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St. Francis' College in the 1980s
The 1980s is a hugely important decade in the history of St. Francis’ College. By the beginning of the 1980s the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary had begun to assess whether they wished to continue running St. Francis’ College as there was an insufficient number of novices being recruited. At some point a decision was made to close the school on 31st August 1984 and this momentous news was announced to stunned staff at a staff meeting on 17th January 1983.
A group of parents and staff immediately met and decided to form a working party to see if it was possible to save the school. This group was chaired by Neil Phoenix supported by a team of very committed parent and staff representatives. It soon became clear that it was going to be possible to transfer running of the school to the newly founded St. Francis’ College Trust and this body took over the running of the school from 1st September 1983. This announcement was hugely significant to the pupils and staff at the school. During 1983 pupil numbers had reduced to just over 200, but once the good news was announced that its future was secured numbers began to rise again.
While all this was going on the College continued with celebrations for its 50th Anniversary. On St. Francis de Sales day at the end of January flowers were put round the school and a cake with 50 candles was cut in the gym. A mass was held in the chapel with an offertory procession with tokens of school life such as a hockey stick, first panoramic photo from 1934, a flute, maths book and school prospectus. This was followed by the first ever sixth form review in the theatre with silhouettes of special moments from the school’s history on the theatre walls. In March 1983 a musical performance entitled Sing Jubilee took place in the theatre. A commemorative book with illuminated lettering was also produced with the signature of every girl present in the school in 1983.For many the highlight of the year was the summer garden party held on the Loggia gardens on July 9th. This was attended by Sister Elizabeth and it was at this event it was announced that the school had been saved.
Life for pupils at the school continued as normal during these tumultuous times. 1983 saw the 50th gold Duke of Edinburgh award being made to a St. Francis’ College student and the 9th Grand Prior Award. School trips to France and a senior and junior ski trip took place. There were some curriculum changes during the year including the offering of home economics rather than needlework. In September 1983 a kindergarten was relaunched offering places for boys from the age of 3 and a half to infant age.
In 1984 a new Headmaster Mr David Ganderton was appointed to replace Mr McAllister who had lead the school from 1981-3. There was a feeling of great positivity around the college and for many it was seen as a new era. The first computers arrived during this year and were in constant use. The number of boarders rose again to 120 coming from a wide mix of countries – Holland, West Germany, South Africa, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Oman, Egypt, Malaysia, Cayman Islands, Punjab, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka and Thailand. The boarding house was run by Sister Mary Anna, Colonel and Mrs Blair.
St. Francis’ College Old Girls’ Association was relaunched in 1985 and a summer reunion held in 1985 which was attended by Sister Elizabeth. This may have been the last time she visited the College before her death in 1991.
There were a number of staff changes at this point in the 1980s. Colonel Blair retired at the end of 1985 and in 1986 a new Headmaster Mr Patrick Nobes was appointed. At the end of the summer term in 1986 Sister Mary Anna, Sister Eilish and Sister Eileen retired who were the last Sisters working in the College. At the same time Angela Glew, Jessica White and Dorothy Hunt joined the prep staff and MIs Roberts the PE staff. In September 1986 a new unifom was launched – a tartan kilt, navy blazer, green sweater and white shirt.
Mr Nobes left after a year and Mrs Janice Frith was appointed Headmistress with a new deputy Ms Mairin Hegarty. A programme of refurbishment and development took place which resulted in a new art centre, refurbished home economics rooms, new boilers and resurfaced netball and tennis courts. More computers were added into the school thanks to the Education 2000 project. These were Nimbus computers and the two in the school library were so popular that a booking system had to be introduced for lunch and after school. As the decade progressed these computers became integrated into the school curriculum and computer studies taught for public examination.
Girls at St. Francis’ College were offered a wide range of extra-curricular activities. Within school music and drama flourished and pupils had the chance to take part in clubs as varied as environmental studies club, needlework club, pottery club to recorder club. A voluntary service programme was begun in 1988 and an annual programme of support for charities developed. D of E continued to be a popular activity with a memorable trip to Bermuda in 1988. There were regular ski trips and trips to France and Germany
Gallery Photos
Cadets 1980 with Lady Bowes Lyon
Cadets 1980 with Lady Bowes Lyon
Alice in Wonderland 1986
Alice in Wonderland 1986
Anniversary Ball 1983
Anniversary Ball 1983
Boarders 1980
Boarders 1980
Building
Building
Chinese New Year 1981
Chinese New Year 1981
Claire Whitty and Infants 1988
Claire Whitty and Infants 1988
Prep Christmas 1980
Prep Christmas 1980
Colonel Blair 1983
Colonel Blair 1983
Daisy Blair 1987
Daisy Blair 1987
Golden Jubilee 1983
Golden Jubilee 1983
Sister Elisabeth at Golden Jubilee Garden Party
Sister Elisabeth at Golden Jubilee Garden Party
Home Economics Room 1986
Home Economics Room 1986
ICT 1987
ICT 1987
Infants and Transition 1981
Infants and Transition 1981
Junior Swim Team 1986
Junior Swim Team 1986
Leavers 1983
Leavers 1983
Mikado May 1987
Mikado May 1987
Music Room 1987
Music Room 1987
History Room 1987
History Room 1987
New Uniform 1986
New Uniform 1986
Oliver 1989
Oliver 1989
Prep 1 at Science Museum 1989
Prep 1 at Science Museum 1989
Prep 1980 with Mrs Whitty
Prep 1980 with Mrs Whitty
Prep Fun Day 1989
Prep Fun Day 1989
Wizard of Oz 1985
Wizard of Oz 1985
Cadet of the Year 1988
Cadet of the Year 1988
Transition Summer 1988
Transition Summer 1988
Tennis Team 1982
Tennis Team 1982
Staff 1986
Staff 1986
Sixth Form 1989
Sixth Form 1989
Senior Orchestra 1980
Senior Orchestra 1980
Prep Xmas 1986
Prep Xmas 1986
Farewell to Sister Aquinas 1984
Farewell to Sister Aquinas 1984
Prep Trip to either Woburn or London Zoo in 1983/4
Prep Trip to either Woburn or London Zoo in 1983/4
Science Labs 1987
Science Labs 1987
Aerial shot of St. Francis' College
Aerial shot of St. Francis' College
Upper Sixth 1981
Upper Sixth 1981
5th Year 1980
5th Year 1980
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