Excellence in the Heart of the Community
Wade Deacon Trust
The history of Hillside goes back over a hundred years and takes in two school buildings and eight Headteachers. The school is very different now from the one that was opened in 1910 at a site in Balliol Road, but in following that story through we can learn not just about how teaching and learning has developed over time but also how much life in Bootle has changed over a century.
The site of our school today is an impressive building at the top of Breeze Hill that includes a main school building built in 1932 and a modern Sports Centre from 2006; the main school building also shows many differences from the way it was when formally opened. The needs of children and society develop and the building has been adapted along the way to meet those needs. The story shows how Hillside became a ‘mixed school’ – for girls and boys – when it took its name to become a ‘comprehensive school’ in 1972. Before then, apart from some time during the Second World War, it had been a school for girls only.
Bootle Secondary School for Girls in Balliol Road: 1910-1932
This first school was opened in the early years of the 20th century, at a time when education and schooling was being developed across the country to meet the needs of the new century. The importance of better opportunities in education for girls in particular was seen to be very important. This school was for Bootle girls with high academic ability, and it matched a Boys Secondary School that had been opened three years earlier.
It was opened on Balliol Road between Bootle Baths and the Boys School. Today, both of those school buildings have been demolished and replaced by a teaching block for Hugh Baird College.
The Headmistress from 1910 to 1926 was Lydia Taylor and her Assistant Mistress was Helen Hunter. In 1926 Dr. E.M.Steuart became Headmistress and remained in office until 1953.
It was soon clear that the school was not large enough to cope with the number of girls who would go there. Three local houses were bought and adapted, but a better solution was needed. The answer was provided by the Earl of Derby who sold Bootle Council an excellent plot of land at the top of Breeze Hill for a very low price. This is, of course, the site of the present school.
Work began in 1930, at the same time as work was done to build Southport Road. It was completed in 1932 and all the pupils of that time were walked up to their new building for the Opening Ceremony. At the front of the school we can still see the stones commemorating the opening as well as the Foundation Stone.
This was a brand new building designed to provide the very best opportunities for Bootle girls who were able to gain high enough marks in their tests at the age of ten to permit them a place.
Schooling was interrupted badly for children on Merseyside throughout the Second World War. The fear of bombing led to politicians and parents seeking to remove the children from Bootle and relocate them somewhere safer. Between 1939 and 1945 girls at Breeze Hill had three main options. Some joined with a body from the Boys’ School in Southport; others were evacuated with Dr. Steuart and some teachers to Kington in Herefordshire to stay with local families or in the large house called Hergest Croft; whilst the school at Breeze Hill remained open for girls and boys under the care of Assistant Head Mary Mercer.
The school returned to normal at the end of the war, but now embraced a national change in education by becoming Bootle Grammar School for Girls.
Teaching staff with Dr. Steuart in 1952
Assembly with the Head
Hillside High School: 1972 – Present day
It remained so until changing times led to a wish for children of all academic abilities to be taught together in one institution, putting an end to what was known as the “Eleven Plus” exam in the final year of Primary School and which decided the future of children at that early age. Bootle Council drew up large plans for the reorganisation of all its schools, and Hillside was designed to amalgamate with the local, mixed Balliol Secondary School in 1972. David Terry was brought into Bootle to become Headteacher and lead the new school.
Productions have always been very popular at Hillside. This was “The Toytown Terror ... When Noddy went bad”. Sharp eyes may detect a young Mr. Carr!
Hillside has changed dramatically since the early years of that amalgamation and has gradually and very successfully found its ethos as a child-centred community under the Headship of Laetitia Shemilt. As the school entered the 21st century it began to improve its examination results to meet pupil needs and stand as a centre of excellence in Merseyside. In the summer of 2013 it achieved a best-ever set of results, better than any school in the local area that covers both Sefton and Liverpool.
You can read a full account of the growth of the school from 1910 to 2013 in “Learning at Breeze Hill: a short history of Hillside High School” by John Phillips, published by Countyvise (ISBN 978-1-906823-75-7) at £6.99