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Newport Girls’ High School calls for ex-pupils’ memories to mark centenary

By Mat Growcott | Newport | School events | Published:

A century after opening its doors for the first time, a Newport school is looking back on its long history.

Aime Tonkin and Lucy Dover outside Newport Girl's High School

Newport Girls’ High School is inviting former pupils to share their stories as part of its centenary celebrations.

Along the way it is hoped they may find the answer to a number of mysteries, including a time when male students were admitted and the music to a school song. An open day for former students will be held on March 28 and 29.

Local people were furious when the plans to build a school for girls in Newport were revealed 100 years ago.

They asked why a girl would ever need an education, let alone at a grammar school.

But it was built anyway and, a century later, Newport Girls' High School is still going from strength to strength.

Now to celebrate the landmark year, a team of students are looking to learn more about the pioneers who led the way, as well as trying to answer a few mysteries from over the years.

Ann-Marie Davies is the longest serving member of staff, and she is helping guide pupils to fill in the blanks of the school's history.

The school's hockey team spring term 1948

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Their efforts will begin with an event on March 28 and 29, when old pupils and members of staff are being invited back to record an oral history of their time at Newport Girls' High School.

"This is hugely important for us," Ann-Marie said. "It is so important that these stories remain alive and we don't lose them.

"We've set up an email address that has brought out some amazing stories from people all over the world. If we weren't doing a centenary event like this, we'd never know. Our students wouldn't appreciate what they've got today."

Their research has also uncovered a few mysteries.

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The first is some old pictures with boys sitting in on classes – something that was thought to have never happened.

And the other is lyrics to a school song that nobody can remember the music for. As a solution, new music is being composed, but anybody with any memories of the tune is asked to come forward.

A junior botany expedition trip from 1936

"We haven't finished researching the history of the school," Ann-Marie said. "We've found pictures of boys and haven't got to the bottom of that. We think having boys would have been relatively short lived."

There is still a host of details about the school's early days that are yet to be discovered.

The school is working with Newport's History Society to work out the gaps.

"There was some resentment and concern in the local community when plans for the school were announced," Ann-Marie said. "They questions the point in educating girls. There were quite genuine doubts in Newport, but here we are 100 years later.

"I would imagine it was mainly local girls who attended. The school was tiny – we have a picture of a whole sixth form and there were only nine people."

Working on the project with some old yearbooks at Newport Girls’ High School are students Aime Tonkin and Lucy Dover

Lucy Dover, 17, is one of the pupils working on the project.

"I think it is more important than ever to show how important education is for young girls," she said.

"Girls have an opportunity to make a different and we need to be able to encourage that.

"We've created a link with Staffordshire County Council for this project, and they're going to lend us recording equipment. We're going to be communicating with people around the world."

Aime Tonkin, 16, followed in the footsteps of her mother and aunt in going to the school.

She wants to learn more about what it was like when they were young.

Some members of staff from 1955

"My aunt was head girl here, and my mum compares it a lot to what was here before," she said.

"I want to find out as much as I can. It'll be interesting to see what school life was actually like."

The school will be opened up to former students and teachers on March 28 and 29, and anybody who attended the school is welcome to attend.

The session will run from 1.30pm until 5pm on March 28 and from 1.30pm until 3.30pm on March 29.

Interviews will be recorded by trained pupils, and the recorded histories will then be used at a big centenary event in June.

Anybody with old photos in and around the school, or any other memories are also invited to attend.

To share stories or information email 100@nghs.org.uk

Mat Growcott

By Mat Growcott
Reporter - @MGrowcott_Star

Shropshire Star reporter

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