The first meeting about a possible expansion to the Whitehorse schools took place in early 2009 and Lynne Sampson and I have been working on the project to provide desperately needed places for local children, with great facilities, ever since. We have attended hundreds of meetings and sent thousands of e-mails. We have worked hard to ensure that the education of the exisiting children in the school is not affected by the building works and, as the project enters its final phase, we are looking forward to occupying the lovely new spaces. Children in Nursery, Reception and Years 5 and 6 are already enjoying much improved learning environments as a result of work already completed. Apart from the architects we are the only members of the original team left. The contractor has changed, the site manager has changed twice, the project manager from the LA has changed and so on. It has been a 'labour of love'. Thus it was quite disheartening to read a recent story in the Croydon Advertiser which put a negative spin on the project before it is even finished. The first line of the article was 'A golden school roof put up in Thornton Heath has been branded an eyesore by neighbours' but it was interesting to note that the only address quoted was Birchhanger Lane, South Norwood, which is 1.4 miles away.
Those of you who read the Croydon Advertiser regularly will know that is has a regular feature called 'Cut the crap' which seeks to 'highlight the positive aspects of Croydon, to counter the lazy stereotypes of our town exemplified by its entry in the Crap Towns book'. We believe that there is no more lazy a stereotype than 'all modern architecture is rubbish' and were most surprised to see that this story had been run without any attempt to contact either of the Executive Heads, who were on site in the week before the article was run, or the Chair of Directors, in order to maintain balance in the article. We are grateful to Ade George who was quoted as saying he thinks the gold building is an improvement and to one of our parents who wrote in to the paper after the publication of the article to highlight all the positive aspects of the project. The inconvenient truth is that there was plenty of opportunity to register a complaint about the design during the planning phases and nobody did so. This project was scrutinised by the planning committee at Croydon Council, the urban design team, as well as officers of the education department. Those of you who have been with us a long time will remember attending an exhibition in the junior gym or seeing planning notices on lamposts. All our neighbours were properly consulted and broadly supportive. It is sad to note that our local paper, despite protestations to the contrary, seems more interested in a bad news story than a good one. It should be noted that they were invited to the opening of our new buildings at EPS but did not attend.
A few final facts
The new facade is by an architect who recently was awarded the best new building in London at the NLA awards 2013. After many delays the £5M project is entering its final months and should be completed by Christmas. The children and staff will benefit from:
- A new nursery and 7 new classrooms – all double glazed, acoustically designed and eco friendly;
- 7 refurbished classrooms;
- An expanded hall allowing us to sit all our KS2 children in the same room for assembly and provide more seats for productions;
- A combined admin block at the centre of the school so that all visitors can find it;
- Facilities for SEN pupils including a lift;
- Folding doors to allow our older children to work together;
- Great 'breakout' spaces allowing interventions for children needing extra help;
- Wifi throughout the site;
- New cooking and serving facilities for school dinners.
Although we realise the new facade is a big change it actually replaced a 1981 kitchen and a hall of concrete beam construction from the 1950's, The original, locally listed buildings, remain untouched as does the field. It is a tribute to the architect and the design team that they have managed to build so much additional space without significantly enlarging the 'footprint' of the schools. We look forward to showing the community including, hopefully, our local paper, these great new facilities later this year. Jolyon Roberts