Former teacher remembers 'best year in teaching' as Wellsway celebrates 60 years

Published on: 02 Sep 2016

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Joan Ellison was one of the original teachers at Wellsway School when it opened its doors for the first time on September 10, 1956.

Sixty years on, she is playing a key role in the diamond anniversary celebrations.

Wellsway was originally a secondary modern school and it launched on the same site as its partner Keynsham Grammar School.

“It was unusual,  even then.” Joan recalled. “We shared the same building in the early days. We were in the three-storey grammar school building until the Wellsway building was finished when we moved across. We each taught in both schools and we shared everything. The children had separate lessons and came together at break and lunchtimes and for PE and games.”

Joan Laramy, as she was then, barely 20 and fresh out of teacher training college, was one of five teachers in the first year, three for Wellsway and two for the grammar school under the same head teacher, Mr Melbourne. She taught PE and games, as well as English and religious education.

“People said to me that the first year of teaching would be the hardest, but for me it was the best,” said Joan. “We were all new together and because we only had the first-years and no older pupils we could really get to know them. We had great fun.

“There were a few challenges though; when we started we didn”t have any exercise books and we had to queue up to be issued with paper.

“The sports pitches weren't ready so we had to go up to Manor Road playing fields for games.”

The first netball and football matches played by Wellsway School, which now has a reputation for sporting excellence, were against primary schools because the secondary pupils were only 11 years old.

Wellsway opened with 90 pupils, who wore a grey and green uniform. The grammar school, which had a navy and blue uniform, had 71 pupils. Because Keynsham was in Somerset at the time, many children came in by bus from Bathamption, Batheaston and Frome.

Once they grew, the schools had separate head teachers, buildings and staff until they merged and became a comprehensive in 1971. The school became an academy in 2011.

Joan taught at Wellsway until 1964, when she left to have her family. She returned on supply in 1973 and then rejoined the staff, becoming head of special needs until she retired, but even after that she returned for supply teaching.

An early aspiration of the new schools was to have a swimming pool. Money was raised and a hole was dug, but it had to be filled in again as the area was needed for a new wing for the growing school. A covered swimming pool was eventually built, but later demolished as needs changed.

Joan, who still lives in Keynsham with her husband and has a son and daughter,  has many memories of the school over the decades – as will thousands of people in the town and beyond.

The school is planning a series of events over the academic year to mark the anniversary and is keen to hear from anyone with stories of interest, photographs or other links to Wellsway.

Guests invited to the first celebration, on September 12, include Joan and two other original teachers, Ann Burridge and Ron Gadsby, and some of the first pupils. There will be a number of opportunities for former pupils and staff to get involved in events, culminating in a big reunion next summer.

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