Barry Gardiner MP opens time capsule as Preston Manor School celebrates its 80th anniversary
PUBLISHED: 13:57 31 October 2018 | UPDATED: 13:57 31 October 2018
Exams in underground bunkers during the Second World War and a former pupil coming to the rescue of a terror victim in 2018 are just two remarkable pieces of a Wembley school's rich history.
The comprehensive in Carlton Avenue East celebrated its 80th anniversary with a visit from Barry Gardiner.
The Brent North MP came to unearth a time capsule buried in 1988 by his predecessor Rhodes Boyson MP to be opened after three decades.
Inside, he found the remains of a Times Educational Supplement and local papers – somewhat the worse for wear after damp got into the poorly sealed container.
A new time capsule, containing USB sticks with photos, letters, and Lego pieces, was filled on October 19 and will be opened on the school’s 100th anniversary in 2038.
“There is certainly something special about the school – it’s at the very heart of the community,” said assistant head Daniel Graham.
“The school has an active and supportive alumni who clearly wish to give back to their former school and community. Many former Preston Manor students, including some who left the school in the 1950s to some who have left in recent years, and many from in between, return to the school to speak to students.”
The motto Munas Prae Jure (duty before rights) dates all the way back to January 12, 1938, when the school opened its doors with 150 pupils – now grown to just under 2,000.
Barbara Bray, editor and translator, and her identical twin Olive Jacobs, were among its first students.
The cohort of past pupils since then includes Dudden Hill’s Cllr Krupesh Hirani, and Harrow’s Bob Blackman MP.
Jeeves Wijesuriya, current chair of the British Medical Association’s junior doctors committee and a member of the BMA council, was the first respondent to the terror attack on Westminster Bridge and at Parliament in March 2017.
Neasden’s former “Queen of Soul” singer Mari Wilson, comedian Aatif Nawaz and triple jumper Michelle Griffiths also pounded the corridors to get to class.
Three years ago, recalling his time at Preston Manor during the Second World War Dr Alan Gilchrist wrote in the Old Manorians alumni association newsletter: “At first, we were not allowed to go to school in case of enemy action causing damage and harm to the pupils. Then the safety curtain on the stage was closed, and each form had one lesson each day on the stage, all of us carrying our gas masks of course.
“In the meantime, air raid shelters were being constructed in the school grounds. When the air raid sirens went off, we all walked, in orderly manner of course, to the shelters, and continued our lessons inside them.”
Mr Graham said the main school hall was a daily reminder of the school’s history, with names of past head boys and girls, students who won awards or medals in the Armed Forces, and those who died in service.
“There are also names of those who have represented their country at sport in athletics, cricket and netball,” he added.
Since the first time capsule was planted, the school has expanded and now takes pupils aged four to 18.
In 2000, the upper school grew by a form of entry in each year in response to the growing demand for places.
A new sports hall was built and an additional block containing 14 classrooms.
A floodlit multi-games area or “MUGA” also sits on the school site.
In 2012, Preston Manor officially became an “all-through school”.
The lower school building was nominated for three prestigious architectural awards, and now provides early years and primary education to more than 400 pupils.
Mr Graham said: “The school greatly prides itself on its inclusive nature. Large numbers of our sixth formers go on to the best universities in the UK. We are proud of our students and confident that they leave our school to make a positive contribution to UK society.”
Head Beth Kobel joined the senior leadership team in 2003 and was given the top job in 2015.
She said: “I am most proud of our Preston Manor sense of community and the celebration of learning that takes place here. The students are leaders – they are very supportive of one another and really do shape the future of this school.” She added: “Over the next 80 years, I would like to see this enjoyment of learning and sense of an inclusive community to still be at the heart of education here.”