat the 11-plus scholarship examination; hereabouts a pass meant Great Yarmouth Grammar or High Schools (for boys and girls respectively) or the Technical High School. Failure meant secondary school.

Nowadays I sympathise with parents, anxious to do their best for their children, having to make decisions about schools or academies, some of which are regularly making headlines stemming from failures at official inspections.

In truth, I do not know the difference between them, except that perhaps one is still under council control and the other is independent, but I could well be wrong.

The Great Yarmouth Charter Academy on Salisbury Road seems to have a torrid time, currently likely to merge with the new Trafalgar College and be renamed. I have no links with the Charter Academy other than the fact that I was educated there in its previous long history as Great Yarmouth Grammar School for boys.

VIPs walk through a line-up of Great Yarmouth Grammar School pupils in 1937 for the opening of a new wing. The buildings now house an academy. Photo: Mercury ArchiveVIPs walk through a line-up of Great Yarmouth Grammar School pupils in 1937 for the opening of a new wing. The buildings now house an academy. Photo: Mercury Archive

Yes, it’s only bricks and mortar, but the building holds memories for many of those educated there - in my case, from 1946-52. I am sure many Old Boys share my disappointment at the current situation prevailing there under a system alien to many of us.

Yarmouth Grammar School was founded in 1552, survived the Civil War and plagues, and was evacuated to Retford during the 1939-45 war. I was present when it celebrated its 400th anniversary in 1952.

It had moved to Salisbury Road in 1910, its former premises in Trafalgar Road becoming the Girls’ High School which transferred to a new building in Lynn Grove, Gorleston, in 1957, becoming Gorleston Grammar School in 1971. Today it is an academy.

Half-century ago this year a new kid on the block, as it were, added to the borough’s educational spectrum. creating a figurative milestone. That was the American School in 1968, occupying the former Stradbroke Road Junior School on Lowestoft Road in Gorleston, vacated when its British pupils moved to the new Cliff Park School.

The former Great Yarmouth High School for Girls building on Trafalgar Road. Photo: Mercury ArchiveThe former Great Yarmouth High School for Girls building on Trafalgar Road. Photo: Mercury Archive

The change was marked by the hoisting of the Stars and Stripes American national flag.

Explained the Mercury: “The 90-year-old buildings, where many generations of Gorleston fishermen’s children were educated, is now a school for the children of Americans who have come to the town to reap a new harvest from the sea - oil and natural gas.

“More than 100 American children were enrolled on Thursday. Aged five to 14, they come from as far afield as Norwich. The fees are around £330 a year for each child.

“The school, staffed by American teachers, is an off-shoot of the US boarding school near Bury St Edmunds. It is also hoped to start a boarding school at Gorleston in the not-too-distant future.”

Head master Duane Mead told our reporter: “Our texts and methods are like those used in the States, which means that the transition to American ways, when the children eventually go back home, will not be so difficult for them.”

He stressed that the provision of an American school here was no criticism of British education - “It is not that your education is any better or worse than ours but simply that the curriculum is different.”

Also, having the school here took into account that the fact that the American children’s education had suffered because they had travelled all over the world with their parents. They needed to have special attention in small classes, and this would be provided at Stradbroke Road where the teacher-pupil ratio would be about one to ten.

American pupil numbers rose from 103 to 145, but Stradbroke Road lacked modern facilities like central heating, and new premises were sought, preferably in three acres of grounds.

Move they did, but I cannot remember where. It might have been the former St Louis Convent on North Drive but I cannot confirm that.

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