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Ribston Hall High School names buildings after ex-pupil Jo Parrish and former head teachers

By CitizenNews  |  Posted: September 03, 2014

Roger Parrish and Pauline Murrell, the parents of Jo Parrish, pictured with headteacher Amanda Chong, centre, opening the new building at Ribston Hall School

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THEY once graced the halls at one of Gloucester’s grammar schools, and now their memory has been honoured by having buildings named after them.

Ribston High School has dedicated three buildings to important figures from its history, including popular former pupil Joanna Parrish.

The school’s first headteachers Lucy Whitaker and Hilda Mortimer have their names attached to two of the main buildings while Joanna, who was tragically killed in France in 1990, has been given the other.

The newly-named ‘Parrish’ building will host the Stroud Road school’s ‘flexible learning space’ which currently includes ICT, business studies and politics.

Humanities, maths and art will now be taught in the ‘Whitaker’ area of the girls grammar school, while the ‘Mortimer’ area will include the offices, hall, and rooms for dance, design technology, science and English.

Ribston High School headteacher Amanda Chong said: “We decided to name two buildings after head teachers and another after a student, and we thought Joanne was a good choice. Hopefully this will also give the school a university feel. ”

“We hope that this is something that will evolve at the school and that the students will understand more about why they have been named in this way.”

Joanna, who lived in Newnham on Severn, attended Ribston for two years in the 1980s before going on to study French at the University of Leeds.

Her parents have spent more than two decades fighting for justice for Jo who was found strangled in a river near Auxerre aged just 20.

She had been working at a school in the Burgundy city as part of a work placement as part of her degree.

Joanna went missing in May 1990 after arranging to meet with a man to teach his son English. The crime remain unsolved.

Her father Roger Parrish said: “It means a great deal as parents that the school have made this very touching and moving gesture.

“We’re very grateful to Ribston High School and it has made us very proud. It’s more than we can put into words.”

For two decades the school has worked with Joanna’s parents to organise the ‘Jo Parrish Travel Award,’ which gives students the chance to study languages abroad.

“Jo was really happy at the school and had a lot of friends here, and often talked fondly of it after she left.

“She took part in a lot of extra-curricular activities and became deputy head girl.”

Commemorative plaques will be displayed outside each building to explain why they have their new names.

The new building names came from a school governors meeting and consultation with students.

Lucy Whitaker was the first headteacher of Ribston High School and opened the school in 1921. She remained headteacher until 1950, and during her time she arranged many trips abroad for the pupils.

Mrs Chong said: “She was incredibly innovative for her time and wanted to give youngsters a chance to have these experiences.

“When the war broke out and going abroad was difficult she took the pupils to Newent Court once a year so they could learn countryside skills.”

Hilda Mortimer was the head teacher from 1950 to 1979 and oversaw Ribston High School’s move from Spa Road to their current buildings.

Mrs Chong said: “She had a real passion for drama and performing arts and it’s down to her that we now specialise in these areas.”

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  • TobyRackliff  |  September 10 2014, 1:01PM

    A fitting tribute to lovely, beautiful & above all talented girl, whom I had the pleasure of knowing whilst we were studying for our A- Levels. I still remember those times with great affection & vividly recall how appalled I was to hear the awful news whilst on my own year abroad in Austria. Rest In Peace Jo and may your family find some comfort in this memorial You will not be forgotten x

  • polarpure  |  September 04 2014, 11:45PM

    Jo was a very good example of the students here. so thrilled that she will be remembered.

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  • Opinionated_M  |  September 04 2014, 8:56AM

    As a former pupil of Ribston Hall I know from experience that they worked hard to keep the name of Joanna Parrish very much alive. Attaching her name to a building is a very fitting tribute.

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