Tile Hill Kid - The Woodlands [Boys] School
The Woodlands School was one of eight comprehensive schools built in the Country as part of an educational experiment. As a result of this people visited the school from every corner of the continent. The official opening date was delayed by two weeks because bad weather had hampered the builder’s progress. It had been hoped that the school would open on May 18th but this had to be postponed. After having an extra two weeks holiday the boys entered the new Woodlands School. Some of them however were late by up to forty minutes because of the bus dispute.
On that first day, September 20th 1954, 1,060 boys settled into the school. Their numbers had been drawn from Templars Secondary School, Tile Hill Lane, the Technical Secondary School in the Butts and the new first year boys. At this time the school was still waiting for two more houses to be built, in the meantime, they squeezed into those that were complete.
The Woodlands school motto ”in parvis fidelis” was the motto of the Technical School and was carried forward to this new school. The meaning is “faithful in small things”. The uniform consisted of a green blazer with brightly coloured red and yellow badges. These could be purchased from Gibberds in Earl Street or Victoria Street, as could caps, flannels, raincoats, shirts and ties.
The school had thirty-eight classes, of these only a few had more than thirty pupils and some of those would be leaving at Christmas time. Some of the classes were for “backward” pupils and these classes contained only twenty pupils who needed specialised teaching.
The different types of boys would not meet each other in class but would do so afterwards in the eight houses. The range of boys was from those who were confident in gaining university scholarships to those who would require specialised teaching. The buildings were described as “bright and colourful and full of light.” The large central hall had an adjoining Gymnasium, separated with folding doors, which could easily accommodate the 1,650 boys that the school would eventually have on roll. There were two libraries, one of which had interesting mural paintings. The classroom blocks had a classroom at each corner with a space in the centre where boys, who had finished instruction in the classroom, could go.
The Head Master, Frederick West, led a teaching staff of fifty-one and a large body of non teaching staff including caretaker, engineer, laboratory assistants, gardeners, clerical staff, kitchen staff and cycle stewards. Previously he had been the Head Master of the Technical Secondary School. Mr. West retired in the summer of 1962, later one of the houses was Mr. F. West. Head Master named West in his honour. Mr. D. Thompson superseded him.
The houses, in those early days, were named Wilson, Spencer, Brook, Malins, Stringer, Sparkes, Cresswell and McLachlan. The house system was in place at the Technical School and some of the names of those houses were continued at the Woodlands. Wilson, Sparkes, Spencer and MacLachlan were named after the teachers there, Brook, after the Head Master who died in 1951. Malins was Head of the Junior Dept at Templars School. Stringer was named after Alderman Stringer and Cresswell, a Lord Mayor of Coventry. In 1955 two more houses were added taking 5% of the boys from each house. These new houses were named Gibson and Smith-Clarke. There was a sixth form and by 1956 25% of the boys voluntarily remained beyond the legal leaving age.
Each house was managed by a hierarchy of the older pupils ranging from House Captain, House vice Captain, Head Prefects, Vice Prefects, Monitors, Wardens, Stewards and Heads of tables. The school provided a large range of sporting activities and the pupils competed keenly in inter-school matches, competitions and also inter-house matches, competitions and games. Rugby, soccer, boxing, association football, cross-country, cricket, basketball, athletics, badminton, harriers and swimming. Swimming competitions were held at the Kempas pool until the school had its own open-air pool. £2,700 was raised by the P.T.A over a three-year period and Coventry City Council loaned the outstanding £3,300. Mr. West opened the pool, which had been named after him, “The Frederick West Swimming Bath,” just before he retired on June 23rd 1962. The Coventry Fire Brigade had pumped about 55,000 gallons of water into it on the evening before.
Mr. F West officially opens the new swimming pool
With fierce competition between the houses came the need for cups and trophies, which would become much coveted. So in those early days the donations came flooding in. S.F. Wyles Esq. J.P gave the Senior House Cricket cup. The P.T.A gave a cup for combined Association Football House Competitions. Many other cups and shields were given to the school to reward the pupils in the sports that they represented. The awards won line the house walls today with names engraved on huge plaques, which are given pride of place. In the hall the walls are lined with the same plaques but all the houses are represented. The Woodlands School is immensely proud of its sporting history and that spirit is prominent today. To its credit the school gained Sports College status in September 2003.
There was a huge amount of after school activities, clubs and associations were taking place at the Woodlands almost as soon as it opened and here follows a list of the interests:
Music and Drama Society, Morris and Sword dancing, this group travelled to other places not only in England but abroad to perform and take part in festivals. Radio Club where crystal and valve sets were built. Scientific Film Society where members watched films with a scientific theme, for example “ The Discovery of Oxygen” and “The Beginning of Petroleum.” Christian Fellowship including prayers, singing, bible study and quizzes. The Classical Film Society. The Engineering Society, here toasting forks and pokers were made. The Handicraft Club made ironing boards, stools, cupboard fronts and bathroom cabinets - parents eagerly purchased these. The Choir and Orchestra Society. The Woodlands Theatre Company performed many productions of which the profits made were used to buy lighting and stage curtains. Modern Problems Society where civilised debate took place. Rabbit Club, Chess Club, Metal Work Club. Then there was Woodland Army Bn where the boys learned to shoot machine guns and rifles. Manoeuvres were organised at places like Corley Rocks against other schools. They had shooting matches, mock patrols, ambushes and training in camouflage. As you would expect there was the sports clubs, archery, canoeing, rock climbing and gym to name just a few.
The Duchess of Kent arriving at The Woodlands School
From the outset there have been many visits, excursions, exchanges and day and field trips that have expanded the horizons of the boys who took part. Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Kent visited the Woodlands on March 28th 1958 and the whole school lined up to meet her. She visited several departments and appraised the boy’s work. She was keenly interested in the technology departments. She later wrote to Mr. West telling him how much she had enjoyed her visit to the school and seeing the pupils at work in such wonderful conditions with every opportunity to develop their individual talents. “Coventry may well be very proud of the Woodlands School.” She sent her warmest good wishes to the school.
The ponds that surround the school have recently been dredged and decking and benches installed so that the wildlife that the ponds support can be observed and enjoyed more easily. Over the years these ponds have been an intrinsic part of the Woodlands school. There history can only be imagined. At one time the tanners of the area used them. Hides were washed and dyed in the ponds and then stretched out on tenterhooks to dry. By 1954 there was concern that the ponds held a polio threat. The boys however have used them for pond dipping as part of their science class.
The Technical School produced many old boys and so an association was formed. The school produced an annual magazine, which not only charted the year’s achievements of the school but also gave an opportunity for old boys to keep in touch and write about the successes they had had since they left school. Some boys were accepted at University, others were made apprentices to learn a worthwhile trade, some joined the services, and others embarked on a career. There are ex Woodlands boys to be found in every corner of the world. This magazine was called “Contact.” Woodlands retained the name in order to show the bond of friendship that existed between the school and all the old boys and that friendship should not be severed. Woodlands produced its own “old boys” not long after it opened and have since produced many thousands of them. The magazine was produced for many years and the information that it contains gives a fascinating historical account of the school and charts the successes of its pupils and the dedication of the Head Master and his teaching staff, supporting staff, Governors and P.T.A. Woodlands School Woodlands Comprehensive School, Is without compare, Boys from Templars and the Tech, We all gather there. Sparkes, Cresswell, Stringer, Wilson, Of Houses are the name, Malins, Spencer, Brook, McLachlan, They all strive for fame. The name F. West is honoured Amongst the best of boys, Jones R.E.S. is also heard Above the deafening noise. The gardens are now dug By six or seven men. We hope that they are finished soon When we come back again. Yes the school is wonderful With fields on which we play Cricket, football, tennis, running We have such fun each day. Anon 1955 “A rough game played by nice boys” The Woodlands School in winter looking across from one of the ponds to York
[c] Beverley Wishart. 2004
Bibliography: The Victoria History of the County of Warwickshire
V111 The Coventry Evening Telegraph September 24th 1954 The Coventry Evening
Telegraph March 29th 1958 The Coventry Evening Telegraph June 23rd 1962 The
Contact Magazine of the Coventry Technical Secondary School. Summer 1952 The
Contact Magazine of the Woodlands Comprehensive School. Summer 1955, 1956 and
The official website for The Woodlands School
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