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Bradford on Avon - St. Laurence School, Bradford on Avon

For much of the 20th century the secondary schools in Bradford were Fitzmaurice Grammar School and Trinity (Secondary Modern). A union of the two was first proposed in 1948 but was not adopted by the two governing bodies. However during the 1950s there was a change of opinion nationally towards a comprehensive system of education and in 1960 Wiltshire County Council adopted a policy to support comprehensive education. In 1962 Trinity moved from its cramped site in Newtown to a large open location off Ashley Road and when there was a change of head in 1967 it was expected that the two schools would be merged. This did not happen and it was not until 1977 that the WCC Education Committee established the principles for the amalgamation. The name first proposed for the school was St. Aldhelm, who founded the monastery and church in Bradford, but his main Wiltshire associations are with Malmesbury Abbey, and St. Laurence, to whom the Bradford Saxon church is dedicated, was chosen.

Given the positions of the two schools, on opposite sides of Bradford it was not feasible to operate the new school on two sites and the only viable single site was the Trinity School in Ashley Road. Fitzmaurice in Junction Road had very limited space for expansion. There was more difficulty over the fact that the schools had separate endowments: Trinity had been founded as a Church of England School while the Grammar School was supported by the Fitzmaurice Foundation, established by Lord Fitzmaurice. Eventually a joint endowment for the new school was decided upon. The county council voted funds for a new two storey building, on the Churches side of the site, to accommodate the increased numbers. This building included a drama hall and a 6th form block. The new schools opened in September 1980, for the new academic year 1980/81, with accommodation for 1,155 students. The catchment area was Bradford on Avon, Monkton Farleigh, Winsley, Limpley Stoke, South Wraxall and Atworth.

Many staff transferred from the two former schools to create a team under the newly appointed Head, Bill Wheeler. To preserve the memory of the original schools the 1962 building was called Trinity and the newer building Fitzmaurice. Each had their own kitchens, which were at first each staffed by the catering staff from the appropriate school. The official opening was 23rd October 1980. The new school prospered but its restricted catchment area posed a problem in the 1980s as the Bradford area had a high percentage of older residents, and there were insufficient children to fill all the places. In 1989 there were only 970 students, including 165 in the 6th form. Restrictions were relaxed in the 1990s when applications from outside the catchment area were accepted. Numbers increased and there were often more applications than places available. The computer suite was renovated in 1990, while the school received a substantial boost in 1996/7 with the building of the Wiltshire Music Centre in the school grounds. With nine workshops and a 300 seat concert hall it is used for all school music lessons during the day and for occasional evening concerts among the varied programme of musical events provided by the Centre. Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, opened the Music Centre on 29 April 1998. The Centre is run by an independent charitable trust and has full time staff and many volunteers.

In the late 1990s comprehensive schools were considering applying for specialist college status, and in view of the subjects being considered by other local schools, St Laurence decided to apply for performing arts status. It has always been strong in this area and in the sciences. A total of £100,000 was raised locally and in 2000 the school became Wiltshire's first Performing Arts College and a new drama studio was built with funding from central government. This status was renewed in 2004.

Between 2002 and 2004 excavations of a Roman villa took place in the school playing fields. It had been known from the 1960s that a site existed in the area but it was not until the dry summer of 1999 that the outlines of stone rooms were noted by discolouration of the drying grass. Two major buildings of a villa at the centre of a large estate have been revealed with a fine mosaic dating to c.360 AD. In the summer term of 2002 an annual Festival of Creativity was established as the ground outside yielded its Roman remains.

The school celebrated its Silver Jubilee in 2005 and the St. Laurence School Association launched an appeal to raise funds for new dining facilities. Staff, pupils and the SLSA raised £50,000 locally to provide a new dining area and kitchen in the former Fitzmaurice refectory and kitchen area. When this opened in September 2005 there were 1,140 pupils at the school including 200 in the 6th form.

Note: School Still Open - Current Details:

Ashley Road
Bradford On Avon
Bradford On Avon
BA15 1DZ
Telephone No.01225 309500
Fax01225 309572
Age Range11 to 18
District Council Area
Special Facilities AvailableYes
Web Sitewww.st-laurence.wilts.sch.uk

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St. Laurence School, Bradford on Avon
St. Laurence School, Bradford on AvonImage Date: 2002
Image Details: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham
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Wiltshire Music Centre at St. Laurence School, Bradford on Avon
Wiltshire Music Centre at St. Laurence School, Bradford on AvonImage Date: 2002
Image Details: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham
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