Newman School marks its 50th Anniversary as it looks ahead to the future


Five decades ago a new era of education was about to dawn in Carlisle.

And today the city’s Catholic education leaders find themselves in a similar situation.

They are close to securing land at Blackwell on which to build a brand new secondary school for which they desperately yearn.

The multi-million pound deal is expected to pave the way for long-awaited new beginnings for Newman Catholic School.

The school’s original site at Lismore Place was among the worst hit by the floods of Storm Desmond.

The 2015 floodwaters – seven foot deep in places – brought back similar horrors that the school faced during the city’s 2005 devastation.

As the second anniversary of Storm Desmond approaches, Newman School still finds itself housed in the transformed grounds of the former Pennine Way Primary School.

But in a positive and poignant event, the school’s original foundation stone was at the centre of a special service last Thursday marking 50 years of Newman School.

The date – November 23 – was significant.

It was exactly half a century since the stone was first blessed and laid at Lismore Place.

The service that day was led by the Rt Rev Monsignor Canon Richard Lawrence Smith.

He was chairman of governors at St Patrick’s School which amalgamated with nearby St Gabriel’s and led to the creation of Cardinal Newman School, which opened in 1968.

Its name later changed to Newman Catholic School.

That 1967 service was held outdoors.

Photographs from the News & Star archives show how workmen in flat caps downed tools to watch from their spot high up on surrounding scaffolding.

Rows of wooden school chairs were lined up on grass too for guests as pupils stood obediently behind them.

This time round the re-dedication service was held indoors, in the warmth of a hall.

Current students were joined by civic leaders, former pupils, Catholic supporters, representatives from the Department for Education, Cumbria County Council leader Stewart Young and city MP John Stevenson.

The foundation stone was recently rescued from the entrance lobby of the redundant school building in Lismore Place.

John McAuley is one of only five headteachers to lead the school over the last 50 years.

Mr McAuley, who hopes a new Newman School can be built and ready to open in September 2019, said: “The flooding of 2015 made us realise that we can’t return to Lismore Place and we’re not going to stay here so now we’re in the process of looking ahead.”

He also described the significance of the foundation stone to the school and larger Catholic community.

“It is like our standard,” he said. “It was with us at Lismore Place, it is with us here and it will come with us when we move.

“When we moved here virtually overnight we were all very tentative and unsure of what was going to happen.

“There were concerns about how were the students going to react but we quickly learned and saw how the ethos of the school underpins everything.

“It is poignant too because it shows that the tradition of Catholic schooling will continue in Carlisle.”

He added: “We’re going to see some difficult times ahead but we are going to continue to flourish.

“We will have a wonderful new school on a new site. We will be able to remember back over the last 50 years and share in what these people were thinking when they put in place the foundation stone for a new Catholic school in Carlisle to foster that education and need for learning.”

Local parish priest Father Michael Docherty, deputy head of the Diocese of Lancaster’s education service, led Thursday’s re-dedication and blessing.

He said: “It is important that we recognise those who previous generations who invested in the future here.

“It was the Catholic community coming together to put their hope in future generations.”

Newman School also has the support of the Catholic fraternal group the Knights of St Columba.

The local branch has launched a £75,000 appeal to raise funds to ensure that Newman School’s new base can have a chapel.

Fr Michael also highlighted how Newman School was recently recognised as being the highest performing school in the city according to the Government’s Progress 8 measure following the summer’s exam results.

It is also the highest performing secondary school in the Diocese of Lancaster area, he added.

“It is an amazing achievement for a school in its present situation”, he said.

The school is not only operating on its temporary site.

It is also working on improvements to ensure it can be taken out of special measures which were imposed in March after it failed an Ofsted inspection.