Theale Green School kicked off the new year with a very special celebration – a diamond anniversary!

The school is marking 60 years since it opened as Theale Grammar School on January 8, 1963.


With Ken Shield, who died in 2018, as headmaster, the school opened with just 52 pupils – it now has around 730 pupils.

Dick Owen, 71, who now lives near Manchester, was one of those first students and remembers his time at the school fondly.

“There were four classes of 13 kids each – boys and girls. At the time, a co-ed grammar school was almost unheard of,” Dick recalled.

A newspaper article from the now defunct Reading Mercury announced the school’s opening, proudly boasting of the ‘£150,000 project’.

‘On Tuesday the headmaster, Mr K J V Shield, and his staff of five watched nearly 60 pupils file into the school for their first day of lessons. In seven years’ time this £150,000 project will have grown into a much larger school with over 600 pupils and – it is anticipated – further development on a large school.’

The article went on to say the school faced an immediate problem of the students ‘settling in’ as they had previously attended Forest Grammar School (boys) and Holt School and Newbury Grammar (girls).

But making new friends wasn’t a problem Dick recalled, who says even now he is in touch with many of his old school friends.

“They were happy times and it was a privilege to be part of such a unique experience. The initial intake were always the top year. The teachers were superb, having to teach several subjects each – I even learnt Russian there.”

From that original cohort Dick says: “When we all left to go our separate ways, we lost touch but through the early days of social media (Friends Reunited!) many of us were able to reconnect. Being a co-ed school meant that we formed different attitudes towards each other than had we  stayed at single sex schools, One result of this resulted in a number of marriages that have survived to this day. Sadly some of the early students have passed away, which is to be expected; but some went on to have interesting careers . One ran a very successful international software company, another owns the highest hotel in Ethiopia, and another a rare metal reclamation firm. That is just three but overall we seem to have done OK.

Dick himself went on from Theale Grammar to study physics and engineering at Manchester University. He worked in telecoms research and then oil exploration, but spent most of his career in IT. Dick, who has two grown-up children, and as of last Monday , two grandchildren, retired six years ago.

One highlight of his career was helping build the first video telephone system in 1969  – think very early Facetime. Called BT Viewphone, it featured on the most watched science programme of the time, Tomorrow’s World!

Theale Grammar of course went through sweeping changes over the years:

  • The 1960s saw vast expansion, with the addition of the gymnasium, music department, sixth form area, and numerous classrooms. Despite the addition of new housing since the early day, the school still benefits from exceptionally large playing fields that are put to good use daily.

  • In the early 1970s, the school became a comprehensive and was renamed Theale Green, and in 1987 the school became a community school.

  • In 1992 the school designed and developed the first Learning Support Unit in England to provide a facility for students with special educational needs. The following year the school became one of the country’s first four arts colleges.

  • In 2011, the sixth form complex was rebuilt. In 2013, the school converted to academy status.

  • In 2018 the school became part of the Activate Learning Education Trust.


    Charlotte Badarello Head of School said: “We are delighted to be celebrating our diamond anniversary! Theale Green School is a very special school:  anyone who visits us immediately recognises this and can feel the family-feel of the school. Theale Green School is a school in the heart of a community, with incredible staff, students and families all striving for the same thing: to see students become successful young adults. In 2023, our ability to work together to support each other feels more important than ever, and this year will see us go from strength to strength as we continue to grow and provide a high quality student experience.” 

    Executive Principal Joanna Halliday had this to say: “Theale Green School has a wonderful history. Although already strong, we are currently reinvigorating our House system and have recently discovered some hidden away paintings connected to our Houses, that we are finding out more about. There is also a wonderful handwritten Log Book (kept by Ken Shield) that shows us that although much has changed in education, many of the daily challenges and joys of education are still the same today! We have so enjoyed hearing Dick’s accounts, and would very much like to hear from anyone else who can add more to the story of Theale Green School.”

Meanwhile, around the world, these are the news headlines that shook the world in 1963

  • USA: President John F Kennedy was assassinated in the United States
  • USA: Alcatraz federal penitentiary known as “The Rock” closed
  • USSR: Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space
  • Worldwide: The Beatles released I Want To Hold Your Hand/I Saw Her Standing There thus unleashing Beatlemania
  • UK: The Profumo Affair
  • UK: American Express introduced credit cards into the UK
  • USA and UK: Polio vaccine – taken with a lump of sugar – is given nationwide in US and UK
  • Kenya: Kenya gained independence from Britain
  • UK: Great Train Robbery took place in Buckinghamshire