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Monday, 22 September 2014

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Ceremony helps to cement the future of new-build Furness Academy

WITH magnificent views across Barrow on a beautiful day as a backdrop, the final bricks of a £22.5m new school building were put into place.

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BUILDING UP Councillor Duncan Fairbairn, cabinet member for schools and learning, does the topping out honours at Furness Academy’s new build, with principal Douglas Blackledge, left, and Cllr Anne Burns LINDSEY DICKINGS REF: 50045071B002

A ‘Topping Out’ ceremony was held at Furness Academy in Barrow yesterday.

Construction group Kier is creating the state-of-the-art building, off Park Drive, to be ready for academy staff and students for September. The building is being project-managed by Cumbria County Council.

Principal Douglas Blackledge was joined by Councillor Anne Burns, cabinet member for children’s social care, and Councillor Duncan Fairburn, cabinet member for schools and learning, who used a ceremonial trowel to place some of the last bricks and mortar on the top floor art terrace.

Chris Ryder, Kier’s project manager for the new-build, joked he would employ the three, but only as trainees.

Mr Blackledge, who worked on building sites as a young lad, said: “It is another landmark, and a significant landmark, because it represents the fact that the outside of the building is virtually complete now.

“It gives us confidence that we will be open and ready on time for everyone to come and enjoy the new facilities.”

Cllr Burns said: “It was the final bit for me, putting the final bricks into a building that we have been trying to get to fruition since the year 2000.

“That was the first meeting I had with headteachers and we all wanted to see decent accommodation for pupils. What we had was not acceptable by today’s standards.

“What we’ll have here is really exciting and the children themselves are excited about it. Some will feel apprehensive at first, but we have to move this forward.”

Cllr Fairburn added: “Up on the art terrace there are wonderful views and I’m sure the pupils will really enjoy being here.

“Kier has worked very hard on the project.”

The new-build will boast some of the latest ICT facilities and have 3D learning. There is also a recording studio and dance studio.

The sports facilities are competition standard, with a sports hall, trampoline area, 3G pitch and plans for an athletics track.

Have your say

I have always wanted the pupils of Barrow to enjoy the best education facilities that money can offer. The kids of Barrow deserve a high quality fit for purpose learning environment for the 21st Century. If I ask myself, however, if the new boxlike glass and concrete structure which has been erected on Park Drive is actually the best that public money can offer. The answer to this question is, sadly, that it is not. I say this after much thought and can easily quantify it with evidence. Firstly, it isn't right for the town in that it reduces further the regional approach to education - three small schools like Alfs, Thorncliffe and Parkview with their own distinctive cultures and traditions which gave parents some choice and made the community a richer and more diverse place to educate our youngsters. Secondly, it isn't right for the town since the original 35 million building was then reduced to 30 million, then 25 million and now 22 million at a time of rising inflation - the current Parkview buildings actually have a longer shelf life than the new buildings since the quality materials speak for themselves even at a distance. Kier may be the construction firm of the year but has anyone actually looked at the shelf life of a flat-roofed aluminium framed prefab with MDF underpinning the walls?! Next - the capacity of the new build is such that it cannot accommodate more than 1200 little darlings whereas the 3 predecessor schools could take nearly 3000 between them. Anyone who has looked at the huge key stage two classes in the town will realise that in approximately 4 years a further 400 school places wil be needed - either they will have to re open the old grammar school building or else add futrther pre-fabs to the new build. I could wax lyrical all night about so many other factors including the argument which says that it is the quality of what goes on in the building rather than the buildings themselves which actually determines how 'world class' the education is. Anyone who had looked at either the Ofsted report, last year's results or indeed the view of the Department for Education will tell you that this academy school has a long way to go before it is at least satisfactory, let alone world class. Moreover, given the huge number if the best teachers who have either walked out by choice or been pushed by force, there is a very valid argument which says that the current academy does not have the capacity to deliver thectrandformational change at the pace required. I think the town would like the choice of sending their children to a school which was good and two that were improving than one which 'Requires Improvement' to use an ofsted term. So, Barrow, look not at the new build itself, but to what happens in it - if the latter isn't up to scratch then keep challenging and asking questions until it is - the children of barrow deserve no less.

Posted by Mr Wayne Chips on 1 March 2013 at 22:11

Hopefully they will soon be able to concentrate on the thing that really matters ie the children's education, as this appears to have been severely neglected so far.

Posted by Ian Bird on 1 March 2013 at 18:26

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