First details of new build for The Whitehaven Academy

The first details have been released on a new, multi-million pound secondary school building for students in Cumbria.

The Department for Education (DfE) announced in the spring that the ageing buildings at The Whitehaven Academy were to be replaced by state-of-the-art premises.

Now a planning application is set to be considered in December with the new build due to open in 2021. It will have the capacity for 900 students – from its current 540 – and is intended to be a modern, inspirational place to learn.

Cumbria Education Trust (CET), who took over the running of the academy last year, said its ambition was for the Whitehaven Academy to become the school of choice for the area and at the heart of the community.

Academy headteacher Nigel Youngman said: “This is such an exciting time for the academy and a huge opportunity to really show how we want to improve the teaching and learning environment for all our students.

“As well as new facilities it’s a great benefit that we’ll have year and subject groups in clusters and so build on our strong sense of community. We are really looking forward to having a building that will help us maximise learning time and encourage our students to be successful.”

The three-storey building will make the best use of natural light, have bright internal walkways and a landscaped garden. It will feature the latest in CCTV security features and ‘an entrance with impact’.

The 6,720 sq metre build will include 21 classrooms, seven science labs, two art studios with views across to the Lakeland fells and three design and technology rooms.

The desire for the academy to be at the centre of the community means the design incorporates letting spaces such as the sports hall, drama and performance spaces.

While the DfE is the client for the build, academy leaders provided a School Design Brief specifying aspects they would like included. Contractors Wates Construction will also engage with students to hear their views through the construction process.

Progress has been welcome by both the Secretary of State for Education and Copeland’s MP, who believes it will become a major asset for the local community.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “The Department for Education’s investment in this new build marks a significant turning point in secondary education for young people in Whitehaven.

“We are delighted to be working with Cumbria Education Trust and Wates Construction to ensure students and staff have an environment that truly supports learning.’

Copeland MP Trudy Harrison said: “The construction of a new building for The Whitehaven Academy is something which I, and many people, have been campaigning for over many years.

“Having met with the new headteacher, I am delighted to hear that Cumbria Education Trust, Wates Construction and the Department for Education are planning a new school building of the high standard that our community deserves.”

CET took responsibility for the Cleator Moor Road academy in December and carried out immediate improvements, including an extensive internal decoration and refurbishment programme.

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 facilities for teaching and learning.

The trust, which now operates eight schools responsible for almost 4,000 students and pupils across Cumbria, has also invested in teaching personnel. The academy has an expanded leadership team including three appointments alongside the headteacher and five more subject leaders to drive curriculum quality.

It is planned to move into the new build in time for the September 2021 school year. Disruption will be minimised by keeping the existing building in use during construction.

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