Birley High School opened in September 1967
During the 1950's there began what turned out to be over a decade of often hostile debate about the future of education in Manchester. As a pilot, Yew Tree School had been established as an "all-through" secondary school (11-16) and the (then) Corporation was petitioned for and against the proposed changes and development of comprehensive schools. By 1963 it had been agreed that 24 new high schools would be established with four brand new builds using the CLASP system of construction and procurement.
These new schools were Parrs Wood, Moston Brook, Fairfield (Wright Robinson) and South Hulme High School (Birley). The new schools would begin life from September 1967 and a massive recruitment of staff and heads took place - 1200 new teaching posts within a huge restructure. South Hulme opended its doors on 7th september 1967 with Ernest McDonnell as its Head following his move from Barlow Hall in Chorlton and his previously successful Headships, including Nichols at Ardwick. He brought with him a wonderful and enthusiastic team and recruited others, equally enthusiastic as the school roll grew.
It became Birley High School early in 1969 following the closure of another bearing that name - Birley Street School in Beswick. Herbert Birley was the first Chairman of the Manchester School Board (1870-1885) and his family succeeded him in the governance of education in the city for many years.
Contrary to some populist local belief, our school badge, the flame-red phoenix was not a symbol of the Birley Mills in Manchester (circa 1850). It was designed by our Head of Art, ken Hallsall when the school opened in 1967 and symbolised the rebirth of Hulme in the 1960's regeneration. That phoenix appeared on our French blue blazers and all school materials.
As new people came to live in Hulme in the early 1970's (and surrounding areas), so the roll grew with some 1200 students at its height enjoying the facilities of purpose built science labs, a language lab, swimming pool, gymnasium, running track and 12 acres of playing fields. There was a magnificent, if often too small, assembly hall at the centre of the school in which there were plays, drama, music and other events. The four houses (Churchill, Damien, Hillary & Keller) each had their own assembly/dining spaces and there was a vibrant youth club for the evenings.
With students succeeding in all walks of life, professional and personal, Birley enjoyed its halcyon days in the late 1960's and through to the late 1970's/early 80's. But Hulme again was the focus of a 1990's major urban regeneration and has been rebulit - this time without Birley High School. It was demolished in 1998 and on the site now stands a business park (Birley Fields).
Below: Staff photo c 1970.
A: staff: c 1970 B: lunch in Keller House (c1972)
below: Mr Young leads a raod safety quiz (c1972)