Congleton High School (2000 - present)
This section of the school’s history brings us right up to the present day.
Les Jones took over as Headteacher in 2000 when secondary education in Congleton was reorganised. At this time Dane Valley, Heathfields and Westlands schools all closed and Eaton Bank and Congleton High School were born.
Former student, Hollie Azmeh was one of the first of the new intake into Congleton High School in September 2000. “I remember that there was building work still outstanding, but it still looked smart and fresh.” The new uniform was black trousers with a navy blazer with the new CHS logo on the pocket.
During Mr Jones’ time at the school, it gained status as an Engineering Specialist school (2004), continuing and building upon the school’s longstanding excellence in this area.
The school’s most famous former student also attended CHS during this time, a young Dan Sturridge was trying to keep up with his studies whilst nurturing his growing footballing career. He was signed by Manchester City’s youth academy and played for various England Youth teams during his time at CHS. Here he is with his Year 9 team mates in 2004.
Current Executive Principal Mr Hermitt remembers him well: “We are incredibly proud of Dan. When he was with us, he was a very smart, very polite student who got on with his studies and was very popular with is peers. He thoroughly deserves all the success he has had.”
Academy status and Congleton Multi-Academy Trust
Mr Hermitt, took over at the helm in 2005 and has guided the school through an era of rapid change. Under his leadership exam results have continually improved and the school has moved through Foundation status to becoming an Academy (in 2011) and most recently conversion to a Multi-Academy Trust in February this year. He explained his vision for the school:”I want us to make a difference to a child’s learning journey right from nursery through to tertiary education, to make it a seamless journey where we provide education for that child for 18 years, maintaining relationships that extend across the years and bridge across the transition points. I believe that our geographical mini-academy chain will improve educational outcomes for children in Congleton.” He added “I also want all of our students to gain the right skills for employment; skills like resilience, teamwork, problem solving and having a can-do attitude.”
One of the most striking changes of recent years has been to the look and feel of the school buildings. The exterior of the front of the school has changed almost beyond recognition in the last couple of years due to a series of ongoing refurbishment projects, with a more modern look, a proper reception area and additional classrooms added. In addition to the exterior facelift, there have been positive changes to the internal environment of the school, with improved insulation, double glazed windows in the main teaching block, new toilets, an improved student reception and improved security with an electronic visitor signing in system.
Sixth Form Centre
Mr Hermitt has also overseen the building of the new Sixth Form Centre (in 2007), providing modern, light and airy accommodation for 6th formers, separate from the main school. The Centre has its own café, common room and well-equipped study room for students as well as classrooms and a state-of-the art media studio.
Mr Hermitt: “The school buildings had begun to be quite dated and not really fit for purpose. We needed more teaching space and an improved environment for our students and staff and our ongoing refurbishment and building programme has provided this. We are not finished yet; there are improvements still to be made to some of our older classrooms and exterior spaces, but we are extremely proud of our modern, well-equipped school.”
People’s impressions of the school today are very positive. When asked his impressions of CHS today, Roland Machin said “The school has more than regained the position it had in the late 1990s of being an outstanding school. It has responded positively to a great deal of change and it is a good sign that so many staff have been here so long.”
What is obvious from the pulling together of these memories of the three schools is that there has been so much continuity. There have been a lot of long-serving members of staff and the school has also seen generations of the same families attending through the years. Deputy Principal, Mr Barlow, who has been at the school since 1993 commented: “Even now, when we have events like our Open Evening, parents who have brought their Year 5 or 6 children to look around the school come and speak to me because I taught them when they were at the school, and often their parents came here as well.”
Paul Sumnall's family have had 3 generations attending the school. He wrote to us to tell us that "My father, Stephen Sumnall, along with his friend at the time were in fact the first two students to arrive on that first day 50 years ago! They both cycled there from their homes in Bromley Farm, leaving home early to make sure they got there in time." Mr Sumnall himself attended the school when it was Heathfield High and he "fully loved every day there having many laughs and making hundreds of friends over the 5 years." His daughter, Emily is currently at CHS and she will be hoping to bring her grandfather along to the celebrations on 20th June.
Another thread that has been running through the school since its inception is Engineering. Although a lot of engineering companies in this area have now gone, the school still has links with companies like Bentley Motors, who at one time took boys from the school as apprentices. Today the school still has students who successfully gain places on the Bentley apprentice programmes. One former student, Jenna Pearce, left CHS in 2009 to study Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, where she was sponsored by Bentley Motors. She graduated with a first class degree and went on to work as a buyer for Bentley on their Graduate Scheme. In May 2013 Jenna came back to CHS to lead a Business Enterprise Day for Year 10 Business Studies students where they were set the challenging task of launching a new model Bentley. Another former student, Jessica Camm, also went on to become a Bentley Apprentice. She came back into school to talk to students about the Apprenticeship scheme, bringing with her a Bentley Continental GT.
As well as Bentley, we still work closely with other companies such as Siemens, Astra Zeneca, Airbags International, SMS Mevac and others. We are extremely proud of these links and grateful for the support of these partner companies, who are involved in providing specialist training programmes and Engineering scholarships, providing professional support for clubs and challenge events and organising competitions for students within school.
Although retired from teaching now, Bob Griffiths is still with us working in the art department, making him the current longest-serving member of staff. He started work at the Boys’ school in September 1972 so he is now in his 42nd year working here. He has taught several generations of Congleton students and has fond memories of his time here.
Lynda Arnold is another long-serving member of staff, who retired a few years ago. She loved her time teaching at Heathfield: “The staff were special. We were a family and were close as a group. Even now we are in contact on a regular basis. The students too were special in that they were very friendly and sociable but generally hard working. This is something that has always been part of the Box Lane school right from day one.” She has particularly fond memories of sporting trips and extra-curricular activities: “As a PE teacher I was very lucky to see students develop their personalities through sport and competition, share their highs and lows (and mine) and watch them develop confidence and leadership skills - this was something special. I remember just being with the students away from the school day was special. Singing on the bus, MacDonalds visit if we won, a quiet bus if we were disappointed – all fond memories. The school developed a formidable reputation for sport through the 90s and to this day it is one to be reckoned with in all sports.”
Do you have any similar memories of your time at CHS? If so, we would love to hear from you. Please contact Mr Hickton with details.