Forest of Needwood High School
Aerial view of the Forest of Needwood High School provided by David Yates (probably taken c1977)
Which organisation opened its doors in our village on 1st September 1963, became a focus for community life throughout its short existence and closed on 31st March 1985 after a conscientious and often bitter battle?
The answer, as everyone who lived in Rolleston during this time will know, is the Forest of Needwood High School.
The ‘Forest’, as it was affectionately known, began life as a Secondary Modern School moving from Tutbury to Rolleston in 1963 when the then brand new buildings were opened. From its opening it set out to serve more than just the pupils who attended - it opened its heart to village organisations and was the base for the thriving adult and youth organisations.
It was, however, in the 70s and 80s that the school really made its mark in the village. The national wave of comprehensive education swept through Rolleston and the Forest in 1973 and the school rapidly began to establish a reputation second to none in the area for academic excellence. In this field no single subject was exceptional, the school successfully built upon the superb work done in its feeder primaries to achieve the highest standards in ‘O’ level. GCSE, ‘A’ level and University entrants.
However, it was not just in the academic field that the school led the way - it was the centre of community life for people of all ages in our village and beyond. It was not only the base for the highly successful (and never repeated locally) Adult Education and Youth Service organisations, with between them, many thousands of members, but also home to the massively popular music festivals and the regular dances promoted by the Scouts, PTA and others. Events such as the school’s own drama festivals, "It’s a Knockout", all night discotheques, the visits of Radio One famous personalities and others too numerous to mention made village life for all ages exciting, with a never ending anticipation for the next "event at the Forest".
Such was its success and growth that in the late 70s the playing fields were extended and new buildings, which included a swimming pool (the only one in the schools in the Burton area) were built.
How sad to see all that achievement destroyed. Fifteen years on from its closure, history has proven beyond doubt that the decision taken then was not to the benefit of the young people of our village. However, one must be positive and remember the successes. For the generation who lived through those brief twenty-two years of the millennium, the ‘Forest’ remains a wonderful memory - may everyone connected with the school have an equally rewarding 21st century. (M.J. Badcock).
Recollections of the Skool wot disappeared
The walls are down, the bricks crushed into hardcore, and the site in Rolleston cleared. Nevertheless, memories of “The Forest” linger, fondly for many. Read some recollections here.
The village website attracts visitors from around the world - many are former residents of the village or ex-pupils/teachers of the Forest of Needwood High School. Some of these are trying to trace old school friends - even the odd 'favourite' teacher(!). Here is one such example:
"I have just discovered the Rolleston website you look after, and noticed an item by M J Badcock. I was a pupil of his from ........ and remember him fondly. I would love to get in touch with him via email. My name is ........... and I am currently a successful Music Publisher in .......... Just wanted to let him know how I have done since leaving the Forest of Needwood High and how his evenings & youth club influenced my career path."
As Village Webmaster I will do my best to put people in touch and have private addresses of a number of former pupils and teachers - it is up to them if they wish to reply however. A few ex-Rollestonians have published their details here.
FriendsReunited is also an excellent source. It is a simple to use website that allows you to find out what your old school friends are doing now. There are several hundred ex Forest pupils registered on it!
Although the Forest buildings have been demolished memories will survive.
Rolleston Youth Club
Robert Cox has written a book on local bands in the 1970s, many of whom performed at Rolleston. It is likely to be published in early 2006.
Can you remember the bands, the DJs, and the Youth Club’s own “go-go” dancers.
To jog your memories, some of the groups and Radio One DJs that performed at Rolleston in the 70s are listed here:
1970 Six Across
1971 Emperor Rosko
1972 Dave Lee Travis
1972, 1973, 1977 Light Fantastic
1973 Pieces Fit
1973 The New Pennies
1973 Noel Edmonds – Radio One Club
1973 Chicken Shack
1973 Steve Jones
1973 The Radio Luxemburg Roadshow
1974 Principle Edwards Magic Theatre
1974 Johnny Walker
1974 Ice Cream
1975 Junior High and the Rockets
1975 Paul Burnett
1976 Love Affair
1976 Stevenson’s Rocket
1977 Slik (with Midge Ure)
1977 J.A.L.N. Band
1977 Kid Jenson
1977 The Montanas
1976 Peter Powell
1978 Simon Bates
1979 Tony Blackburn
mid 70s Real Thing
mid 70s Supertramp
If you have any old school photos, eg. pupils, teachers, sports day, 'the 15 mile hike', youth club, etc that you would like to share then email the and I'll see what I can put together.
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© This site was created by Richard Bush
Last updated: 21 February 2006