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Old Edwardians

1883-1910: Miss Creak

In 1883, King Edward VI High School for Girls was created and stood proudly on the New Street site. It took its place in the new ladder of education, encouraging students to go from elementary school through grammar school and high school to university.

The first headmistress of KEHS was Miss Creak, who was chosen from over 30 applicants for her impressive academic record and bold ideas.

Miss Creak believed that women's education should do two things: prepare them to be wives and mothers; allow them to develop to their highest intellectual potential. She also believed that the two were mutually beneficial, complementing one another through time. She believed in concentrating on all pupils, not the brightest few. Miss Creak emphasised the importance of self-discipline, imposing few rules upon her students. She valued a sense of duty, a love of work for its own sake, honour and independent effort. She embodied these traits herself and was also well known for her determination and spirit.

Her first appointments included Miss Davison and Miss Slater, women who shaped the school's scientific foundations and helped the school to become the best scientific establishment in the region. She also seconded specialist teachers from the School of Art and Mason's Science College, which enabled girls to take a London B.Sc. in Physiology or Practical Physics whilst still at school.

Sadly, her life was often disrupted by illness. In 1887, she missed the move to Congreave Street. Whilst the school was there new buildings were designed for the New Street site. The new building was erected by Sapcote and Sons at a cost of £24,242 plus extras for hot water and ventilation. The building was completed in 1896 by Miss Sidgwick, as Miss Creak was once again ill.

In the meantime, Miss Creak had hired Florence George as a cookery mistress. This was against the recommendation of the Governors, who had strictly warned against incorporating cookery in the curriculum. Miss George was the author of the school's first cook book, the aptly named "King Edward's Cookery Book".
The school used a disciplinary system of conduct marks. Serious violations of school procedure, such as running in the corridor, would result in a conduct mark being given. Minor offences, such as forgetting a book, would result in an order mark.

1900 saw the formation of some of the school's earliest clubs and societies, such as Debating and Literature. The early 20th century saw a number of school magazines produced; ‘After Many Days', ‘The KEGHS Chronicle' and ‘94' acted as precursors to ‘Phoenix' which began in 1910.

Miss Creak also presided as the first female Governor was elected. In 1909 Miss Margery Fry was the first woman to serve on the board and was later elected the first woman bailiff. Miss Fry worked too for the University of Birmingham, was governor of the Handsworth Pupil-Teacher Centre and was part of the Staffordshire County Education Committee.

Unfortunately, by this time Miss Creak and the Governors were not seeing eye to eye. It seems that Miss Creak was a victim of her time. Her views on education fell short of modern standards. Perhaps affected by her illness, she had taken against certain members of staff. Governors were concerned about her political views; she was vibrantly patriotic about the Boer War and fervently opposed to women's suffrage. By the end of that year, the school inspectors had recommended that the school was brought up to standard by a successor. Miss Creak handed in her resignation shortly afterwards.

Despite the unfortunate circumstances of her departure, Miss Creak remained in good contact with the school, returning when possible for major events.

Miss Creak has left a lasting legacy upon the school, her ideas shaped the underlying ethos. She was a thoughtful and committed academic with a true love of education. This dedication and passion for KEHS is celebrated every year by the Creak Memorial Prize, which is given to the pupil who "by their character and general worth has best served the school".

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