Mrs G Sayers Speech during Our 50th Anniversary Mass

Read a transcript of Mrs Sayers' speech celebrating 50 years of Catholic Education at St. Mary's Menston.

Photo: Mrs Sayers giving the speech during our 50th Anniversary Mass, 30 June 2015

Photo: Mrs Sayers giving the speech during our 50th Anniversary Mass, 30 June 2015

Good morning everyone,

In 1966, two years after this great school was opened, I began my teacher training course at the newly opened Trinity and All Saints College in Horsforth, now known as Leeds Trinity University (at which St. Mary’s carole service is held every year). I was one of the very first students to enter the college. One year later, in 1967 I met Roger Sayers who later became my husband (and still is).

In 1970, my husband completed his teacher training at the college and he applied for the post of Teacher of Art here at St. Mary’s. He was appointed by Mr Dalton and so began our long, fulfilling, rewarding relationship with this excellent institution. During our teacher training, we spent many weeks (in those days) on school teaching practices. We used to climb into the minibuses every morning and go off to all our schools, all across the local area and West Yorkshire.

Even though Roger and I did not actually do any teaching practice here at St. Mary’s, our friends returned to college, on an evening, with tales of a very straight, determined irishman who ruled this school with an iron first. That man, Mr John Joseph Dalton was the ‘founding father’ of this outstanding school. Over the years Roger grew to respect Mr Dalton, an exemplary educationalist. He admired the strengths of a great disciplinarian who set the standards for all who studied here. Mr Dalton always said that every day was a gift from God and therefore there was never a bad day. Many students (and I have also to say the staff) approached his office when summoned with great trepidation. John Dalton had the foresight and ambition to establish a centre of Catholic Education in north west Leeds, to cater for the children of the five parishes. We have much to thank him for. He retired from his post here in 1987 and enjoyed his retirement, until his death in 2001. in the memorial garden at the front of the school, a cherry tree was planted to commemorate his great life and his enormous contribution to this school and catholic education.

My husband and I live in Otley, exactly one mile from St. Mary’s and when I used to drop my husband off here each morning on my way to the very far side of Bradford to teach at St Margaret Clitherow High School, I always wished I worked here – obviously, because it would have been much easier for commuting, but also because, even then, St. Mary’s had a very, very good reputation and I wanted to be part of it. During Roger’s time here, I developed a strong relationship with the staff, I attended the events of the school, staff functions, drama productions and always supported the sports teams which Roger helped run (he ran a football team and a cricket team) and I got to know a lot of the students because many lived locally. My husband taught here at St. Mary’s for the whole of his teaching career and he retired in 2003 (and is thoroughly enjoying a long retirement, I have to say!).

In 1988, I was a mother at home, looking after my family, when I received a telephone call from the then deputy headteacher, Mr Michael Walsh, who I am glad to have met today. He asked me to do one day’s supply for an absent member of staff. I accepted and I stayed here until 2012, when I retired (and I too am enjoying a nice retirement). I have to say, I spent the best 24 years of my life - teaching and directing the most wonderful young people in the Sixth Form and helping them to realise their dreams.

My husband and I have known all the headteachers during the school’s history – from Mr John Dalton, Mr Tony Duffin, Mr Michael Pyle, Acting Headteacher Mrs Cath McMahon and Mr Rob Pritchard. We had both retired before Mr Rothwell and Miss Garrett and then Mr Beardsley were appointed.

Living in the parish of Our Lady and All Saints, Otley our daughter Catherine and our son Joseph progressed from St. Joseph’s Otley to be educated here. For that, we are very thankful for. As we celebrate this golden anniversary of Catholic education, we look back over 50 years and we remember all the staff and students who played a major role in establishing this school as one of the best, not only in the Yorkshire area, but also in the country. These people inherited the high standards set by those who went before. Those standards are how we live our lives. Just as I was about to retire, Mr Baines created the wonderful, artistic images of The Beatitudes, displayed throughout the school to remind us all about our mission. That mission has been, and continues to be fulfilled at St. Mary’s.

I was delighted to hear that Ofsted has finally awarded Outstanding status to this school. This is an outstanding school because first and foremost people care for eachother. We care for, we remember and honour those who have gone before us – both staff and students. Our beautiful memorial gardens, the dedicated pitches on the Artificial Turf Pitch and the memorial ceremonies we have are testament to that. Outstanding teachers have, and still develop, long lasting relationships with their students. The students respond whole heartedly by developing their talents in all areas personal, social, spiritual, academic and sporting to enable them to attain their dreams and to make a valuable contribution to society...and the other side of the triangle - the parents. They support all that is done. Academic achievement is high and is well recognised. But over and above that the influence of our Christian mission is felt and appreciated in our local community and beyond.

Helping others has always been at the forefront of the school’s plan. The charitable work has provided friendship, love and funds for those we have supported. The annual pilgrimages to Lourdes and Walsingham have an amazing impact on those people that the students support, and what is more, the students have described the experience as ‘life changing’. Our partnership with Mnyakanya School in South Africa is well established and I was fortunate enough to take part in the annual visit, a rare opportunity to help others, but also, more importantly, to learn so much more then that which can be gained in traditional ways. Our Advent Appeal is always a highlight of the year, to encourage and support our charities. I always used to look forward to the Fancy Dress Day which heralded the start of the Advent Appeal and which set the tone for the school’s fundraising activities – and I really do miss the dressing up!

The school has grown beyond recognition. When I attended the 50th Anniversary Garden Party in May, I met many past students who were taught by my husband and they were amazed at the level of physical development. Some of them attended the school when the total student population was only 300. They remembered seeing a herd of cows grazing on what is now the Artificial Turf Pitch. They would have relished the opportunity to play sport in a huge sports hall as they only had the gym.

I would like to wish all those who are involved in the school many many more years of Catholic Education on this site and I would like to finish by saying the Morning Offering. We used to say this in form time and assembly every day:

O Lord God Almighty,
You have brought us to the beginning of another day
Keep us while it lasts,
Under Your Protection
so that we may think, speak and act in accordance with Your Holy Will
— Mrs G Sayers, 50th Anniversary Mass, 30 June 2015