Local folklore had it that the great Reuben George himself chose the name ‘Commonweal’ for the ‘common good’ was always close to his heart. Â Certainly the school which opened in 1927 was referred to as the ‘people’s school’, the name justified by ‘mixing children from the town and the country around it’ and to turn out ‘large minded, broad-minded citizens of good judgement’.
Most of the 280 pupils who were the very first Commonwealeans had been transferred from the College and Euclid Street secondary schools. As their transfer had long been planned, students came in at every level and the school was ‘ready-made’ with every year represented. Mr ‘Tam’ Hartley became the first headmaster and a number of staff also came from the existing secondary schools. The building was designed for 410 pupils in total and it wasn’t long before the numbers began to rise.
September 1939 saw a sudden expansion in numbers, as about half of East Ham Grammar School, plus some thirty ‘detached’ evacuees, arrived, bringing the school population up to 530. The hall became a second gym and every available space was converted into classrooms.
In the mid-sixties, government policy decreed that the 11+ exam should disappear and Swindon should adopt the comprehensive system where the first 14+ intake arrived in September 1965.
1983 saw another major reshuffle as most Swindon schools adopted an 11-16 system, the sixth form being phased out over the next two years (as New College became established).
September 2011 saw another major change, but visible only in name, as The Commonweal School became an Academy while still retaining the Performing Arts specialism. This gives increased flexibility to ensure we can match the ever changing world of Education.
The most recent visible change has come in the form of a brand new Sixth Form building, which opened its doors to Year 12 students in September 2014, thus heralding the start of another unique chapter in the school’s history.
As a School with a long tradition we believe strongly in encouraging all students to make the most of their time with us, both academically and socially. This is achieved, we hope through a combination of enthusiastic teaching, modern resources, relevant curriculum and a caring ethos.
Extracts from ‘The Commonweal School 75 Years’