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Reepham High looks forward after half-century celebrations

08:27 11 July 2011

The first head of Reepham High School, Edward Riddell Smith, left, shares a joke with the present head, Chris Hassell, at the School's 50th anniversary celebration. Picture: Denise Bradley

The first head of Reepham High School, Edward Riddell Smith, left, shares a joke with the present head, Chris Hassell, at the School's 50th anniversary celebration. Picture: Denise Bradley

Archant copyright 2011

Reepham High School celebrated its 50th anniversary with a day of events harking back to a successful history, while looking ahead to the future.

The events on the school field on Sunday included drama, music and science demonstrations, as well as maypole dancing and a Tiger Moth flypast from the Felthorpe Flying Club.

And with many former teachers and students on hand, there was ample opportunity for nostalgia as people recalled the days of slide rules, bunsen burners, free milk and a slipper for discipline.

The event was opened by 82-year-old guest of honour Edward Riddell Smith, the school’s original headteacher when it opened as a secondary modern in 1961.

“I have been back on odd occasions to visit the school and watched it grow with great interest,” he said. “The first and most obvious difference is the difference in teaching. When we opened here, the students were suddenly all to be treated by specialists. Formerly, the village head had to teach everything.

“In the science rooms we had special burners and all sorts of things which are taken for granted these days. It was called a secondary modern because that’s what it was – modern. The biggest thing I remember is the response from the pupils and I will never forget their friendship.”

Current principal Chris Hassell, who will retire after 15 years at the school at the end of this term, said: “Today marks the 50th anniversary of the school and obviously we are enjoying looking back over all the things that have been achieved, from a school with small beginnings to one at the national vanguard of education.

“This is the first time I have met Mr Riddell Smith, so it is a great day for me. He laid very firm foundations for this school. But the important thing is to also look forward to the next 50 years.”

Mark Farrar, who will take over as acting principal in September, said he looked forward to the challenge of steering the school into its second half-century.

“This is a lovely event for the life of the school, but it is tinged with sadness at Mr Hassell’s retirement,” he said. “It is a privilege to be taking over from him and I could not wish for a better school.”

Paul Soanes, a founding Form 3A pupil in 1961 and now a school governor, said there had been many changes over the years as the fledgling school quadrupled its pupil numbers and grew into a specialist science, mathematics and vocational school.

“I can remember standing out here on the first morning with 200 kids all dressed in their new green blazers,” he said. “We were very excited and apprehensive, but we felt very privileged to have all the latest equipment.

“It has been a lifetime since the school opened, but we still see some of the original students, who are drawing their pensions now.”

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