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Friday, 29 May 2015

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‘We’ll have the best school in UK’ - Furness Academy principal

THE countdown to completion for Furness Academy’s new-build has begun.

HATS OFF Furness Academy principal Douglas Blackledge REF: 50044161B005

And with state-of-art technology and top notch sports facilities – including a planned competition standard athletics track – the principal believes Furness Academy could be the finest school resource in the country.

In seven months, students and staff will move into the new £22.5m Barrow school building.

The town’s largest secondary school is currently split over two sites, but everyone will be together at Park Drive come September.

The first element of the development, an all-weather 3G sports pitch and games area is now in use by pupils, and just last month, through the Olympic legacy, the school won a £150,000 grant to create a sports track, in partnership with Barrow Borough Council and Barrow Striders.

The new-build is also taking dramatic shape both externally, with the brickwork in place, and internally, with the class rooms becoming a reality.

Visiting the site, Douglas Blackledge, the principal of Furness Academy, said: “It is fantastic, it’s really, really exciting. You can’t underestimate the impact of a new building.”

Mr Blackledge said the building is “second to none”.

“It is just around the corner now, £22.5m investment in Barrow’s young people, it is bringing two sites together as one and having one school community,” he said.

“I would say it will be the best indoor and outdoor facilities of any school in the UK.

“Furness Academy will be the finest physical resource for education for secondary provision.

The athletics track is the icing on what is already a very attractive cake, it is something no-one else has got.”

The academy plans to share its facilities with the community and groups have already been making bookings for when the 3G pitch is available to the public. It is already proving a hit with students.

Ethan Vial, 14, said: “We are very lucky to have these great facilities. They are all-year-round facilities, and some of the best around. The pitch can be used for different sports.”

PE teacher James Riley said: “It’s a fantastic opportunity for the whole community as well as our school.”

Inside the new-build, some of the most advanced areas in the project, led by Kier Group, are the design and technology rooms where walls have been plastered and they are being fitted out.

Staircases are in place and lead to the flagship open learning areas for ICT.

The space will be kitted out with Apple Macs and offers a vibrant environment.

Mr Blackledge said: “We hope it will create a real colour splash for learning. This is the most forward thinking area of the building.”

The school will also feature studios for broadcast, dance and drama, and the 3D suite and cinema facilities will be based in the main hall.

The modern new sports hall has a natural wood finish, and the trampoline hall is of competition standard. There are also dedicated community areas within the building.

Mr Blackledge said it was wonderful to see the building develop, as earlier on in the academy process there have been hurdles and hold-ups, such as going back to a consultation over the one site/two sites issue.

Mr Blackledge said it has been a long time coming and that at times it felt like it might not happen.

The principal said it will be a fantastic facility for the whole community, and most significantly the whole school will be together instead of being spilt over either sides of Abbey Road, as it is now in West Avenue and Thorncliffe Road.

He said: “In two terms, we come together on one site and we will open a brand-new building on time.

“It will be the first time that we start to have a level playing field as a school.

“We will be physically and logistically together and for the first time since opening we will have fair levels of funding that are equitable with other schools and academies.”

Mr Blackledge said being at one site will help the academy with its consistent drive to improve the quality of education experienced by young people.

He said: “Our challenge is to ensure the quality of education and learning inside of the building does justice to the quality of the resource. We are constantly striving to improve the quality of what we do, in order to ensure that is the case. There is no doubt it will be made significantly less challenging by being together in one place.”

Students and staff have been taking part in tours of the new-build.

Kier Group said public events are being planned for later this month to show off what the community can expect to see come September in the building, which has been designed by Halliday Clark architects.

The grant for the athletics track, planned for the academy playing field, has been awarded by Sport England’s Inspired Facilities Olympic and Paralympic Legacy Fund.

The award is only part of the capital outlay needed and the partner organisations are in discussions about their next steps.

Have your say

It's the teachers and support staff that make schools good not the building.

As 'mike' said best building but will it have the best GCSE results?

Posted by John on 19 February 2013 at 10:55

It's the teachers and support staff that make schools good not the building.

As 'mike' said best building but will it have the best GCSE results?

Posted by John on 19 February 2013 at 10:55

View all 3 comments on this article

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