16 August 2023

Turner students past and present connect at school's 70th birthday celebration

| Travis Radford
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Alan Chapman and Sascha Aidman.

One of Turner’s earliest students Alan Chapman and current kindergarten student Sascha Aidman at the school’s 70th birthday celebration. Photo: Supplied.

The Turner Pledge has been recited at school assemblies since the public primary school first opened 70 years ago in 1953.

It was spoken again this month when the Turner School’s current and former students and staff gathered together to celebrate the milestone.

Referring to the original sporting houses, Gloucester, Gowrie, Isaacs and Stonehaven, which were named after early Governor Generals, and the students’ quest for truth and good citizenship, the pledge is a lasting tradition which connects students across the generational divide, principal Allison Edmonds said.

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“There’s a beautiful story of some current students who travelled overseas and their dad was a Turner student in the 1980s,” she said.

“They met up with an ex-Turner student from back in the 1980s and the students were wearing their Turner jackets while they were travelling.

“As soon as this former student saw the Turner jackets, he knelt down and he said the Turner Pledge with them and they recognised it straight away.”

Cutting cake at Turner School.

Current Turner School students cut a birthday cake to commemorate the school’s 70th birthday. Photo: Supplied.

Alan Chapman was among the former students who attended the 70th birthday celebration. He went to Turner from 1954 to 1960, making him one of the school’s earliest students.

“To be truthful, I don’t remember very much,” Alan laughed. But he said two things had remained cemented in his memory for the past near 70 years.

“The building itself hasn’t changed physically at all,” he said. “A two-storey building in those days was pretty unusual and it’s still there.”

Alan’s other remaining memory is associated with something even more enduring than the school’s pledge or building – Canberra winters.

“We were always very cold,” he said. “But they had those old oil heaters you don’t see these days. They’re still at the school and they still work.

“At one stage, there were two or three students on the periphery of the celebrations who were actually leaning up against the old oil heaters to keep warm.”

Old school photo.

A 1955 Turner class photo from before uniforms were established. Alan is in the second front row in overalls, while his friend to this day – Richard Foote – is third from the left in the back row. Photo: Supplied.

Ms Edmonds said it was also interesting to hear from past principals from as far back as the 80s, who pointed out all the things that had changed at the school.

“One of the things [they noticed] was that we’ve taken out all the walls we can, so classrooms are more open to allow for collaboration and team teaching,” she said.

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An on-site museum with artefacts from the school’s past 70 years shows how other things have changed, including technology, teaching plans and uniforms.

“One of the uniforms on display is from the 80s and a current student was wearing a jumper that was the same,” Ms Edmonds said.

“They’d actually found it at one of the Canberra op shops, saw the Turner logo on it and thought, ‘I can wear that to school’.”

Alan Chapman.

Alan Chapman found his name in an old handwritten student roll register. Photo: Supplied.

The school’s 70th also overlapped with the 10th anniversary of a more recent tradition, an annual school festival which aims to encourage students to try something new.

An Artists and Writers Festival with the theme of stories, songs and symbols that make us who we are in the context of 70 years’ worth of history was held this year.

“One of the really fabulous things about the festival is the opportunity for students to make a connection [beyond] classroom learning,” Ms Edmonds said.

“As our students were listening to the former principals, teachers and students at Turner, they’re making a connection from past and present.

“That just builds that sense of identity and belonging which is just so important for a healthy school.”

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