Bishop Terry gives the blessing at the end of Mass during the day of celebrations for St Peter’s Catholic College’s 80th birthday – Photo by Chris Booth
Future’s bright as St Peter’s celebrates 80th birthday

St Peter’s Catholic College in South Bank is looking forward to educating generations of pupils for years to come after a wonderful celebration marked its 80th birthday.

The iconic school, famed for turning out a production line of young footballers that included Boro and England Golden Boy Wilf Mannion, has been at the heart of the community since it was built during World War 2.

Hitler’s Luftwaffe did its best to raze the school to the ground soon after its doors were opened, and a decade ago it was threatened with closure before a last-minute change in government policy.

But St Peter’s has stood the test of time and, after a significant recent investment programme from Nicholas Postgate Catholic Academy Trust, its future now looks brighter than ever.

“St Peter’s has always been the rock for this part of the community,” said head of school Stephanie Garthwaite. 

“We still have some photos of the German planes flying over St Peter’s during the war and 1,000 people turned out to support the school when it was going to be bulldozed in 2010.

“But we’re still here and we hope St Peter’s will continue to be the foundation of this community and provide an outstanding Catholic education for many more generations of young people.” 

As well as Boro legend Mannion, Formula One engineer Rob Smedley and legendary folk singer Vin Garbutt also attended the Normanby Road school.

“It’s an honour and a privilege to be head of a school with such a rich tradition,” said Mrs Garthwaite. “Lots of pupils have gone on to do well in a wide range of professions and we’re very proud of every one of them.” 

Pupils took part in a variety of activities on a packed day of celebrations, including a cake sale, a careers convention attended by year 10 and 11 and a three-mile sponsored walk for CAFOD, while each tutor group buried a time capsule in the school’s gardens.

Bishop Terry was joined by hundreds of former pupils and members of the community attended two special events including three Masses to mark the momentous occasion.

They included Wilf Mannion’s son and daughter, former deputy headteacher Kevin O’Connor, 79, and 92-year-old Patrick Webster, who was a pupil when St Peter’s first opened. 

Former pupil Canon John Lumley, whose mother, Amy, was also in that very first intake, was among many clergy who attended the celebrations.

“It really has been a very special day and has left me with a very positive feeling,” he said. 

Bishop Terry celebrated Mass and guests took a trip down Memory Lane as they viewed an exhibition featuring photographs from St Peter’s rich history. 

The school’s looked absolutely resplendent from its  recent facelift, which included the provision of purpose-built changing rooms, a brand-new fitness suite, an exhibition centre and a VR suite.

Head girl Megan Donaghy-Marshall said: “The improvement is massive since the trust has joined – not only the building, but the standard of learning is better.”

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