‘SIXTY years of excellence’ was on display at Kennet School as it celebrated its diamond anniversary last week.
Kennet opened on September 11, 1957, costing around £148,000 and designed for 430 pupils – but headteacher TGB Howe welcomed 618 on the first day.
Sixty years and millions of pounds later, and now with more than 1,800 children, Kennet welcomed pupils, parents and staff past and present to see how it has evolved on a tour around the Stoney Lane school last Friday.
A commemorative cake, made by Jane Shadwell, was then cut by headteacher Paul Dick, former head of governors, the Rev Mark Bennett, and past pupils and founders of the Kennet Group, David and Marion Canning (nee Green), who met on the first day of school in 1957.
Guests were then treated to a performance from the school’s chamber choir and a selection of ‘1950s school food’.
Among the guests was former head of PE Matthew Stratton, who taught at Kennet from 1957 until 1984.
He said: “It’s always been a good school.
“All the heads have been very supportive of the district.
“We have had our ups and downs, but it was always a good school to teach in.
“We had good support and, as far as I know, it has continued and we have a good head in Paul Dick.”
Mr Stratton said that Kennet’s high A-level and GCSE results were a “credit to the staff”.
Former music teacher Ann Meads, who started teaching in 1995 after supply work, said: “When I first walked into Kennet school over 20 years ago to enrol my two older children, I was immediately impressed with the atmosphere and also with the head’s firm ideas of how the school should be.
“The emphasis is always on the best outcome for each and every pupil, whatever their strengths or weaknesses.”
And Mrs Meads’ daughter is to follow in her teaching footsteps, with support from the school.
Mrs Meads said: “As a teacher, I have been privileged to support many students in their studies and many of my ex-pupils have become wonderful young men and women, succeeding in all walks of life.
“Kennet is very community-conscious and I am sure that Thatcham is the successful town it is, largely due to the amazing school that is Kennet.”
Former pupil Adam Padwick, who attended for six months in 1983-84, before his father, who was in the army, was posted elsewhere, said: “We had some really nice teachers back in the day.
“We were characters to them and they were characters to us.
“It’s more or less doubled since I’ve been around and the technology they have now, I wish I was back at school.
“Even the choice of subjects has changed.
“The school is more involved now with kids, which they never used to be back in the day.”
Mr Padwick’s partner’s daughter, Amy Barrett, is in Year 10 at Kennet.
Mr Dick, who will be retiring as headteacher at Kennet in December, after 28 years at the school, said: “At Kennet, it is appropriate that we reflect on that last 60 years and pay credit and tribute to all that has been achieved.
“We are proud of the impressive part which Kennet has played in the growth and improvement in the Thatcham community. Our task is to ensure that in the year 2077, the community is reminiscing about another 60 years of outstanding education at Kennet School.”