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Bede Sixth Form is inviting the community to join their 50th anniversary celebrations this weekend.

The college in Billingham will open its doors on Saturday (April 22) with an afternoon of reminiscing, live student performances, stalls, refreshments and fun sporting activities.

Launched in 1972, the current academic year commemorates 50 years of sixth form teaching in the town.

“Now we want as many people from the area as possible to come and be a part of the celebrations,” said principal, Patrick Jordan.

A former student himself, he explained: “We are incredibly proud of the college’s place in its community. There are thousands of families with connections to the college.”

Miriam Stanton was principal when Patrick was a student in the 90s. She joined as deputy principal in 1985, and was made principal in 1987, the youngest principal in a sixth form college at the time.

“It was not unusual for students and staff to be given national awards,” said Miriam. “Dr Richard Spencer, former biology teacher, was a finalist in the first award of the Global Teacher Prize, one student went on to be the commander of RAF Leeming and another was (and possibly still is) on the list of those prepared to be the first humans to travel to Mars.”

Former English teacher, Paula Wain, joined what she describes as her “dream job” at Bede in 1989.  It was there she met her husband Brian, also a former English teacher, who was among the original teaching team, after transferring across to the sixth form from the former Bede Hall Grammar School in 1972.

Paula said: “If I had to sum up what Bede means to me, it would have to be the students. A bit cheesy, I know, but so true. Some who drove me mad because they were bright but lazy, some who struggled academically but tried so hard, and some who were clearly much brighter and better writers than me!”

Andrew Panayi spent 23 years at Bede, first as a teacher and then moving into management.  He said: “Although there have been many changes over the years, not least the new building, the ethos and culture of this small sixth form college has never changed.”

Bede’s longest standing staff members are health and social care teacher, Jenny Wakefield, and English teacher, Harindar Uppal. 

Looking back, Jenny who joined the college in 1989, said: “One of the biggest changes from then and now has got to be the technology.  From over-head projectors, which we thought at the time were great, to the technology we have today.  Coping with the Covid 19 lockdowns would have been very difficult in the 90s.”

While planning her retirement this year, having worked at Bede three times during her 35-year teaching career, Harindar added: “Starting in the old building, like a boomerang I kept returning.  Now it seems quite fitting that my vocation started with Bede and beautifully will also end with Bede.”

Bede Fest, a celebration of 50 years, takes place at Bede Sixth Form College, Marsh House Avenue, Billingham, this Saturday (April 22), from 12noon to 3pm.  With an exhibition of photos, craft stalls, live performances, refreshments and fun sporting activities, admission is free, and all are welcome.

DSC 0081 Miriam Stanton Jenny Wakefield And Harindar Uppal Jenny And Harindar Patrick Jordan 3 Patrick 1998 Iip Re Validation
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