The Ambitious Acacias School

Schools hold a wealth of history, personal stories and memories. But do you know which was the first school in Burnage?

Would it help if we told you it no longer stands?

Or that it was in the grounds of St Margaret’s Church?

The National School was built in 1858 to provide education to the poor children of Burnage. When it first opened there were significantly more girls than boys in attendance, presumably the boys were expected to continue working on the farms in the area.

By 1908, there was a greater need for schooling. Affluent families could send their children to grammar schools but otherwise the National School was the only option. Thomas Turnbull who owned land around the Burnage Hall Estate, purchased the Acacias building in 1908 and agreed a tenancy with the Manchester Education Committee to use the building as a school.

The Acacias School was opened with Headmistress Miss Harriet Day, four teaching assistants and 14 students! By the end of the first year there were 119 students but attendance was low.

This would change with the instatement of the school’s second headmistress, Miss Edith Shepherd in 1920. Miss Shephard had aspirational values, remembered as ‘strict but kind’. Acacia students became high achievers, passing entrance exams and gaining scholarships to Grammar Schools.

In 1925 the inspector’s report by S N Godfrey found – “This school is conducted in a large private house and grounds. The place has been furnished with extra comforts through the energy of the Head Teacher and her staff whilst the interest and good will of the parents are enlisted by means of various social activities. The speech and manners of the children as well as their general knowledge and outlook are well above average.”

By this point, Manchester Corporation had begun to develop the Burnage Estate and saw a need for more school spaces. The small Acacias school could not cope with the number of children moving to the area, so in addition to building Green End School (to where all students from the National School were moved) and Mauldeth Road School, steps were taken to expand at Acacias. In 1928, the Council agreed to buy the plot from Mr Turnbull and made over £13,000 worth of improvements.

When all schools were full and teaching the growing Burnage Community, Miss Shepherd’s high standards and values led to those from Green End and Mauldeth Road thinking the Acacia’s was the ‘posh’ school!

‘In 1945 I went to the Acacia’s School. I wanted to go there because it had lovely gardens and lovely flowers, and it was a very very good school. It was a very happy school, it was a small school so everybody was known to eachother and the staff.’ Carol Farrow.

Miss Shepherd retired following the Second World War and the school would undergo some changes but maintain it’s high standards and rate of Grammar School achievement. Her initial replacement was a Miss Sidebottom who sadly died within a year of starting her post. She would be succeeded by the first Headmaster, a Mr Nelson who sought to widen the curriculum with sport, music and art. He also introduced popular parents evenings and field trips.

With thanks to Toni Hunter for this image

Mr Jones took over in 1965 introducing the house system, merit points, weekend camps and school pets! Pupils remember ducks, geese, rabbits and guinea pigs!

“It was well-run. The head was a Mr Nelson and I remember quite a lot of the teachers. My memories are certainly favourable. I think they prided themselves on training people up to get into the Grammar School… it was a good school by academic and behaviour standards” Chris Drew

But what do you remember?

Did you attend Acacias?

Who was your favourite teacher?

Do you remember the animals?

Did you go to a different Burnage school?

What do you remember about that?