Ex-pupils and staff are being invited to help a Derby primary school celebrate its 70th anniversary.

St John Fisher Catholic Voluntary Academy, in Alvaston Street, Alvaston, is holding an open evening on Tuesday, June 20th, when ex-pupils and staff can tour the school, look through old photos and reminisce about their time there.

On the same day the Bishop of Nottingham, Patrick McKinney, will celebrate Mass with current pupils and staff in the school grounds.

One of the school’s longest serving members of staff, Elaine Sanger, is looking forward to the anniversary celebrations.

A cover teacher at the school, Mrs Sanger teaches classes from Reception to Year 6 when she is required. Next year, she will have been at the school for 30 years, plus two years before that as a volunteer.

She joined St John Fisher as a Teaching Assistant with a focus on children with special needs. Prior to that she worked in a school nursery and children’s home in Derby.

Mrs Sanger said: “Children have been my life. When I joined the school as a TA we only had two TAs across the whole school. The Headteacher at the time was Sister Laetitia, a nun. As well as being a TA I also looked after the display boards as Sister Laetitia wanted everything to look nice.”

Later, Mrs Sanger (pictured below) became a Higher Level Teaching Assistant and studied for a BA Honours in Education whilst working at St John Fisher, which is part of the St Ralph Sherwin Catholic Multi Academy Trust.

She said: “I spent seven years studying but it all paid off. I enjoy what I do. I love teaching different classes and seeing the children progress from Reception to Year 6.  Now I see parents who I used to teach picking their children up from school. It’s nice to see the generations come through. Lots of children here will say to me ‘you’ve taught my mum or dad’ and then they ask how old I am! I’ve worked for 11 Headteachers and they have all brought nice things to the school.

“I’ve seen lots of changes but I’ve also seen things come full circle. The national curriculum was created, before that it was nuns running the school and it was left to them, as long as they did English and Maths. There are some things that have come round again and I’ve thought I remember doing that 20 years ago.

“I have three boys and they’ve all come to this school. I used to tell them not to ask me anything in lessons as I needed to tend to the other children, they were very good about it.”

Mrs Sanger said she cannot envisage her life without St John Fisher, which she describes as “one big family.”

She said: “This school is very important to the community and the children, we are like one big family. We are one of the smaller schools in Derby and we all work together, it’s great and I can’t imagine life without St John Fisher. I’ve still got the drive in me and I want to carry on learning. I am looking forward to the anniversary and it will be nice to see some old faces.”

Saul Ratcliffe, Headteacher at St John Fisher, said: “I feel extremely privileged to be Headteacher of St John Fisher at this historic time. Having been a part of Catholic education since my childhood, I understand the importance of this event, not just for those in our present school community, but for those who have been a member of the St John Fisher community at any point in the last 70 years.

“Having been involved here since September 2020, I have seen a number of changes, mainly from the pandemic, however, one thing that stands out is the support of the staff and parents.

“It will be a great opportunity for the children to be part of this historic event, something I hope they remember for a number of years to come, maybe even a part of the 100th celebrations in 2053!”

Sue Paxton is a former student who began attending St John Fisher in 1965.

She went on to become a Teaching Assistant at St John Fisher and her own children attended the school.

Sue said she has some great memories of school, including a visit to the Tutankhamun tomb in the early 1970s at a museum in London, with the nuns who taught her.

She said: “We did lots of fun stuff, it was really, really good, I remember from my first day to my leaving day, it was really good fun, I loved it.

“They took us to Wembley. To watch the ladies’ England hockey final. The nuns took us, we’d all been knitting a long scarf, and we looped it between us all so we could all hold onto it in the crowds, so nobody got lost. I remember Sister Gertrude hanging on at the back.

“My girls’ memories are just as positive; they had a great time at the school.

“One of my favourite memories was school dinners. You had like a monitor job and if you got the monitor job at the table, you knew you were going to have the biggest dinner out of everyone at the table.”