“I remember my first day at Blackheath High School very clearly, because it was such an achievement for me. I walked alone to school, feeling very proud and excited, and I remember thinking to myself at the end of the first day, “I think I’ll be okay”.
Among my fondest memories of Blackheath are the friendships I made – two of which have lasted throughout life and who I am still in contact with today. I also remember three teachers in particular, who encouraged me with my career and who helped me develop lifelong interests and hobbies such as art and history. My fondest memory is the year in the Sixth Form – we continued our studies right across the curriculum, but with the addition of things like current affairs and civics, cookery and we had visits to factories and other places of educational interest. We were treated as adults by the staff, so it was an excellent way of preparing us for the outside world. It was a lovely year.
I had a difficult home life at the time. My parents’ marriage had collapsed and in 1950, just when I was taking 11+, my mother, brother and I had to leave the family home and we were given local authority housing, but we had no support from my father, so without the direct grant scheme I wouldn’t have been able to go to Blackheath High. We couldn’t afford my school uniform, so mother applied for a maintenance grant from London County Council, who paid for my school uniform throughout my school life. I think I had always been bright in primary school – I was always about 6th in a class of about 42 kids. I had this great ambition to go to Blackheath High, I just wanted to go. Because of the direct grant scheme, 25% of the girls going to Blackheath High, at that stage, were actually paid for by the local authority, so it was a very diverse community.
My time at Blackheath taught me values, honesty, independence, good citizenship, and it was character forming. It lifted me from a rather difficult life to a totally different level at which I have continued to live and exist. It sowed the seeds for a lifelong interest in arts, literature, history and it gave me the confidence to mix and communicate with likeminded people. In fact, I was working with someone and the first time I met her she told me that she had been at Bath High School and she said to me, you must be a GPDST girl as well, you can always tell!
I think the GDST offers an excellent academic education, preparing pupils for real life. I absolutely think that bursaries are still important today. Now finances seem to be even more of a problem for people – the struggle to pay for housing, the struggle with food bills etc. We still have people who don’t have enough money to go round, and if they have children who are talented then a bursary is absolutely ideal”!
Former Chartered Librarian
Alumna, Blackheath High School
Class of 1956