History & Ethos
The school is named after Archbishop Michael McGrath (1882-1961)
Archbishop McGrath was born in Kilkenny in Ireland in 1882. He was educated at the Christian brothers School and Rockwell College before studying for his first degree in Celtic studies at the National University of Ireland.
After graduating he decided to study for the priesthood and was ordained in the Diocese of Clifton and served as a Parish priest in Bristol for a number of years. In 1921 he began his work in the diocese of Menevia and served parishes in Flint, Bangor and Aberystwyth.
Michael McGrath was a gifted linguist; he spoke French, German and Italian well, and studied Russian. When he was parish priest at Aberystwyth he began to study Welsh seriously, doing research work under Professor Wynn Jones on the links between the Welsh and the Irish bardic poetry.
His greatest love was for the Celtic tongues, Gaelic and Welsh, which made him peculiarly well fitted to govern a diocese in Wales where the great majority of the Catholic faithful were of Irish origin. Archbishop McGrath was a fluent Welsh speaker and stressed the importance of the Welsh language and its historic culture.
In 1935 Fr McGrath was appointed Bishop of Menevia and in April 1940 he succeeded Archbishop Mostyn, the man who had invited him to come to Wales, to the metropolitan See of Wales. Pope Pius XII marked his sacerdotal golden jubilee in 1958 by appointing him an Assistant at the Pontifical Throne.
Archbishop McGrath died in 1961, shortly before his 79thbirthday.
Archbishop McGrath Catholic High School opened on September 1st 1965. The school was named after Archbishop Michael McGrath – Archbishop of Cardiff and a champion of Catholic education.
When I was appointed Headteacher, I discovered in my office a rather battered book with a brass clasp that looked like it belonged on the set of a Harry Potter film rather than a Headteacher’s office. This book is in fact quite an important historical document for this school as it is the original log book that contains entries made by the first Headteacher and gives a fascinating insight into the early years of the school’s existence.The opening sentence of the logbook reads:
’The school opened on Wednesday, 1st September to serve the children of Aberkenfig, Bridgend and Maesteg. Mass was celebrated in the school by the Chairman of Governors, Fr P Reidy of Maesteg.’
The first day began with a Mass celebrated by the local Clergy putting Christ at the Centre of school life from the outset. The spiritual life of the school remains vibrant and weremain grateful to the Clergy for affording us this privilege.
When the school opened in 1965 the log book states that there were 12 Staff and 206 pupils. The school had very few resources and its cluster primaries donated books to get the school underway. This relationship with its cluster primary schools remains as strong today.The school day in 1965 was 20 minutes longer than it is today.In July of that first academic year an Evening of Excellence was held to celebrate the achievements of its pupils and the school has continued this tradition for over 50 years.
In 1965, pupils raised the princely sum of £11 18 shillings and 7 pence and the pupils of Archbishop McGrath continue to astound us with their generosity by raising thousands of pounds every year for those who are less fortunate.
In September 2011 Archbishop McGrath Catholic High School relocated to a new site in Brackla, Bridgend. The new school provided the Catholic community with an award winning building with state of the art facilities.The school population has gone from strength to strength with around 840 students (over 160 of whom are in the sixth form) and 100 staff.
In September 2015 our school began its year of celebrations to mark the 50thanniversary of the school’s opening with the School mission. In our Golden Jubilee year in 2015-16 we started the school year with a whole school Mass, reflecting the events of that first day in 1965.
The Golden Jubilee Concert held on Saturday 19thMarch was a brilliant example of the talents of our pupils past and present. A school orchestra of 120 musicians, including staff, parents and past pupils entertained a large audience. There were a number of solo performances from past pupils who have gone on to pursue professional careers in the music world and oustanding performances from our younger soloists. It was a pleasure to invite into the school so many members of the local parishes and wider community to share in the special events held during our Golden Jubilee year.
The Mass remains just as much at the heart of school life in 2018 as it was in 1965 and the spiritual life of our school is vibrant. Our faith is built into the fabric of our building and our working lives and achievements are an expression of our beliefs that everything we do is a way to love and serve God. We are committed to allowing our young people to develop and strengthen their faith.
The students from Archbishop McGrath travel to school from many different areas of Bridgend County. From the first day we opened the doors to our beautiful new school in 2011, we have welcomed the wider community to share in our fantastic facilities. We have hosted events for local organisations, schools and Christian communities. It is a key part of our mission as a Catholic school to serve the wider community and support local charities.
We’ve been privileged to enjoy more than 50 years of educational excellence. We can’t wait to experience the wonders of the next 50 years and beyond.