The Manchester Grammar Junior School celebrates 15 years

Posted on: September 14th 2023School News

MGS Junior School whole school image

This term is the fifteenth anniversary of the opening of the Junior Section at MGS. MGS has a long tradition of educating boys younger than – in modern terms - secondary age (under eleven).

During 2005, the newly-in-post High Master, Christopher Ray, put forth suggestions of opening a Junior School, against the backdrop of political challenges, a projected decline in school-age population and the pressures of looming financial and economic stress.

Stuart Leeming was Deputy Head during this time and recalled the inspiration for the Junior School: “A new build was originally rejected and we believed that we could accommodate this scheme in existing buildings, with first thoughts of taking over half a floor of the Mason Building. But schools are not simply collections of buildings and playing fields; they are just the places where schools happen and are thus of secondary importance. Schools are curriculum, community and ethos, and planning began in earnest for the new school.

“For the first information session we set out a few rows of chairs at the far end of the Paton Library, nervous that we wouldn’t get much interest. We were inundated! It was thrilling to see the enthusiasm and scale of interest, but we knew right away that half a floor of the Mason Building wouldn’t do. As online expressions of interest grew rapidly, other solutions were developed, including eventually the repurposing of the building housing the English department. By now, we were eight months from opening and it was clear we would have two Year Five classes and three Year Six classes; existing buildings were never going to work. It was too late to commission, design and build a conventional school, and portacabins were not an option for a ‘premium product’. I used to drive to school looking at the office buildings adjacent to Princess Parkway, imagining how they could be converted for school use. Then inspiration struck during a weekend visit to North Wales.

“The RSPB site at Conwy had just opened a new visitor centre and in my mind’s eye, it could be a school. A log cabin, manufactured to very high standard in Estonia, it was a robust but relatively cheap structure that was constructed rapidly. During the week that followed, the Bursar, Gillian Batchelor, engaged in conversation with the company that had supplied it and key members of the school leadership team visited it. We had our solution, but we were up against time”.

The structure for the Junior School Lodges, named Bexwyke and Plessyngton, was manufactured in Estonia. The Junior Section opened to great acclaim, in August 2008. Linda Hamilton came from Altrincham Prep School and retired in 2020.

Current Head of the Junior School, Eleanor Losse, said: “We are delighted to be celebrating 15 years of the Junior School. I know it holds such a special place in the hearts of its former pupils who often come back to us as prefects and reminisce fondly about their Junior School days. It certainly is a happy place to learn and to work! Pupils enjoy the enormous benefits of being part of the whole school whilst being based within the nurturing environment of Bexwyke and Plessyngton Lodges. They are proud to be part of the rich heritage of the school and are motivated by the role models of Senior School pupils. Whilst many of the original staff have moved on to promotions, the legacy of the founding head, Linda Hamilton, lives on throughout the spirit of the Junior School”.

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