The Archdiocese of Birmingham - The Parish of the Immaculate Conception
St. Mary's Catholic Primary School
Extracts from the 2013 OFSTED report on St. Mary’s School:
“Pupils have exemplary attitudes to learning and are very considerate of one another. Their excellent behaviour reflects the strongly-held Catholic values of the school. These are reinforced by a ‘focus of the week’, such as remembering to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ “
“Pupils say they feel very safe at school and that there is no bullying at all. They know all about different kinds of bullying, such as name calling and cyber bullying, and produced some high quality entries for a recent anti-bullying poster competition, which revealed the depth of their understanding.”
“Attendance is above average, reflecting pupils’ great enjoyment of school.”
“The many imaginative and purposeful activities, both inside and outside, mean children make good progress in all areas of learning. For example, children enjoyed serving the inspector a ‘meal’ in their Chinese restaurant, having taken his order and ‘cooked’ the rice while he waited, insisting that he use chopsticks to eat with. “
“Pupils make good progress across all year groups because teaching is consistently good.”
Originally founded by Rev. Fr. Philip Sweeny from Hethe in and opened on the 19th of March 1883, the School predates the parish by many years. At that time there were just six Catholic families in Bicester, all are described as being very poor. Fr. Sweeny’s school does not seem to have been the first Catholic educational establishment in Bicester. The Bicester Herald of the 4th of December 1868, in a cryptic one line report, informed its readers that a Catholic school had opened and that a Catholic chapel was being spoken of at Bicester. Hewitt’s Directory of Bicester, for 1870, lists a Miss. Harriett Luker who is described as a “Catholic school mistress”. This school certainly seems to have had the support of Lord and Lady North but the school seems to disappear from the records shortly afterwards.
Fr. Sweeny’s foundation, a purpose stone built single room school, stood on the site now occupied by the Montgomery House Health Centre. Over the years the original school was augmented by the addition of an infants’ room and, in the late 1930s, just before the outbreak if the Second World War, two new classrooms. It is possibly an indication of how times have changed that the plans for the new classrooms shows them as being roofed with corrugated asbestos sheeting with adjustable asbestos ridging. The war years saw the addition of a brick built Catholic Women’s League Canteen that would serve the increasing numbers of service personnel in the town, next to the school. This would, in turn, become part of the school proper.
Space was always a problem on the original site with classes being held in the head-teacher’s office and the former C.W.L. Canteen, and even in St. Edburg’s School. As early as August 1956 there are records of discussions taking place concerning the building of two new classrooms on a site allocated by the County Authority. By the start of the academic year in September 1958 the new classrooms adjacent to the Workhouse Path off Queen’s Avenue were ready and the school began a slow migration to the new site. The new school, just like Topsy, Just grew and grew. The original Piggy Lane site was, by degrees, closed down and in the late 1980s, sold off.
The original twelve children who were present at the original school in March 1883 has now grown to 270 at the time of the last OFSTED inspection and are taught under the present head mistress, Miss. Patricia Pickering. The most recent OFSTED report of the 19th-20th February 2013 rated the School as good in the achievements of the pupils, the quality of the teaching and in leadership and management, and as outstanding in the behaviour of the pupils. 91% of the 47 parents who responded to a survey would recommend the school to another parent.