Moseley Modern School 1955
Moseley Modern Mixed School did not have an easy start. There had been serious problems with construction work. The name ‘Springhill’ turned out to be only too appropriate and the building had to be constructed on concrete rafts and was not ready for opening in September 1955. The 776 pupils and 28 staff had to manage with ten classes in the new school, seven in the old school, three in St Christopher’s Annexe and one ‘travelling class’. Two classes consisted of girls who were waiting to be transferred to the new Swanshurst Grammar School when it was finished. By November, however, the trees and shrubs were being planted in the school garden and in February the school closed for two days to complete the move into the new building, most of which was now finished but was by no means fully equipped
All the existing staff transferred from College Road, with Miss Eileen Cohen as Head, and there were several new appointments. Miss Cohen was considered a formidable figure and had a very clear vision of the kind of school she wanted and put her views with equal firmness whether dealing with pupils in school or explaining the school’s requirements to the Chief Education Officer. A former colleague comments that ‘Miss Cohen gave such a clearlead and had such a strong personality that punishment was not much needed’. He recalls her stubbing out her cigarette and marching out of her smoke-filled office to berate a group of boys who had been caught smoking! The General Inspection Report of 1959 refers to the way ‘her warm and generous personality pervades the school’ and describes her as a ‘good leader and organiser’. Her commitment to the school was total; she frequently worked in school for weeks of the summer holiday and returned to school from hospital on one occasion ‘unofficially’ with her leg in plaster.
Academically the school did well being one of, if not the first, Secondary Modern School in the country to offer ‘O’ and ‘A’ level courses. By 1959 there were over 900 pupils in a building designed for 600 and necessitated the use of three rooms on the old College Road site as well as classes being taught in the former sports pavilion, the hall, library, medical room, staffroom, dining room and stage.
The school developed a formidable sporting reputation, winning almost every trophy for team sport in the city. In all these activities there was enthusiastic staff participation, whether in closely fought staff versus pupil sports fixtures or in memorable performances of Gilbert and Sullivan.
By the time Miss Cohen (then Mrs North) retired in 1967, things were beginning to change. There was a growing discontent in many quarters with the selection of children at the age of eleven and the question of comprehensive schools had become a political issue. At this time other developments also affected the school. Firstly, the school leaving age was raised and the challenge of providing for and motivation pupils who would not previously have chosen to stay on faced the staff. Secondly, the school’s catchment area began to change in character and Sparkhill became home to a more rapidly changing population. A significant percentage of the school’s intake now came from families who had recently arrived in Britain and needed extra help to settle in.
The newly appointed head was Donald Wilford. His style was very different as the changing education climate required. Several teachers who worked under him have commented on his tremendous commitment to helping pupils and their parents with problems. The curriculum now offered 14 ‘A’ level courses and 26 ‘O’ level courses and continued to maintain its consistent academic record. The commitment to sporting and musical success was also remarkable. In 1968 ten sporting trophies were won and by the 1970’s the school was running three choirs, a wind band, several musical groups and a developing string section. There were trips to local and foreign destinations, school plays, musicals and a huge range of sporting opportunities in which ‘vast numbers took part’. At one point there were 67 sports teams! The school’s sporting success was not limited to team trophies however, with the school producing the Tokyo Olympic steeplechase silver medallist, Maurice Herriot. Daphne Arden (later Daphne Slater) a sprint bronze medallist in Tokyo and Sharon Corbett who won a Commonwealth bronze medal in the javelin in 1974. Steve Rouse, after several seasons with Warwickshire, is now established as Head Groundsman at Edgbaston. Nisar Chauhdry played hockey for England while Noel Luke and Mickey Lewis made successful careers as professional footballers.
As pressure grew to move to a comprehensive system Moseley Modern had growing problems of its own. By now it has well out grown its buildings and extensions first discussed in October 1970 were not finished by January 1974 and there were now nearly 1000 pupils on the roll. However, camaraderie among the staff was high at this stage, which must have contributed to the generally optimistic approach to the impending amalgamation with Moseley Grammar School. Many staff had doubts about the success of an amalgamated comprehensive school but became resigned to the situation and although there were many uncertainties ahead, the approach, under the leadership of Mr Wilford was fairly relaxed. Amalgamation was seen mainly in terms of the opportunities a large comprehensive school would bring. As the then deputy head John Lockwood put it “The grammar schools had always been better funded and equipped, even the staff had different coloured towels and soap to their pupils and we thought with amalgamation we might all get white soap!”
With its favourable catchment area, smart building and some very committed staff, Moseley Modern probably achieved as much as any secondary modern school could have and by any measure ranked as one of the most successful examples of it’s kind.
Source: Moseley Into The Millennium