ST JOHN FISHER CATHOLIC PRIMARY SCHOOL
St. John Fisher’s school was opened on 5th September 1961. The school intake on the first day was over 200, with most of the catholic children coming from near-by schools such as St. Brigid’s, St. Joseph’s and St. Edward’s in Selly Oak. Within a short time the school was heavily over-subscribed with over forty children in each class bringing the total to 301 by 1963. There was a shortage of teachers then but the school started with a full teaching staff on the first day. Mr. P. Swarbrick was the first Headteacher. Resources were very meagre at the time with an annual allowance of £3 per pupil for chalk, pens and ink, books, stationery and equipment.
The parents at the time expressed a wish that their children should be well disciplined and given a sound grounding in basic skills. It was notable that about 60% of the children spent their summer holidays in Ireland.
The school was not meant to be on Alvechurch Road, which at one time had an outdoor lido. The original site was in one of the fields adjacent to what was known as the Man on the Moon pub, but the Parish Priest, Fr. Smith, re-negotiated a site, taking on the remaining piece of the factory estate on Alvechurch Road, where the school now stands. The site was just a piece of rough ground used by neighbours as a short-cut to the West Heath shops. The space was used to grow vegetables during the war.
The Birmingham Tree Lovers donated and planted a tree in the middle of the green in front of the school, replacing a 170 year old oak which had become diseased and dangerous. In 2010 a new car-park replaced the green and the tree was removed. However, a central area was left in the middle of the car park where a rockery is now being built. A Golden Jubilee ‘Mediterranean’ Garden has also been planted down the side of the car park by children and parents of the school, making a very pleasant and welcoming sight for visitors. Trees have also been planted around the back of the school and vegetables are again being grown in the children’s vegetable garden.
Mr John McElwee became the second Headteacher of St. John Fisher in 1987 where he stayed until he retired in July 2007. The present Headteacher, Mrs Anna Murphy, started in September 2007. So many staff have gone through the doors over the last 50 years that it would be impossible to list them. All of them, along with the thousands of children and parents coming and going, have made a huge contribution to the caring family ethos built up over the years. Our longest serving members of staff still in post are Mrs. Gupta, who has been a Lunchtime Supervisor since 1987 and Mrs. Bentley, our Office Manager, who started in 1991 and was also a pupil at the school.
At first, there was no such thing as a Parents’ Association but plenty of fund-raising activities were organised. The PFA was formally brought into being in 1970 and has continued since, with a present small group of dedicated and persevering parents continuing to organise events, the biggest of which continues to be the Summer Fete. The grand sum of £184 was raised in 1970, which went up to £1,124 in 1985. Present day Summer Fetes raise between £2,000 - £3,000 for the school, paying for equipment such as the Outdoor Adventure Play equipment in the Junior Playground.
The school is now one form entry (30) with a total intake of 210. When the school opened in 1961 they were very lucky to have a wireless, a gramophone, a slide projector and a duplicator. We now have photocopiers, digital cameras/recorders, digital projectors and interactive whiteboards in every class room. Laptops, Netbooks, Ipads and all manner of electronic equipment are now freely available to the children to support their learning in school. Originally, children wore smart blazers with a colourful badge and silver edging round the lapels, along with berets for the girls and green caps for the boys. The uniform has remained green and grey and children continue to wear ties but the blazers and berets have gone.
The school has recently been extended with a new entrance, visitors’ reception area, new offices and staffroom to accommodate the growing number of staff. The library/ICT work area has been extended at the back of the school and a new ‘Food Technology’ kitchen built, which also doubles as a Parents’ Meeting Room.
When the children leave, most of them now go on to St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Secondary School in Kings Norton or St. Paul’s School for Girls in Edgbaston.
And so, whilst reflecting on the changes over the past 50 years, and the gradual development of the school both academically and socially, and the people who have brought them about, we move, once again, inspired by this long tradition, founded on loyalty and support, with confidence into the future God has planned for us. Here’s to the next 50 years and future generations who hold the world in their hands.