ST JOSEPH'S PRIMARY SCHOOL
Two years after the official opening of St. Joseph's Church in 1900, Bishop Allen gave his approval in March 1902, for the purchase of land in Dingle Road for the erection of a school for 250 children. (He also donated £50). The Board of Education approved the plans in May and a subscription list was set up. The contract for the new schools was signed and building commenced in January 1903.
Birkenhead News October 1903
The laying of the Foundation Stone of the school took place on 22nd March 1903 and was blessed and opened by Bishop Allen on 25th October 1903.
Opening of the New St. Joseph's Schools
''On Sunday last the new schools which have been erected in connection with St. Joseph’s North Road, were formerly opened by the Bishop of Shrewsbury, the Right Rev. Dr. Allen. The estimated cost of the new schools which have been in the course of erection since the beginning of the year is about £3,000, and provision has been made for the accommodation of 250 children. The schools which occupy a site in Dingle Road, present a handsome appearance, and the structural arrangements are excellent in every respect. The principal feature is the large schoolroom, which will accommodate 150 scholars, and can be divided by moveable partitions into three sections. There are also two class-rooms that will each accommodate fifty scholars. The lighting, ventilation and sanitary arrangements are on the most approved system, while there is ample playground accommodation. The provision of these new schools will supply a very necessary want, as up to the present the children in this parish have been compelled to attend either St. Anne’s Rock Ferry or St. Werburgh’s Schools, a great disadvantage owing to the distance. The schools have been designed by Mr. Edmund Kirby, F.R.I.B.A., and the contract has been carried out by Mr. P. McLachlan of Birkenhead. It may also be mentioned that the work has been carried out in considerably less than contract time.
There was a large attendance on Sunday afternoon, when the new schools were opened by the Bishop of Shrewsbury, amongst those present being the Rev. Canon O’Toole (Rector), the Rev. Father Jagger S.J., the Rev J. Thompson, the Rev. Dr. O’Leary, Messrs. Edmund Kirby, P. MacMahon, F. Berry, T. Hodkinson, Mr. and Mrs Broadbent, W. Dodd, Dr. Murphy, etc. The Bishop was met at the playground entrance and conducted to the schools, the procession being led by the Children of Mary and the school children. After having performed the ceremony of blessing and declaring the schools open, his Lordship in the course of a brief address congratulated St. Joseph’s congregation on the possession of new schools, which would enable the work of the parish to be carried on in a manner which had hitherto been impossible. He pointed out the necessity for Catholics to support their schools, and also referred to the effect that the new Act would have upon education. He referred in terms of disapproval to the attitude of those who sought to oppose the act by passive resistance, and pointed out , that although there was much in the act of 1870 that did not commend itself to Catholics, they had always carried out in a loyal manner what was demanded of them by this measure. At the conclusion of the proceedings the Hallelujah Chorus was sung.''
In January 1904 it was taken over by the Local education Authority. After one or two setbacks including the Local Education Authority’s initial objection to nun teachers having been appointed, the school was opened for pupils in April 1904.
By September 1904 some parents wished to pay school fees for their children attending St. Joseph’s School, but as the school was free parents were asked to send donations towards the completion of the furnishings and to help meet the interest on the building debts.
Over the years the school became popular with catholic families and in 1966 parents who lived at the St. Werburgh’s end of St. Joseph’s were asked to arrange education for their children at St. Werburgh’s School, as there would be less room available in the future, due to the demolition of the adjacent Guild Hall which housed two infant classes to build a new dining hall for the school.
A change to the schools future development came with the re-organisation of education in Birkenhead which culminated in 1970 in Comprehensive Education. The result of this was it was decided that St. Joseph’s School would be primary School only and not primary and middle as was first envisaged.
The biggest upheaval in the life of the school was in 1983 when the school was transferred from Dingle Road to the site once occupied by Marian High School (formerly Heathley High School, formerly St. Winifred's and Holt Hill), the original site of Mr. Topham's home, were Mass was celebrated before the building of St. Joseph’s Church. On the Feast of St. Joseph 19th March 1985 Bishop Gray officially opened the school on its new site with Holy Mass in the school in the morning in the presence of the mayor, the local Member of Parliament and the Director of Education and in the evening in the church in honour of St. Joseph.
Links between the school and the church are very strong, each year the children prepare for receipt of their first Sacraments of Confession, Communion and Confirmation in the church of St. Joseph’s and Mass is regularly said on the school premises by visiting priests from the parish.
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