Dear Parents and Carers
Once again, thank you all very much for your patience whilst we get our emergency accommodation installed and ready to use. As I write this, we are still on track to open to all students on Tuesday 17 October following our Inset Day on Monday 16 October (switched from 8 January 2024 which will now be a normal school day). If we hit any hurdles which affect these plans, I will let you know as soon as possible but as it stands, we are very much looking forward to 17 October and the plan, shared in the last update in terms of what is going where and which study spaces KS5 can use etc., is still in place.
Having said that, if you have walked past the school, you will know that these units are not suitable for learning for any amount of time due to their shape. They were the only solution available to us in the immediate future but as said, we are already working to get back out of them. To that end, we had our first planning meeting yesterday for a modular village which will be designed very specifically around our needs. It will, to a great degree, replace what we have lost and be suitable for longer term use whilst a permanent solution is finalised (and built hopefully). There are no guarantees when discussing these builds, but we agreed around the table to push for February/March to be in our modular village which, whilst ambitious, gives us something certain to focus on. Within these conversations, it has been implied to us that a decision on whether we are accepted into the School Rebuild Programme (SRP) will be made before Christmas. This then triggers a lot of work around the extent of what is rebuilt and the process for design, planning and building etc. This will be a lengthy process, but we are now pushing at a scenario of being in a modular village by the Spring whilst a new school is designed – something we wanted all along as our main buildings really have reached the end of their useful lives.
On Wednesday, Baroness Barran, the Minister within the Department for Education who looks after the school estate among other things, visited the school. As you know by now, whilst we have over this period met and worked with civil servants who have really pushed hard for us, I question the system they work in and the culture of the DfE to have gotten us all in this situation in the first place. Wednesday was an opportunity to vent these frustrations and I sincerely hope that in doing so, I was able to convey the level of anger and despair that I know so many of you have felt over these weeks, the hatred our students have expressed to me for working online at home and how lonely it feels, the increasing fear students have for their grades in subjects it is impossible to properly relocate, especially music, the silence we get when seeking answers to how this will be accounted for in the summer and the anger and upset my staff have felt in moving out of their bases and adjusting everything around our new reality. I also hope I was able to express the immense pride I have in all our community who have been so loyal, so patient and who have worked so hard to support one another – something I will remember for the rest of my career.
Whether these points landed or not I can’t say. I can say that Baroness Barran expressed sincere regret on both the timing of this announcement and about the chaotic and deeply unsatisfactory experience we had for those first two weeks as it became increasingly clear that the “well thought out plan” relayed to the press by Ministers at the time was in fact a shambles. On balance, I am glad she came and heard us out and although some of the meeting was, let’s say, a frank exchange of views, it was constructive and demonstrates the profile we have as a school which must surely help us in the future. The Minister also took away some points to follow up, most pressingly answers around the exam adjustments for affected students. There was, as ever, some talk of waiting to see the full extent etc. but we pressed that answers are needed now, and we are not prepared to wait any longer – these students are doing UCAS and post 16 applications now. I have followed up all our key points by letter to Baroness Barran and I will keep you posted on any replies.
In the meantime, we look forward to getting all our students on site next Tuesday. To prepare for this, please stress to your children that we continue to rely on their respect and good behaviour as our 1940 students move around a site which has lost a lot of space. It is testament to the staff and students that a walk around the school feels like any other day but there are times when we really see the difference – most significantly lesson changeovers, break and lunch queues, where patience and respect is needed by all students as they funnel through less space.
Finally, as it looks increasingly certain we’ll never be going back into our lower school building, this is what we lost on 31 August 2023.
Andy PerryClick here to return to the current newsletter