Gracelands received its first pupils in January 1953. It was originally named “Montgomery Street” but to avoid confusion was renamed in 1973 following the establishment of Montgomery Nursery Class at the nearby Primary School.
The creation of Gracelands was an important milestone in the provision of state Nursery Education in Birmingham. Indeed the “revolutionary” design received national and worldwide publicity, being one selected to represent the best of British School architecture in the “POST 1945 UNESCO” exhibition held in Geneva. Essentially on the educational needs of young children combined with the provisions of a good home. Previously young children receiving state Nursery Education in Birmingham were to be found in space restrictive classrooms in adapted buildings lacking windows at child light height. The design remains largely unaltered to this day, with the first community room being added in 1999 and a further room added in 2003.
The site of Gracelands was selected as the first post 1939 Nursery School to be built in Birmingham because it was in easy reach of high density housing where many young children had great educational needs. Their outlook upon the world was bleak – bombed building remains alongside dangerous roads carrying transport to numerous local factories where many of their parents were employed. Few of the terraced houses had adequate gardens for play, most only a concrete yard. The area was schedules for “Post War” redevelopment, and the school was the first measure of this process.
In 1952 shortage of finance available with lack of availability of an alternative local site prevented the desired incorporation in the design of a separate parents, medical and quiet room whilst the staff and headteacher’s room could only be of minimum size.
However, of importance in terms of the young childrens’ needs, and constantly remarked upon by visitors of this day, the provision of maximum outside play area, both hardcore and grass areas has proven most advantageous, without doubt creating an “oasis” in a highly concentrated man made environment.
Vanessa Frank & Sharon Lewis
Executive Head teachers 2019 - present day
Vanessa Frank – Head teacher 2013 – 2019
Angela Mason – Head teacher 2004 - 2013
Lorraine Sinclair - Evans – Head teacher 1999-2003
Pat Oakes – Head teacher 1973-1993
A flipbook to celebrate the history of Birmingham’s Nursery Schools can be found on the link below:
Celebrating Birmingham's Nursery Schools Historic Timeline