OVERVIEW OF THE SCHOOL
Darland High School opened in September 1958 for 234 students, 10 members of staff and the Headmaster, Mr Glyn Bellis. The school cost £96,000 and was completed in just 18 months. It was reported that the school would “play a vital part in the development of horticulture and market gardening pursuits, for many of the students come from the strawberry-growing district of Holt”. During the first year the school grounds were enhanced with flower beds laid out under the direction of Mr J Elwy Williams.
On Tuesday June 9th, 1959, the official opening ceremony took place in a whole school celebratory assembly. Throughout the years Darland has welcomed many visitors. In 1959 the school was honoured with a visit from Chiefs Zulu and Putranali of Tanzania who presented Mr Bellis with a ‘beautiful skin’. Unfortunatley, the fleas outweighed the hospitality of these gentlemen and the skin had to be burnt when they had departed. In 1966 the missionary Gladys Aylward visited. Miss Aylward’s life was vividly portrayed by actress Ingrid Bergman in the film “The Inn of Sixth Happiness”.
A small school, Darland soon gained both national and international attention, as the work done in the Rural Studies Department merited a programme on BBC television and a visit from the first television gardener, Percy Thrower. In 1971 the Darland School bee keeping group appeared on the BBC programme “Young Scientists of the Year”. Later, in 1992 Darland featured on the BBC’s QED programme as it was at the centre of trails for vitamin tablets which claimed to boost children’s IQ levels. In 1972 Darland became a comprehensive school leading to an extensive building programme to accomodate the arrival of hundreds of new students and many new staff.
In 1977 Mr Bellis retired and was replaced in January 1978 by Darland’s second headteacher, My Derrick Gwilliam. Mr Gwilliam and his staff not only consolodated but increased the academic and extra-curricular activity at Darland. In 1983 Darland’s Silver Jubilee was celebrated with a variety of events. To commemorate the occasion students produced a time capsule. It included a collection of essays, photographs, coins, stamps and newspapers. In June 1987 the music suite was built, the time capsule was buried in the floor of the new suite and remains there to this day. In September 1995 the then Welsh Secretary William Hague visited Darland School to launch the Conservative Government’s ‘Young People and Sport in Wales’ campaign. The aim was to increase the number of young people taking part in sport activities by the year 2000.
The school has had a long tradition of sporting achievements having won numerous trophies and produced some fine athletes. In December 1996 Darland Sports Centre was opened by Mr Andrew Marriot of Wrexham Football Club. Andrew Marriot unveiled a plaque commemorating the opening. In 1996 Mr Gwilliam retired in December. He was replaced by the third Headteacher, Mr Chris Hughes. In 2001 the school won recognition in The Guinness Book of Records for the World’s Biggest Hug. The event brought together a huge cross-section of the local population and proved Darland’s reputation as the hub of local community.
In September 2004 Darland welcomed the First Minister of the Welsh Assembly, Mr Rhodri Morgan, who unveiled a plaque in memory of the miners who lost their lives in the 1934 Gresford Colliery Disaster. Another commemorative event was held in June 2005 to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of World War Two. Students hosted a VE Day style party for veterans of the war and recorded interviews on the BBC’s Wartime Memories website.
In February 2009 Darland was delighted to welcome a visit from Jane Hutt, the Minister for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills to the school. The Welsh Assembly Government had allocated in excess of £5,000,000 for the refurbishment of three Wrexham High Schools and Darland was to be included. 2009 also saw the arrival of one of the most famous visitors and the only visitor to arrive with security guards!… the FA Cup. Darland was the only school in Wrexham that the FA Cup visited and every student had the opportunity to have their photograph taken with it. Henry Olonga, International Zimbabwean Cricketer also visited us in 2009. He shared his knowledge with some of Darland’s cricket players, impressed us with his singing and captivated everyone with his talk about the demise of democracy in Zimbabwe and the importance of grasping every opportunity and making the most of education. The climax of 2009 was the 50th anniversary celebrations of the school, enjoyed by students and staff past and present. The close of our school term saw the retirement of our third Headteacher, Mr Chris Hughes. Mr Peter Agnew was appointed as our fourth Headteacher and joined us from Flint High School at the start of the autumn term 2009.
March 2010 saw one of the biggest changes to Darland school in our fifty two year history when work began on our new ICT and science building – The Griffin Centre. With an investment of £3 million the Griffin Centre was completed in January 2011 and with its state of the art science laboratories, suite of Apple Macs, PCs and iPads we are at the leading edge of school facilities within the area. Although it was sad to see the demolition of the original school building in 2011, it is pleasing to see the extra space created for student recreation with the creation of four allotments and a new grassed area As individuals and teams, we have achieved many great things, and we are proud of all our students, past and present, for what they have achieved during their time here and what they have achieved since leaving Darland.