The new sponsors of The Whitehaven Academy, Cumbria Education Trust (CET) today (27 March) announced that the DfE is to fund an entire new academy building, providing staff and students with renewed optimism about the academy’s future prospects.

The decision by the DfE follows a detailed feasibility study carried out by DfE Capital of the existing buildings and the extent of the academy boundaries concluding that the best value for money option is to build the new academy on the existing site.  Disruption will be minimised by keeping the existing school building in use while the new build is underway.

Lorrayne Hughes, Chief Executive of Cumbria Education Trust, is delighted. She said:

“This is the best possible news we could have hoped for, not just for the students and staff who attend this academy – but for the community of Whitehaven too, who are getting a fantastic new academy which will allow access to an excellent range of facilities.

“The run-down condition of the existing buildings has proved to be detrimental and disruptive to teaching and learning and we are delighted that the new school will provide additional capacity and a modern inspirational place to learn.  This will have enormous benefit for both current and future generations of Whitehaven children as well as members of the community who will also be able to use some of the facilities.

“We believe our students deserve the very best environment to enjoy their education and we will be working closely with the architects to ensure that we are providing classrooms and high-quality facilities which are conducive to learning and which create a positive learning environment.”

Academies Minister, Lord Agnew, said:

“It is fantastic news that The Whitehaven Academy will have an entirely new academy building, offering a fresh start for the school – this is the best use of resources to provide a much improved learning environment for pupils and staff. The building will not only help provide the children with the education that they deserve, but will also benefit the wider Whitehaven Community.

“It is great to see Cumbria Education Trust (CET) helping to drive improvement by taking on schools with significant challenges. Yewdale Primary School, for example, has recently been judged Good by Ofsted in their first inspection since joining CET, having previously been judged as Inadequate, demonstrating CET’s great work in providing a high standard of education for all of its pupils.”

Details about how the academy will operate, the number of classrooms and its range of facilities will be compiled through what is known as a School Specific Design Brief. Students will be actively involved in this process engaging in a series of meetings where they will be able to put their influence and personal stamp on the project, working alongside architects to develop ideas that could be incorporated into the final design.

Lorrayne Hughes added: “The School Specific Design Brief is an extremely important part of the new build process. We are hoping to look at ways of incorporating additional provision focused towards inclusion and the ability to ensure the future use of the facilities by the wider community.  The enthusiasm from the students and staff to be part of this process is almost tangible.”

Since September, CET has completed all its planned projects to ensure the school is safe, dry and warm and has invested further in an extensive internal decoration and refurbishment programme; additionally, there is a planned roll out of IT resources to ensure that whilst the new build is underway, students and staff can access the best possible opportunities for teaching and learning.

Subject to the appointment of contractors, it is anticipated that work will start on the new building in spring 2020, with opening scheduled for Easter 2021.