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In December 1955, Miss Rushton left to take up a similar appointment in another part of the country. During her three years, much had been done towards solving the kind of problems associated with re-organisation and the establishment of a new school in an old building, and the sails were set fair for sound progress. Miss E. McKaig succeeded as Headmistress in April 1956, with Miss Irlam as Acting Headmistress during the intervening period. A school badge was designed from the coat of arms of the Birch family, the Lords of the Manor in Medieval days, and their emblem of the fleur de Iys was used.
By September 1955, the entry into the 1st year was 114, coming from 11 primary schools but with the majority from Ross Place and Armitage Street. In 1956, it totalled 120, and the school also received several girls from Chester Street School, which was closing. in 1958, there was an interesting and stimulating development. The Education Committee, in furtherance of its policy of extending opportunities, allowed the Secondary Modern Schools as the non-selective Secondary Schools were now called, to have a selective stream; and this applied to both Ardwick Girls and Nicholls Boys from September 1958. 17 were admitted on this basis to the Girls school. In 1959 the figure was 24; 21 in 1960 and 19 in 1961. This brought a certain amount of incentive and status to the school and 5 year courses were begun in Needlework, Housecraft, Art, Mathematics, French, History, English Literature, Religious Knowledge and Biology. The U.L.C.I. and G.C.E. "O" Level Examinations were taken for the first time in 1963. It still remained possible, nevertheless, for girls to take the Authority's examination at 13 for transfer to one of the city's Technical High Schools. Indeed in 1961, the school acted as a centre for 114 candidates, presumably from the area.
Anita Holden, a former student at the school told me that, "In the years prior to 1959 the school had no set uniform and it was only when the GCE stream was introduced that uniforms also initiated. Only pupils in the "E"stream as it was known i.e.1e, 2e, 3e, 4e, 5e had the privelage of the uniforms. Anita and Glyn Casey, another former students at the school, said that the girls wore navy-blue skirts, that were no shorter than knee length, navy-blue jumpers and cardigans with white or blue shirts, white socks and a dark and light blue striped tie.
Although the establishment of a selective stream, with its prescribed academic requirements, brought a new dimension to the school, yet the "normal" work of the school had a good deal of variety, interest and incentive. As early as 1952, the whole school embarked on particular activities each Tuesday morning up to break. Indoor games, especially gymnastics, were popular, but an interesting range of pursuits gained much support from volunteer groups, made up to include all age ranges, Embroidery, Work in the Library, Flower arranging and Ju Jitsu were some of them. Formal examinations in main subjects were held twice a year and there was a classifying examination for the 1 st year. Yet "fringe" activities were always in evidence. Gardening groups travelled out to Parrs Wood. Classes attended special lectures or courses at the Athenaeum and Manchester Museum. In January 1962, a course of lessons was held at Platt Hall gallery. Much work was done in local History,with groups visiting various libraries. In 1958 the school won 2nd prize in the Ceylon Tea Project Exhibition, organised by the Athenaeum. By 1962, Biology and Geography Day Field Study exercises were held regularly, mainly in the Peak District, and 18 girls from 3E spent a week on a Field Study course at the M.E.C. Ghyll Head Outdoor Pursuits Centre. Parts of the building were enlivened by displays of Art work and Pictures obtained through the M.E.C. Loan Scheme. Girls often won prizes and commendations for flower arrangements. In June 1956, 2 gold, 2 silver and 4 merit awards were won at the Manchester College of Art display, and in July 1950, at Platt Fields Flower Show, the school gained 2 firsts,1 second and 1 third in the Children's Section. In company with other schools, Road Safety was regarded as a matter of real importance, and in 1960, the school team reached the final stages of the competition. Voluntary work for old people was established as part of the Housecraft course in October 1965. By 1957 the school had a Student Christian Movement group; in 1964, 1965, and 1966, they participated in conferences held in Nicholls building for the Christian Endeavour Movement. The Day Conference of the Council of Christians and Jews was also supported in April 1967. Earlier in February 1958, 31 from the 4th year, attended St. Anne's Church on the occasion of Women's World Day of Prayer, when Barbara Lord, Head Girl, read the lesson.
Music and Drama were not neglected. On occasions, soloists gave music recitals. On one of these occasions, adjacent schools helped to make up the audience. Groups attended Halle concerts when the opportunity arose. In 1952, Miss Riall and Dr. Chapman, M.E.C. Music Advisers, came to rehearse the school choir as it developed. Some were members of a Manchester Schoolchildren's choir which gave a concert in October 1956. Later, with its own music staff, the school took part in an Area Schools Music Festival in 1961, a recorder festival in June 1962, and also a choir festival in that year. Form 3E represented the school in the carol singing around the Albert Square Christmas Tree in December 1960. On another occasion, a 2nd year recorder group, with Claudette Linton, a pupil who was an excellent singer, visited Manchester University Settlement's over-60 Club to give a concert with some 3rd year girls, who made and served tea and cakes.
There were regular visits to the theatre, especially the Library Theatre, and the cinema. In February 1962, the Theatre Centre Company gave a lecture and demonstrations on some of the plays of Shakespeare to a large audience from school in St. Matthew's Hall; In January 1966, they paid a return visit, presenting excerpts from the classics. A school drama group had used St. Matthew's Hall in July 1961 to present "The King's Messenger", "The Bishop's Candlesticks" and "The Willow Pattern Plate". In successive years from May 1957, the school had participated in the Adventure Theatre Guild Festival at the Free Trade Hall with "Hereward the Wake"; "Luggage in Advance" (1958), "The Stones of Pouhenic" (1959) and "The Princess and the Swineherd" (1960).