The History of Ashton on Mersey School

Ashton on Mersey School was actually founded as recently as 1981 with the amalgamation of the separate Boys’ and Girls’ schools. These two schools had originally been built on Cecil Avenue in 1950.

Prior to that, schools in the area had been very small ‘church schools’ catering for less than 100 pupils with one such example being St Martin’s near Ashton upon Mersey village.

St Martin’s near Ashton-on-Mersey Village

St Martin’s near Ashton upon Mersey Village

Ashton upon Mersey was simply a small parish in those days and, as the 1924 map below illustrates, there were very few houses.

Ashton-on-Mersey map

Ashton upon Mersey map

However, Sale was growing as a town and in 1914 the Sale and Ashton on Mersey District Higher Elementary School was opened on Tatton Road in Sale.

This school then became known as Sale Central but as more and more houses were being built and Ashton upon Mersey was becoming much larger than a mere ‘parish’, the demand for new schools became greater. As a result of this large increase in population, the two schools on Cecil Avenue were built and opened in 1950.

In the summer of 1980 Trafford Council initiated a programme of secondary school amalgamations and Sale, Ashton on Mersey Girls’ School and Sale, Ashton on Mersey Boys’ School was to be the first. Each school had a staff of approximately 25 teachers and 380 pupils.

A new governing body was formed under the chairmanship of Councillor Reg Bannister and a new Headteacher was appointed in January 1981, namely Mr Don Horsefield . The start date for the new 5-form entry school was 1st Sept 1981. In the interim a small building programme was undertaken by Trafford to link the existing two buildings and to provide appropriate accommodation for a mixed school population.

Between February and April all existing teachers in the two schools had the opportunity to apply and be interviewed for positions in the new school. This necessitated job descriptions to be written and for each member of staff to have interviews for three of these posts. Support staff were also appointed and a new PTA committee was formed.

A curriculum was prepared, a pastoral system established and new policies were written. Parents, pupils and staff were involved in a series of fashion shows to select a new uniform. By the beginning of July a new timetable had been prepared and amidst great excitement the new school opened in the last week of the Summer term.

Over the next few years the school gathered momentum and introduced many new extra curricular activities including the Duke of Edinburgh Scheme, Young Enterprise and Work Experience. An annual Presentation Evening was also introduced to celebrate pupils’ academic success and extra-curricular achievements. In addition an annual school magazine, ‘In Print’, and a school calendar came into being.

During this time it was pleasant for the school to be asked to host the programme ‘This is Your Life’ which featured Tessa Sanderson, the Olympic gold medallist and Daley Thompson as a surprise guest.

In 1990 the closure of Sale West School on Manor Avenue meant that extra pupils would need to be accommodated at Ashton. This increased the Standard Number to 180 and the provision of a new building – The Jackson Building named after Mr Jim Jackson, the first Head of the Boys’ School (1950 –     ).

Another significant change at this time was the introduction of Records of Achievement. These effectively replaced reports and gave the pupils some responsibility for their performance and target setting. Progress Evenings replaced Parents’ Evenings.

Local Financial Management (LFM) was also introduced which gave the school a little more freedom over its budget.

In 1992 the government of the day introduced the concept of Grant Maintained Schools and under the chairmanship of Councillor Brian Rigby the school made a successful bid. This change of status led to many changes including the appointment of several professional support agencies, the overhaul of school policies and the formulation of a school Mission Statement which underpinned the school’s future philosophies. The school governors were now the employers.

Another major change was to the school’s Admission Policy which brought about a significant increase in the number of pupils wishing to attend the school. As a result the school was featured on Newsnight with Jeremy Paxman as one of the most oversubscribed schools in England. The government then permitted an increase in the Standard Number to 210. The school reached a population of over 1000 pupils in 1994.

A massive building programme was initiated and a Sports Hall was deemed a priority. By selling off some surplus land the school raised sufficient funds for this project and the new facility was opened by Alex Ferguson CBE in July 1995. Other buildings and modifications to existing areas of the school continued for several years.

To add to the school’s achievements a successful bid for the Charter Mark was made in 1994 and resulted in the Head and his wife being invited to 10 Downing Street.

OFSTED inspections were in their infancy during this period but the school was allocated a two-week period of inspection in November 1995. The inspectors looked at all lessons, interviewed governors, parents, pupils and neighbours of the school as well as looking at the school finances and policies. In addition the inspectors scrutinised the pupils’ records of attendance and their external examination success. To the credit of all concerned the school was deemed to be an ‘Outstanding School’ and this was verified by a special visit from the Chief Inspector of Schools.

This was followed in 1996 by the school being awarded the ‘Investors in People’ award and in the same year a partnership with Manchester United F.C. was formed in order to offer education to all their 16-18 year old apprentices. The Club gave the school £100,000 sponsorship to support its application to be a Sports College.

Throughout, the emphasis on academic success was always to the forefront and the school had to respond to many changes including the move from G.C.E. and C.S.E. to G.C.S.E., the introduction of the National Curriculum and other external and in-house initiatives. Excellent examination results improved year on year and in the summer of 1996 Ashton’s results gave the school the honour of being the best High School in Trafford.

Mr Horsefield retired at Easter 1997 and Mr Tarun Kapur was appointed as his successor.