King David bids farewell to old school

By Jonathan Kalmus, July 22, 2011
The last exit for pupils

The last exit for pupils

Pupils paid a fond and fun farewell to the King David schools campus on their last day before its demolition to make way for playing fields adjoining KD's new £25 million premises opening in September.

On Tuesday, pupils took advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to graffiti the walls without punishment, scrawling goodbye messages and name tags under the indulgent gaze of teachers. Fixtures and fittings were among the souvenirs taken to remember the Childwall premises, where two generations of Liverpool Jewry have been schooled since 1957. Actor Jason Isaacs is among its old boys.

During the clear-out operation, staff uncovered a treasure trove of valuable items. A volume of the works of ancient Jewish historian Josephus, printed in 1794, and one of the UK's only Hebrew typewriters were among the finds. Another was a Tenach presented by Jewish passengers to the first commodore of the Queen Mary on the ship's maiden voyage.

The last day of term also marked the retirement of King David High's Jewish studies head Michael Gillis, who joined the school in 1977. At that point, he recalled, the school's pupil population was 80 per cent Jewish. Today Jewish students account for just under 15 per cent of its 660 pupils.

"I've seen tolerance, knowledge and respect come from having a mixed faith school, but it has been challenging," Mr Gillis said. "The Jewish kids are more Jewish because they are now a minority. But the key test is if they identify with the Jewish community 30 or 40 years after they leave."

Lauren Miller pens a farewell message on the school hall wall: “The Jewz were here 2K11”

Lauren Miller pens a farewell message on the school hall wall: “The Jewz were here 2K11”

Governors are in the process of appointing a campus director of Jewish studies responsible for the Jewish ethos in all KD sections.

Year 10 pupil Jordan Brookes said the final day on the premises had been a "riot" of a time. "Everyone has been taking the fire exit signs," he reported.

Year seven student Tegan Grugel - whose mother was a KD pupil and now teaches at its kindergarten - was "happy to see the buildings go because they are wrecked". The budding painter looked forward to using the art studios at the new campus.

She has sold artworks to raise £250 for Wirral's Clatterbridge Hospital, where her late cousin and former King David pupil Tilly Rosenblatt was a cancer patient. Ruby Morris, 15, was "looking forward to much better and cleaner facilities in the new school - and less smelly toilets".

English teacher Helen Lingwood, another former pupil, found it emotional to see "everything torn off the walls.

"You can't help that sentimental feeling," she said, "because for many of us, our childhood is here".

Last updated: 10:43am, July 22 2011