Seven years of planning and building came to fruition on Saturday at the Cromwell Community College in Chatteris when the new-look academy was officially opened.
Principal Jed Roberts, together with Kevin Manley the Building Schools for the Future Project Director, cut the ribbon to open the new facilities at the school in Wenny Road, watched by guests, parents and pupils who were able to enjoy a tour of the buildings.
Mr Roberts said the school, which has kept its iconic facade, which dates back to 1938 when the site housed a separate boys and girls school, is now fit for purpose and fit for the 21st century.
The building work, undertaken at a cost of £11 million under the Building Schools for the Future initiative, has combined the old with the new making use and enhancing the best of the existing buildings, while creating a whole new teaching block.
The old sports hall has been given a host of high windows and a new lease of life as a dining hall and has had a mezzanine floor created above to house the Post 16 facilities, including the provision of a sound proof work area where sixth formers can work without being disturbed by the hustle and bustle of the lunch hall.
A four court sports hall and changing facilities, six design technology rooms, seven ICT suites, one hair and one beauty salon together with two general purpose classrooms make up the new teaching block, which has seen the largest slice of the £11 million investment.
The school’s old canteen, originally provided more than 30 years ago as a temporary building, has been replaced by a purpose built bus park enhancing pupil safety and easing traffic congestion outside the school at the start and end of the day.
Two new science labs have also been built meaning the school, which is rated as good by Ofsted, can now offer physics as sixth form so the Cromwell now provides all three sciences at A-level.
Mr Roberts said the school would now be looking at what other subjects can be added to the A-level provision.
The inclusion of the hair and beauty salons as part of the new-build was a deliberate choice and means students no longer need to travel to the College of West Anglia to study the subjects and the Chatteris facilities are shared with pupils from the Neale-Wade Academy at March.
“We deliberately chose to include facilities not available at March and vice versa so that we didn’t double up on provision for students in this area,” explained Mr Roberts, who is delighted with the way the development has been done.
“When we were first discussing the Building Schools for the Future seven years ago the thing that came out strongly from pupils was that they wanted to keep the front of the school. So everything that has been done, has been done behind that. We wanted to retain the school’s identity and tradition, and I think we have achieved that,” said Mr Roberts.
He believes the new building will enable the school to continue to build on the successes of the past few years, which has seen it achieving its best ever results at GCSE and A-level, and hopefully when Ofsted next carry out an inspection it will hit the sort-after ‘Outstanding’ mark.
“I would be foolish to say that we are there and that there is nothing that needs to be done to take us from Good to Outstanding. There is always room for improvement, but what we must do, what Ofsted expects is for us to build on and maintain the standards we have achieved over the past few years to demonstrate the improvements are sustained,” said Mr Roberts.
Ofsted could be back at the school as early as next year and Mr Roberts is hopeful the government inspectors will be impressed enough to give it the ‘Outstanding’ rating.