A Brief History of the School

Though the Copthorne site seems to have been earmarked for a school before the 1939 - 1945 war during that war it became instead the site of a miners' hostel consisting mostly of a series of nissen huts which covered more than twice the area the school covered (see Before it was a School.)  After the war due to the severe housing shortage then existing in the city the huts were occupied by local families.  Their re-housing seems to have delayed the school's construction by at least two years (see The Original Plans for the School).

The school opened on the 4th September 1951.   It consisted of twelve prefabricated wooden classrooms.  Only the main hall and the school offices were brick built.  There was an intake of 204 pupils - 120 boys and 84 girls which constituted three first year classes, two second year classes and one third year class and a “small” fourth year class.  

Though it opened in September 1951 it was hardly ready.  There were no desks and the chairs were on loan - the desks arrived the next day.  Some nissen huts on the site served as temporary toilets and as the school canteen still awaited completion pupils had to march in file to Whitmore Park for their school meals.  The school hall was not actually completed until the following April (see School Log). 

In April 1954 the school took over the the old administration block of the miners' hostel (see the School's Buildings).

By the end of the 1950s the school roll seems to have peaked at 600.  Through its life as a secondary school, however, numbers probably averaged around 500 (see School Numbers.)

In 1962 the school was reported as having 14 classrooms (three of which were small) - two halls, one laboratory, an arts room, a metalwork room, a woodwork room, two cookery rooms, a needlework room a kitchen and a dining room. There were 18 forms - 8 had over 30 pupils, 1 over 40 and 6 less than 20 (three classes had to be small due to the smallness of some classrooms!)

For much of its existence as a secondary school it was always a possibility that Copthorne might become a purpose built school - a comprehensive.  However, perhaps because the sector of the city the school occupied was never devleoped much for housing Preident Kennedy was built instead.  Copthorne therefore closed as a secondary modern school on July 13th 1972.  According to the school log:  “The final assembly was held during the morning and school dismissed at 12 noon.. Copthorne ceased to function as a secondary modern school at 4.0 pm. The premises will continue to be used for the first year intake of the amalgamated school.”

The "amalgamated school" referred to was President Kennedy which had opened in 1966.  In the academic year 1972/73 (i.e the year after Copthorne finished being a secondary modern school) the school leaving age was raised to 16 - in consequence of this happening it seems Copthorne was kept open to serve as an annexe to President Kennedy to accommodate its first year intake.  As the school then served a much larger catchment area pupils were bussed in.

Originally the teaching staff of President Kennedy commuted between the two sites but after a couple of years it was decided to have a 'permanent' staff based at Copthorne to provide the first year intake with courses across the curriculum. 

In the summer of 1981 the school closed for good. 

Today the playing fields are still extant but where the school itself once stood is now occupied with modern housing and a sheltered housing complex called Copthorne Lodge.  The only structure on the site still recognizable from the period in which the school existed is an electricity sub-station - a structure which actually predates the school (see Copthorne Today) - they only physical legacy of the school is, apparently, an indent in the ground where once was the school's long jump sand pit.


If you have any information or photographs of Copthorne School you think should go on this website please email buttlekeswick@hotmail.com or write to the address given on the  Contact Page