|In The Beginning
In 1944, a new Education Act was brought in by the then Minister of Education, Mr Rab Butler, which was an attempt to create the structure for the post-war British Education system. The Act raised the school leaving age to 15 and provided universal free schooling in three different types of schools; grammar, secondary modern and technical. Butler hoped that these schools would cater for the different academic levels and other aptitudes of children. Entry to these schools was based on the 11 plus examination. Prior to this, no one ever passed or failed the 11 plus; it was a case of suitability for transfer to the Grammar School. Only a very small percentage was chosen i.e. 3 or 4 from the whole of Rushden and surrounding areas. The next tier, being intelligent children but not quite suitable for Grammar School, .went to the Intermediate School (North End) with the rest staying at their primary schools (Alfred Street, Newton Road and South End) until school leaving age.
When the Act came into being in Rushden around 1947, three classrooms were taken over at the Boot and Shoe School in Victoria Road to house the extra year boys and girls from Rushden and Higham Ferrers, and Miss Muriel Boys was transferred from North End Intermediate School to teach there. In 1948, headmaster Mr Ron Lawrence applied for and was given the position of Head of Alfred Street School and Miss Boys took over as the principal. This then was the beginning of Secondary Education in Rushden.
At the same time, temporary buildings were being erected on land in Highfield Road which would eventually become a Boys' School and in the July of the following year were completed. So in September 1949, the split occurred and the boys were transferred to Tennyson Road County Modern School and the girls to North End which was renamed North End County Modern School, again under the headship of Miss Boys. The intermediate school badge was retained by the new school - that being the County rose on a navy blue background encircled with red and yellow. All schools in the County were called County Moderns until Secondary Modern was introduced a few years later and then North End became Rushden Secondary Modern School for Girls.
The school day began at 9.00 a.m. with a 'dinner' break from 12 noon to 1.30 p.m. and ended at 4.00 p.m. Only those girls who lived a certain distance from school were allowed to stay at school for dinner which was cooked in what was known as the 'school canteen' in Portland Road and transported to school in huge metal containers. The rest of the pupils would either cycle or walk home to enjoy their mother's own cooked dinner. Prefects would be on duty at the school gates both morning and afternoon to report any latecomers who would be dealt a detention to be served after school the same day.
Families were still suffering the after effects of the war years, but every girl was expected to wear a uniform. This consisted of a navy blue gabardine raincoat, a red beret (navy if girls were redheads), a striped knitted scarf (red/yellow/navy), navy skirt or gymslip, white long-sleeved blouse, navy jumper or cardigan, red neck tie, sensible black or brown shoes and fawn or grey socks. There was a slight variation during the Summer months when the raincoat was replaced by a blazer and a striped cotton dress was deemed cooler than the standard skirt and blouse. Miss Boys made it perfectly clear that until every girl reached home they were still the responsibility of the school, and if anyone was seen not wearing her uniform (including her beret) in the correct manner, or misbehaving, then it would be an admonishment the next day in front of the whole school.
During the first year at school, every pupil made her own cookery apron and starched hat, and black bloomer type shorts which were used for Physical Education. If you were lucky enough to be chosen to represent the school at sport, you would be loaned a pair of red satin shorts which were later used by the Safe Cycling Team.
In 1955 parts of the new building near Hay way were completed and were to be used when the new term commenced in the September. Referred to as the 'New Block' it was fully functional by 1957 and pupils would be seen walking between the two schools during break time to attend their various lessons.
The 'Old Block' remained the main school housing Miss Boys, the day to day administration, and some of the more serious subjects such as Maths, English/Drama and Music. The school hall was used for Physical Education and morning assembly with worship every day for the whole school and members of staff. Chairs were provided for the staff and prefects, girls sat in rows on the floor. The only exemption from morning worship were those not of the Church of England faith.
The 'New Block' housed the library and the more practical subjects such as Cookery, Art and Science. The playing field and tennis courts were situated outside the building.
Being an all girls' school brought problems with boys loitering outside. One story was of a boy waiting for his girlfriend and seen by Miss Boys on several occasions. Making it her business to find out who he was waiting for, she summoned the girl to her office and told her that if he appeared again she would contact the Police Authority. He arrived the next day and she marched him in to her office to give him a 'ticking off, but when he told her he was waiting to join the Police Force himself, he was given a cup of tea and a pat on the back for choosing such a worthwhile profession.
At one point, Miss Boys and Mr Catlin (Headmaster of the Boys' School) thought it would be a good idea if the two schools mixed socially, so country dancing was organised at Tennyson Road and the girls duly marched there to attend. The girls sat on one side of the school hall and the boys on the other with no-one wanting to make the first move. Mr Catlin put on the record and tried to encourage his lads to show off their newly acquired social graces but to no avail. "Come on boy! Put your arm around her and make the most if it!" He is remembered as having a loud booming voice.
Miss Boys retired in 1968 after 19 years as Headmistress.
The school changed to a Comprehensive in 1971 moving all its activities to the New Block after extensive building work, finally reverting back after almost 5 decades to Co-Educational in 1992 as it remains today.
Janet Pinnock (nee Bayes)