A Brief History Of Our School
St Austell County School opened for business in September 1908 and was the town's first secondary school. Youngsters showing "promise of exceptional capacity" might have received a scholarship to STACS but annual fees put secondary education beyond the reach of most working class children so the school was for a privileged few.
The school site was based in the building which we call West Block and the first Headmaster was William Raynor. He had a difficult task winning over the locals who disliked the notion of a mixed school as much as the idea of pupils aged between eight and eighteen being taught in the same building. In his two year spell as Head Raynor was faced with one obstacle after another before eventually resigning his post.
Following Raynor's brief tenure Arthur Jenkinson was appointed as Head. Like his predecessor he faced much local opposition, and he even had to face some resentment from his staff, but fortunately found an invaluable ally in the shape of school governor, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch. At Q's suggestion and with his support a House System was introduced, discipline was strictly enforced and the curriculum became more academic. The school began to improve and more importantly was beginning to be accepted within the community.
However, Jenkinson's plans for the school were short-lived as they were interrupted by the outbreak of World War One and at Christmas 1914 he volunteered for the Sportsmen's Battalion leaving the day-today running of the school to his deputy, Harry Lodge. It was not to be until after the armistice that Jenkinson would resume his position and continue to take the school forward.
Most conscious of the number of former pupils who gave their lives in the Great War Jenkinson was keen for the school to have an everlasting memorial. Indeed we must be grateful for Jenkinson's drive and determination in establishing the War Memorial Windows, which are still such a feature of West Block. Before long though Jenkinson was offered a new post in Yorkshire and in 1920 the school was looking for a new Head.
William Vernon Barritt was appointed as Jenkinson's successor and within a few months Alice Bond assumed the position of senior mistress. The two proved to be a dynamic pairing and the school went through a golden age with numerous pupils excelling academically, including A. L Rowse who was to gain a national, if not international, reputation.
In some respects though StACS became a victim of its own success and by the 1930's there was a desperate need to expand. Rather than simply agreeing to build an extension Cornwall County Council preferred to build a new school on the same site, one specifically for girls, with the original building becoming the Boy's school.
St Austell County School for Girls was officially opened in 1931 with Miss Bond as the Headmistress. Fortunately, she had an excellent working relationship with "Billy" Barritt and both schools flourished.
Barritt's and Bond's foresight and desire for harmony proved invaluable at the outbreak of the Second World War when the schools had to endure wartime hardships. Indeed Barritt willingly postponed his retirement and generously shared his school with the staff and boys of Sutton High School as they were evacuated to avoid the Plymouth blitz.
The post war era saw lots of changes. The 1944 Education Act resulted in the County Schools becoming Grammar Schools, George Brinkworth succeeded Barritt as Head of the Boys' School, and following Miss Bond retirement Miss Florence Camous became Headmistress of St Austell Girls Grammar School (StAGGS).
The days of Brinkworth and Camous were by no means as harmonious as the Barritt-Bond era and the two schools had very little to do with each other. This fact was emphasized by the building of a wall between the two schools! Nonetheless both schools thrived and gained a positive reputation in the town.
Reminiscent of the opposition against forming two separate schools in the 1930's there was great resent in the 1960's when the local education authority wished to amalgamate the two schools. Miss Camous would have none of it and resigned, along with some of her female colleagues, leaving Brinkworth as the Head of St Austell Grammar School.
The 1960's and 70's saw the school grow with the facilities being modernized and the building of new specialized classrooms for a broader curriculum. Further change and developments were on the horizon though and another change in direction for the school was imminent.
By 1975, Cornwall, like the majority of local authorities in England and Wales, had abandoned the 11-plus examination and was moving to a comprehensive school system. In St Austell this resulted in a purpose built comprehensive on the outskirts of Charlestown and the amalgamation of the Grammar School with West Hill Secondary Modern to form a new comprehensive school, Poltair.
Furthermore a purpose built Sixth Form College was built with the then Head of the Grammar School, Rex Thomas, becoming principal.
Over a four year period Poltair pupils were phased into the Grammar School buildings before being fully established in 1975. The man who oversaw this transition was A. W. Smith.
Gorran-born "Archie" was a former pupil of StACS and after a distinguished wartime career in the RAF returned to St Austell to teach at West Hill. A charismatic man and a born leader he became Head of West Hill and was a popular choice to lead Poltair School and under him Poltair became one of the most successful comprehensive schools in the county.
Former StAG chemistry teacher, John Deacon, became head of Poltair in 1982, a position he held for 17 years and throughout his time the facilities improved beyond all recognition: with a flood-lit all-weather pitch; a purpose built Dance studio erected alongside the Drama Studio; a library that became a state of the art Resourced Based Learning Centre and a modernized dedicated music suite. The title of the school changed at this time as well. At one stage we were Poltair Community School and in 1997 we were designated Poltair Community School and Sports College.
Now in the twenty first century Poltair continues to serve the community and much can be read on other pages of this website. This brief history though gives a taste of our school and the links on this page will give you more details. But what about you? Did you attend StACS, one of the Grammar Schools or Poltair? If you did, and have photographs, memorabilia or stories to share, then please contact us so you can share them here.