Thorpedene junior and infant schools, Southend

6th October 2000 at 01:00
(Photograph) - Forty years ago the site now occupied by these schools was a potato farm. Then a growing housing estate brought families to the area with children who needed an education. Recently, when the schools held a party to celebrate their 40th anniversary, the first head of the juniors, Miss Beryl Hardy, now in her eighties, was among the guests. In a speech, she told members of Southend education committee that her school had a good reputation and that was more important than league tables. Also among the 200 guests was founding pupil Dave Monk, now a disc jockey with BBC Radio Essex, and a more recent pupil, Hermione Norris, star of the TV drama series, Cold Feet. They were joined by Southend East MP Sir Teddy Taylor. When the school opened, there were 180 pupils in six classes; now there are 320 aged four to seven in 12 classes and a staff of 25. Head of the infants is Mrs Anthea Meek. "I like it so much because it has such a wide social catchment," she says. "The childen are lovely." The pupils have marked the anniversary by making a bronze tree with all their handprints under the guidance of local sculptor Dave Taylor. They've also planted trees round the boundary, designed a flag, made a tapestry depicting the life of the school and created a sculpture garden.

Snaps by Anthea Meek

* Watch out Delia: Jodie Spence prepares a snack in the nursery

* Victoria Jordan, left, and AmyFoster Taylor show the new flag

* Head of infants Anthea Meek greets MP Sir Teddy Taylor. BBC Essex DJ Dave Monk stands behind them

* Fond of ponds: the popular Pond Club meets once a week after school

* Cheque out: Maggie Clarke, bursar, who was a founding pupil

* The 'Tree of Life' with pupils' handprints. From left: Brent Stewart, Locky Cheng, Sam Warner, Joshua Joe Lake.

* Past and present: pupils hold photos of the 40th birthday party. From left, Nicolle Colledge, Stacey Humphreys, Samantha Hemmings and Jess Oliver.

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