R A Butler marks half century with a day of celebration

RAB School Anniversary

RAB School Anniversary - Credit: Archant

The R A Butler Academy in Saffron Walden reached a milestone last week.

The primary school marked its 50th anniversary on November 11 with a day of celebration and remembrance.

To celebrate the occasion, the school held a special assembly at Saffron Hall attended by 540 pupils, staff, governors and representatives from the fundraising body FORAB who all saw a short film, compiled by Year 3 teacher Dean Boddington.

The school is named after Richard Austin Butler, familiarly known as Rab, who became a Member of Parliament for Saffron Walden in 1929. He introduced the groundbreaking 1944 Education Act, guaranteeing free primary and secondary education for all.

By the time he retired in 1965, Lord Butler was the longest serving member of the House of Commons and was awarded a life peerage the same year, becoming Baron Butler of Saffron Walden. On November 11, 1965, Lord Butler attended the official opening ceremony of R A Butler School. He died in 1982.

At the assembly were Sir Alan Haselhurst, the current MP for Saffron Walden, John Hartley, headteacher of Saffron Walden County High School and Arthur Millie, who was R A Butler’s headteacher at the school’s 10th anniversary.

Each primary school year group performed a song from a decade since the 1960s. The audience heard performances from the school choir and orchestra. Acting headteacher Emma Johnson and Mark Hughes, chairman of governors, spoke about the school over the years.

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The assembly coincided with Armistice Day and, after a poignant rendition of the Last Post by a Year 6 pupil, the auditorium fell silent for two minutes.

The children all wore hand-made poppies and each class had made giant replica poppies. These were delivered to the stage during the singing to create a striking backdrop. The centrepiece was one gold poppy to marry the themes of celebration and remembrance.

After a special anniversary lunch at school, the children buried a time capsule in the grounds. Each class had chosen a selection of artefacts around the theme “What does R A Butler mean to me?” Archive footage and old photos of the school were also included. A commemorative tree donated by Audley End was planted next to the capsule.

The school hosted an afternoon tea party for all children, parents and staff. They were joined by former students, staff and alumni.

Mrs Johnson said: “Saffron Hall provided a spectacular venue and our assembly was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the vibrancy and spirit of R A Butler. The children were exceptional.”

She added: “The day was a fabulous celebration of R A Butler past and present and a wonderful way to bring the school and community together. The children enjoyed every moment and we hope to have created so many wonderful memories for the next 50 years.”

In recognition of the 50th anniversary, the school received a letter from Nicky Morgan, the Secretary of State for Education, acknowledging the achievements of R A Butler over the past half century.