The Final Curtain
This page is based on a series of articles in the Coventry Evening Telegraph and memories of former pupils.. Thanks go to Eva Swap (formerly Stephenson/Cheung) for visiting the CET office and Coventry Central Library Archive.
In the Mid 1980’s it became obvious that the City Council planned to close several City schools, one of which was Binley Park. Mr. Lesley Turner, then Deputy Head, led a campaign called ‘Save It’ to try and reverse the decision. In Lesley’s words:
“The campaign bound us together wonderfully and, I think, was a major factor in the ultimate success of the very long-drawn-out closing-down process.”
In 1986, closure was confirmed, and Richard Harris announced his retirement. Binley in effect became a detached Campus of Ernesford Grange Community College, Lesley Turner appointed as Head.
So, intake of 11-year-olds stopped so that, in September 1986 we had no Year 7 (or ‘First Years’ as we knew them then), in September 1987 no Year 7 or 8 – and so on, until, in the year 1989-1990 we had just Year 11 (and, of course, shared Sixth Form arrangements with Ernesford Grange, as we had done since 1986).
predicted that this period would be a disaster, parents would withdraw children,
but what happened was the reverse, children stayed on to receive a full
curriculum, right up to the day the school closed, July 13th 1990. Many said it
was a wonderful time to be at the school, maintaining a full life and excellent
spirit to the end. In Lesley’s words again, he believed there were four reasons
things went so well:
“Firstly, we had the 30-year traditions of a superb Coventry comprehensive school behind us, as designed originally by Bill Rumble and his hand-picked team, and supported, through the sixties, seventies and eighties by hundreds of teachers, pupils, past pupils and parents. That gave us a flying start on this potentially difficult last four years.
Secondly, we had an incredible team of teachers through those last four years – all of them knowing that they were going to have to leave (about 25 had to go, of course, each summer as the school roll shrank) but every one determined to see that Binley’s last pupils had a good deal.
Thirdly, we had the support and trust of the parents of the pupils who stayed to the end. Finally, we had a LEA which was totally committed to seeing us through, making sure we had the human and physical resources to ensure that the pupils in those last years had an experience at least as good as they would get in any other school in the city.”
That commitment of the city (which could not be made to any school now because of changes in the law which have severely restricted what they can do) extended also to the staff of Binley Park – in return for staying on into the final years, the city guaranteed them employment opportunities and support when, finally, they had to move on. Out of the nearly 100 staff who left in those last years, very few did not have a good landing. Most were placed happily and successfully, spreading the ‘Binley Park way’ to every other comprehensive in Coventry – and beyond. Many went on to higher things, including headship – one of the very last to leave, Carol Reid, went on to be a Deputy at Coundon Court and is now a Head of a Leicester comprehensive school.
So, following the GCSE examinations in July 1990, Binley Park Comprehensive School closed it’s doors to Pupils and Teachers for the very last time. The buildings remained for a time (See Gallery), and following their demolition, the outline of the school was still visible. Finally, it was all replaced by Binley Business Park and a housing estate. What irony if that resulted in the need for more schools in the area!