Special 50th celebrations for Arlies Primary

ARLIES Primary marked its 50th birthday with a celebratory fun day at the Ridge Hill school in Stalybridge.

And it was extra special on Saturday, September 21 for Harry Lea-Gerrard who was a probationary teacher when the school opened in 1969.

Harry came with a bundle of the Arlies Reporter, which he helped produce during his time at the school between 1969 and 1983.

There was a print run of 200 for each edition and they sold at two shillings and six pence (12.5p in today’s money).

“It was named after the Stalybridge Reporter and children would write letters. We also produced a weekly radio show which was broadcast to the classrooms on a Friday afternoon,” he recalled.

Harry was able to provide a trip down memory lane and a snapshot of what life was like at Arlies Primary half a century ago.

Don Hughes was the first of the eight headteachers and Harry revealed that at the age of 32 he was believed to be the youngest head in the country. He went on to become an Ofsted inspector.

He shared a common bond with the head, explaining that they were both speakers of the Welsh language.

In the early days there was the head and only four teachers and probably around 130 pupils. Today it is 222 with the current headteacher Lucy Hughes who has been in the post since September 2017 though she has been a teacher there since 2003.

“There were only four classes, two infants and two juniors for the whole school,” explained Harry, who pointed out the school grew as the Ridge Hill estate expanded.Harry also revealed his battles with the English Schools’ Football Association over playing girls in the football team.

He said: “You have to bear in mind it was 50 years ago and it was a different era.

“As we were such a small school we didn’t have enough boys to form a football team.

“I was the first to allow girls to play in a boys’ team, two in particular were very good players, but I had to battle with the schools’ FA.”

Since the early days, there has been the Arlies Cup, an annual challenge match between Arlies Primary and Silver Springs Academy, which was then Ridge Hill Primary.

Harry also recalled the first ever school trip in the first year, eight days in Belgium at a cost of £15 per child who had £3 pocket money

Harry, who lives in Dukinfield, also recalled a caretaker Albert Metcalfe who was a former Desert Rat who regaled them about his exploits.

After leaving Arlies Primary, Harry moved to Gorse Hall Primary and later became an education adviser with Tameside Council.

Paul Hafford also recalled being an ex-pupil between 1983-87, parent and husband of parent-governor Caroline Hafford.

He picked out being awarded the Merit Shield in 1986 as a personal highlight of his time at the school.

Paul said: “Four generations of my family have gone to Arlies which is a warm, caring school.

“It is a proper, happy, warm community school and Lucy (Hughes, headteacher) has brought back old school values.”

The fun day, a 450 ticket sell-out event, on the playing fields included many stalls and attractions as well as live music from Hyde’s Oliver Vawdrey, Horizon Fall and the Artful Playground, a children’s theatre group.

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