Watch as staff and pupils past and present celebrate Sunderland school's 70th birthday

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Two platinum roses have also been planted to mark the 70th anniversary of the opening of the school.

Former staff and pupils returned to Sandhill View Academy to enjoy a nostalgic birthday celebration to celebrate the schools 70th birthday.

Originally Thorney Close Secondary Modern, the school first opened its doors to pupils for the 1953/54 academic year - a time in when Queen Elizabeth II had just been coronated, Mt Everest had at last been conquered by Hillary and Tenzing, and an 18-year-old Elvis Presley recorded his first hit.

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The old school was demolished in 2002 as what is now Sandhill View Academy moved into its brand new building.

(Left to right) Head teacher Jill Dodd, former French teacher Hilary Akien, Year 9 pupil Joseph Errington, and curriculum lead for outdoor learning Aidan Hodgson.(Left to right) Head teacher Jill Dodd, former French teacher Hilary Akien, Year 9 pupil Joseph Errington, and curriculum lead for outdoor learning Aidan Hodgson.
(Left to right) Head teacher Jill Dodd, former French teacher Hilary Akien, Year 9 pupil Joseph Errington, and curriculum lead for outdoor learning Aidan Hodgson. | Sandhill View Academy.

Two former members of staff returning for the celebration and who remember this transition were French teacher Hilary Akien, 65, and English teacher Harry Lindsay, also 65.

Former French teacher Hilary Akien and English teacher Harry Lindsay.Former French teacher Hilary Akien and English teacher Harry Lindsay.
Former French teacher Hilary Akien and English teacher Harry Lindsay. | National World.

Hilary, who joined the school in 1991 and is now chair of governors, said: “When I first started at the old building there were no computers, the register was done by pen and paper and we still had the revolving blackboards.”

While the school officially opened at the start of the academic year in 1953, staff decided to host the party at the end of the current academic year in the hope of better weather and the chance for staff and children to enjoy a garden party and summer fair.

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Alas mother nature did not agree, and the celebration had to be moved indoors, although visitors did venture outside to plant two platinum roses - designed originally to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

Year 9 pupil Joseph Errington planting the platinum rose.Year 9 pupil Joseph Errington planting the platinum rose.
Year 9 pupil Joseph Errington planting the platinum rose. | Sandhill View Academy.

One was planted by Hilary and the other by Year 9 pupil Joseph Errington, 14, and the plants will now take pride of place in the school’s garden accompanied by a plaque constructed of wood from benches used in the old school.

Hilary said: “It was a real privilege to be asked back to plant the rose.

“Coming into school today brings back good memories and it’s always great when I’m out and about in Sunderland and former pupils want to come up and speak to me, tell me what they have done and share their story.”

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Former French teacher Hilary Akien planting the platinum rose.Former French teacher Hilary Akien planting the platinum rose.
Former French teacher Hilary Akien planting the platinum rose. | Sandhill View Academy.

To help people reminisce, old school photographs were placed around the room as well as being projected onto the whiteboard.

As people enjoyed their buffet lunch they could also look at the school’s original signing in book from when the school first opened, including signatures from the Australian netball team of 1956.

Harry, who taught at the school from 1996 to 2013, said: “It’s very exciting to be invited back to the school and I’m just happy to be seen as part of the Sandhill View family.

“My former headteacher asked me why I had not moved on to progress my career, but I told him I ‘loved being here no desire to move’.

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“The school’s motto was that Sandhill was a ‘small, caring family’ and this was very much true then and I’m sure it’s the same today.

“When I first started teaching there was no real national curriculum and we had the freedom to teach the pupils what we felt they needed to know.”

Old Echo cuttings covering the opening of the original school.Old Echo cuttings covering the opening of the original school.
Old Echo cuttings covering the opening of the original school. | Sandhill View Academy.

Former pupils were also invited to attend the celebratory event, including headteacher Jill Dodd’s uncle, David Ashplant.

She said: “My uncle is now 79 and was 11-years-old when he first came to the school in 1955.

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“He has been telling me how at that time there were two identical school buildings, one for the boys and one for the girls.

Pupils looking at old photographs of the school.Pupils looking at old photographs of the school.
Pupils looking at old photographs of the school. | Sandhill View Academy.

“It shows how times have changed as at that time the boys’ building had the Design and Technology and Woodwork rooms, whilst the girls’ building had a flat where the girls would lean about how to keep a home.

“I’ve found it fascinating to delve into the school’s past. Whilst many aspects of the school may have changed, the same underlying principle to provide the best possible education for young people in the local area remains the same.”

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