In the 1930s, there were no schools in Hesters Way - the Old School House of Victorian times had been converted into four flats. Children had to walk to either Red Roofs at St. Marks (now demolished) or to Christ Church Junior School in Alstone Lane (also now demolished).
It was a long way for small children to walk (no school buses or school dinners then!), but with the sudden influx of a large number of children as Hesters Way Estate rapidly expanded, new schools were urgently needed.
MONKSCROFT SECONDARY SCHOOL
On the 4th July, 1953 a £99,000 school was approved for the 1954/55 Building Programme for Hesters Way Estate. This was Monkscroft Secondary School, which was officially opened by Lady Dowty on the 6th April, 1956. Built on Princess Elizabeth Way it was actually intended to accommodate 480 children but by 1964 the numbers had swelled to 600, so popular had the school become under its first headmaster Mr. W. Tiplady. He was the chief instigator of the new CSE Exam introduced in 1964. He felt strongly that there should be a challenge to those pupils who were not quite up to GCE standard.
Overcrowding became a problem with classes of 43 pupils but nevertheless they achieved good results, many pupils going on to higher education.
Eventually the Monkscroft site was obtained to form a split-site with the Grammar School whilst Monkscroft pupils were moved to the former Pates School at Pittville. When the new Grammar School was completed in the early 1990s, the original Monkscroft School was demolished.
The next Secondary School to be opened on the estate was Arle School (now Kingsmead) opened in November 1959 under the headship of Mr. S.A. Nicholas. At that time there was only the one building consisting of a tower block, a hall and extended corridor with rooms off, but later new buildings were added - another hall, canteen, lecture theatre and Science block. Then a library and Music block and finally an Art block.
Nourishing meals were served, but perhaps the greatest attraction was the opening of a swimming pool funded partly by parents and pupils. All pupils were given the opportunity to learn to swim and a very successful water polo team was formed with the help of Mr. R. Burgess. Canoeing was also taught.
As well as following the National Curriculum the school hosted a very attractive Rural Studies Department under Mr. S. Hope, where sheep were raised with children learning to shear them and help with lambing which did tend to cause some distraction during lesson times. The department also raised various types of fowl but they had a strange habit of disappearing around Christmas time.
When Mr. Brown joined the Music Department an orchestra was formed and ambitious musicals produced, perhaps the most successful being 'Oh! What a Lovely War'. So enthusiastic was the sergeant that by the third performance he completely lost his voice.
In 1995 the school was re-named Kingsmead School and its Sixth Form restored.
Over the years many pupils have passed through its portals and left their mark - perhaps the most notable the Cecchi twins whose painting of the school logo, a Pegasus, adorns the wall in the New Hall.
CHELTENHAM GRAMMAR SCHOOL
A Grammar School has existed in Cheltenham since 1574: for many years an all boys school. The first two school buildings were in the High Street. In 1965, at a cost of £384,500, a new school was built on Princess Elizabeth Way. This new school was regarded as quite a venture in school architecture but the style did not please everybody, though no doubt its moat had great appeal for boisterous schoolboys.
However, in 1986 it was decided to combine Pates Grammar School for Girls in Pittville with the Boys' School and while, no doubt, this appealed both to girls and boys, the staff at Pates were none too keen on the idea. Nevertheless the merger went ahead and Monkscroft School was taken over with all the problems of a split-site school. This arrangement was, however, temporary and a new Grammar School was built on the site of the old one and eventually Monkscroft School was demolished. The Grammar School continues to uphold its traditions enjoying great academic success and is high up in the Schools League Tables.
MONKSCROFT JUNIOR SCHOOL
The first primary school to be built on the estate was Monkscroft Junior School which opened in 1954 under the headship of Miss P.N. Chandler. The school on Shelley Road is set in a landscaped area and gives a pleasant background for the pupils to work in. Over the years it has been extended and recently changed its logo but is proud of its traditions. It follows the National Curriculum and organises outings to London, the Forest of Dean and other place of historical interest. The school keeps up with new technology but does not ignore traditional skills as recent projects show.
HESTERS WAY JUNIOR SCHOOL
The need for more schools had become urgent and the second Primary School to be built was Hesters Way fronting both Village Road and Dill Avenue. In 1966 Hesters Way Junior School and Infant School opened under the headship of Miss Stamp. The 150 children of which 139 were infants began their school life under the guidance of eight teaching staff. Dinners were provided with the help of three supervisors. The Secretary was Mrs. Gregory and the caretaker was Mr. Alder. Unfortunately, however, after a good start, on returning to the school after the Whitsun holiday, it was found that there had been a break-in and some damage was done - sadly the first of many such happenings.
Despite its lack of landscaped background, the school progressed well and in addition to following the National Curriculum, children were taught to be compassionate and caring and it is to their credit that they regularly entertained the older residents of Arle House at Christmas time. Regular trips to Swanage, Forest of Dean, The Severn Wild Fowl Trust and Gloucester were very popular.
However, all did not go well for the first few years as the oil-fired electric heaters were constantly breaking down and rooms were either freezing, overheated or full of smoke, so it was no wonder the school's cat earned the name of Smokey. Alas! poor Smokey died later of heat stroke. The school also exchanged visits with poorer schools from Birmingham and their visitors were taken to Leckhampton Hill where they no doubt enjoyed the fresh air and countryside and a picnic.
In 1973 the school had a gas-fired heating system which proved satisfactory and put an end to the previous heating problems. The Infant and Junior Schools still share the same site and the children continue to make good progress.
ARTHUR DYER SCHOOL
The Arthur Dye Primary School, named after a local councillor and former mayor, opened in January 1971, taking pupils of 8 to 10 years. A second school on site was opened for infants in September 1971. Off Hesters Way Lane, adjacent to Hope Farm, it is on the outskirts of the estate and has recently set up its own environmental area. The first Headmaster was Mr. G. Wheeldon, and the school as well as following the National Curriculum encourages children to widen their knowledge with trips to theatres, museums, castles, farms and wildlife centres.
I wonder if the children realise that where their school now is, used to be a quiet country lane with no traffic and only a very few cottages!
ST. THOMAS MORE SCHOOL
This Primary school opened in September 1975 to cater for 74 children. There were four full-time and one part-time members of staff but the school grew quickly and by the end of the first year there were 102 pupils on the roll.
The first Headmaster was Arthur Beadle and the School Secretary was Mrs. F. Cassidy who, at first, were obliged to use offices in the Arthur Dye School until their own school was completed. The other two full-time staff members were Sheila Butt and Anne Bate-Williams whilst Mrs. Pearson, originally part-time, later became full-time. The School's PTA was formed during the first year and has played a valuable part in the running of the school.