The centenary of KGV Grammar School and Sixth Form College is being celebrated with a special exhibition at The Atkinson in Southport.
The renowned institution has come a long way since it first opened in 1920 as the Southport Municipal School for Boys. Today it is a bright and modern sixth form college, educating hundreds of talented young people every year.
The school quickly grew and moved into a fantastic set of new buildings on the current Scarisbrick New Road site, involving a parade of the pupils marching all the way from the north end of Lord Street to Scarisbrick New Road, carrying all of their trophies!
The Earl of Derby opened the new building in 1926, after special permission had been granted from Whitehall to name it after the then Monarch, King George V, who was the grandfather of our current Queen Elizabeth II.
It remained as a Boys Grammar School until 1979, when it’s evolution to become a college started, initially by allowing the girls from Southport High School (now Greenbank) to join the boys at 16 and study in the Sixth Form. By 1982 the school element ended and its new exciting life as a pure Sixth Form College began.
To mark the centenary there is a wonderful exhibition currently at The Atkinson showcasing the history of the school and college, including photographs, school blazers and ties, and documentation regarding the naming.
There is a marvellous bronze bust of King George V, which was presented to the school during the year of the Silver Jubilee in 1935, has had pride of place in both the school and college for many years.
People can see remnants of the Foundation Stone Time Box. In January 1925, a lead-lined wooden time box was placed behind the foundation stone of the new Scarisbrick New Road site. When the school was demolished the box was rescued from a skip, but several items had sadly disintegrated including the prospectus and a Southport County Borough Yea Book. Sadly only the leather cover survives.
There are copies of The Red Rose, the termly magazine which was produced by the pupils from 1921.
The Jubilee Cup is also on show. The cup was contested over the course of the full academic year between the houses, awarded to the house that attained the most points for both academic and sporting achievement.
There is the original door key for the front door of the Scarisbrick New Road site. It was lost in the 1950s but was discovered in the 1970s. It is on loan from John Rostron, a former pupil and Chair of School Governors and Chair of the Old Boys.
The Atkinson is delighted to be welcoming past and present students, staff members and other visitors to enjoy the display, after the restrictions of last year’s Covid pandemic lockdowns.
College Principal Michelle Brabner, who is also President of the Old Georgians Society, was proud to go along to the exhibition and discover a wealth of information all about KGV’s heritage.
In 1920, Southport Council decided to establish a boys’ secondary school.
The Corporation bought a large vacant mansion, ‘Woodlands’, on an extensive site at the north end of Lord Street. The site was to be a temporary location until a new, purpose-built building was completed and Southport Municipal Secondary School for Boys was opened in September 1920.
The Headmaster, G.A.Millward, a former Major in the Royal Engineers, was an experienced headmaster. A house structure began with four houses. By 1969 there were 12. Inter-house games were fiercely contested, and glory was always for the house, not the individual.
When the Southport Municipal School for Boys was launched in temporary accommodation at Woodlands, preparations for a new building at Scarisbrick New Road were already underway.
On the day before the end of summer term 1926 the ‘Great March’ took place from Woodlands to the new building.
The school had received the unique distinction of being the only school in Great Britain to be allowed the use of the royal name King George V. It was formally opened in October 1926 by Lord Derby.
In 1949, the governors’ decision to appoint Geoffrey Dixon to to follow George Millward as Headmaster. He remained in post until his retirement in 1976. Under his guidance the school grew both in achievement, activities and enrollment.
The school’s Jubilee was in 1970 and from 1965 plans were being made for its celebration and a Jubilee Fund was established. In 1967 Long Rigg was purchased as the school’s very own outdoor pursuits centre.
In 1976 David Arnold became KGV’s third Headmaster and he would lead the school through its transition from being a secondary grammar school catering for boys into a mixed sixth form college. New buildings were added from 1977 and the old school was finally demolished in 1982. By the 1960s, the east end of the main corridor was five feet lower than the west end!
After a successful transition, David left KGV in 1983 to return to his native Horsham where he became Head of the local grammar school.
In September 1979, KGV opened its doors as a new sixth form college. Southport’s young ladies arrived for the first time. The staff were prepared but the builders were not – having forgotten to include girls’ toilets in the new building! The staff toilets next to the common room were duly converted.
A new basic organising structure was introduced. Houses had gone and students were allocated to one of five divisions – Arts, Environmentalists, Humanities, Mathematics, and Physical Science. In the summer of 1982 the demolition team moved into the original school building. Due to the fragile and sinking nature of the foundations, that site has never been rebuilt upon.
In 1983, leadership at KGV went to a female for the first time. Geraldine Evans also broke the mould of the Oxbridge tradition that had been shared by her three predecessors. Geraldine took KGV through a very challenging time, bringing the college into the modern education age and dealing with a proposed merger with the Technical College. In the harder financial times a decision was made to sell Long Rigg in 1983.
Roger Mitchell, the Senior Vice Principal, became Acting Principal prior to the appointment of the new Principal, Hilary Anslow, in January 1992. Hilary led the College through 18 successful years, obtaining an OBE for her services during her tenure.
With the successes came many challenges, not least the impact of the global financial crash in 2008 which was instrumental in the cancellation of a new £40million rebuilding project. She appreciated the heritage of the Old Georgians and was able to bring together Old Georgians, both former school and college pupils.
In December 2009 Adele Wills became KGV’s third consecutive lady Principal. Considerably difficult times were ahead both financially and with some disappointing OFSTED inspections.
Adele Wills left KGV in 2018, when KGV College and Southport College finally merged into one establishment, with the KGV campus led by Anne-Marie Francis.
Today, KGV College and Southport College are led successfully by Michelle Brabner, who is leading a real resurgence after she joined from Runshaw College in March 2020 – just as the Covid pandemic swept the UK with the first in a series of lockdowns.
Her stewardship of both colleges during these challenging times, swiftly leading the necessary transition to online learning, has been impressive.
This summer, an incredible 99% of the KGV Sixth Form College class of 2021 were accepted at their first choice university.
This September saw a record number of applications for KGV, which has become a Centre for Academic Excellence.
The future for the next 100 years at KGV Sixth Form College is looking bright.
Michelle Brabner said: “We have so many exciting plans for the coming years ahead. Our students are fantastic ambassadors for Sefton and progress to the best universities and degree apprenticeships in the country.”
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I remember Southport College when it was Southport College of Art and Technology and I was a pupil there in the late 1950s. I also remember we had to wear “house shoes”, crepe soled brown sandals, to protect the beautiful parquet floors! And the lady cleaners polished the brass handles on the stair banisters in the main entrance all day long. We had dinner tickets that cost a pound a day and covered a lst course and a “pudding”. I spent most of my dinner monies in town on books that I adored rather than buy food. Consequently, I wrote essays for people to earn a dinner or pudding ticket as often as possible. I also remember the winds that blew up Manchester Road where we waited for the bus to take some of us to Maghull where we lived and we would not be caught dead in a nice, warm winter coat! We stood and shivered until the bus came – the last bus for our bus pass was at 7.00pm so if we stayed at school late, we had to keep an eye on the clock. I used to do all my homework and studying during tutorials after school and went home “free” for the evening. Such memories; such times.