Attention: You are using an outdated browser, device or you do not have the latest version of JavaScript downloaded and so this website may not work as expected. Please download the latest software or switch device to avoid further issues.

News > School News > Former Pupil & Staff Association > Celebrating the 30th anniversary of King's Girls' Division - Memories from the Staff

Celebrating the 30th anniversary of King's Girls' Division - Memories from the Staff

Fence Avenue Staff in 1996
Fence Avenue Staff in 1996

Nigel Richardson
My introduction to King’s came in March 1992 when a group of external candidates was interviewed for the post of Academic Head across the King’s Foundation. After lunch at Cumberland Street we were driven down to Fence Avenue.

We were confronted by a remarkable scene. The fine front building, but with some poor post-war additions behind. Many of the internal doors bearing yellow stickers demanding ‘Save Macc High’. Laboratories full of dead leaves blown in on the wind during the previous winter, and masses of dead flies on every window sill. One internal roof had collapsed. Some science and IT equipment had been removed, presumably for use elsewhere by the previous owners, but otherwise the place looked untouched since the day when the final High School pupils had departed. The sight of it all seemed to divide us into those who relished the possibilities and those who just wanted to get the next train home.

Fortunate in landing the job, I remember 1992-3 as a year of many planning meetings on huge range of financial, timetabling, recruitment and other issues, as Adrian Silcock, Brenda Despontin and others literally breathed new life into Fence Avenue.

Then: fast forward to September 1993, and the thrill of seeing the first girls arrive (one form at 13+, one at 12+ and four at 11+). That first year was a case of one-step-at-a-time and learning by experience, because each first-time event – plays, concerts, parents’ evenings – was accompanied by the mixture of challenge and exhilaration as we tried to anticipate what it would look like.

For many of us that first year (1993-4) was a case of having to teach on both King’s sites. Maybe we underestimated the demands of teaching on two sites with only a ten-minute break for travel time: I well remember arriving late one Wednesday afternoon, opening the car door and all the newly marked books for my history class falling out into a large puddle in the playground. Not having taught girls of these age-groups before, I discovered how, in a diamond structure in which boys and girls were taught separately, you could plan an identical lesson for boys in the morning and girls in the afternoon, only to find that the two classes took the topic off in totally opposite directions.

I moved on from King’s a year after Fence Avenue opened, so I cannot claim to have been a central figure compared with its core group of pioneering staff and pupils. However, it was an experience that I shall never forget. King’s gave me so much good experience and good practice for my next career stage; such a warm welcome when I arrived and so many good memories after I left. Thirty years later, times and its needs have changed, but I shall always look back on my years there as one of the most interesting and rewarding times of my career – and Fence Avenue was a key ingredient in that.       

Nigel Richardson left King’s in 1994 to become Head of the Perse School, Cambridge, and was Chairman of HMC (the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference) in 2007.

Colin Kinshott
I retired in 2003 after teaching maths for 26 years. The last 10 years were spent mainly at Fence Avenue plus some Sixth form teaching. I have a lot of memories but few photos which I may not even be able to find. On retirement my form gave me a large fully signed tennis ball to reflect my interest at that time. I helped out with girls’ sport but my unknown claim to fame is that I took boys sport to national level in two sports, tennis and Cross Country running.

Jo Beesley
September 1993.....This was both the climax and the start of a very exciting venture! A project that involves change, development, diversification and expense is usually met with a mixture of enthusiasm and scepticism. In this case, I recall wonderful vision and courage, concern from some, tireless commitment from many, spearheaded by the passion of headmaster, Adrian Silcock, and a healthy dollop of staff banter: "How are we supposed to get from Cumberland Street to Fence Avenue? Will the school provide pogo sticks?" It didn't, but in September 1993 our first glorious cohort of girls arrived, and "the five minute dash," and the new King's verb, "to cross site," were spawned! 

The school was immaculate, the girls bright-eyed, eager and earnest, and the staff raring to give them the best days of their lives. From the very first occasion that everyone came together, there was a universal, pioneering spirit of pride and optimism (Enid Blyton-like!). 

The Welcome Evening, in the summer of 1993, kick-started a tradition that endured for years: whilst parents toured the school, the girls met their new classmates and spent the evening in rehearsal for the grand performance of a song, with instrumental parts written for all those who had declared themselves able to blow, scrape or hit something! As the occasion evolved, costume-creating and choreography were added to the mix. It soon became clear that the girls loved to dress up, dance and perform- as many an inter-house talent show went on to prove! 

We Music staff were delighted with the talent the girls brought, and with the potential of combining them with the boys in our orchestras, bands and choirs. The creation of the Foundation Choir was a highlight of those days, rehearsing from 7.15- 9.00 pm on Thursday evenings- a joyous joint activity, with concerts, services, competitions and CD recordings giving us countless opportunities to perform.  

It's easy to look back through rose tinted spectacles, but school life was happily less bound by risk assessment and procedures decades ago. A favourite memory is of the girls' final GCSE Music lesson, in Year 11, in which I would take them for cake in Arighi's. I simply used to drop in at the school office to let them know where we were going, and off we went. 

Memories of the Girls' Division could fill a whole magazine- but 1993 was certainly a vintage year. Friendships endure, and I am beyond delighted, thirty years on, to be teaching the children of several of those first, fabulous King's girls!  

Photo gallery

To view this News Article

Share a story

This website is powered by