Lessons in life for milestone school

Fine history: Burn Naze Primary School in its first few years, photo thought to be from around 1915
Fine history: Burn Naze Primary School in its first few years, photo thought to be from around 1915
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A school at the heart of a Thornton community is celebrating its 100th anniversary.

Thornton Primary School, on Heys Street, has seen a lot of changes in its 10 decades, having opened just weeks after the First World War broke out as Burn Naze Council School.

To celebrate the milestone school staff have been digging through their archives, uncovering stories from over the years and photographs charting its history and achievements.

The records tell how pupils sometimes took lessons in the air raid shelters and lesson times were changed to accommodate evacuees, as well as about building extensions in the 1950s and early 21st century and a visit from prime minister Tony Blair in 1999.

Headteacher Rachel Clements said: “We thought it’s quite unusual to have a school opened during the war and celebrating the 100th anniversary of both anniversaries.

“The children are now learning about the school’s history as well as the war and its local context.

“We haven’t got a lot in our archives though so we’re hoping if past pupils have got anything they might bring it in.”

Local historian John Davie’s Allen has been visiting the school to help piece together its past from documents and photos, to make an exhibition.

And children have heard first hand about what classes were like in the 40s and how the school was run through the decades from a former school pupil turned governor who has been visiting to give talks.

Maureen Winston, 82, who started at the school in 1939, when she was seven years old and whose children also attended the school, said: “When I went to school there we had an air raid shelter and outside toilets, a lot has changed. I’ve seen a lot over the years.”

The school officially opened on September 7, 1914, when 250 youngsters keen for an education turned out in the hope of landing a place, but with only 210 places 40 were turned away. Those children were split between just four classes.

Later that month the school was told it would be officially funded by the Government - in 1920, it was given £107 for the year.

In 1917 schoolboys dug out the land behind the school to create a garden, which is still there to this day, for pupils to take part in planting, tending, and harvesting and share in the crops of vegetables.

In 1939, when the Second World War broke out, the school was closed for two weeks in September to be used as an evacuation centre.

The school then had to adopt a two shift pattern each day to accommodate an influx of evacuees from Manchester.

In September 1940 four air raid shelters were built in the school grounds, and were soon used, with the school cleared in around 30 seconds on the sound of the siren.

Numbers steadily grew during the 50s and 60s so that in 1970, 329 children were on roll in 10 classes.

John Dawson took up post as headteacher in 1977 and ensured the school could expand, with a £1m development to add a new building with four classrooms and a brand new computer suite unveiled in 2006.

The school was rated as good in all areas by Ofsted earlier this year.

It will be welcoming past pupils in on the afternoons of September 23 and 24 for anniversary celebrations.

For details, contact: (01253) 821128