Hard hats are off as teachers and pupils start life in new-look school
Pupils at a secondary school finally moved into their £19 million new and refurbished buildings this week after three years of living with the builders, as Zena Hawley reports.
HEAD teacher Wendy Whelan was able to greet visitors to her school this week without wearing a hard hat for the first time in many months.
Construction work had become a way of life for hundreds of pupils and staff at Derby Moor Community Sports College as an array of elevated footpaths and temporary buildings reduced the look of the campus to a building site.
But all that changed this week when the school's 1,350 pupils were able to move into a 21st century state-of-the-art building.
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The multi-million-pound development, which included refurbishing part of the existing buildings and creating new ones, means that pupils are now in one place and not spread across several parts of the site.
Mrs Whelan said: "It's such a relief that everything is finished and we have moved into the new building.
"Until recently, I seem to have been wearing a hard hat most of the time to greet people and show them round the development. It's nice not to have to wear it.
"It has been the best part of three years that the planning and work has been happening. During that time, everyone has rallied around and got on with their everyday lives despite the mud and disruption around them.
"But the building has been worth waiting for as it is so modern and will allow our students to work in a climate-controlled environment, with up-to-date resources that can only enhance their education. We know that we can get on with the teaching and learning without worrying about our surroundings."
Work has still to take place to demolish one of the old buildings and this should be completed before the summer.
Mrs Whelan and other people connected with the school realise how lucky they are the project survived Government cuts in 2010 when the Building Schools for the Future programme was axed.
Out of a potential £205 million refurbishment and rebuild of all of the city's secondary schools, only three projects survived with a combined cost of £60 million – the Derby Moor rebuild and refurbishment and new schools for Noel-Baker Community and St Martins Special schools.
Even then, the drama was not over as the discovery of rusted steelwork in one of the buildings undergoing refurbishment led to the project taking a further six months to complete.
Will Ingleby, chairman of the school's governing body, said: "The demands on everyone during the building process have been great but it has been a tribute to them they have been carrying on while the building work has been going on around them.
"I am especially proud of our students, who have worked on at their exams and lessons despite everything."
An informal handover of the building this week allowed members of the city council and officials, the school's governing body and representatives from the builder, Balfour Beatty, to have a look around, hosted by a number of students. The 1960s-style classrooms have given way to light airy rooms, many of which are open to the corridors, allowing a free flow of pupils from specialist subject areas to information technology stations and other resources.
Head girl Iqra Nawaz, 15, said the new building was "amazing". She said: "Everyone is really happy to be in this building and not to have to think about being too cold in winter and too hot in summer.
"I think they all appreciate having such a great place to study in and I am sure it will make students look forward to coming to school even more."
Mrs Whelan is hoping that some of the school's resources will be shared with the local community. She said: "We have a wonderful new lecture theatre and I can just see people holding meetings and talks in here because it is such a good space. The whole place is so much more sophisticated and grown-up and this is the vision we want for our students."
Councillor Martin Rawson, Derby City Council cabinet member for children and young people, said: "The lay-out now makes it feel a large community is based here rather just a collection of individual classes happening. It is a very impressive building and one which will encourage pupils to do well."