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History of Our Lady’s Catholic High School

Our Lady’s Catholic High School was founded in 1988 as the result of a lengthy consultation process within the Diocese of Lancaster, which resulted, as a response to falling numbers, in the then five Catholic secondary schools being reduced to three. The two schools which amalgamated to form Our Lady’s were: St Edmund Campion in Lea and St Cuthbert Mayne, which already occupied the current site of Our Lady’s in Fulwood. Our school’s identity is very much defined by the parishes and the ten primary schools which form our family and these have ensured a clear continuity from the two former high schools.

St Edmund Campion, martyr, was born in London in 1540 and was educated at St John’s College, Oxford, where he had a brilliant career. In 1564 he received Holy Orders as a Deacon in the Anglican Church. He travelled to Rome on foot in 1573, was accepted as a novice by the Society of Jesus and was ordained a priest in 1578. Arrested by priest hunters in 1581 as part of the Jesuit mission to England, he was convicted of high treason and sent to London for torture. The Queen herself tried to win him from his Faith but he replied that the Faith was his Glory. He was canonized in 1970 by Pope Paul VI.

The school named in his honour was opened in 1959 as Blessed Edmund Campion (it changed to ‘Saint’ in 1970) by its first Head Teacher, Mr Terence Manbre, who led the school for eighteen years until his retirement in 1977. At that point Mr Colin Reed took over as Head until the amalgamation in 1988.

St Cuthbert Mayne was the first Catholic priest to be martyred under the laws of Elizabeth I. He was born in 1544 in Youlston in Devon. His journey to the priesthood began as an Anglican Rector of the village of Huntshaw and he, too, studied at St John’s College, Oxford, where he met Edmund Campion. During this time, no doubt influenced by Campion and others, Mayne became a Catholic. In 1577 he was arrested and chained to his bedposts at Launceston jail. He was later found guilty of high treason for celebrating Mass and witnessing to his faith and sentenced to death; his spirited response was ‘Deo Gratias’. He, too, was canonized in 1970 by Pope Paul VI.

Blessed Cuthbert Mayne School (again it changed to ‘Saint’ in 1970) was opened in 1963 by the Head Teacher, Mr Joseph Connelly, who went on to earn the notable distinction of being the only Headteacher to serve at the school through its entire twenty-five years. He was awarded both a KSG and an OBE for services to education and retired and closed the school in 1988, handing over the keys to the newly appointed Head Teacher of the amalgamated school of Our Lady’s, Mr Peter Winders.

In the first two years of Our Lady’s both school sites needed to be in use because of the large number of pupils on role. During this period bus journeys between the two sites were a regular and sometimes frustrating feature of school life although, since the transporting of pupils was a deliberate ploy to promote unity at a sensitive time – rather than the alternative, which would have meant some pupils being totally away from the Fulwood campus – the gains probably outweighed the frustrations. Nevertheless, it was a major relief when all pupils could fit comfortably on the one site.

Mr Winders led Our Lady’s through to his retirement in 1994, at which point Mr Anthony Greenall became the second Head Teacher of Our Lady’s. He served until 2003 when the present Head, Mr Nigel Ranson, was appointed.

Although there are many points of interest about Our Lady’s since its inception which might be described in a history of wider scope than this one, a number of landmark moments are worthy of note:-

  • In 2004 Our Lady’s became a Mathematics and Computing School.
  • In 2012 the school was inspected first by OFSTED and secondly by the Diocese of Lancaster and was graded by both as ‘Outstanding‘ in every category.
  • In 2014 the school was awarded the status of National Teaching School and is now the lead-school of The Catholic Teaching Alliance (CTA), an association of over 50 Catholic schools, mostly within the Diocese of Lancaster, where the Catholic teachers and educational leaders of the future are trained.

No school in the ever-changing and challenging world of education can ever sit back and rest on its laurels, however. Our Lady’s remains vigilant and dedicated to continuing its on-going mission to serve the Catholic communities of our family of parishes in the north and west of Preston.