FEW and far between are the schools which mark their founders with a week of celebrations.
But Saint Martin’s in Solihull is one such establishment – hosting numerous events on the week of its ‘birthday’ in honour of founders Christine Tucker and Zelie Bull, who, in 1941 and in the midst of the Second World War, embodied the British spirit by opening a school for girls in the town.
From humble beginnings, the independent school for girls in Brueton Avenue has gone on to become one of the top of its kind in the country, priding itself not only on its academic prowess, but its all-round education.
A strong focus on traditions is just one of the priorities of Saint Martin’s – and this saw staff, parents and pupils come together to mark its 76th birthday in the usual way – with an Anniversary Prize Giving, Service of Celebration and Thanksgiving at St Alphege Church, a birthday lunch and a Commemoration Ball.
Continuing the tradition of tradition, the school’s annual prizegiving features as its special guest a Saint Martin’s ‘Old Girl’ – someone who has gone on to achieve great things since leaving Malvern Hall behind.
This year’s special guest was Rachel Orton – now a senior manager at Ernst & Young, but who has had a rich and varied working life.
Having trained as a nurse, Rachel worked at the renowned Great Ormond Street Hospital, supported a malnutrition clinic in Ghana and worked at Boston Children’s Hospital in America before heading to Sydney, Australia where she took up a post as a management consultant in the health advisory team at PwC.
Rachel recently moved back to the UK to work with Ernst & Young, leading large transformation projects focusing on operational turnaround of underperforming NHS hospital.
She had previously spoken to and inspired the Saint Martin’s girls during a careers event and was a hugely popular choice as special guest.
Prizegiving was followed by the school’s annual Service of Celebration and Thanksgiving at St Alphege Church where thanks is paid to the founders and a wreath is laid at the memorial stone of Christine Tucker and Zelie Bull in the churchyard.
Tributes to the two remarkable women were read out by pupils during the service – including this excerpt:
“We are gathered here today to commemorate our school and the day it was founded.
“We remember the people who made it happen, Miss Bull and Miss Tucker, whose vision and determination led to our school being the magnificent place it is now.
“Even at a time of great turmoil, these two ladies opened the doors of opportunity for many girls.
“We give thanks for their courage and hope, as without them we would not be here today.
“As they watch over us, help us to live by the qualities that they would have instilled upon us: to be kind, hardworking and thoughtful and to give something back to the world we live in.”
A celebration lunch followed the service back at school before pupils and staff enjoyed a day off on Friday (November 24) to mark the official birthday.
The week’s celebrations were completed by a Commemoration Ball at Nuthurst Grange for Year 11 and Sixth Formers and their parents.
Saint Martin’s Headteacher Nicola Smillie said Commemoration Week was a vitally important part of the Saint Martin’s annual calendar.
“History and tradition are what have made our school the wonderful place it is today.
“While we always look to the future, keeping our past and those who made it at the forefront of our minds allows us to maintain the Saint Martin’s ethos for future generations.
“Paying tribute to our founders is very special for us.
“Miss Tucker and Miss Bull were inspirational women who, in the middle of the Second World War, set up a school to nurture the future of Solihull’s young women.
“Their gumption and determination in the face of adversity is one of the best example we can give to our current pupils to set them off on their journey of life.
For more information about the school – and how to become a part of it – visit: www.saintmartins-school.com.