Wakeley Road Primary School

Well-known TV and radio broadcaster Professor E N Andrade opened Wakeley Road Primary School on Tuesday May 11th 1954. The School also opened on the same day as Featherby Junior and Twydall and Featherby Infant’s Schools, all constructed about the same time as part of a plan in Gillingham to meet the growing demand for more schools in the area.

Wakeley Road Primary School became the first of the new schools to be opened in front of parents and a party of 140 people from the education sector. Rainham vicar Reverend F Jordan who also served as vice-chairman of Gillingham Education Committee conducted a dedication service. After this the audience watched a film made about Medway schools in which about 10,000 Medway schoolchildren participated. Richmond Road Secondary School teacher Mr P Northcott acted as cameraman for the film designed to show the ideas underlying the educational practices of schools in the area.

Terry Arnold attended the school during the late 1950s and early 1960s and remembers that there were about 240 pupils, eight classrooms, a hall, a canteen and a playing field. He also recalls his four teachers Mrs Gott, Mr Hopkins, Mr Martin and Mr Chudley, a New Zealander. Of these he says that the boys all liked Mrs Gott because she was very attractive and Mr Chudley became the first teacher who asked the pupils to call everyone by their first names.

Terry remembers Mr Martin starting a gardening class when pupils had to dig up part of the school field which he found gruelling work. He also remembers that when taking basket weaving classes with Mr Hopkins some boys enjoyed breaking bits of material off their baskets, soaking these in the sink then setting the ends alight and smoking them like cigarettes.

Terry recalls Sports Day that took place annually on the school playing field each summer and usually included a relay competition against pupils from St Margaret’s School in Station Road. He also remembers the annual school nativity play in which he once participated as ‘The Black King.’

Terry says that the boys liked football and played during the playtime breaks. They also played some matches against other schools. The school had a good reputation for PE and Terry recalls a film being made about the pupils performing exercise routines in the school hall.

Former pupil Lorna Cook who attended the school during the early 1960s experienced happy times there. She remembers that there were eight classes in years 1-4 with two classes for each age group and classrooms on two levels. She thinks that the headmaster’s name was Mr Dawes and there were about eight teachers including Mr Chudley who became her teacher. She remembers the hall that doubled as a gym with gymnastic equipment stored under the stage and that numerous good gymnasts were produced at the school.

Lorna recalls a playing field and a playground where football and rounders were played and a free standing wall that older pupils climbed in playtime periods. Meanwhile, younger pupils skipped with skipping ropes or juggled tennis balls. Lorna felt proud when she became old enough to climb the wall while younger pupils watched in awe.

Pupils did not wear school uniforms but black indoor plimsolls were compulsory to protect the flooring. Fourth year pupils who took turns as plimsoll monitors policed the area.

Lorna remembers a nurse periodically visiting the school to inspect children’s hair for nits. She also became a member of the Brownies who met there once a week and remembers walking a long way and almost getting locked in the pupil’s toilets not realizing that she had permission to use the teachers’ toilets situated close to the hall where the Brownies met. She recalls the Cycling Proficiency Test that was taken at the school on Saturdays and that before getting permission to ride a bike to school the certificate had to be produced.

Lorna feels that the pupils were generally well behaved and recalls that when in the classroom on a rainy day she and other pupils stopped the rain coming through the windows by lining up wooden rulers along the gaps.

Almost 60 years since it first opened Wakeley Road Primary School finally closed on August 31st 2003 when Mrs Daley served as headmistress. In the years leading up to this the school roll had fallen dramatically and 41% of places were unfilled. Numbers fell to 153 pupils compared to well over 200 in earlier decades. A fall in numbers also occurred at Meredale Infant’s School so the education authority decided to discuss the future of the two schools and put forward six options. The fourth option which entailed the closing down of both Wakeley Road Primary and Meredale Infant’s and combining the children from both schools on the Wakeley Road site with a different name was chosen. The Wakeley Road site was considered to have more flexibility, more space and safer for parents to drop off and collect their children in their cars than on the road outside Meredale which often got congested.

The closure of Wakeley Road Primary School led to opposition from school governors, staff and parents. At the time of closure the school’s results had improved according to the most recent Ofsted inspection. In the National Curriculum Tests pupils had achieved 62% in Maths and 64% in English at level 4 or above. At the same time Meredale Infant’s School had been designated highly successful and the closure shocked the school governors and the staff but at the end of the day economics turned out to be the overriding factor.

 

After the closure in 2003 Riverside Primary School opened on the same site as the former Wakeley Road Primary School. It has a present day roll of 153 pupils.

Comments   

0 #12 Tim Groves 2018-03-04 20:36
I remember Amin Ali! I remember the terrapin, swimming pool and our football team winning the league easily 77/78.
Mrs Cross,Mrs Barlow, Mr Bull, and Tuesday night youth club.
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0 #11 Jacqueline lingwood 2018-03-01 22:54
I attended 67-71, in classes with Miss FInn, Mr Hopkins, Mr Whittaker and Mrs Cross. Joined Mr Chuddley's gym club. Happy memories at Wakeley. I'm wondering if Graham Cook lived in Station Road near Benhams as I'm remembering a friendship we had?
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0 #10 S. Newman 2018-02-01 13:37
I was at Meredale from 68-70 and Wakeley from 71-73. Very sad to hear of the demise of both schools; they were both very good and I have many fond memories of them.

Contrary to other comments, I thought the Wakeley headmaster at the time, Mr. Bull, was excellent and, moreover, very popular. He was authoritative, but in a very paternal and kindly way.

My teachers at Meredale were Miss/Mrs Trees, Mrs Chapman (I think - it was certainly something like that, she was superb) and Mrs. Smith. At Wakeley I had Miss Kingham, Mr. Whittaker, Mr. Brown (great guy) and Mr. Parker.

I've been trying to remember the house names at Wakeley. I was in the blue one, but I can't for the life of me recall its name. Darwin was Green, Sydney was yellow and Chatham was red. And I too remember Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang at one of the school summer fetes!
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0 #9 Suzanne Weisberg 2018-01-15 03:59
Hello
I attended Meredale Infants School then Wakeley from 1972 to 1975.
I only really remember Mrs Jeffries who was amazing and helped me as my parents divorced.
I do remember a field opposite one of the schools that we played in and the boys used to catch Daddy Long leg
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0 #8 Jools 2018-01-11 15:50
I agree with Graham, Mr Audley's death was shocking .. I never liked Mr Bull :( Not sure about the streaming comment though, I remember taking the 11 plus and passed it .. so not really sure about the 'earmarking'. Nobody has mentioned the swimming pool yet! So shallow, the taller ones could touch the bottom of the pool when 'swimming' haha!
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0 #7 Graham Cook 2018-01-11 14:34
I attended Wakeley Road School from 67 to 71. My fist headmaster was Mr Auduley, who sadly committed suicide. I believe he gassed himself in his car at his in Wigmore. Apparently he had been a Japanese prisoner of war and the memory of this experience preyed on his mind. It was a terrible shock to parents and pupils alike. Given the age range of the children it was very difficult for us to comprehend properly. Mr Bull from Fairview School in Wigmore was drafted in as temporary headmaster.

I remember Mr Chudley or cuddly cuddly as we used to call him. I remember the young blonde Miss Clegg, who was the dads’ favourite.

Facilities were good and the only problem was the rigid nature of the streaming. You were marked as either grammar of secondary modern material on the day you joined and no matter was progress you made it was never recognised as your fate was already sealed.
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0 #6 Graham Wisom 2018-01-10 19:13
My teachers were Mr Brown, Mrs Wilson, Mrs Mardlay and Mr Parker, also remember Mr Cromwell and Mrs Queen.
My father was on the PTA and I remember the fetes where we had the Daleks and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
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0 #5 Jools 2017-11-11 15:02
I remember now .. 2nd year Ms Griffiths, 3rd year Mr Blunt and 4th year Mr Parker!!
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0 #4 Jools 2017-11-11 14:42
I went to Wakeley from 1964-1969 .. the Head was Mr Audley who, unfortunately committed suicide during the school holidays. We then got Mr Bull .. who nobody liked! Fond memories of Madame Griffith (French Teacher) in 2nd year and the ginger teacher we had in year 4 .. very strict but fair and the teacher we had in year 3 who used to throw board rubbers at us haha!!! Those were the days eh?
Joyce Carley, Terry Whitehead, Roland Brown, Mark Sutton .. these were a few of my peers!!
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0 #3 Dave Guichard 2017-02-01 08:28
I went to Wakeley from 1987-1991.... I recall the experience of leaving infants as exciting and very grown up!..... The school appeared massive then, I started with Mrs Baker in the first year as parents got to come and settle us in on the first morning, complete with trays containing books pencils and crayons (pens coming later).

I enjoyed playground Football, Sports Days, being in the school team playing Football. On dry days we were aloud on the field again a real treat as it was only allowed in Summer at break time.

English creative writing was my strong point and along with art I thrived, but give me Maths and I would switch off...

I was also taught by Miss Smith in the second year, Miss Litton in the third year and Mrs Barlow in the fourth year which meant sitting on benches in assembly not on the floor!

I was sad to leave here and look at my Facebook and those friends I made are still my friends now.... good times!
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