Sunday, August 17, 2008


With kind permission of Newsquest Essex.
Friday was a red-letter day for many people around the world. A global television audience of four billion witnessed the start of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Many of us won’t forget the magnificent four-hour choreographed spectacle of fireworks, dancers, musicians, singers that represented thousands of years of Chinese history.

Was it a coincidences that the date - 080808 was designated as the start of the Olympics? We know the Chinese consider number eight to be lucky. From dawn on Friday, radio presenters of the mighty BBC World Service, our own BBC Essex and the smallest radio stations around Britain focused on this fact. In many Essex town - at eight minutes past 8 o’clock on Friday morning, a cacophony of cheers, car-horns and bells reinforced the significance of the date.

Closer to home, Billericay folk will recall a more personal date-related event. Seventy years ago, the Billericay School opened its doors in 1938 - the last year of peace before World War Two began. A silver key, handed by the then Headteacher, Mr P G White to Admiral Sir Vernon Haggard, opened the doors of the school, completed a year earlier.

Over the years, thousands of pupils have been educated there under the guidance of hundreds of teachers. This year sees another anniversary. It’s forty years since Mr Arthur Lingard came as headteacher, piloting the school through initiation into comprehensive education. Determined to show that Billericay was not only one of the first large comprehensives in Essex, but the best, Mr Lingard welcomed the media at every opportunity to ensure that the school was also one of the best-known. At least twelve of his appointed staff went on to headships locally and nationally.

Mr Lingard retired in 1991, to be replaced by Mr Robert Goodier who took the school from management by the LEA to being self-governing. It has since grown and prospered under the supervision of Mrs Susan Hammond.

Although not on Olympian scale, the Billericay School staged its own spectacular event in August 1988. Pupils and school staff downed chalk and pens to flock outside to do their own bit of choreographing to create this remarkable panorama marking the conclusion of F Block Building. This £1.5 million Business Studies, Craft, Design and Technology building was then state-of-the-art. The occasion also celebrated the early anniversary of the school’s twenty-first birthday since becoming a Comprehensive. Ron Case, that intrepid Evening Echo photographer, took this fascinating photograph from a helicopter hovering over the school. The event, organised by Steven Bownes, Head of PE was also filmed by John Walker, Head of Media Studies, making this the first Billericay School video.

Yesterday, Mr Lingard was delighted to be contacted. “I have such wonderful memories of the school, pupils, staff and governors and am so very proud of all they have achieved – long may it continue!”