THE launch of a new state of the art block has given a Colchester school the chance to look back at its past.

Work began last year to demolish the old Gainsborough Block at Stanway School and replace it with a new building, which has now been unveiled and is fully in use.

It lead to the discovery of a treasure trove full of diaries, photos and memories explains English teacher Katherine Jones.

She explains Year 8 students Katja Simic-Lawson, Sophia Glass and Max West worked together to put together a report on the history of the school.

More than 60 years of changing curriculums, school trips, award ceremonies and even the odd fashion faux-pas were revealed in the haul.

And there were also extracts taken from the Headteachers’ logs.

The trio of students explain how the extracts in particular give glimpses of a rapidly expanding town and education system.

The new school opened in September 1956, a week behind schedule because construction had been delayed.

In that same year the Eurovision song contest took place for the first time, with Switzerland winning, the Egypt Suez crisis began and the classic movied the Ten Commandments was released.

In Colchester, the delay in building the school meant only six classrooms were ready to be used.

And as a result it meant much of the furniture was also missing with teachers having to improvise for lessons to go ahead..

The headteacher exaplsin in the notebooks which have been retrieved that it was a challenging first day :

“On the opening day 183 out of 200 (students) were present and this increased to 185 by the following day.

“I held an opening assembly in the Geography room on this first morning with the Chairman of Governors - Mr Baker - present.

“One or two points of observation by the children were mentioned.

“No timetable to which to work is possible until more rooms are available, and so the staff made mutual changes and arrangements.”

At that time the kitchen was also not finished so meals were brought in from other schools until it was up and running properly.

By 1973 the school was officially a comprehensive school and had been re-named as the Stanway School with 56 full time teachers.

Throughout the years the school continued to grow and now has more than 1,000 students.

It alumni include a few notable names too such as Paralympic swimmer Natalie Jones, members of the hit Britpop band Blur, Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon and former X-Factor contestant Stevi Richie.

The six original classrooms have now increased to 66 across three blocks.

And where the focus in 1956 was on getting furniture and creating a timetable this has shifted somewhat in the past six decades.

being more on revision classes for mock exams, musical productions, the new block and a recently introduced new-look uniform which now includes a blazer.

The archives also included a number of vintage images including of original staff members and sports teams through the decades.

Another clearly shows one of the buildings at the school as it was being built six decades ago.

Katja, Sophia and Max also explain they are keen to fill in some of the gaps in the school’s history as well.

They are appealing to the public to help find previous pupils.

In particular they are hoping to find out the names of all those who have had the honour of being named head boy or

They explains : “The school used to have an honours board which was engraved with the names of all past Head Boys and Head Girls.

“Over the years, this has disappeared.

“Whilst we have recovered most of this history, we would love to have a full record.

“We are looking for the names of past Head Girls and Head Boys from 1966 to 1979.”

Teacher Katherine Jones adds they are keen to hear from anyone who has any information about the names of former head girls and head boys.

They would also like to hear from anyone with an anecdote about the school and it’s history they would be happy to share.

Anyone who can help with information about former pupils of the Winstree Road school should contact Aaron Orchard by e-mail

* If you have any images of life in Colchester and surrounding areas through the years or of major events and occasions in its history you would be willing to share with readers of the Memories pages then please contact us on 01206 508186.